Hitting the big 5 with my freelance life and attending TCMA2016 in the same week has made me think about how I want the next five years of my business to go.
I am the queen of the to-do list. Nothing gives me more satisfaction than sitting down with a lovely pen and a crisp sheet of paper and compiling a neat list, complete with headers, sub-headers, bullets, numbers, indents, colour coding – the whole caboodle (I know this is a weakness of many editors – we just love to order things).
And in my day-to-day working life, editing and proofreading, among other things, multi-component, multi-level education courses, the list gets referred to and satisfying little ticks (or big, relieved scoring-out lines) reassure me that I’m making progress towards my deadline.
The problem with not having accountability
Fortunately I don't have Douglas Adams's sanguine approach to deadlines!
Give me a deadline and I’ll hit it – it may not be pretty at my end (who hasn’t, at one time or another, stayed up into the wee small hours to complete a project?), but I’ll deliver a piece of work to a high standard on time, every time.
But that accountability to my clients – a clear request for deliverables and a deadline to go with it – hasn’t been extended to the business of running my business.
Lists may make plans, and they may look wonderful, but do I always execute the plan? Erm, no. Too often I've replaced my planned action for my business, my website, my blog, with activity focused on the immediate - I get caught up in my 'actual' work, forgetting about the importance of the long-term view and taking the steps needed to get me there.
And that’s where I think I went wrong after last year’s TCMA conference.
My first contact with content marketing
In September 2015 I had been lucky enough to go to another TCMA conference, for two days of inspiring workshops and talks, including a four-hour workshop facilitated by Marcus Sheridan, one of the most influential content marketers in the world, and one of the best speakers I've ever seen. It forced me (in a good way!) to think about how I ‘talk’ to my prospective clients through my online presence, and whether I’m really serving their best interests.
In practical exercises we confronted some very tough questions about how well we currently address the questions our clients want us to answer. The answer for almost all of us was ‘not very’!
Marcus inspired us with his enthusiasm and the very compelling story of his own business success using the principles of content marketing. He introduced us to the fundamentals and we worked through exercises to focus our minds on how we build trust and best serve our clients by answering their questions.
Despite being inspired, fired-up and excited by everything that I’d just learned, I didn’t execute on my ideas. Why not?
Inspiration followed by inaction - Why?
I didn't follow through because I had no deadline: I wasn’t accountable. I hadn’t actually put out there what I was going to do and when – there was no statement of intention, no commitment to action, and so it was too easy to fail to execute. This was the missing part of the jigsaw.
I don't intend to make the same mistake again after this year's conference, and so I'm going to put out there exactly what my plans are for the coming year. I know the title says five years, but – hey – baby steps, baby!
As a freelancer, I can sometimes forget that I am running a business, because it’s ‘just me' providing a service, and I am so focused on dealing with the here and now – the projects I'm working on, the next project that I'm bidding for – that I don't look at the bigger picture and think about direction and planning and why I'm doing what I do. But providing my services is a business, and I owe it to myself and my clients to behave, and therefore be treated, like one.
In the words of Richard Tubb at this year's conference, am I running my business, or is my business running me?
In order to develop professionally and as a business owner, I have to articulate to myself and to others what to expect from me. So here's the final piece of my jigsaw: my statement of intent.
Three clear commitments
I've decided on three aims, which I'm committing to here and now:
1 Create regular content for my website. Initially a weekly blog, but who knows – I may eventually make a foray into screencasting or other video content.
2 Continue to build a community around me which inspires and motivates me, and holds me accountable.
3 Redefine my business: who my ideal clients are, the type of work I enjoy doing and, just as important, what I don't enjoy.
There. I've done it. I've said what I'm going to do. And you have my permission to call me out on it if I fail to deliver.
What can I help you with?
When it comes to content, I want to write about what you are interested in. What would you like to know about proofreading and copy-editing? Do you know the difference between the two? Heck, do you even know what they actually are? Or what they do? Or how an editor can help your business?
You ask, and I'll answer.
If you have a question, or a topic for a blog post, let me know in the comments, and I'll happily answer.
Can't wait to hear from you - thanks for taking the time to read this post!