Somewhere along the way, I lost my voice. The irony… a degreed writer, a blogger, and the owner of two communication companies, and a person without a voice — publicly that is. My personal life is a different story. That “self: has grown and flourished and found it’s own voice perhaps more than ever before.
But at the same time, my professional voice grew quieter. Eventually, I found myself living between a fragmented personal and professional self that I’ve found difficult to merge.
A couple of weeks ago I attended the Content Marketing World 2012 event. Something about the way the stars were lined up in my own life(s), layered on top of this event, changed everything for me.
I’ve been piecing together how exactly I lost my voice and then what it was that gave me the courage to use it again. Maybe if I can, someone else suffering in this quiet hell of being awake but paralyzed to speak, will be set free. I don’t think I’m the only one.
The Tale of the Rise and Fall
When I started Self Made Chick, I was a solopreneur with a thriving copywriting business. I was on the recovery after losing pretty much everything in my life. An incredibly social person, I was meeting friends again through fellow bloggers after spending years in physical and emotional isolation. Life was great. Things were awesome. The sun was out again. I blogged because I needed an outlet for that story. Not for search engine rankings or visibility or to create a name for myself — I just wanted to get it out. In the beginning, it never really occurred to me that anyone would even be listening. There was nothing to lose.
But then something happened…
My business was growing so quickly that I could not even keep up with the inquiries nor possibly execute the workload. I was faced with a choice… raise my rates and cater to a handful of clients, or create a system that could provide quality copywriting services at affordable rates for as many people as possible.
One thing you might know about me if you’ve read any of my blog is that I have an immense love for the small business entrepreneur. The person that’s just getting started. The person with more passion than money. Being in a position to help that person is kind of what I’m all about. There was no way in hell I could possibly turn my business into something that served a small exclusive group and leave my kind of people behind. No way.
So I made what was perhaps the best decision of my entire life (personal and business included) and I formed a partnership with Tara Geissinger (who lives on the opposite coast of the United States from me and who I got to know solely virtually because of this blog) and we took this thing on together.
That meant giving up 75% of my income because of the way we reorganized everything.
There was no guarantee that I would ever get back up to my income — and as a single mom doing everything alone, that was kind of scary. But I had my morals and values — and those were (and are) to do right by the small business and provide the best quality services at an affordable price.
And if we don’t live by your morals and codes, than what are we really?
And This Is Where I Started To Choke…
a. To slow down the movement, growth, or action of
b. To block up or obstruct by filling or clogging
c. To become blocked up or obstructed
d. To bring to an end as if by choking
e. To be unable to speak because of strong emotion
f. To be seized with tension and fail to perform well
strangle, stifle, suffocate, smother
So many times when I’m writing, I come to my senses and wonder — “why am I spilling my guts here???”
I guess it’s because I don’t think I’m the only one… And if anyone else is battling this right, I want you to know that you’re not alone.
After the partnership it wasn’t just me anymore. We had a “company.” I’m perfectly comfortable in my own skin and with my own voice, but now everything I said and did was a reflection of “the company.”
Do people that own successful companies have flaws and weaknesses? Do they publicly come clean about their insecurities?
Intellectually I thought, yes… they must. There were countless other examples of this being the case. But whenever I would start to blog, I choked on my own words. I made a commitment to myself when I started this blog that I would only write about first hand knowledge. But I was learning so much as I took on these new things. How could I give advice on something without long term proof that it worked?
And there was another, more complex layer… With a nerve that is hardwired directly into my very soul. One that if damaged, might destroy me for good.
What if my next blog post is a total flop? What if no one cares? I made a promise to myself from the very beginning that this blog would address the human part of success. The part that’s missing from those motivational books that give a 30,000 foot view of where the subject came from opposed to where they are now, but don’t leave out the really hard stuff in between getting from there to here. What if I bared my soul and it turned out that people didn’t like it, or worse, didn’t care?
Add that to the fact that I was having my own personal mid-life crisis. Kicking ass in business, but in an after marriage relationship with someone that wasn’t in a place in life to value me the way I knew I needed be valued — just because I was too weak to be alone. Was I in any position to be giving advice? I made a promise to myself from the very start that this blog would be authentic. That it would reveal the stuff behind the curtain. But what if my “authentic” was not good enough?
