What is your "brand"? Marketing experts will generally answer along the lines of "a brand is your business image." But a brand is more than just your business image. It also includes your customers' experience and the expectation you set when doing business with you. In short, it is promise.
One of the things I learnt from the social media guru Chrissie Lightfoot is how important it is to create your brand or a name. As a freelance writer it’s your bread and butter. You want to be the name that clients think of when they need a professional. You want to be the go-to person for someone who won't let them down, if they are holding a festival or putting together an anthology they need to know that you will provide professional content. You do this by promoting yourself and your work through social networking sites, blogs and positive word-of-mouth.
Recently I have had to have a word with another person. The reason? My major aim is to gain another publishing deal. I'm a freelance writer when the person asked to accompanied me to events where I'm networking and hoping to find work, was undermining my brand. My first port of call was to sit down face to face with a drink and in a nice friendly manner, tell her what I was trying to do and why her comments were making me unhappy. I explained my plans for the future and, offered to help to her with her own writing career. Unfortunately, even after I asked her to stop politely four or five times - it carried on. Luckily another freelancer pulled me to one side and had a little word in the ear. Well a little word in the ear and a long email. Bless the Americans they understanding creating a brand, customer service and getting sales!
This is the advice fellow freelancer sent on Friday. It took a bit of time to digest:
'Be risk averse towards the 'sneaky' or 'saboteur.' These people are harder to work with than the openly competitive colleagues because they like to undermine through devious means, including making other people around them look bad. A sneaky competitive tends to see everyone else as potential threats. You can spot a sneaky competitive by the things they conveniently leave out, "forgetting" to send emails to you that concern you, or down playing your successes, undermining what you are trying to promote, using you to gain opportunities but never sending you news on events and competitions that may benefit you. Such a person is unlikely to change her spots, and you'll need to manage around them as well as standing up for yourself.'
This made me sad on so many levels. I hadn't thought of the other person as a 'competitive.' I'm sort of a bouncy, willing to help anyone kind of person. Although I do get grumpy if I'm taken advantage off. I certainly don't keep any of my plans a secret. I'm afraid that I did feel hurt on a personal level. I usually invite people along to events. I try to see if I can get them a spot too. I share news of opportunities. But the next bit hit home.
'Are you serious about a career in writing? Do you want to be a professional or is this just a sideline? Is this a game for you?'
I'm pretty sure that anyone would agree that those are substantial questions. And I realised, I am very serious in making this into my career. Here is the last bit of advice from my American friend:
'When you're vexed by a sneaky negative person write directly and call them on their tactics. This lets them know you're no pushover. Successful freelance writers have created a brand of themselves. There is no exception to this and the reason is simply client trust. You work hard, build up and outstanding list of satisfied clients and understand that with every new and satisfied client your network is expanding. Successful freelance writers understand that the brand they create is an extremely valuable business asset and they promote it constantly.
Focus on maintaining the Golden Rule in all of your interactions with others. Don't stoop to their level – responding competitively or with snarky comments. It will foster more negative competitiveness rather than improving the situation. BUT PROTECT YOUR BRAND AND YOUR NAME.'
The bizarre thing was that my therapist offered the exact same advice. Obviously, without all the Americanism's such as 'competitive.'
'When you hear of damage done, address the problem quickly. Once the damage sets in it can become fact in people’s minds. Wait long enough to get your anger or other strong emotions in check. They make it impossible to think and talk about the issue professionally, which is what you need to do. It doesn’t matter if what was said is true or not. It doesn’t matter if the people criticising you did it to your face or behind your back. It doesn’t matter if the slight was caused by ignorance and inexperience, jealousy or misunderstandings. You must address it.'
I certainly didn't expect this when I was dreaming off selling best sellers and getting lots of nice contracts. What has really surprised me is that I feel better after letting that person know that I find her behaviour unacceptable and being assertive about it. I'm feel positive and ready to move on.