When I was a young teenager, my Mum set up her own business. I helped out in her office one day, and the first thing she told me was that they were known for being professional.
Six years ago*, I was a Photography student. As part of one of my units, we were asked to set up a blog and again, the first thing we were told was to be professional.
I had no idea what that meant either time. Or rather, I thought I did–I just had it very wrong!
I thought being professional meant wearing suits, being calm, and keeping my sentences as short and direct as possible. Just, I had no suit, calm equalled no laughing and no smiling, and keeping my sentences short meant a lack of personality.**
Friends, that’s the opposite of what ‘being professional’ means!
You’ve no doubt heard that being professional is good for your business, and while that’s true it’s important to understand what that actually means for you.
Does it mean you have to wear a suit? Does it mean you can’t smile in your blog posts? Does it mean you’ve fucked up if you swear once?
If your workplace says you need to wear a suit, wear that suit. If there’s no requirement, wear whatever makes you feel most badass.
And don’t worry, this isn’t going to be a long, complicated post. I’ll keep it simple, because it is!
*HANG ON, HOW LONG?!? THAT CAN’T BE RIGHT
**My definition was way off, clearly
Being professional doesn’t mean your personality can’t shine. There are a lot of blogs out there, friends, and being your wonderful unique self is pretty much the only positive way to stand out.
I bet your favourite blogs ooze personality!
Do you joke a lot? Smile a lot? Swear in creative ways? Make terrible puns? There’s no reason you can’t do those things on your blog!
I smile a lot and most of my posts and comments are littered with smilies and a healthy dose of sarcasm. Nothing on this blog would sound like me if this wasn’t the case.
When I first started blogging, I believed that smilies were a sign I wasn’t being professional, so all of my posts and replies were short, cold, and didn’t sound a tick like me.
Example: Imagine someone leaves this comment: I just found your book and OMG, I loved it so much! The me back at uni thought that ‘Thank you.’ was keeping it professional, and that any more would be unprofessional.
That’s not true.
If the first thing that pops into your head after reading that comment is You’re awesome, thank you so much <3* then that’s what you should put.
People are capable of some pretty intense emotions, and there’s no reason you can’t show them. Unless you’re feeling anger or hatred, but we’ll get to that in a moment.
I’m still worried my sense of humour** might put people off, but I want this blog to represent who I am, and it can’t do that if I’m not honest and hold back.***
Never worry about being yourself, friends. Your unique personality is your USP, so don’t hold back and don’t make any excuses for being you on your blog! Let your personality become part of your brand!
*or even HOLY SHIT, THANK YOU <3 <3 <3
**read: fluent sarcasm
***Besides, you know you’re only here for the sarcasm, anyway. I’ll try to have more of it this year, promise!
Remember what I said about not showing that wide array of strong emotions if it’s anger or hatred?
Being yourself is no excuse to be rude. If someone leaves a comment you don’t like or agree with, you don’t get into an argument. See it as a chance to start a (friendly and polite) discussion, and maybe you’ll even consider some aspects you hadn’t thought of before.
For example, if someone commented on my post about why I write my books in Scrivener with “I tried Scrivener and it’s overpriced junk, don’t know why anyone would buy into it”, the correct response wouldn’t be “Well, you’re obviously doing it wrong.”
Either say “I’m sorry it didn’t work for you. Hope you found something that does! May I ask what you’re using?” or, better yet, say nothing at all.
If you’re not sure you can respond to someone without getting angry, don’t respond.
Your opinion isn’t the only one, friends. People who don’t like what you have to say are just as right as the ones who do.
That’s all being professional comes down to – being respectful of others. You might disagree with some points I’ve raised here or in another post (maybe you do actually think Scrivener is overpriced junk?), and that’s fine. I’m not here to tell you you’re wrong.
Let me give you some examples:
Scenario 1: The book you’ve just published received a 1-star review, saying ‘If I could give this minus stars, I would, it’s that bad.’
The professional response: Don’t respond. You will get negative reviews, it’s part of the job. Suck it up and write another book.
The unpressional response: You insult the reviewer and get into an argument about why they’re wrong and your book is the best thing ever.
Scenario 2: A client you’ve been working with has been difficult for months. Finally, they decide they don’t want you after all, and demand a refund without warning. Right before Christmas.
The professional response: Smile and give them the refund.* Blacklist them, maybe. If you have a blacklist**.
The unprofessional response: Tell them they’ve been a pain to work with anyway, and/or refuse the refund.
Scenario 3: You’ve tweeted about something you thought was pretty awesome, and someone calls your opinion wrong and insults everything you care about.
The professional response: Do nothing. Trolls are common on the internet, and we ignore them.
The unprofessional response: You get into an argument.***
*And don’t mention their name or any specifics if you happen to use them in an example on your blog. Obviously.
**If you happen to have your own business, it can’t hurt to have a list of people you’d rather not work with again. If you can afford to be picky, be picky.
***Unless you’re J. K. Rowling, Queen of Twitter Troll Slaughter.
What does being professional mean to you? Do you define it differently depending on whether you’re at the day job or working from home? Or, if you’ve made the switch to working from home full-time, has that changed your definition?
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