It’s nice to be taken seriously.
As a remote working freelancer, I used to really highlight this when pitching or reaching out to clients. I wanted people to see that I was serious about my work, and went overboard with my professional courtesies to prove it. Now I realise that was all nonsense.
The thing is, I don’t actually meet the vast majority of my clients, and yet I speak to them on a daily basis. I generally don’t know what they look like, how old they are or what their relationship status is, but I’m pretty sure they’re all real people. And because they’re real, I want them to like me, as well as take me seriously.
You see, I care about being liked. And I care about you being liked…
The way I see it, typical business correspondence for most remote workers and freelancers goes one of two ways:
- You can go down the ‘Dear Mr or Mrs Client, I’m pleased to inform you that my schedule currently permits me to bla bla bla’ route.
- Or you can opt for that fake chumminess, where you finish your emails with a line about the weather or some other empty comment like: ‘I hope you find some time for a well-earned pint tonight!’ (the equivalent of David Brent-style finger guns)
But why can’t we scrap this hangover from corporate life and just be genuine? I think there’s room for being informal. As long as the quality of our work goes unaffected, what’s to stop us being ourselves in our professional lives? After all, there’s more to us than just our work.
I want Mr or Mrs Client to know that I’m a real person too; that I take my work seriously, but that I also have a great (i.e. sarcastic) sense of humour. That I have other interests, like trying to seduce the world with my bass guitar, or getting weird tattoos just to justify my hipster beard; essentially, that I don’t only exist on a screen in two dimensions. I want to be real so that Mr or Mrs Client have a chance to like me! And I want the chance to like them back.
Now I realise ‘like’ is a strong word, and I don’t necessarily expect my clients to like me, but I want them to at least know a little bit about me. It’s too easy to totally bypass the human side of work when you spend 95% of your working life without coming face to face with another person. Skype and phone calls are the highlights of my remote working days. I won’t let that chance to interact with real living humans pass me by, trust me.
Here’s an example: I remember when I was trying to work out the perfect tone for a pitch (nobody tells you this stuff right?), so I experimented a little. The more human they were, the better the response. The first time I used a smiley in a proposal, I got one straight back (and was hired).
It was a gateway into realising that every email has a human behind it. Besides, if it were a real life interaction, wouldn’t we be making the effort to do that same — big yellow emoji smile?
Trying to establish a relationship with people I don’t actually know is the perfect way for me to feel like I’m not simply working with machines all day long. I can ask my clients how their weekends were, and I genuinely care about the response. I can tell them that I went to a great gig the night before and that my ears are still ringing, and I know that I’ll get a little insight into their lives in return. It pays off.
Last week I had a stressful week and was perhaps more rushed than normal in my communications. Out of the blue, a relatively new client emailed me to ask whether everything was okay and wished me well. No talk of work, just a friendly message, to see how I was. — It made my bloody day!
Of course, people liking you in a work context isn’t just a personal plus, it’s a professional one too. It’s a gateway to future collaborations, recommendations and relationships. It helps no end in terms of word-of-mouth marketing, and without a doubt it makes people want to work with you again.
I work as a freelance translator, and as a remote employee for an artist management company in the US. In these sectors, caring that people like you helps indefinitely, in fact I’m pretty sure this is a universal truth.
But maybe there are other sectors that demand formal professionalism at all times. Does that apply to you? Or does it genuinely make you smile when someone asks how you are in an email, tells you about their family, or cracks a joke?
I’d love to know what other Flylancers and remote workers think, but until then I stand by my shameless cry for love and attention; people liking me is awesome.
Author: Jeran Richardson, Barcelona Flylancer