Taking my own medicine

the author kissing a fave client on the cheek

Getting clear so I can get more amazing clients like this one!

It has been happening for some time now, probably since I shuttered my design business, definitely since I quit acting, but the polite and puzzled apologies that “I don’t know exactly what it is that you do” have escalated to a point where I can no longer shrug, laugh or otherwise play them off.

“I write and I talk” is true, but coy. It’s good for keeping myself clear on my priorities, but is far from useful to anyone else.

“I do marketing consulting for solopreneurs and very small businesses” is true, but leaves out a lot. Like me, for instance. I mean, please, do I look like a marketing consultant? (For that matter, do I write like a marketing consultant?) By which I really mean, “Do I do anything that looks like a descriptor you’d find in a drop-down list titled ‘Employment’, wedged between ‘Manufacturing’ and ‘Media’?” I do not. At least, I hope not.

My attempts at self-description have been many, but ultimately disappointing.

First, because not being able to succinctly describe what it is that I do is embarrassing, to say the least, a whole lot of “physician, heal thyself” going on there.

Also, it’s ungracious. It’s confusing, which wastes everyone’s time, ungracious! (Worse, it makes some people feel stupid, like they’re missing something, and that’s beyond ungracious, it’s so mean as to be unacceptable.)

Finally, it makes me a lot less money. Because as any graduate of Marketing 101 knows, given you can deliver the goods (the “All Things Being Equal” Rule), to be easily categorized is to be easily recalled, recommended and other good things that begin with “r”. Like “rich,” which seems like it would be delightful, if only for the possibilities it promises regarding the equitable (i.e., by me) redistribution of wealth. Although to be able to fill up the car without feeling faint, visit the doctor as necessary, and at least occasionally buy the good tea wouldn’t hurt, either.

* * * * *

What has sustained me throughout my feeble, murky swipes at self-promotion has been this: the great reward of doing at least some of what I love every day; and the equally great (and incredibly humbling) reward of being appreciated for it. Getting hired despite my laughable inadequacies around making myself hirable is the most tangible, not to mention remarkable, form of appreciation, but the support of readers throughout these six-plus years I’ve been slinging hash on the interwebs has been no less important.*

If you take nothing else from this post, that would be a good thing to take: You must in some small way always provide your own source of joy through some kind of work, whether it’s things or ideas or self-improvement or self-understanding. And if you do it with all your might, chances are good the universe will throw a bone your way.

* * * * *

Here’s how I have talked about myself that might serve as a starting point for wrestling this bear to the ground:

  • I help creative people sell themselves effectively in the postmodern marketplace. (on Biznik)
  • I provide creatively-minded people with the tools, ideas and practices they need to share their awesomeness with the world. (on my current “hire me” page)
  • I help entrepreneurs get clear on their core truth and assist them in finding the best ways possible for putting it out there. (on LinkedIn)
  • Better living through content strategy.** (on Facebook)

Each falls short in its own, special way. The LinkedIn one falls so far short that if it were a person, he would have cracked its chin open on the curb and been rushed to urgent care for stitches.

But they are the truth, if a little lackluster and faint of voice. They can’t touch my mission statement*** for awesomeness and other things that get me up in the morning, but they are a place to begin.

* * * * *

I will eventually, as the Brits say, get this sorted. In the meantime, I’m going to do something radical (for me): not worry about it. Nope. I’m going to go about fixing things, here and there, tweakity-tweak, again, just as I advise certain clients to do. This is an iterative process, getting clear on who we are. And, given the current and projected future rate of change, will probably continue to be so. Over the past week, I’ve added:

  • clearer “contact me” info (because really, I was kind of a jackass about making people hunt it down)
  • social sharing buttons on each post (because really, “ditto” for making it harder for people to share my work)
  • dedicated “consulting” and “speaking” buttons in the top navigation (because what? I want to make it HARDER for people to hire me?)

It’s scary, and it’s fun. And it’s good for me, because this is the kind of stuff I help other people do, and the more I understand exactly where, how and why it’s scary, and come up with ways of handling it so it’s fun, simple and sustainable, the better off we’ll all be.

xxx
c

P.S. If you’re reading this in email, I’d love for you to click through and take a look at that top navigation. And if something looks hinky to you, or is in any way confusing, to let me know in the comments or privately, via email.

P.P.S. If it isn’t obvious, this is one of the most excruciatingly painful posts I’ve ever written. I wasn’t kidding about that embarrassment factor, above. On the other hand, for some of us, excruciating pain is the only thing that will move us off the dime. So here’s hoping!

*It is one of the chief reasons I encourage writers to blog, the other being a weird kind of accountability it creates. And this doesn’t even get into that other “hot” reason, the author platform.

**I didn’t realize that this was a “thing” until about a year ago, when my friends at Mule Design assigned it to me in a bio for that year’s BattleDecks. The Mules are nothing if not articulate, and I find much to emulate in the way they move through the world. They’ve been particularly astute over the last several months about intentionally raising their profile, executing each move with style and grace, and, in a way that deeply satisfies me, reinforcing the truth of The Three Behaviors. Which is good, because they’re all over my presentation. Anyway, since discovering this magical thing of “content strategy,” I’ve been devouring books and other, uh, content on the topic. As it turns out, much of what I do could be summed up fairly well as being content strategy. Expect more on this topic, including a series of book reviews, in the coming months.

***”To be a joyful conduit of truth, beauty and love.” Everyone should have a mission statement, just not one of those icky, ’80s-corporate, b.s.-style ones.

