I spend the majority of my waking hours pumping people up + pimping people out: revamping their brands, helping them hustle and crafting the right taglines, logos and bios to broadcast their talents.
Clients often bubble into my inbox when they’re facing a career chasm. They want to quit their job. They’ve been laid off. They want to crack into a new industry. They want to set their cubicle ablaze and dance ’round the pyre. Oftentimes, they need a coach / therapist / guru, not a writer / editor / organization freak — and I tell ‘em so.
But sometimes, the situation is a little murkier: they’ve got a dream and they’re ready to pounce, but they don’t really have any experience. Or testimonials. Or credentials. Or a portfolio. Or…anything.
Who’s gonna hire a walking, talking tabula rasa?
Actually, plenty of folks. It’s all about packaging + transparency.
If you’re still in the blank slate phase of your empire-building, that’s okay. Everyone starts there. The key is to build credibility and attract clients while “keeping it real” and being forthright about your qualifications.
How to … build credibility
+ GO PRO BONO.
At least for a minute or two. If you’re an aspiring food photographer who’s never had a photo published, start snapping pics for local restaurant menus in exchange for free coffee and dessert. Build up a reasonable portfolio. Then set your rates accordingly.
+ GET CERTIFIED.
If your chosen vocation has a union, forum, guild, group or troupe, join it. Unless it’s super-lame. In which case, skip the formal certificate. Instead …
+ GET A MENTOR.
Find someone who is living your dream, send them a platonic love letter, and pitch yourself as their willing apprentice.
How to … keep it real
+ DON’T LIE. DUH.
If a client asks you how long you’ve been working as a professional pastry chef, and the correct answer is “six months,” then say, “six months.” However …
+ POLISH THE TRUTH TILL IT GLEAMS.
Maybe you’ve only been a professional pastry chef for six months, but you’ve been an avid culinary experimenter since age twelve, and you won a pie-baking contest at age sixteen, and you wrote your senior thesis on “Yeast and Yeoman in the Middle Ages,” and you run a blog about toaster ovens, and, and, and … y’feel me? Say that stuff, too. Passion is the portal to validity.
+ KNOW YOUR LIMITS.
If your new employer asks you to caramelize six dozen crème brulées – but you’ve never so much as handled a blowtorch — then say, “whoa, nelly!” Be upfront about your areas of expertise — and less-pertise. They’ll be grateful for your honesty. And no one goes home with scorch marks.
For further words of wisdom on honesty, clarity + the striking power of telling it like it goddamn is, absorb: The Secret to Success by Danielle LaPorte, Authentic Personal Branding with Hubert Rampersad and Build a Killer Online Portfolio from Freelance Switch.