I watched as many my blogging friends went on to do great things. To make names for themselves. I told myself it was ok because we were busy building companies — and those two things couldn’t coexist. You couldn’t be “a person” and “a company” at the same time. Right?
Enter Content Marketing World 2012
The title of this blog post was originally going to be “How Content Marketing World Changed My Freakin’ Life.” That’s how critical this turn of events was for me. On the day that I boarded the plane for Columbus Ohio for Joe Pulizzi’s Content Marketing World event (Joe, you’re amazing), several important events had just taken place in my life that put me into a zone where I was open and ready for change.
1. I made a conscious choice to end a relationship that I felt in my heart wasn’t exactly right for either person. I took a stand that I would rather risk being alone forever than do something I didn’t feel was right. I was starting to design my life again, rather than just “letting it happen” to me.
2. I learned that if you have too many friends and stick to your code of ethics vs. trying to please everyone, that eventually some of those friends will weed themselves out of your life. I began to realize that it’s more important to believe in something and stand by it than to seek the approval of others. And sometimes it takes a lot of courage to take a stand for what you believe in and there’s no way to win without losing something or someone — and that’s never fun. As Brian Clark said in his presentation with Sonia Simone at CMWorld on the topic of not being afraid to rock the boat, “You don’t even need to be controversial. Just take a stand on something and watch the haters come in.”
In short, I was becoming more comfortable with ME. Step one.
Thank you Mary Lou and George
After an amazing day of presentations at Content Marketing World all geared toward having a voice and purpose through content, Joe and the CMI team had a special treat for us — a free concert with Rick Springfield. I tell ya, internet marketing people know how to have a good time. In addition to the concert, the CMI team had set up a pre-party with an open bar in the expo hall, a BBQ dinner at the concert pavilion with an open bar, and then a post party back at the hotel with an open bar. Work hard play hard at it’s finest.
I met Mary Lou at the pre-party and we immediately hit it off fabulously. What an amazing lady. I’ve never really been into talking about the normal fluffy stuff people tend to talk about when they first meet (yawn) — I like to break the ice and get down to the human stuff. By the time we finished our cocktail, Mary Lou and I had already gotten way past that ice were fast friends.
The thing is, now that I wasn’t blogging, and because I work at home by myself pretty much all of the time, I really had very little interaction with my business peers any more. Would they like me for “me” the way my friends did? Could I talk about my businesses success and my misadventures in dating and about working my way up from being homeless in one conversation and still be taken seriously? My time with Mary Lou reminded me that I could.
On the way to the concert pavilion, we met George Passwater and we all hit it off immediately. By nature, people who communicate for a living are pretty easy to converse with — especially after a couple of free cocktails.
By the time we had sat down with our plates of delicious BBQ to eat, the conversation had turned to blogging. I shared my story of my fall from grace and about how mad I was at myself for totally abandoning my blog. I never revealed the name of it, but kind of shared the gist of it.
And then this moment happened…
George looked at me and said, “Wait… what”s your name? I used to read your blog when I was just starting out!”
George… whether you realize the impact of this or not, I’ll never know. But to find out that you, living on the opposite coast of the United States, remembered this blog from four years ago — and that it was one of the resources that helped you grow your now successful content company, was a life changer.
From my perspective, I’m sitting at my desk all alone having major anxiety over pushing the “publish” button. But it turns out, that once that content is out in the world, it may just reach someone that really needs to hear it.
From “how-to” tutorials, to stories that make you feel more human, I started to realize just how much I rely on information shared by others every single hour of every single day.
One could even argue that it’s irresponsible and selfish to be so wrapped up in being worried about putting yourself out there that you fail to share the knowledge you’ve collected throughout your life with others who may need it. And that’s how I’m looking at it now.
Over two days of fantastic presentations delivered by people that are my industry heroes, I heard the same message:
Tell your story.
We all need each other in this world. Whether it’s to figure out how to edit my settings on Facebook, or get an option on that campground, or to have a laugh, or to be inspired by a story when we’re feeling low, we all need each other.
And in today’s digital world, we give and receive that through online content.
It’s not about “marketing.” It’s about contributing the information you’ve collected in your life to the world so that we can all try to make sense of things better. And with so much noise out there online, it’s about doing it in such a way that is authentic and genuine and designed to be selfless rather than selfish.
Please, tell your story. It can be scary and hard to put yourself out there. But there are people in the world that need to hear it.
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