When people meet you for the first time, are you exactly who they expected to meet based on your website and social media presence? Or do you often get the feeling that you’re not quite what they expected?
Even if the copy on your website is great — what good is fantastic writing if it just doesn’t sound like the real you? This is where finding your voice comes in.
You’d be tempted to think that all this non-visual branding stuff only applies to big companies. But even if you’re a solopreneur or a freelancer or a startup just starting out, it really pays off to spend some time thinking about your branding — and not just your visual brand elements! It’s important to think about what your brand sounds like as well.
Let’s have a look at what happens if you don’t know your brand’s voice. And then you can have a go at it yourself using my quick-start guide to finding your voice.
PRETENDING TO BE SOMEONE YOU AREN’T NEVER PAYS OFF
Imagine if my website and blog were written in a straightforward business-y style, phrased in third person:
“Andie Katschthaler is an independent communications consultant….”
You’re thinking: “Hey, I like that lady. She could do some work for me,” and you decide to set up a meeting with this straightforward, consultant-type business lady.
Instead, in walks slightly weirdo ole’ me, and you find yourself in a meeting with someone who is completely and utterly wrong for your company. We don’t mesh, we don’t click. We’ve both wasted valuable time on an essentially useless meeting.
To hypothetical me this is a familiar pattern. Somehow, she ends up getting contacted by suits all the time. Why is that? Because her website makes it look like that’s what she wants. Because she isn’t clear on what her voice is.
BE FUCKING AUTHENTIC
Finding your voice is part of creating your brand — and it’s most definitely not easy and involves some soul-searching of sorts. Generally speaking, your own voice is made up from who you are and who your ideal customers expect you to be.
That means really knowing your actual ideal customer, and not just who you think your ideal customer is — or you’ll run into the same problems hypothetical-business-lady me ran into. Ask yourself who you want to work with. But that is only the second question.
The first question you have to ask yourself is probably harder to answer: Who are you? How do you speak? How do you work? And how can you reconcile this with what your ideal customer expects of you?
This is where it can get complicated. For instance, if you tend to curse a lot, you might not want to go haemorrhaging swear words all over the internet. One option is to edit yourself to a certain degree. I, for one, have chosen not to curb my cursing in my blogging and creative writing, but I don’t swear in direct communication with clients. Well, not generally. Only with the clients I click with really well.
Or you’re like Chuck Wendig and turn it into your thing. Figure out how your industry works and how you fit into the bigger picture. I think, as long as you and your ideal clients both feel comfortable with it, being a little off-kilter is perfectly acceptable.
EVERYWHERE IS “IN REAL LIFE”
The problem with being authentic on the internet is that we’ve gotten used to distinguishing between offline and online. Offline is considered “in real life”, and that suggests that online isn’t real life at all. That’s a misconception.
In the 21st century our lives and personalities simply do extend into the online realm. Both is real life, and both should be treated as such. So why would you want to be different online than offline?
Whatever you decide about balancing that venn diagram, make sure you’re being authentic. You can get ahead for a while with a slightly faked business persona. But, in my opinion, not being authentic and keeping up those appearances both online and offline will wear you down fast.
So…sing in your own voice, alright? Don’t be afraid of being a little different. At least that will make you stand out from the mainstream.
Haven’t found your voice yet? My 4-step worksheet will guide you through the process.