Last year, when I was clarifying what sort of direction I wanted to take my (then non-existent) business in, I took Jen Carrington’s Writing for Dream Clients course.
One of the exercises was to think about what your brand values. Now, I am just one person, working mostly from my sofa or in the library, but I absolutely believe that if you represent yourself online in some way, you are essentially creating an online brand for yourself.
So the question was, when people come across you online, what do you want them to see? What values do you want to represent to them as soon as they find out? How do you get that across?
Since taking the course, months ago, my business has changed pretty significantly, and I’m soon going to be taking the plunge to go fully self-employed. With that in mind, the question of what my values are seems more important than ever. Because it’s not just about how I represent myself online now, it’s about how I want to work, and how I want people to work with me. So, I thought maybe it was time to share what I came up with.
This is the one that came straight away. Anyone who has worked with me in an office environment knows that my preferred default position is calm. I often get people coming to me with office stress because I’m good at finding the reason behind the stress and coming up with solutions.
It is unlikely that being self-employed will be easy. I know there will be challenges to come. But I do want to approach it from a starting point of ease, not hustle. Hustling, to me, is stressful.
That means planning my finances carefully. It means thinking in advance of how much work I need to (and want to!) get done per day. It means finding regular clients to help stave off the feast vs famine I’ve seen so many freelancers go through. It means planning in self-care from day one.
I also want this sense of ease to flow through to my clients. What systems can I put in place to make hiring me as easy as possible? How can I work with them so that they enjoy working with me and want to come back to me time and again?
Hopefully, it’ll be hard but rewarding work to get there, but the result will be less hustle and more space, and that can only be a good thing.
2. Be of service
I’ve set my rates at a reasonably high level. I know they are in line with the market, and what I have paid freelancers in the past, so I’ve not gone crazy. But I know my work is not cheap.
With that in mind, I want to make sure that what I’m delivering is valuable to my clients. I’ve been putting a lot of thought in recent weeks into different packages I can offer people. I have my author mentoring programme, but what else can I offer that is most useful to people in different circumstances. Is it helpful to have set packages or is it better to only offer bespoke solutions? That’s something I’m still working through – I would love to know your thoughts.
I also know that because I’ve set realistic prices, not everyone can afford to work with me. And that’s fine – I can’t do a full day’s work for free.
But, if someone just needs a couple of pointers, I want to be able to help them with that. That’s where the idea for my free marketing consultancy came from. If someone signs up to my mailing list, I’ll help them look over one of their marketing queries with fresh eyes.
Want to find out how you could get some free marketing feedback? Sign up to my Noted: my newsletter. You’ll also get a monthly letter from me with inspiration, interesting links, and things I’ve loved recently. I never spam and you can unsubscribe any time.
I’m not totally selfless, of course. I know that giving something away for free is a great way for people to understand how it is you work, what kind of work you can deliver, and ultimately build trust in you. This then hopefully converts to paid work at some point. It will also help build my mailing list, which might also bring them to paid work in the future.
But even if it doesn’t, it’s great practice for me to review all sorts of marketing problems people have, and to think creatively about ways that they could work on them. And it gives me another way to feel that I’m being of service, so a big tick all round.
3. Community over competition
This is a huge one for me. I enjoy working with my colleagues in the office so much, and always have. I hate the idea that, as a freelancer, I am now in competition with other freelancers for work. I strongly believe that if we can help one another to do a better job, then we create more word of mouth for our services, which means there is more work for everyone.
How am I trying to foster this? Well, I’m part of a whole bunch of Facebook groups where creative small business owners help support one another. That’s been an amazing resource for me, getting help as I set this whole thing up. And hopefully I’ve been able to help other people, too, in their ventures.
I’ve also created a small whatsapp group with some friends who are now freelance marketers. If we need a second look over a plan we’ve written, we’re there for one another. If we get a client who needs help we can’t provide, we’re there for one another. It’s teeny tiny for now, because I only wanted to include people I felt would absolutely be supportive. But at some point I would love to make it a bit bigger, because I know there are a lot of other people out there who feel the way I do.
I also want to try to encourage it in the industry as a whole. I mean, big goal there. I know there are anti-competition laws, and we can’t share how much we pay people etc etc, but the more people that read, the more people that read, right?
I have a few small things I’m already doing in this area, but I would love to know – have you ever run any projects that encouraged collaboration among competitors? How did you get people to open up? Is it just me being overly ambitious? Probably. But it’s got to be worth a try, right?
So, those are the values I am starting this business from. They are the reason I am pursuing it with such drive, because I want to be able to integrate them into everything I do going forward.
Have you ever run this kind of exercise on your business? Or if you’re not self-employed, is it something you could think about within the context of your career? As always, I would love to know your thoughts!