I’ve been working for myself in some capacity for the last 12 years. Even when I had a 9-5, I always had a side-hustle consulting. In July of 2019, I set out to start a new business and launched it in January 2020.
What emerged from taking the time to really understand my brand was a deep understanding of who I really wanted to work with, and who I would avoid at all costs, even if it meant struggling financially for a period of time.
I have developed a finely-tuned gut reaction at this point in my career. I’ve honed this radar after years of sleepless nights brought on by the sinking feeling and emotional trauma from seeing that a particular client had emailed me.
Having a bad client is often worse than having no money. In some cases, they’ll hold your money hostage or take their time paying you until you meet their demands. In other cases, no matter how much they pay you, it will pale in comparison to the time and money you’ll spend on therapy rebuilding your sense of self-worth.
So, what I’m about to tell you is nothing new. Plenty have advised this before me. Judging from the title of this post, you should already know what I’m going to say. There’s no clickbait here and no M. Night Shyamalan twist.
You Need A Filter
In Lindsay Pedersen’s incredible book Forging an Ironclad Brand: A Leader’s Guide, she give a multitude of examples of what a brand is. One of those examples is that your brand if a filter.
This is the one of the most important reasons why brand work is critical to your business success. Not because you get to pick colors and fonts but because you get to pick what you are all about and use that to make decisions at every level of your business.
When you understand who you are and what you value, it becomes much easier to attract those who share those values and turn away those who don’t.
- What is the dent you wish to make in the world?
- What does a working relationship look like?
- What sort of expectations do you have? What sort of expectations do you set?
When you have the answer to those questions, and can align your goals and values with those who want to work with you, I can assure you that, compared to working with anyone, it’ll hardly feel like work.
This is how you actually follow your passion in practice and still make a good living: be true to yourself and your values, be honest, and commit to doing outstanding work to the best of your ability.
Don’t let anyone in who stops you from doing those things. You’ll be better off in the long run.
Push Some People Away
Shoutout to Chris Farias of the Unicorn Rebellion, who inspired me to create my own WARNING.
About 2 months ago, I created this slide and began inserting it into every proposal.
This slide is accompanied by several other slides that are very clear about what it is like to work with me.
I’m also very clear about my availability. Every client is sent a very rigid onboarding email to set expectations about when I am and am not available, what technology I use, how to communicate with me, how to schedule time with me.
I do all of this because I want to give everyone the chance to walk away before we start. I’m setting the ground rules and giving full transparency about who I am and how I work right at the start. I’d rather lose the client at the beginning before we start, than find myself having some awkward conversation later about why I didn’t respond to an email over the weekend or why I tweet mean things about Trump.
Your Brand is Your Filter
The problem for many businesses is they’ve never actually done this work. They’ve never asked themselves the hard questions. They’ve never identified their purpose or their values. They just knew they wanted to make money. That’s not a recipe for long term success, especially if you count happiness or deep satisfaction as part of success.
Too many people have been taught that brand is a function that lives inside marketing. We need to think bigger and we need to go deeper. I can tell you from personal experience, not only is it more difficult to build brand than it is to state it and deconstruct it, it’s also the most important tool you have for bringing in great clients and avoiding the awful ones.
Do the work, and if you need help, contact me. I’ll ask you the tough questions and make you answer them.
My wife likes to save my blog posts and share them with me when I need advice. So, in many ways, this post is both advice for you, and a reminder for me.