• Advice

Who are you? Why your story matters

Stories have a way of drawing us in and making us feel connected, even with total strangers. There is something quite comforting about knowing that there is a natural human interest in learning more about people, especially the people we work with and in many instances, the people who contract with us to do work.

If you look through many of the lead stories in the news, magazine articles, or even top-selling nonfiction books, there is a strong possibility that a compelling story is the nexus. For the same reason that readers and audience members gravitate towards these media, the power of your story can be a strong magnate for building your clientele. The keys are understanding why your story matters and why clients care.

Clients are people too!

I was reminded of this recently when I was engaged in a phone consultation with a potential client. We’d never met and she was a referral from another client. After sharing with her my credentials, some of my work, and my philosophies about writing, she paused and asked, “Who are you?”

I knew exactly what she meant. She did not want an elevator pitch, a perfectly articulated biography or a laundry list of success stories—she wanted to know who I really was. So, I told her my story. I told her about Tyra and why I love helping people write and why the articulation and preservation of stories is critical, especially for underrepresented communities.

She was a corporate executive and after my bleeding-heart spill, I wondered if I told her too much information (TMI) or if it was so personal that it bordered on being unprofessional, but it was my truth and she did ask. As we wrapped up the conversation, she uttered the three words that many entrepreneurs love to hear, “I trust you.” I thanked her and we proceeded to discuss the logistics and formalities of her project.

The trust factor

For those of you who conduct much of your work virtually or electronically compared to those who deal with clients in-person, your story is even more important to tell. The in-person and even brick-and-mortar entrepreneur may have a slight advantage because clients can pay attention to body language, affect, and even a person’s energy. It is difficult to replicate this on the phone or even during virtual sessions.

So even if sharing your story does not come naturally to you, it is worth becoming more comfortable with peeling back a layer. Honestly, there was a time in my freelancing career when I would have hesitated to open up with a stranger. I would have stuck to my pseudo-scripted text.

Time and wisdom have taught me that people value human connections and they appreciate realness. This, in turn, helps to build trust. So even though it took some time, I have learned to embrace the idea that when dealing with strangers, trust and respect are just as important as the quality of your product and your pricing.

So, what does telling your story look like?

There are several ways that we can tell our stories. If you use social media platforms, you can provide snapshots of who you are as it relates to your expertise and services. This does not mean that you have to divulge overly personal information about your family and vacations, but you do want to share your story about your journey or why you started. This will help you avoid coming across as sterile or cookie cutter. Whether we accept it or not, potential clients are vetting us.

If social media is not in your wheelhouse, take advantage of telling your story in the “About Us” or “About Me” section of your website. I recommend that you maintain a formal tone, but still give potential clients a glimpse of who you are, why you care, and why they should secure your services.

If you use job boards to secure projects, then think of the most creative and concise way to stand out. When I taught, I had my creative writing students do an exercise where they had to write their memoirs in six words or less.

Relationships matter

Telling your story may not come naturally for you, and honestly, this is not important for all clients, but for the ones who do care, it is important that you understand how the presentation of your story can actually be a deal maker or a deal breaker.

Transparency is important when interacting with potential clients and long-term clients because, as we all know, relationships matter.

Tyra Seldon Tyra Seldon is a former English Professor turned writer, editor and small business owner. Her writing addresses the intersections of race, gender, culture and education.