“You don’t have to retweet everything I post,” my husband says to me about pimping out his blog on Twitter. “I don’t want you to hurt your business.”
I know he wouldn’t take it personally if I choose not to promote his political blog–a topic inherently controversial and sometimes contentious—in venues where I have interaction with clients. It’s not like it’s not something I’d considered beforehand.
I assure him it’s my choice. I am proud of what he’s doing and I want to support him however I can. Even on the days I wonder whether it makes a difference in my business, the answer is still the same for me.
For many years, I kept everything separate religiously. It was rare that a client would realize I had a personal blog (for years), or knew I am a low-carber, or new-age hippie chick. This was all just mystery, smoke and mirrors. They knew I was personable and could fix their websites. Some might know I was married or had a daughter or cats. But that was the extent of sharing time.
They didn’t know just how freakin’ weird I am. Not clue one. And that worked. I was always professional dealing with my clients. A totally differentiated personal life left me free to occasionally be a disgruntled web designer on my blog, cuss like a drunken sailor on shore leave and not be bothered about who it’s going to bother. I could talk astrology or tarot and not be worry someone might think I was a flake who couldn’t be trusted with their FTP passwords.
It was easier.
Social media shook that up. I had real life friends mixing with online friends mixing with clients. I didn’t want to be a phony–yuck!–and I sure as Hell didn’t want to have to scrutinize every potential utterance through 37 mental filters for potential landmines. Those who know me well know I have a damned big mouth and know how to use it. (Mars/Mercury in living color.)
So what if someone doesn’t like my Libertarian politics? So what if they think New Age stuff (and therefore those who follow it) utterly nuts? I accepted the idea if some don’t want to work with me based on my personal-life, then okay. Potentially losing a little business was a reasonable tradeoff.
Little at a time, I relaxed. I’d let my mouth open with the crystal clear understanding that sometimes, whatever coming out might not make perfect sense, might rattle or annoy, may leave others thinking less of me, or just be less than perfect somehow. I am less than perfect, somehow. I didn’t want to work quite so hard to keep the lack of perfection to myself.
Anybody who wanted to bother with connecting the dots would start to see a bigger picture. Using my real name more often, linking to sites I frequent (where I frequently blather), in general simply letting these natural connections emerge, it started feeling like a matter of integrity to allow the two worlds collide. I was surprised at how it played. It was a relief to scrutinize less, which I expected. What I didn’t expect, however, was that I started getting some new clients who knew (and evidently liked) the real me already! Maybe this shouldn’t have shocked me, but it did. The “color” didn’t scare them all off.
I have always had a hard time gauging how people perceive me. Seems like they usually they really like me or they really don’t–not so much in between. So at times, the “openness” policy is disconcerting. Openness can feel a little naked. But in the big picture, what a gift it is!
Now, the people that work with me are working with me because they choose to, despite my “eccentricities” as I like to call them (or at least don’t care enough to try and figure it out). Ultimately, most probably work with me because I do my damnedest to take good care of their needs. But as a byproduct, my business more closely represents the real me than it ever has before, and I can’t help but think this level of authenticity in everything I do will make an impact–and lead me more smoothly to the next place I am going, wherever that is.
At the very least, it’s a lot more fun.