This post is dedicated to my two awesome friends, Anne and Nancy, who helped me laugh-cry my way through some of the most frustrating aspects of starting a freelance business. Thank you for letting me be real, then for laughing your asses off at me when I dramatically described my website woes.
And now, on to the post.
Some time ago, I published a post called ‘Staying Authentic in Your Blog When Everyone Has a Blog’. I was finding it tricky to exude confidence and professionalism as a new freelance writer without sounding like every other freaked out freelance writer trying to do the same thing.
I found myself using buzzwords to describe my skills and services. You know the ones I’m talking about. I caught myself nodding off reading my own hire me page. I was struggling to find my unique voice in an oversaturated freelance marketplace.
One day, I had an epiphany:
What if I stopped worrying so much about ‘being’ authentic and ‘finding’ my voice, and just showed up as me — unfiltered?
I would share my ups and downs as a freelance writer without fear that my struggles would make me look incompetent or weak. I would just be real, thank you very much — opinions be damned.
My blog makeover started with a new name. Begone pretentious old blog name! (“Eleanor and Jane: Navigating the Journey to Freelance Success”) *barely stifles yawn*
Hellooooo hip-and-happening new name! (“Eleanor and Jane Chronicles: Lessons and Confessions of a New Freelance Writer”¹) It had a certain cadence and conspiratorial appeal. New posts would be announced to the world with this tweet: “Click here for the latest from Eleanor and Jane Chronicles: Lessons and Confessions of a New Freelance Writer”
I had a whole schtick.
I triumphantly published and tweeted my post about my return to authenticity. A couple of readers left kind, positive comments. A freelance writer I admired sent me a shout out on Twitter encouraging my decision to stay true to my voice. I felt liberated and free.
I infused personality back into some of my older posts. I spent time reworking my Work With Me page until it felt more like me and less like the thousands of other new freelance writers jostling for attention in the writer blogosphere.
Then, weeks later, I deleted my post and the comments and tweets that went with it.
Because when I looked at my blog again, all I saw was fear, worry and self-doubt. My quest to “keep it real” and “be myself” showed up as me taking subtle and not-so-subtle digs at myself online — before anyone else could. As an example, take a look at my old hire me page:
Former Work With Me Page
(previously titled “Can I Help You?”)
Hi, I’m Kari, writer behind Eleanor & Jane.
After years in the legal field as a medical malpractice paralegal, I now use my extensive research and writing skills to help others build their online presence with informative and engaging web content.
What can I take off your plate? I can help with the following:
Blog Posts, Articles, Case Studies, White Papers
I can provide you with quality, well-researched blog posts, articles, cases studies, and
white papers. Whether you need short-form or long-form content, my goal is to help you inspire, educate and connect with your audience.
Editor’s Note: Kari, I crossed out white papers because you know nothing about writing white papers — yet, anyway — although I’m sure if you can write submissions of evidence on behalf of doctors and hospitals in med mal cases, you can handle white papers. Give this some time. Love your gusto, but let’s slow your roll a bit and work your way up. As for the other services – great choices.
Fact-checking, Research (or hire me to be your research assistant)
As a former paralegal, research is my passion. If you like to use stories or quotes to illustrate a point, I can fact-check your work to make sure your sources are accurate.
Tired of rehashing the same ten quotes and stories about the same ten people? I can prepare a list of fresh inspiration for future use on the specific points you want to hit home.
Pssst! If you’re writing a book and need a go-to person to tackle small research assignments to help you finish your story, I’m your girl. Seriously, this is the type of thing I did for years as a paralegal. It’s my superpower.~Kari
Editor’s Note: Yes, I agree. If research was a superpower, it would be yours. You are a bloodhound when it comes to sourcing information.
Nothing impacts your site’s bounce rate faster than awkward grammar and stilted sentences. When hired as an editor, I will not only edit for spelling, grammar and punctuation errors, but also for clarity and “flow”.
Editor’s Note: The first sentence is a little hokey and sales-y, Kari, but you make your point. And you’re pretty good at keeping your writing real.
Can I help you?
Yes, why thank you! I’d love to help! What can I take off your hands?
Now, who is the ‘Editor’ behind the ‘Editor’s Note’ you ask?
Yes, folks, I added semi-snarky editorial comments to my own Work With Me page, online, for the world to see.
My husband, bless his heart, was confused. He literally said, “I don’t get it. Who wrote the comments?”
“Me!” I said, delighting over my marketing genius.
“Okayyyyy,” he said slowly. “And tell me again, why would you do that?”
“It’s funny,” I explained patiently. “It’s ironic. I’m being me. I’m standing out, you see.”
“Are you sure? It kinda sounds like you don’t want to get hired.”
Poor guy. He didn’t understand. (He’s not in the biz)
He also didn’t get why I wanted to call my rates page ‘Currency Exchange’.
Me: “Honey, everyone has a ‘Rates’ page. It’s boring. I’m being unique!”
Perplexed Hubby: “What if people don’t click on it thinking you’re talking about conversion rates or something?”
See where I’m going with this?
Ladies and gents, trying to be authentic doesn’t always mean you get it right. Sometimes you come off as trying to be cute, even if that’s absolutely not your intent.
I certainly didn’t set out to be cute. I thought I was just trying to listen to my gut. Word of caution: Trust your gut, but if your gut is telling you to do crazy things like making cases against hiring you on your own hire me page, then perhaps it’s not your gut that’s doing the talking. Perhaps it’s something a little more intuitive.
So if you can’t trust your own gut yet, what can you do?
Well, for me, I started by taking down my old hire me page and putting up one that highlights what I can do, and not what I can’t.
I renamed my ‘Currency Exchange’ page to, yep, you guessed it: ‘Rates’.
And I stepped back from this space for a bit and had drinks and lunch with my girlfriends. As I dramatically recounted my hire me page woes over green apple sangrias and vegetable lo mein, their laughter caught me off guard.
I was in the middle of explaining how I was struggling to find my voice, and how I decided to throw shit to the wind and add some personality to my hire me page.
Yes, I said, I listed my services on my hire me page and then crossed one out with an editor’s note that I wasn’t ready yet to provide that service.
Yes, I said, on my own hire me page.
Suddenly, my shoulders started quaking and before I knew it I was laughing right along with my friends. I laughed until tears were sliding down my face.
Awesome friend: You wrote “slow your roll”…to yourself?
Me (gasping for air): Yes! On my own hire me page!
Sometimes you just have to laugh. And find the humor in what are indisputably first world problems.
Is there a lesson in all of this?
Give yourself permission to laugh at yourself once in awhile.
Have a drink with friends.
Take a moment away.
You’ll feel more human and less like a fraud.
You’ll look at your situation with kinder and fresher eyes so you can (cliché alert) get back on your horse and start riding again.