How To Sabotage Your Image

What’s on the iPod: Numb by The Airborne Toxic Event

A busy day yesterday, but I finished drafts of both the white paper and release. Now on to revisions on a previous project before continuing on with yet another project. Things aren’t so quiet around here as I thought they’d be this week. And yes, that’s actually good. I get too nervous when things quiet down.

I was discussing a situation with a writer friend in which she had asked a question on a professional forum and was inundated with answers that, well, somewhat addressed the question. See, bringing up what to charge on a writer’s forum is like asking a narcissist how he’s doing. It should be a simple answer, but it quickly becomes complicated and oh, so long on details.

One particular response caught hers and my attention. It was from a writer — and you know the type –who said basically that freelancing is dead and there’s no money to be made in it. He must have missed the woman halfway down the same thread bragging about making $250 a blog post (and yes, she should brag about that).

What started as a simple “What is the standard rate” question turned into a situation where each poster revealed a little bit about their own work processes and personalities — and not all of those revelations were good ones.

You have to ask yourself at what point are your comments on a blog or a forum going to be detrimental. At least I would ask myself that. See, I’ve been hired by companies based on comments I’ve made. I’m not alone in considering what those words out there for all eternity could mean later on.

Is it self-sabotage to speak what you think is a truth without checking to see if you’re perhaps mistaken? I think it is. Yes, I’ve managed to stick my own foot in it a few times, too. I’m sure we all have. Still, there are plenty of ways to sabotage your image without trying too hard:

Charge too little (and admit to it publicly). If you charge too little, you get a reputation. People talk, and it’s usually “Hey, hire him! He’s cheap!” If you say “I can do that project for $100!” and it’s a six-hour time commitment, who’s going to take you seriously when you raise your rates to $100 per hour? And if you’re out there bemoaning the state of the industry when everyone around you is clearly making more, how does that make you look? Uninformed at the very least.

Badmouth clients online. I remember one writer (and luckily it was only one) who wrote a lengthy post about how awful it was to work with her client — and she named the client. This was a client I’d referred to her, so how did that look on me? I wasn’t thrilled and told her so. She removed the post, but the damage may have been done, for she never worked for them again. I don’t think potential clients found her outing of this particular client very appealing, either. If you can’t say it to their faces, don’t say it at all.

Look cheap. That website you made for free may look good to you, but how does it compare to those of higher-priced writers who seem to capture more business (and more money)? Don’t think you’re a designer if you’re not — either use a template (and there are plenty that make you look good, this blog included) or hire a pro to design your site. Also, invest in your career. Buy those brochures and business cards. Dole them out generously. Make it look like you have money to spend on your business, and soon you will.

Be seen not following directions. This one is my pet peeve du jour. I have seen jobs mentioned on forums, clearly stating “send an email for more information.” The pile-on of seemingly blind or illiterate writers who respond with both their fees and their email addresses (hello, spam!) astounds me every time. These are people who brag about being “professionals” and who often preach how to run a business. Really? Does that include ignoring the simplest of requests from the client?

Being inappropriate. It’s probably not a good idea to include your clips from that adult website as samples. And I don’t think they’d like to hear your racist or sexist joke (neither would I). Seriously. Use your head when interacting in any way. If you can’t talk to your grandmother in that way, don’t talk that way to clients. And if you can talk to your grandmother that way, try getting a job that doesn’t allow you to interact with humans.

How have you seen people sabotaging themselves?

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  • Sharon Hurley Hall August 14, 2012 at 12:42 pm

    Totally agree with these, Lori. Any of these will damage your professional reputation and badmouthing clients in public will significantly reduce the number of people willing to work with you. Excellent advice.

  • Cathy Miller August 14, 2012 at 12:55 pm

    When I first started visiting Groups in LinkedIn, I was dumbfounded by some of the responses participants let fly in discussions.

    I mean nasty, rude, and definitely lacking any social graces.

    I understand when you're in your niche (such as a writing group) where you might slip up-although I definitely don't recommend it. It's a false sense of security that it's not your client base. You never know where a potential client might hang out.

    But, what blew me away was what some wrote in a Group where clients/potential clients definitely hung out. Did they honestly think that attitude would be viewed as a good thing?

  • Devon Ellington August 14, 2012 at 2:11 pm

    I think sometimes if something strikes us the wrong way or we're tired or whatever, we're reactive. When we do that, we have to remember to step back and take a breath, and perhaps, phrase it more diplomatically, rather than just hitting "send".

    And sometimes, what feels like a funny, off-the-cuff remark when we write it doesn't read that way on the screen, because it's missing intonation, gesture, facial expression. There's a lot of room for misinterpretation.

    We're human, we all slip up, but we should be valued on having a good, positive body of work out there, not just remembered for one or two comments.

  • Paula August 14, 2012 at 4:56 pm

    Diplomacy. Tact. Class. Whatever you want to call it, handling yourself with decorum is never a bad idea.

    I've never been terribly reactionary, but occasionally I'll be tempted to overstep the bounds of propriety, but I try to reign the emotions in before hitting "send."

    (I knows this entire comment reads as if I'm a Southern belle discussing the importance cordiality. Read it as you will, but rest assured I am not typing with a Southern accent. Okay, maybe a slight one.)

  • Lori August 14, 2012 at 7:49 pm

    Sharon, it's amazing how many people fail to recognize how giving someone hell online will reverberate throughout their careers.

    Cathy, that's just nuts, isn't it? I'd think even in a writing group they're going to leave a stench acting like that!

    Devon, that is true. However, clients don't have the same level of tolerance all the time. I know I've had to step away from the keyboard a few times (and a few times I didn't, and I regret that). What astounds me is how many people openly lament their chosen profession. How the hell do you attract business by doing that? Sheesh!

    Paula, I bet you'd look good in a hoop skirt. ūüėČ It's tough. I've been drawn into debates before and I felt like in the end, I just wasted a lot of time and left a bad impression. But like Devon says, we're human. The problem comes to a head when a client decides not to hire you based on comments.