… is not gold. Gill Pavey looks at one aspect of why “being a professional” is about more than sharp suits and good haircuts.
You have your own business and with it, the key qualities and attributes that you think you need to be a professional. But have you? The qualification and accreditation certificates hang on the office wall, you have the smart clothes, well-polished shoes, the latest smartphone and your hair is cut and styled regularly. You get on well with people at all levels, speak convincingly and network frequently; your professional image looks good, and you look forward to a successful career with a satisfying income and solid reputation.
However you can’t be good, or even competent, at everything so be careful about taking on tasks that do not play to your strengths. A key area where standards in some places are frankly appalling is the written word; if this applies to you and you present something that is poorly written on the internet or in marketing materials, it is widely and publicly distributed. What does this convey to the reader? That the business is run by people who are poorly educated, sloppy or stupid? That is not necessarily the case of course but most readers are too busy to consider reasons other than swift, negative ones particularly if you provide any service involving words, so you will lose all credibility. And don’t sit there smugly declaring that “people buy from people” and concentrate on heavy self-promotion. Up to a point, that might work on an otherwise level playing field but if your professional image is lacking through poor levels of literacy, then beware. Those creeping sycophants who currently think you are ‘inspirational’ and ‘fabulous’ (because you keep telling them so in hyped-up, hard-sell social media messages) will eventually wake up and melt away, in a modern twist to ‘The Emperor’s New Clothes’. So what can you do before this begins to affect your image, reputation and eventually your bottom line?
The first rule is, don’t be defensive and attack the critics. Bad writing, especially with your business name on it, is indefensible when you can buy-in expertise. Did you cut your own hair, make your clothes, or service your car? Probably not; you may pay hairdressers, mechanics and buy clothes from outlets and manufacturers you like when you need to because (a) you can rely on them to provide what you want at the right quality and (b) you don’t have the necessary skills, talent or time to do it yourself. So – why not use a qualified proofreader, copywriter or copy editor? Contrary to popular belief, these people are not there to catch you out or criticise, but to make the text in your e-newsletter, press release, website and other marketing material look like it should – rather like your car should run smoothly and reliably after a service. It may well cost less than your budget for clothes and hair styles, too, and lasts a lot longer.
My clients are not stupid, lazy or badly educated and include award winning authors, respected academics, PhD students and businesses but they all have one thing in common – they didn’t get there by presenting written material to anything less than the highest standard. Be sure of one thing – for every person who approaches you and points out that your marketing material is ineffective or full of errors, there could be another hundred who also see it and say nothing, but simply avoid using you.
Of course, you may prefer to turn a blind eye to this. You can carry on turning out material that is gradually destroying your credibility and believe that such things don’t matter; but is that a risk that you are prepared to take?
Go for gold, not glitter.
More information on what a proofreader or copy-editor does may be found here:
Copywriting information is here:
Gill Pavey is a proofreader and copy-editor with Wordhouse, based in Ireland. www.wordhousewritingservices.com