Aim for realness not perfection in your professional life

Chris Esh

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I’m the father of two young kids. In the few years I’ve been in business, there have been many occasions where I’ve had to have a phone/video call with a client while on parenting duty.

Early in my business, I used to be mortified if my kids made their presence known with a cry or weird sound. I was afraid my clients wouldn’t take me seriously if they knew I was working from home with kids under my supervision. I wanted to be perceived as a Serious Professional. Not as a dad standing on the pile of trash my child meticulously emptied from my office trash can, which I allowed of course because, hell, at least it kept him quiet.

I Feel You, Bro


Fake it ‘Til You Make an Ass of Yourself

After too many awkward background sounds, though, I eventually realized I wasn’t fooling anybody. So when I had to take a call while on parent duty, I started giving clients a heads up at the start of a call.

And guess what, most clients thought it was really sweet and said “Aww,” or told me about their kids. Nobody ever said, “Kids? How do you expect to build me a good website if you’re all concerned with raising your kids?!?”

Here’s what I’ve learned: People like working with real people. Not perfectly poised characters from stock photos, but real live people, with warts and all.

Those moments of talking about kids with clients often opened a crack in our professional veneers, and allowed us to connect as humans outside of our occupational roles. It made my clients like and trust me more.

Confidence is Sexy

When you look at websites in any industry, you see a lot of companies and organizations trying to appear bigger, cooler, smarter, or more important than they actually are. But instead of impressing potential clients, they at best end up looking just like all their competitors. At worst, they look like frauds and wannabes.

Either way, they fail to create a trust-based human connection with their users, and they often end up hiding their strengths.

For example, many solopreneurs refer to their companies as “we,” under the assumption that potential clients will look down on them for being a one-person shop. But what if your clients actually see that as a good thing? It means when they call your number, they’ll talk to you, the expert they’re hiring rather than some receptionist. They may not be able to reach you round the clock like a larger business, but when they do, they’ll be far more likely to get their questions answered right away.

It’s not that it’s better to be solo than to have a staff, or that having kids will advance your business (it definitely won’t). The point is it’s better to be the person/business/organization you actually are than to pretend to be something you’re not. Whether in person or online, trust can’t happen without authenticity. 

Using My Children for Selfish Marketing Needs

The first website I built for my business was focused on proving myself as a legit professional. When I redesigned it earlier this year, I shifted course and aimed to instead present myself as an authentic, trustworthy human.

I embraced my role as a working parent by including a picture of an all-too-familiar office scene.

For some people that look at my website, this might be too casual and personal, and that’s OK with me. People that have a positive reaction to this sort of thing are much more likely to be a good fit for my business anyway. After all, uptight humorless people aren’t my target audience.

Keep It Real

Humans have a nasty tendency to see our unique traits as weaknesses. We wish we could be more like our professional idols and successful competitors, and we look at our own oddities with contempt.

The reality is, people today crave authenticity. You may not be the best there is, but if you’re confident enough to step out as the real you, people will be drawn to your realness.

People want to do business with real people. That’s why you see a lot of big companies featuring huge pictures of their support staff on their websites. They get that people aren’t attracted to faceless corporations, so they try their darnest to make sure people know that “we’re real people too!”

Exhibit A: GoDaddy

But then you look at actual small businesses and nonprofit websites and you can’t find a single photo of an employee or owner. It makes me want to pull my hair out. Their small, personal service is the one thing they possess that larger companies can’t match—is hidden because they’re self-conscious about being too small.

Stop shooting yourself in the foot.

It takes a bit of vulnerability and a leap of faith sometimes. But bringing your real self into your professional world allows for trusting relationships to develop.

Aim for realness, not perfection.


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