The Art of Being An Unconventional Professional
Some of the pros I admire most are complete non-conformists.
Kimra Luna blew up on the scene with blue hair, tattoos, and piercings. Ash Ambirge came around dropping the F-Bomb and giving business the middle finger. Paul Jarvis killed the idea that design needed to be busy and businesses had to be run on someone else's terms. And that's only a few of the completely professional trailblazers doing it their own damn way.
It's an amazing time to be an entrepreneur. It's becoming more and more acceptable to just be yourself and let your little weird light shine, especially for creative entrepreneurs. It's basically expected now that you run your business the way you see fit regardless of unsolicited outside opinion.
Gone are the days where you had to follow a formula and say what everyone else was saying just to get a seat at the table. Which, while super liberating, is also scary as hell. What if who you are in business isn't enough to sell your coaching services? What if you aren't different enough to be appealing? What if you're too different? That's a lot of pressure on top of also having to provide a killer product or service.
But what draws us to the unconventional pros is their unabashed individuality. They aren't asking our permission to do what they do and they aren't trying to appeal to all of us. They know that by showing up and comfortably being themselves they'll attract like minded readers and clients while weeding out those who aren't a good fit. They don't compromise to make a buck and it seems that sometimes results in making the big bucks.
So the lesson is that in business you just need to show up with crazy hair and cuss a lot, yes?
I mean, you can. That's fine. But that's not enough to pay the rent. The individuality may be what draws us in, but it's just the delicious icing on a well made cake. If you have your individuality but lack any actual skills, knowledge, or professionalism you're basically just the crazy lady screaming at people as they go into Wal-Mart. Except online.
What keeps us coming back and reading Ash's blog posts and buying Kimra's courses is the value they offer. The delivery is what attracts us, the value is what keeps us.
So how do you walk that line of authentic and unconventional + professional? There are a few non-negotiables you have to keep in mind.
You need to convey that you do in fact know your shit
To do that you'll need to be able to clearly communicate your message. First, this means you need to HAVE a message. A good one. A focused one. One that feels true and meaningful for you and beneficial for your future clientele.
Secondly you need to be able to communicate that message in whatever medium works for you. Written word, video, podcast, art, whatever your deal is. Keep your message clear, consistent, and make sure you're speaking to the right people.
You have to be in it for the right reasons
If your primary goal is to make money and you're using your quirkiness as a means to an end you're probably not headed for major success. Does that mean you shouldn't aim to make money? Um, no. Unless you just want an expensive hobby, in which case may I suggest backpacking (Shop REI lately? Shew!).
Money should be on your radar because you need it, and because it's fabulous to have, but your primary goal should be helping people, always. Being unconventional usually involves some level of deeper authenticity and vulnerability, and if your mission statement is dolla dolla bill y'all people will know.
All work and no play and vice versa
Here's the thing, you need to be taken seriously. Even if you aren't serious 90% of the time, you are dead serious when it comes to the value you offer your clients. You need to show them that. Show up with your sailor's vocabulary, but make sure your writing is on point. Be blunt and wild and eccentric, but show them all the testimonials from clients whose lives you've changed. Have a well-made site and business cards even if you can only afford the bare minimum. The key to all of this is balance.
Don't give a damn what anyone thinks of you, but make sure you give them enough information to see the whole picture. You aren't just eccentric or unconventional, you're a pro.
If you fake it, they WILL know
I can't express how important this one is. People can smell fake. They can sense it. They may not know exactly what it is, but they'll know something isn't right and they'll run like hell in the other direction.
If you're as straight laced as they come then own that! Trying to set yourself apart by being inauthentic might be the most damaging thing you can do in this life, professionally and personally.