Staying Real But Not Too Real, Ratting Yourself Out On Your Own Hire Me Page…and Green Apple Sangrias

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.

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Me, at the height of my marketing genius

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.

Proofreading, Editing

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?

Me.

Yes, folks, I added semi-snarky editorial comments to my own Work With Me page, online, for the world to see.

WTH.

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?

Yes.

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.

___________________________

¹ The blog has since been renamed, again. That’s a story for another post.
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Online Options for Daily Gratitude Journaling: Resources for Those Who Prefer Keyboards to Pens

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My best friend has the most beautiful handwriting.  It’s flowy and pretty and easy to read.  She loves to send cards and letters the old fashioned way, so for years I’ve been the lucky recipient of some of the most beautifully penned thoughts and sentiments.

I used to have beautiful handwriting.  But somewhere between grade school and college my handwriting slipped from award-winning to mediocre to hieroglyphic symbols.

“It’s like my brain moves too fast for my hand,” I say half-apologetically to the cashier as I furiously scribble out my check. “Believe it or not, I used to win penmanship awards in grade school.”

Sure, my horrible handwriting has had some consequences:

Text from irritated husband: “I can’t make out the grocery list. You want eggs, milk and what?”

Me (equally irritated):  “Bread, honey.  It says bread.”

But for the most part, the only person this flaw has affected is me, and in pretty minor ways.

Recently, though, I’ve been hearing more and more about the benefits of daily journaling.  Research ‘morning rituals of successful people’ and you’ll likely find that most of them incorporate some form of journaling in their daily routine (whether it be morning pages, gratitude entries or just a free flow of thoughts).  The following are some of the most commonly reported reasons for keeping a journal:

  • to clarify thoughts
  • to dream big
  • to set goals and intentions
  • to track and monitor progress
  • to become self-aware (through honest reflection)
  • to preserve mental energy (by expelling ideas and thoughts onto paper)
  • to express gratitude
  • to improve writing skills through the daily exercise of writing

(I highly recommend this article on Medium: How I Use My Journal to Create My Future and Achieve Goals by Benjamin Hardy)

It didn’t take me long to see the benefits, and I soon began drooling over which moleskin journal I would select to start chronicling my journey to success.  I imagined myself in a coffee shop writing life-changing affirmations in bold, black ink, reminding myself of who I am and who I’m working to become.

Post - Online Options for Gratitude Journaling

And then I remembered my handwriting.

Rather than be stymied, I did what any self-respecting writer and former paralegal would do, I hit up Google:

2018-09-14 Post - Google search

Fortunately, Google also serves as my spelling and grammar police:
2018-09-14 Post - Google search results
Why, yes.  Yes, I did.

Google’s corrected search produced the following page one results:

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My personal favorite:
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Now, I’m a huge self-improvement advocate, but I’m not gonna lie, my handwriting is not on my list of Top 10 things to work on right now.

So I did some more research and found several online journaling resources. Here are a few, including brief descriptions of each in their own words:

Penzu
“Whether you’re looking for a tool to record your daily emotions and activities in a reflective journal, keep track of milestones in a food diary or pregnancy journal, or even record your dreams in a dream journal, Penzu has you covered. Penzu gives you all the tools you need to focus on the ideas you want to preserve, rather than the process of writing itself.”

JRNL
“JRNL offers a unique and enjoyable journaling experience while providing innovative tools that you are going to love.”

Online Journal
“Online Journal gives you a very private and free place to record your thoughts, feelings and ideas. We have tons of journal topics to help you get started. You can use it as frequently or infrequently as you would like.”

Five Minute Journal App
“There are plenty of benefits to journaling, whether you take time to write out your full thoughts or just spend a few minutes jotting down the things you’re most grateful for every day or lessons you’ve learned. The Five Minute Journal app makes this process easy enough to do on the go.”

All of the above are ways to record your thoughts online in a private way.  Of course, you can simply create a private blog.

You don’t need anything fancy.

In fact, my current online journal is simply a running Google doc in Google Drive.  Here’s the beginning of an entry from last week:

2018-09-14 Post - Snippet 5 (gratitude)

Nothing fancy.  It’s simple and uncomplicated.  I’m not limited in length.  I can copy and paste quotes, pictures, meaningful e-mails.  I can access it from anywhere.  I can print it off whenever I want to — even when it’s 300 pages long.  I don’t have to worry about losing it, or not having it when I want to journal. I can create a back-up or copy with ease.  And, most importantly, I can look back at my entries and actually read them.

I wasted weeks thinking about journaling, but once I convinced myself that it wasn’t “fake” journaling to type my thoughts into the computer, I started journaling right away and have been doing so almost every day since.

There is still something so beautiful and classic about manually penning your thoughts and dreams into the pages of a notebook or journal.  After all, it’s been the primary means of expression for hundreds of years.  I suppose I’ll have to comfort myself with the knowledge that methods of self-expression have evolved since the beginning of time, and the importance is less in the mode, but in the expression itself.

Takeaway:  If your handwriting isn’t the best, or if you simply prefer typing to handwriting, check out some of these online journals, start a private blog, or just open a new Google doc and start journaling today.

Ditch any feelings that you’re not “doing it right”.

You’re 100 times more likely to stick with something if you choose a method that works for you.

