Thursday, 25 February 2016

Find Clarity Within — Get Your Story Straight

On Tuesday night, my friend Ama Okoro came to my house to discuss her business, Clarity Within. She's a therapist/life coach whose target market is women and families with relationship and personal development issues. Well she's got her website up; she built it but they did not come, so she asked me for advice on leveraging the internet to bring business her way. This is what happened next.

During the course of the evening, during which I basically said, "Be more social online," I came to realise that I need to take my own advice. I ran her up a quick and dirty Blogger blog like this one to practice writing blog posts on — she needs to demonstrate a deep and practical knowledge and experience of her craft. Basically, I told her to do what I was doing as a web designer when I was a web designer. When I did it for a living. But I'm in facilities management now. Oh, yeah...

Who are you?

As a therapist, Ama asks open-ended questions designed to make the client think, the idea being to promote self-awareness. When we talked about blogging, I asked her to open her Google Apps account so I could set up the blog, then asked her about her business and what she actually did. Ama explained that to encourage her clients to become more self-aware, she asked them two main questions:

  • who are you?
  • what do you want?

The answers to those questions lead clients to a clearer understanding of who they really are and what they really want. You see, our perceptions of ourselves can be warped by social expectations, by our own desires, and by being unwilling to face up to truths we don't like.

Who am I?

I had addressed the issue of self-perception myself on a Medium blog post, "How Many Hats Do You Wear?" — which I cheekily referenced in Ama's blog. I've also written about it right here in On t'Internet. But when I'd finished working on the blog post, "How To Find Clarity Within" with Ama, I realised with a shock that I've got no business lecturing other people on the importance of being self-aware and projecting a realistic image of yourself when I'm not doing that myself. I'm still talking about web and graphic design as if I'm still doing it for a living, when that has not been the case for three years. I don't actually talk much about my day job on the internet, mostly due to a desire to keep my working and online lives separate. But then, I'm relying on my personal conduct to advance my career. When you run your own business people who don't know you have to rely on what they can see about you online to decide whether to do business with you or not. Since it's not possible to network in person all the time, your online conduct does the hustling for you. It's the same when you're looking for a job. This is why I have a fairly random mix of subjects on this blog; don't be surprised to find the odd "My Day Out" post — I've got a life offline.

What do you want?

Ama wants to get her fledgling business off the ground. I've already told her what to do for now: follow the instructions provided in my blog post, "If You Build It, They Will Come, And Other Internet Myths." She needs to talk to people online — particularly her professional peers, people in related trades, and potential clients. And she needs to discover where these people "live" online. She also needs to demonstrate knowledge and experience of her trade. I set up her blog for her to practice blogging on, the idea being to provide practical help and advice to people who might be considering engaging a life coach or therapist. By doing that, she's not giving anything away as such: she is selling personal appointments with herself, the blog posts are advertising.

What do I want?

As I worked with Ama to write her first blog post, we giggled as I typed this out:

Like many other women I want to lose weight and feel great. I've joined a slimming club and counting my Syns, etc. So far I've lost half a stone despite my chocolate Hobnobs habit. I can't help it, they're crunchy and so nice with a cup of tea. If I open a packet, I can't just have one. I must have another, and another, and just one more...

I told Wendy about this, and she said, "Ama, are you sure you want to lose weight? It seems to me that you want Hobnobs." - Ama Okoro, How To Find Clarity Within

Afterwards, while talking about the post to my other friend Michelle, I thought about it. I used to think that self-awareness was the be all and end all, and that merely asking the questions "Who are you" and "What do you want" were sufficient. You are what you do, right? Well the way you think and feel and the relationships you're in are part of that, too. These tend to manifest in the way that you conduct yourself, particularly on the internet, as the way you behave is usually all that your audience has to go on when deciding whether or not to do business with you.

What I'm doing about it

I'm going to follow people who work in customer service, the facilities management industry, and allied trades. I'll also have to bite the bullet and face the facts: I can't make a living as a web designer in a market saturated by eager beavers who also know how to knock up a one-click install WordPress website, add copy, and make logos. I like to keep my hand in but the truth is there is no going back. It's over. Since February 2013 it's been a hobby and that's all it will ever be.

It's time to move on, and that means getting my story straight: I'm a customer coordinator for a facilities management company with a background in web and graphic design and a keen interest in internet culture and politics. I'm not willing to give those other things up but I don't have to, I just need to make more room for other things.

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