I just sat through a webinar that told me that I didn’t matter. Only my clients did.
In this webinar I learned:
- Your branding should be for your clients and what they like
- You should only post things on social media that your clients want to see
- You need to change your writing to appeal to your clients
- You need to create things your clients want even if you’re not super-excited about it
You don’t matter. You’re not part of the equation. Literally whether you like something or not doesn’t matter at all. As long as your clients like it.
This is crap.
This is what I did for my first few years in business and it made me miserable.
I’m not saying you shouldn’t create an attractive and cohesive brand, or that you shouldn’t share and create content that your clients want. But you should never take yourself out of the equation. You should never let your clients run your business.
I see entrepreneurs doing this every day. It’s not genuine, and it reads as phony.
When you’re using language that isn’t yours, it’s fake.
When you’re choosing colors that aren’t you, it’s fake.
When you’re offering things you don’t even want to offer, it’s fake.
While this idea of creating a business completely around what your clients want might work for large companies, it doesn’t work for small companies, and it certainly doesn’t work for solopreneurs.
You are your company.
First and foremost, everything in your business is truly about you. It’s about your passions, your skills, your life, and your desires to make the web a better place.
Big companies have employees. They have guidelines on what to say and how to say it, and what colors to use and no one CARES if doesn’t match what they like, because it’s not theirs. The words aren’t theirs. They are not pretending to be a different person, they’re just acting on behalf of a company. Big companies can create divisions and hire employees to offer new services that their clients are requesting. It doesn’t matter if the higher-ups don’t personally want to offer it, they’ll hire someone who will take it on.
But when you work for yourself, when you sell your products and services, and when it’s your face on the company, you better damn well like it and enjoy what you’re offering.
I spent the better part of two years trying to portray that fun brand with pink and sparkles and the occasional F-bomb for edginess. I thought it was what my clients wanted.
But I learned three things:
- It’s EXHAUSTING to pretend to be something you’re not. When every single thing you post or share has to be run through a filter to make you sound cooler, edgier, etc. it stops being fun. This absolutely killed my desire to blog or share anything on social media. I’d cringe at my graphics because they just were so NOT me. It didn’t work.
- I attracted a lot of clients I didn’t like. They weren’t bad clients, but when you’re ALL-CAPS-EXCITED on your website, it tends to bring in people who are ALL-CAPS-EXCITED in their emails. Eek! I was attracting people whose sites I had little interest in building, and whose personalities didn’t mesh well with mine. How was that a good fit for anyone? It wasn’t.
- There was a serious disconnect between online-me and real-life me. I worried about what people would think if they met me in person. Would I be cool enough? Would I be fun enough? Would they realize how fake I was being? This actually caused a huge amount of stress before Skype calls or in-person meetings. I felt like I had to watch what I said and try to be on-brand all the time. Ridiculous.
Now, I know what you’re thinking. You can do your branding to better reflect yourself, make your voice come through in your writing, and attract people you want to work with. But it’s still all about your clients, isn’t it?
When you focus on your clients, you forget about yourself.
When you try and fit in a mold that your “ideal client” wants, you limit yourself. And you take on things that you don’t want to do, because you want to make your clients happy.
And, by the way, just like your best friend from childhood, your ideal client is imaginary.
When you’re constantly creating for someone else, you lose sight of yourself. You forget what you want, and end up offering products and services you don’t want to offer. Or taking on projects you’re not excited about because it’s something your clients want.
Clients want hosting? Guess you better offer it, even if you hate the idea of answering support tickets at 2am.
You can totally do work you don’t want to do with regular hours, a steady paycheck, and health benefits for a company. Because you may as well be working for someone else if that’s how your business is going.
Why are you self-employed if not to follow your dreams? If not to create the life you want?
You can’t do that if you only focus on your clients.
Yes, many of us fall into this hole where we can’t get out. Clients ask us for something and we want to make them happy, so we take on the project, or we offer hosting, and then it ends badly.
If you offer products or services you don’t enjoy, you’ll be unhappy.
This is how I found myself taking on all sorts of jobs, and offering all sorts of services I didn’t want to offer. A client came to me frustrated about hosting, so I offered to host her. Then I was hosting others. Soon I had several clients on hosting plans with me.
They were happy.
I felt trapped.
I wasn’t able to go on vacation or log out for the weekend because what if someone’s site went down? I felt glued to my computer. I even had to check emails and deal with hosting issues during my wedding.
I didn’t take myself into account. I didn’t stop and say, “You know, this really isn’t what I want.” A client said “jump,” and I asked “how high?”
This might be a good way to run a business, but it was a terrible way to live my life.
If you aren’t honest with yourself, or with your clients, you’ll be unhappy (and so will they!).
You have to create a business around who you are, what you want, and what you want to bring to the world. Otherwise you’re not helping anyone.
Just because your clients love pink, doesn’t mean you have to Barbie-up your website.
Just because your clients think people who say “fuck” in blog posts are cool doesn’t mean you have to force foul language.
Just because clients want you to create a product or service, doesn’t mean you have to.
What you do have to do, is be comfortable with you are, and what you want to offer. When you do that, you’ll attract the right kind of people and your connections and brand will be genuine. You’ll enjoy your work and know when to say “no” or recognize that something isn’t working for you.
Your business is not all about your clients. Your business is about YOU. You come first. Create a cohesive and comfortable brand around yourself. Create offerings that you are willing and able to offer your clients. The right people will find you.
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