Resources:

How I Use My Journal to Create My Future and Achieve Goals by Benjamin Hardy
Source: Medium (9/16/17)

Five of the Best Sites for Creating an Online Journal or Diary
Source: Blogging.org (1/18/18)

The 10 Best Journaling Apps for 2018 by Melanie Pinola
Source: Zapier Blog (1/4/18)

8 Reasons Keeping a Journal Can Help You Reach Your Goals by Joshua Becker
Source: Becoming Minimalist Blog

How to Become Ridiculously Self-Aware in 20 Minutes by Tom Kuegler
Source: Medium (5/29/18)

Prioritizing the Actions that Will Lead to Your Goals

Post - Prioritizing Actions

Does this sound familiar?

You’re putting in a ton of hours to get your freelance business up and running, clocking in time before and after your day job, jotting down business ideas during lunch, maybe even getting out of bed in the middle of the night to tackle just one more thing on your to-do list.  You’re tired, but you feel good — as you should.  You’ve set your sights on big dreams and have been working like a boss to get things in motion.

But are you any closer to your goals?

For example, when I officially started this blog in July, I put my dream out into the universe: to make a full-time living as a freelance writer in a creative and sustainable way.  I started this blog to hold myself accountable.  In my first blog post, I set two very specific short-term income goals:

  • Milestone 1:  Hit $2,000/month by Christmas 2018.
  • Milestone 2:  Hit $5,000/month by one year (July 2019).

Because my goals are income-based, I should be focusing on income-generating actions. When you’re wearing multiple hats, though, it’s sometimes challenging to know which right action you should choose to do next.

It’s so easy to get hung up on all the little details you think are necessary to start and run a new business.  As a solopreneur, you do it all: building and maintaining your website, networking, marketing, and, of course, your paid client work.

The lesson I’m learning time and again, though, is the critical importance of prioritizing (and completing) actions that will help you reach your goals, and fitting in the rest of your to-do list when you can.

I mentioned in a previous post that my social platforms of choice were Twitter, Medium and Pinterest. I have been prioritizing my Pinterest graphics and boards because I know Pinterest marketing, if properly done, can be instrumental in driving traffic to my blog. So even though I know I should update and optimize my LinkedIn profile, it will have to wait until my Pinterest business account is fully set up and ready to go.

While tying content creation to Pinterest marketing is a long term traffic generation goal, I should also be prioritizing actions that will lead to income generation now.  I should be actively looking for leads and pitching ways I can help on a daily basis.

If pitching is a numbers game, then submitting ‘x’ number of pitches should yield ‘x’ number of projects (on average). Conversely, submitting no pitches at all will almost guarantee a yield of no income.

Bottom line: if I want to achieve my income goals, I need to prioritize the things that will generate income.

Being accountable may require uncomfortable reflection.

Sometimes you find yourself concentrating on everything other than the items you know will move the needle toward your goals, and then you find yourself over-justifying your choices.

When I find myself over-rationalizing something I’ve done or not done, it’s often a sign that I’m letting myself off the hook for something important, and it’s likely rooted in fear.

That’s the time to break out your journal and start working things through until you get to the source of your behavior.  It would be easy to keep justifying and rationalizing why you’re not doing the hard thing you need to do, but doing so solves nothing and just prevents you from moving forward.

As we all know, inaction is where dreams go to die.

I’ve gone this route before.  It’s a lonely, soul-sucking, confidence-killing journey, and to think it could have been prevented by just taking action.

2018-09-03 Post (Photo #2) rawpixel-303966-unsplashSo when you get that familiar sensation that something’s off, or that you’re spinning in circles, trust your gut.  Step back for a minute and assess your actions objectively, with honesty and compassion — as you would for a friend. Then hold yourself accountable.

Accountability to yourself is as much about self-honesty as it is staying laser-focused on your goals.

Ask for help.

To a person building what seems an intangible dream, it’s sometimes easy to miss the forest for the trees. And sometimes if you’re too far gone, you can’t see your actions for what they really are.

Having someone you trust and respect check you and hold you accountable during these times is invaluable.  

Fortunately, I have people in my life who’ve been exactly in my shoes and get what it is I’m working hard to achieve.  And because they’re further along in their journey than me, they can sense the spinning when they see it.

Sometimes the quickest way over a stumbling block or setback is to seek outside help.  Reach out to a supportive online community like this one or hire a business coach you trust.

Whatever you do, recognize your fear-based behavior for what it is, and take action to move past it.  Every time you do, you’ll gain confidence in your ability to face the next obstacle.

Some help if you’re paralyzed by inaction

Sometimes you listen to something so powerful that you just want to share it with everyone.  I recently started listening to Amy Porterfield’s Online Marketing Made Easy podcast (highly recommended by Heather Deveaux of The Freelance Writing School), and I was blown away by this episode below:

If you can listen to the podcast, great.  I think you’ll learn a ton of valuable stuff — likely about yourself.  If you can’t listen but would love to know more, Amy posts a condensed summary of each episode (show notes) on her website. The show notes for the above episode can be found here.  She also includes downloadable transcripts of each episode at the end of her show notes.

For those of you who don’t know, Brooke Castillo is a world renown life coach expert and has hosted her own podcast (The Life Coach School Podcast) for years.  She talks about the power of mindset, and how changing how you think can help you achieve different results.  Interesting fact: Brooke launched her podcast several years ago. The title of her very first episode? Why You Aren’t Taking Action

If you need more motivation…

We can always learn from those who’ve gone before us.  I’ll leave you with these quotes from two people I greatly admire and respect:

Nelson Mandela: “It always seems impossible until it’s done.”

Eleanor Roosevelt: “You gain strength, courage and confidence by every experience in which you really stop to look fear in the face…You must do the thing you think you cannot do.”

Photos via Unsplash