This is a post from a member of the Freelancers Union community. If you’re interested in sharing your expertise, your story, or some advice you think will help a fellow freelancer out, feel free to send your blog post to us here.
As a business coach for freelancers and creative professionals, one of the most common challenges I see my clients wrestle with is a resistance to being seen for who they really are.
Whether that manifests as not confidently communicating what they have to offer, an aversion to any kind of self promotion, or a website devoid of their personality and story, the result is a missed opportunity to connect more authentically, deepen relationships and get more ideal clients.
Brené Brown’s fantastic TED talk, The Power of Vulnerability, got me thinking about the role transparency and vulnerability play in our business. I know, I know, vulnerability in business - isn’t that the last place we should let it show?
But take a moment to think about what the brands you love have in common. I’m willing to bet they’re the ones who share their personality and take a stand, even when it isn’t popular with everyone. They’re the ones who hold up their hands up when they screw up and move mountains to make things right. They’re human.
That all said, I totally relate to the resistance 99% of us feel about being visible. My natural tendency has always been to hide my vulnerability at all costs because (a) I think it will be perceived as weakness (b) it will make others uncomfortable (c) it will, almost certainly, make them think less of me and (d) I’m British and over-sharing isn’t really our strong suit.
Over the years I’ve figured out how to share experiences (good and bad) that I feel will be helpful to my audience, without letting it all hang out and turning people off.
Here are 5 positive ways to be transparent:
1) Take a stand
When people relate and connect to what you hold dear, you build connection and trust. Share your values, your mission and your vision with your clients and build upon the conversation.
This might take the form of a manifesto, FAQ or About Us section. If you have a newsletter or blog, you can share there too.
2) Make your clients feel like you’re talking directly to them
Whether it’s your newsletter content, social media feed or podcasts, it helps to know what issues your clients struggle with. Sharing stories and experiences they can relate to helps them feel understood and confident you are the right person to help them.
Not sure how much sharing it too much sharing? Ask yourself the following question: does this information: educate, help or add value to my ideal client’s life? If the answer is’ no’, keep it to yourself.
3) Show up on your website
Have a professional photo taken that represents you and make sure it’s on your website and social medial profiles.
If you’re still resistant, ask yourself this: would you consider responding to a dating site profile that didn’t have a picture? Of course you wouldn’t! Your clients are no different.
Join the nation's largest group representing the new workforce (it's free!)
4) Share your story
Write your compelling story and share it on your website, when you speak and in your marketing message. A compelling story should start with a defining moment in your life or career, communicate what you do and why you do it and leave your audience inspired and wanting to know what’s next.
Tip: create your draft and run it by a colleague or friend. Have them give you constructive feedback on what’s engaging, what could be cut and the general arc of the story. If they’re a good writer, all the better!
5) Own up when you mess up
In my talent management days I occasionally managed huge projects for an experiential designer. There were always lots of moving parts and sometimes (OK, a lot of the time), I was dealing with processes I didn’t fully understand.
On one such project, I forgot to ask the videographer to record the sound at an event. I was so mortified and the designer was furious, but he appreciated my coming clean and together we figured out a workaround. Fess up when you mess up, don’t make excuses and do everything within your power to make the situation right. Your client will respect and trust you all the more for it.
The bottom line is this is not a free pass to let it all hang out. Edit yourself (ruthlessly), be positive and let your beautiful self shine through!
Get vulnerable: Join the Branding: Yourself or your Biz Hive & discuss balancing the personal and the professional with other freelancers!
**Justine Clay **has been helping freelance creative talent build thriving careers for more than 15 years. As the founder of Plum Creative, she built a track record of making the perfect match between high-level, independent creative professionals and clients that included Vogue, Bloomingdale’s, Henri Bendel and West Elm.
Justine’s desire to share her knowledge with more than the handful of people she represented led her to found Pitch Perfect in 2010. As a business coach for creative professionals, Justine helps her clients define what makes them unique, create a clear marketing message and get more, high-quality, better-paying clients.
Justine’s services include one-on-one coaching, workshops and talks. She is also a regular contributor to the Freelancer’s Union blog and Umano.