No Bullshit Please

cow, bull, bullshit

Last week I wrote about having a bad year.

It wasn’t a massively thought out post, it was just a ‘no bullshit’ scribbling when, being perfectly honest, I could think of nothing else to write about. But it turned into one of the most popular posts I’ve written in a while. Just like a lot of my other, similar, posts it resulted in feedback both on my website and through personal communication. It led me to the conclusion that people prefer a no bullshit approach to business and writing these days.

Colleagues and clients like honesty and authenticity.

But why be honest and open in my blog posts (attached to my business website) when it would be so much easier just to keep quiet? Isn’t it career suicide? I’d say no to that.

Reasons to be open and honest professionally:

bull head

It shows people you are real.

We are all human (mostly) so we like to do business with other humans. How many of you honestly like those auto DMs on Twitter? I’ll bet even if you use them (please don’t) you don’t like getting them. No one likes speaking to a robot unless they are in the cybernetics business (or sci-fi nerd like me). By keeping my blog real and by ‘talking’ to you I’m letting you into my world a little and we can hopefully build up a rapport.

bull head

It shows that life isn’t always rosy.

Unless we are supremely blessed in life things don’t always go the way we want. By writing an honest, no bullshit blog, I am happy to spread the love but also show things the way they are. Are people too frightened to say it like it is? Is it from fear of being seen as weak, as unprofessional or being afraid to show failure? Or is it the great British reserve? After 16 years as a freelance I know there are ups and downs and I’m not afraid to document it. Last year was bad, this year will be better.

bull head

It builds trust.

I much prefer to do business with people I know and trust, as I expect you do too. By writing honestly on my blog I can share tips and tricks with clients, help and inform fellow freelances (and learn from them too!) and show that I care about my work, my colleagues and my clients. I offer a bespoke service, and with this comes a level of professionalism that includes trust between myself and the client. So what if the client can see if I’m having a bad week (or a good one)?, they can also see that I never disclose confidential information and that I value my client list. As a genealogist I am privy to a LOT of potentially personal information, and as an editor I am allowed into my clients’ heads. If I thought for one second that my clients, or my colleagues, felt they couldn’t trust me I’d close my laptop on my work and walk away from it for good.

bull head

It helps others to feel they can share.

There is nothing worse than being a freelance, locked away from the world, with no one to talk to. Freelancing is isolating, it’s lonely as hell and it can lead to all sorts of problems – less of the ‘hey, I’ll ditch my job and live the high life’ please (yes, I’m looking at you, online journalists). I’m lucky that I found the SfEP, but before I was an editor my life as a genealogist, isolated at the top of Scotland, was a lonely one. I had no-one to talk to (this was before such things as online forums, although there were snarky email lists) and I may have been going slightly mad. Especially when armchair genealogists, spurred on by Who Do You Think You Are and the rise of internet resources, decided to stop paying for research and did it themselves because it was all ‘so easy’ (to get it wrong). If, by being honest and open, I can make just one person feel less alone then that is worth it in itself. And if I can let some fledgling editor realise that there is the SfEP, EFA (for those in the US) and others (here’s a handy links for those of you outside of the UK) who are there to offer friendship and advice, then that’s good too.

bull head

It’s just a no bullshit policy.

I’ve got a bullshit detector. I can smell it a mile off, just like I can usually tell if someone is on the level. And I know I’m not the only one. Why pretend? I really can’t stand websites that write about someone in the third person (when you just KNOW they’ve written it about themselves), or ones that say ‘aren’t I fabulous, hire me, I’m perfect’. Get over yourselves, no one is perfect. No one. Not even that gorgeous guy you idolised as a teenager who was perfect in your eyes. Perfection is a myth. I don’t ever want to offend anyone, I’m too nice for that, but I just say it as I see it. Hell, I’m in my late 40s, life’s too short kids!

blank face

Show them your face, not a professional mask

So there you go. Those are my reasons to be authentic, open and honest in business. If people judge you for being honest, that’s their problem not yours.

If you think you will lose business by being honest, ask yourself why. Ask yourself if you could work with that client anyway.

You don’t need to be brutal, and you don’t need a ‘tell all’ policy. We need to remain at least a little mysterious, and over-sharing is not cool (I really don’t need to tell everyone that I love all things paranormal and that I binge watch RuPaul’s Drag Race on Netflix).

If you are honest with yourself and with your clients, whether that’s on a blog or in your business communication, everyone can concentrate on just being themselves and you can concentrate on offering great service.

The Value of Networking

 

woman, networking, social media, network

I’ve had a busy few days. Not all of it gainful employment. There’s been work, sample edits, coursework and piddling about reading work blogs when I should have been working. You get the drift.

I like being busy (to be honest I’ve forgotten how to relax), and of course, like all independent professionals, I have times when work is slow. But I always have something to do – coursework, CPD, reading work blogs, avoiding housework – and there’s always networking.

While I may not always have the chance for face-to-face networking, I do try to get myself out there, and there are always online opportunities. If you live in an area where there is a decent-sized population, or if you can easily get to one, you really have no excuses … network!

I used to think that networking was not for me, all schmoooooze, handshakes and dodgy suits. But once I realised that if I dress how I like, I feel more comfortable and behave more like myself (perhaps with a bit more nervous verbal diarrhoea than usual), then networking isn’t so bad. And if you network online you don’t even have that problem … pull on a jumper over your jimjams and Bob’s your Uncle.

