Be Less Professional, Get More Business
“Marian told me that she thought you were a robot.”
These are the words that my business buddy confessed to me after her friend hired me to design a landing page for her copywriting business. After emailing back and forth a few times with Marian, we hopped on the phone to dig into the details of her project. She said that I seemed like a completed different person when she heard my actual voice than I did over email. That’s when she told my friend that she thought I might be a robot. And not the cool kind. The kind that might be an automated bot who you don’t want to give your credit card number or any personal info to. It wasn’t until we got on the phone that I became a real person to her with a funny and quirky personality -- which is why we ended up getting along so well and her project was a huge success!
This is how I came to the realization that I’ve been stuck in a professional rut...I’m literally being TOO professional. I’ve somehow trained myself to come off as so professional that I have all the personality of a block of cheese. And for someone who preaches about letting your personality shine through in your business -- I’m not practicing it myself.
How Being Professional Turned Into Being Boring
Professional habits (both bad and good) have been ingrained in me for so many years that it’s become second nature. It probably started back in school. There are so many classes that require formal writing, practice resumes and theses -- but somehow I was never taught how to be an actual human being while interacting in a “professional” setting. Then once I landed my first job I was so nervous and uncomfortable that I went into robot-mode, which basically means becoming a YES machine. God forbid I actually show an iota of my own personality or that I have ideas of my own.
For some reason I was afraid that people wouldn’t think I was a hard worker if I had a personality or sense of humor. If they know that I work ANY less than 12 hours a day they’ll definitely think I’m a slacker, right? Writing that out now, it’s so ridiculous that I just want to go back in a time machine to give 2012 Lindsey a cookie, pat her on the head and whisper into her ear, “Showing that you are human does not mean you are any less of a hard worker.”
Now don’t get me wrong...there's a time and place for professionalism, and some people’s jobs require a higher level of corporate coldness than others (i.e. lawyers, investment bankers, doctors, etc.), but being less robotic does not mean that I have any less of a work ethic. In fact, by letting my personality shine through, I’ve been given more opportunities to prove that I am a hard worker. Back when I was looking for a job at an agency, once I stopped sending sterile, canned emails for listings and decided to just be the total dork that I am, I almost immediately received an offer. Which eventually led to me starting my own business.
The Argument Against Professionalism
Now’s the part where I’m going to invite you to be less professional with me, and here why.
1. It’s going to connect you better with your ideal client. There are thousands of other people who do exactly what you do, and everyone can find them with the click of a mouse. What sets you apart from them is that YOU are YOU. You can’t cater to everyone (a hard lesson I’m learning), but you CAN make a powerful connection with a handful of people who will be the perfect yin to your nerdy yang. Real life example: I’ve had at least 3 people hire me because I wrote about loving tacos on my website. No kidding.
2. It shows your audience that you’re a real person, and everyone would rather hire a real person. You know when you call into your insurance company and have to try to communicate with that automated messaging system? No one wants to hire the phone robot. Sorry, Siri. Sounding like a robot has no reflection on your work ethic or quality of work. If you’re a good worker or a bad worker, it’s going to show through no matter how you present yourself.
3. Bringing humor and excitement to your communications legitimately can bring people joy. This is the part about being more of myself that makes me the happiest. Making my clients laugh or smile is one of my favorite things to do. Running a business can be hard. Even when you have lots of hired help. But when people enjoy working with you, they’re 1,000% more likely to keep coming back to work with you again.
Repeat After Me: I Solemnly Swear To Be Less Professional
I promise to be more personal in my communication. Instead of using stock email responses, I’ll make an effort to be more authentic. And not the kind of authentic you see in perfectly curated Instagram feeds. But the kind where I’m not afraid to share something real about myself so we can both laugh about it.
I promise to remember that the more conversational I sound, the more comfortable my customers will be with me. And that means that if there’s ever an issue, they’ll be comfortable coming to me to find a solution instead of ghosting out or getting angry.
I promise I won’t be afraid to show when I’m excited. I get so flippin’ stoked sometimes about the projects I get to work on and if I’m excited, then my client’s are going to get excited, too. And that makes everything about running a business more fun!