Now is the time to be yourself

I've always been pretty clear on my "be your brand" ethos - and anyone who has worked with me has heard me speak quite enthusiastically about the importance of letting your customers know who you are and what your passions and values are.

There's an old cliche - "people buy from people" - and there's a reason that phrases become cliches; they say something true - so people keep saying it.

People really do buy from people. They buy from people who have the same values as they do, who they admire, aspire to be like, or simply like.

So; if you put a lot of effort into trying to look or appear to be something you aren't - if you switch into jargon and buzzwords, if you get stiff and formal, if you say 'we' when you mean 'I' to try to make your business look bigger or more established than it is, then you're alienating your potential customers. Basically, you're lying to them - and how can they trust that what you're selling is legitimate or worth having if the person selling it can't be honest?

Pretending to be a team of people when you're a one man show means that there will come a point in your dealings when your customer asks about your employees or team mates - or it will become clear to them that in all of their dealings with your organsiation, they only hear from one person - and they'll work it out. Now, for some people, that won't be an issue. For some it will be a realisation they roll their eyes at, because they've seen it before - and it will undermine their confidence in you a little, but not enough to lose you the work. For others though, it will mean they lose respect for you professionally, it will make them question every interaction they've had with you, looking for other untruths or misrepresentations. It will mean that they are suspicious of your communication, and unsure of your work. If you can't be honest about your work, what else could you have been dishonest about...?

It may seem like a good idea - like you'll have more authority in your role, seem more successful, build an image of success as you work towards making it your reality.

But what's wrong with your reality?

My reality is that I'm self employed, and all of the work my clients receive comes directly from me. At times they want something I can't do - website design or graphics, for example - and in those circumstances I have a network of other creatives I can put them in touch with, or work alongside to create and complete their projects - but I don't pretend that those people work for me or are part of the Eliza Do Lots team. It wouldn't be true, so it wouldn't do me any favours to pretend it is; I would feel uncomfortable in the pretence - and because I am uncomfortable, I will avoid speaking to the client - so it would impact our working relationship, and the project. Which is how you lose that client; they feel that discomfort and disconnect.

In an industry where personal recommendations and word of mouth are the best tools in finding more work, and your network of contacts is your most powerful asset, why would you deliberately sabotage it?

Equally, when you're writing something for work, don't fall into the trap of trying to write in a style that doesn't sound like you. Don't use formal 'professional' language or jargon that you wouldn't even think of using in a meeting in person. Don't slide into a spiral of how you "should" communicate because it's business. Just write the way you speak (only without all the ums and ahs and sidetracks, if you're me!) - like a tidied up version of having a conversation.

One of the things I take the most pride in with my work is voice. Firstly, that the things I write for myself, on here and on my social media, and when I write creative pieces and fiction, all read like they're written by me - I know myself, the way I speak and think, and my sense of style, humour, personality and everything which builds a picture of who I am, and I communicate it wherever I am present, so that people can really feel like they know me - which helps them to decide if they want to work with me.

Secondly, the skill I've worked the hardest on and am very proud to offer to my clients, is that I work very hard to know all these things about who they are - I speak to people, face to face when I can - digitally when we are far apart and, for obvious reasons, for every client I work with at the moment. I chit chat in the first couple of meetings, because I obviously want to know about the project, but - more importantly - I want to know about the person or people behind it. I want to know why they do what they do, what they love about it, what aspects of their work light them up, their interests and lifestyle, their sense of humour and personality. THOSE are the things I write into my copy - the things which make up the person, their voice, their values and drive. Because that's what their customers will buy.

I write as you - so that you feel comfortable, confident and happy sharing it - so that you want to send that piece of copy out into the world, knowing your customers will read it and respond to it, because it feels like it's really you speaking to them, but tidier, putting into words all the things you wanted to say, but couldn't write yourself, because all of those 'how I should do it' thoughts got in your way.

Right now the economy is a mess. Business is slower, customers aren't buying as much, finances are tight - so now is the time that being yourself matters the most. Now is the time to strip back all the bullshit and bluster, and to just be yourself, show your face, speak in your own voice, and connect authentically and honestly with your target audience - with the people you want to buy what you sell.

Now is the time to connect with people.

If you still trip over your fingers trying to write like you, trying to sound like you in your copy, trying to tell the story you really want to tell, give me a call. Because it's what I do best.

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