Photo of me and my beloved client, Susan Carr, Education Director supreme of the ASMP, at SB3 Chicago, by my other beloved client, Judy Herrmann, who introduced us. This is how it works, people!

12 comments

  1. I am very glad you are doing this. The Speaking and Consulting tabs seem good to me. I might add, at the top of the About page, a sentence that says something like, “You can hire me to speak or consult. That’s my work. This blog is where I….” Because About is about you, as much or more than the blog, if I want to hire you. The other thing is, I’m not so sure about the photo on the Contact Me page. Somehow to me it communicates the embarrassment? Does that make sense? Feel free to ignore everything I’ve said. It’s just a set of opinions, after all. Mostly I’m glad you’re doing this.

    1. I might add, at the top of the About page, a sentence that says something like, “You can hire me to speak or consult. That’s my work. This blog is where I….”

      Great suggestion.

      The other thing is, I’m not so sure about the photo on the Contact Me page. Somehow to me it communicates the embarrassment?

      Actually, I love this photo of myself deeply. Although I can totally see why it would conjure up embarrassment to my classy friend, Lisa.

      I think I may have to change it just because the “elsewhere” joke (in a pool! on vacation! get it?) gets muddled somewhat now that I’m basically calling it my contact page.

      Work in progress.

      Thanks, Lisa!

  2. Nothing wonky about the changes, all is well and looks good! Love the photos (they are new, yes? New-ish?). Congrats on getting a bit clearer and a bit easier to find. I think the reason being really clear is so scary is that it makes it really obvious who is in as a client, but it also makes it really obvious who is out, and feeling like you’re alienating anyone is pretty terrifying. But as you said, if you want more clients you’d like to kiss (and who will let you), you gotta run the risk of chasing away the ones you don’t want to kiss!

    Yay for you!

    1. I think the reason being really clear is so scary is that it makes it really obvious who is in as a client, but it also makes it really obvious who is out, and feeling like you’re alienating anyone is pretty terrifying.

      There’s definitely something to that. With me, however, it’s always felt like “you will NOT put me in a box! NOT tell me what to do and not do! I will be FREE! FREE! FREE!” After all, I’ve been cursing and being ridiculous for a long time, and never gave a crap about who might not want to hire me b/c of it.

      I had a long dialogue with my friend Dave Seah in the Wave this morning about this whole thing of me being a Very Special Snowflake for whom the rules should not apply. Obviously, there are psychological components at play. But really, after all those years of being a good girl, of making grades, of Catholic school, of being a responsible corporate cog, I simply hate the thought of being fenced in.

      On the other hand, many signs are starting to point toward fences as freedom. Well, some fences, anyway.

      Thanks for the encouragement and stuff to chew on. GOOD stuff.

  3. Getting that kind of clarity is the hardest thing to do for yourself. Sometimes, even a great consultant needs a consultant. Ask me how I know!

    That being said, reading your blog sold me 100% on hiring you and the experience of working with you sold me 100% on recommending you to ASMP so don’t be so damned hard on yourself.

    It’s super tough to put yourself into a box when the available boxes need to be smashed and rebuilt from scratch ’cause they just don’t fit this world we live in anymore.

    1. My beloved Judy Herrmann!

      Yes, self-clarity is the hardest thing. Oh, I am very, very good at pointing stuff out to other people. But we all need the mirror. This is probably a good time for me to get back in one-on-one consulting. I have a couple of candidates in mind…

      It’s super tough to put yourself into a box when the available boxes need to be smashed and rebuilt from scratch ’cause they just don’t fit this world we live in anymore.

      THIS. This. this. this.

      Damn, you are one smart lady. Nice, too!

      Thanks, as always, toots.

  4. hi colleen! isn’t ‘your own’ always the hardest to get down?

    can I take some of your medicine, too?
    not this batch (right now), though, but the heady stuff in “A poem about renting” – it keeps making me cry and knot up in my belly, ‘cuz i’ve got soooo much to let go of these days…

    I’d like to put the ‘whole thing’ in c’n’a, with links, too, of course?

    1. I sent you a note privately, Karen, but yes, of course I’d be honored if you re-posted a poem.

      For anyone else who might wander here and wonder about that, all of the writing on this blog is released under a Creative Commons license that allows you to re-use it. The conditions are:

      You need to provide attribution. (To me! Colleen Wainwright! Plus a link is nice!)

      You can’t change anything. (No “improving” on my poetry or prose, no matter how talented you are.)

      You can’t use it for commercial purposes. (This means you can’t turn it into something that makes you money, or sells something or that sells you. If you have questions, email me: colleen (at) communicatrix (dot) com.

      Thanks!

  5. Hi Colleen! The Speaking & Consulting buttons look good on my computer and I LOVE this post!

    Lately I’ve been noticing how much trouble I have describing the thing I do, too (and for much the same reason – boxes, boxes – ohmy! dont’ want to be IN one – and also, it’s hard to be super clear about something you’re so passionate about — passion doesn’t seem to use the same old, same old words).

    Your Linkedin-as-person comment cracked me up! Wishing you luck with the sorting it out!!

  6. Colleen – best of luck with streamlining your information! I think it’s hard/scary/difficult because you are standing on the edge of a cliff about to define who you are and who your ideal clients are. People who connect with your message are in…everyone else is out.

    There’s a chance of failure in there (not for you, but for the rest of us mere mortals!) so that you can attract your REAL clients and exclude everyone else (what I call the looky-loos).

    Good luck as you continue to kick ass! :-)

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