Seven years on, with a tighter definition of what’s on offer, people are finally finding me via search and hiring me because of the copy they connect with, here on my website.
Since signposting my services better and sharpening things up a bit, prospective clients are almost self-selecting. They read what’s written on my copywriting and event photography pages and say to themselves “yep, that sounds familiar – let’s meet”.
In fact, this very thing happened today, albeit with an unsettling twist. One that’s left me determined to revisit a few fundamentals, like how I come across. And perhaps be a little less frank.
Let me explain
I’d reached that late-morning slump: when you’re firmly on top of your to-do list, yet barely running on the fumes of breakfast. Let’s just say I was preoccupied with visions of lunch and more than a little off-guard.
That’s when my phone rang.
All the above applied in the context of the call, then a charming voice asked: “tell me about yourself – where are you coming from?”.
It sounded like friendly excuse for a nice chat with someone genuinely interested in what I stand for.
So I gave them that.
And without thinking I launched into a relaxed, verbal treatise on how I’m “not anti-corporate but I’ve done all that and want to subvert it.” Worse still, I qualified that by describing myself as a “sort of fascist but not a fascist” and an “artist” (although in my defence I did say that sounded pretentious at the time).
Not the most compelling sales pitch. I came across like a naive member of a student politics society.
Even more weirdly, the person on the telephone rather enjoyed my answers. They said it was probably the best job of selling myself I could’ve done – if the object was to give a unique and honest impression.
That’s when a realisation crept in. I’d not only blurred the boundary between the myriad motivations that underpin everyone’s lives and careers. I’d given a poorly phrased account of my values to a stranger.
I’d mixed what I do, how I do it and why all together. Then stirred it up the sediment below with a wonky spoon.
My tone; off-guard and frank, didn’t seem to correlate with the pacy, sharpened words you’ll find on my copywriting and event photography pages. This soon revealed itself when the caller said they’d expected “more overt drive” in my responses than what they’d heard: a laid-back guy who enjoys working just enough and leads a full life outside of it.
Is it wrong to tell clients you enjoy picking and choosing who you work with? I suspect so, if it’s phrased incorrectly like I did.
Although the call was positive and in good humour (indeed it led to a speculative meeting), I still felt a pang of buyer’s remorse. Like I’d let a stranger peek behind the curtains.
Not that they didn’t like what they saw – it just wasn’t what they expected.
Some of us are good with words. Some of us aren’t
One underlying shortcoming of this whole experience is I hadn’t given this person a succinct, positive and professional portrayal of why I believe that what I do is of value.
So this is my first attempt to set the record straight.
Behind everything we say – our written communication, our verbal artefacts – is a truth. A message that deserves to be heard and understood.
Yet many of us are unable to share that message clearly, often unintentionally because of institutionalisation or overfamiliarity with a subject – even dyslexia or sheer frustration play a part.
And it’s my (self-appointed) duty to expose that message, and help people express it in an appropriate way. Free from complexity and clutter. With sensitivity and honesty in balance.
Whether that’s liberating a press release from corporate dirge (what I really meant by ‘anti-corporate’), or mining for simple human truths, in a case study marred by commercial incoherence.
My job is to get your point across.
That should set the record straight (for now)
Of course, there’s a bigger issue at play when it comes to encapsulating what really gets you out of bed in the morning. Or, more specifically, how I articulate that here, on this website, in tone and content.
Plus there’s obvious potential disparities between the professional and personal self. Should there even be one, isn’t that just dishonest?
On the one hand, that pacy sharp tone on my copywriting and event photography page might not be how I speak in real-life, or a complete reflection of my personal values and lifestyle choices. On the other, it clearly demonstrates my competence and potential to clients, and it’s definitely attracting more of the right ones.
Does my personal irreverence, occasionally provocative cynicism and dark sense of humour have a place in this whole ‘personal brand’ thing that you’re supposed to subsume into your professional persona these days?
I’m not sure.
So far, few clients have expressed any demand for that sort of thing in effective, traditional marketing campaigns.
Plenty of stuff for another post though. In truth, I’ve been pondering how to express the ‘what you stand for’ part of freelancing for a while now, since watching this TED talk. Should you peek behind the curtains again, you’d see that my notebook is a veritable pick ’n’ mix of introspective thoughts on how one’s personality underpins a career.
It’ll follow, as yet another milestone along my freelance career. Maybe there’s another book in it?