The other day, we talked about professionalism and commitment on Black Moth Radio. Frankly, those two items are the absolute keys to success in any industry. Here are my top four tips about professionalism (and make sure that you go over to Black Moth Radio and listen in…and subscribe – most shows are free).
Keep Your Word
I don’t care if it’s a promise to return a phone call or email…or if it’s meeting a deadline, just keep your word. If you’re dealing with a full plate, think long and hard before you make any promises to anyone…about anything. There’s a philosophy about saying yes to everything and figuring it out as you go along…that’s fine if you have enough time to figure it out, but don’t put your business and your reputation into a predicament.
Give yourself the time you need to do the job well. I have a motto to underpromise and overdeliver. What does this mean? I know how long it takes for me to write pages of web content. I also know that life happens. I know my own schedule. I know my responsibilities to my business and my family. So, I make sure that I am on the same page with clients. I may tell someone a project will take me a week or that I can’t start on something until the following week because of my current obligations. Why? Because I want to make sure that I have a cushion in the event that something happens. I want to make sure that I am able to keep my word. Usually, it doesn’t take me as long as I’ve quoted. Then, the client is pleasantly surprised because their project is finished before the deadline. To them, that’s me overdelivering. (In addition to the fact that they know they’re working with a reasonably priced professional).
This section has the potential to be long. So, I’ll do my best to summarize. I do recommend that you go and listen to the full podcast. You should present yourself as a professional on all of your:
- Social media accounts
- Blog posts
What does that mean? Does that mean that you have to be stiff and have no personality? No. What it means is that you shouldn’t say anything to alienate your audience or potentially damage your business. I know that some people write about politics or write opinion pieces for a living and that’s fine. You should still be careful with how you treat others who have a differing view even if they’re ugly toward you. That’s something that I spoke about on Black Moth Radio a couple of weeks ago.
When it comes to being professional in your email, this means that you respond to emails in a timely manner, you don’t use jargon, and you double-check your writing for typos.
Blog posts and websites…they can have plenty of personality. What it shouldn’t have is a patronizing attitude. Your blog(s) and your website(s) shouldn’t portray you in a negative light. If you have something controversial that you’d like to promote, get yourself a pen name. I’m not saying that because I’m some sort of prude who thinks one should live a virtuous lifestyle. I’m saying that because I’m pragmatic and I know how people think. Even as a freelancer or entrepreneur, the first thing others will do is look for you online. They want to make sure that if someone were to find out you contract with them, that you’re a good unofficial spokesperson.
Don’t shoot the messenger. That’s just life.
Solve Differences Like an Adult
I don’t care what your area of expertise is as a business. Even if someone pays you, that person is under no obligation to take what you say as gospel. Of course, if they’re paying you as an expert, they should take what you say seriously. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve consulted and people come back to me saying they didn’t get results. And upon interviewing them, it turns out that they either didn’t implement my suggestions or they decided to change up my suggestions. The fact remains that they didn’t get results because they chose not to use the advice that they paid to receive.
If you have a difference of opinion with clients or other freelancers / entrepreneurs, act like an adult. Sometimes you have to agree to disagree. Sometimes you have to compromise. Sometimes you give others their way (because it ends up being the best medicine for them). What you don’t do is attack people or their personal preferences. Constructive criticism should be limited to ideas and products. When you begin to attack others on a personal level, you’ve lost the war. It means you don’t know as much as you think that you do.
Ethics are subjective. What we find ethical in the U.S. isn’t necessarily ethical in other parts of the world. So, let me explain ethics in this way:
- Tell the truth.
- Make sure you’re on the same page.
- Tell the truth.
- Don’t sub-contract without talking to your client and gaining their permission.
That last one is important. They hired you. So, unless you’re an agency or they know that you’re just an account manager and someone else will do the work, you do the work. Otherwise, you could end up with a giant mess and your client could go elsewhere.