Now, if I have a networking opportunity I try my very best to attend. You never know when a fleeting contact will turn into a friend for life, or a valuable business contact.

This week, past networking has paid off in the following ways:

  1. I quoted for a few jobs that came through from someone seeing my profile online
  2. I am working on a few projects for a regular client I was introduced to long time ago via an old mentor (he marked one of my professional examinable projects)
  3. I chatted with a colleague on a matter that may have saved us both a lot of time
  4. I managed to, hopefully, pass over some work I didn’t have time for to another editor in my network.
  5. I managed to help a friend I met via a business networking event
  6. I carried out some work for someone I met at the same networking event a few years ago.

And that’s just in one week.

Businessman Giving out Card --- Image by © Royalty-Free/Corbis

The value of networking is immense. While it may not always give immediate results, that business card you handed out, that chat to a suit in a crowded room or that nervous talk to a room full of strangers can, in time, work wonders. Remember Rome wasn’t built in a day (and neither were corny clichés).

Physical networking is valuable because:

  1. It gets you away from your desk
  2. It puts faces to a names – online is great but it’s nice to meet people in person
  3. It pushes you out of your comfort zone (we can get too complacent and forget what the real world is like)
  4. It gives you the chance to give away your carefully crafted business cards, and marvel at the cards of other professionals
  5. It gives you the opportunity to get known, get your name out there and be remembered.

Online networking is valuable because:

  1. Not everyone can physically get to networking events
  2. You can network with people in different geographical areas, different time zones and it’s easy to dip your toes into different types of networking
  3. You can network when it is convenient to you, in your comfy clothes and with a nice mug of tea to keep you calm
  4. It’s an easy way to network if you are painfully shy or socially awkward
  5. It gives you the opportunity to get known, get your name out there and be remembered.

There are very few drawbacks to networking too, although it can be costly if you have to go away to meetings or join a Chamber of Commerce or the like. But you have to see these as costs towards business opportunities in the future.  Just choose your physical networking types according to what will work best for you. Budget for networking then if you see an opportunity you can jump at it.

happy editor, world, social media, networking

Most of all remember – what goes around comes around. Get working, help those in your network and stay visible. You never know when it might pay off.

 

 

Semantics at Work

freelance, freelancer, blackboard

 

One word that tends to divide the sole trader, lone wolf, or independent worker is the term freelance.

I don’t mind calling myself a freelance, but it appeared in snippets of conversation at the recent SfEP conference, and got me thinking again.

Does the term really diminish the individual, and should we actually be calling ourselves business owners?

Let’s think about this in more detail. What springs to mind when you hear the term freelancer?

Perhaps it’s an independent soul, someone hired to work for different companies, someone who likes the freedom of being their own boss. Or is it ‘jack of all trades’, someone who can’t (or won’t) hold down a regular job, a substitute for a staff member, someone who is floating until the right job comes along for them, a youngster willing to jump at the chance of a job (any job) or a cheap option?

What about business owner, what springs to mind there?

Perhaps it’s someone who owns a business, a high flyer, an entrepreneur, someone following a profession or trade. Can you think of a derogatory term for business owner? I can’t.

How about independent consultant, independent specialist, independent contractor? The last one doesn’t really do it for me, but the first two are better if you baulk at calling yourself a business owner.

Then there’s ‘self-employed’, which for some reason I would never use as, to me, it sounds like you are paying yourself.

success, ability, skill, intelligence, competence, experience, expertise, capability

In the editing world, most freelances are highly skilled, trained individuals with degrees and many years of specialist skills behind them. Even the youngsters often have higher degrees in publishing or an associated trade.

So is the term freelance sending out the wrong message?

For a start, any word that starts with the word ‘free’ has certain connotations – they’re a freelance, therefore they’re cheap, they will work for very little, they have no ties and therefore no guarantee of regular income.

As freelances we add value to our client’s work. As consultants we add value to our own work.

Consultants are not drawn into office politics, and say it like it is rather than worry about offending Kevin in finance.  We can put forward alternative ways of thinking, give impartial advice and allow the client to grow. Consultants are respected and seen for what they are – specialists in their field.

Freelances can struggle to be seen as specialists, and are often seen more as a commodity to be picked up when the budget is tight.

credit squeeze, wallet, money

Looking at my own career, rather than being a straightforward copy-editor I have many other strings to my bow – I edit (developmental editing, line-editing, copy-editing), proofread, critique, index, format and design. I have project managed, written copy, ghost-written, researched and I write blurbs. I may be a freelance, but looking at my skills from a non-personal viewpoint, I can mostly do everything that’s needed.

So, am I actually a publishing consultant?

Oxford Dictionaries defines a consultant as:

‘A person who provides expert advice professionally’

while a freelance is:

‘Self-employed and hired to work for different companies on particular assignments’

I know which I prefer!

 

So does the term freelance really diminish the individual, and should we actually be calling ourselves business owners?

Yes. The more I look around, the more I now realise that independent publishing professionals need to ditch the freelance, and think of themselves as consultants and business owners.

I’ll leave you with Forbes quote of the day, it seems quite timely:

Even if you’re small, think big. Get others to believe that and you will become it.

Shelby Gogulski