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Farewell, professionalism trap: showing personality in business

In today’s world, companies big and small have to make sure they stand out from the crowd: products and services are usually replaceable, but your brand’s personality is what makes a difference to buyers. It helps you to connect with your audience – so show it!

Unless your company’s service or product is truly unique, either because your niche is so narrow or because your offer is a completely new invention, you’ll have to hold your ground against competitors. And thanks to globalisation, these are usually more numerous than they were in the past, making this no easy task.

This, combined with the fact that content is more short-lived than ever and often produced with the help of AI such as ChatGPT, means one thing: your content has to be either really unique and amazing, providing so much value that it can’t be ignored – or it has to be entertaining or resonating with people enough that it’s still likely to be read even though you didn’t reinvent the wheel.

And since most of us don’t reinvent the wheel for obvious reasons, there’s one simple solution to improving your content without too much of a hassle: give it some personality. 🤩

Screw professionalism – we want businesses with personality!

Haha okay, please don’t take that header too literally. Obviously professionalism is important and we can’t just go about our business doing whatever we want – but in my opinion, professionalism is something often misunderstood. Especially when it comes to freelancers and SMEs, who often think that since they aren’t a big players, they have to be extra serious, objective and formal to be perceived as professionals.

I like to call that the “professionalism trap” and many freelancers and companies fall into it – especially when starting out. I did too.

I think so many people fall into that trap because when we’re at the beginning of our career or starting a new business, we’re often still plagued by imposter syndrome. Some more consciously than others, but it influences almost everybody to some extent. 

To counteract that, we tend to think that we have to appear extra professional to convince our clients (and ourselves) that we do have a place here. And that usually leads to a stiff, impersonal (online) presence that doesn’t leave an impression on our clients. So instead of showing off what makes their business unique, many companies disappear in the mass of competitors and their offer seems interchangeable to customers. 

But even if you’re selling the same thing or offering the same service as others do, there is something that’s different – and that’s you. So why hide it? This is your strongest USP! Show the world who you are, what your company stands for and which values you hold high.

A bunch of yellow pencils, all tip down, where a single yellow pencil faces with the tip up, thus emerging from the masses.

How to show personality when you don’t want to share personal stuff in your business

Many people shy away from showing personality in a business context because they want to keep their private lives private – I get it. But showing personality doesn’t mean you have to disclose all the details of your private life. If and what you want to share online is 100% your choice.

The important thing with showing personality in your business is that you don’t have to get overly personal. Instead, it’s more about creating a certain mood, a vibe that your clients will pick up on and that they will either like or not (which is fine too, btw). This is done with colours, images and design as much as with words – and ideally those all complement each other.

Two examples of how I show personality without being too private

  • If you click through my website you’ll see me sharing pictures of my dog and going into detail with things I care about in my private as well as my professional life (think quality, not wasting time, creativity, respect, …). But what I don’t share anything about is my relationship status or my family.
  • Equally if you look at my LinkedIn posts, you’ll see that I mostly share work-related stories – but always with a personal touch. By talking about the things that are important to me in my work or my business relationships, I show a ton of personality without actually sharing private things about my life.

No matter if it’s your company’s website, its social media presence or a blog: if your content is good (interesting, entertaining, helpful) and you communicate in a way that shows off your brand’s personality, it will be more successful.

3 advantages of showing personality online

  1. By showing personality, your clients can get to know you and your company. This builds trust. By communicating the things you care about, people get a feeling for why they should work with you or buy from you. If they feel like they know you, they are much more likely to become customers as we don’t necessarily buy from the “best” company but rather from the one that resonates with us in one way or another.
  2. Service providers will love this: By showing personality, you’re shaping your client base. It might feel scary to openly say what kind of clients you don’t want to work with, but this actually helps you in getting customers that align with what you want. If you communicate the things you care about in a partnership, you’ll attract more clients who are looking for the same thing and who are therefore a better fit for your business.
  3. This is especially important for freelancers: By showing personality, you don’t have to put on an act. If you’re a fun person who loves to joke around and that character trait works within your line of work, show it. You can be yourself and that doesn’t mean you’re being unprofessional – it will only make sure that your business becomes more authentic, which makes it more fun for you and more trustworthy for your clients.

So, to sum things up: If my article is any good, I hope it convinced you to step out of the professionalism trap and embrace personality in your business. (Did it? No, seriously, did it?)

But you might still be wondering how to go about it. Especially if you’ve been stuck in the professionalism trap for a while, it might feel like an insurmountable challenge to embrace a more personal conduct – and this is where a tone of voice can help!

Don’t worry if you’ve never heard that term. Simply put, a tone of voice helps you gain clarity on your brand’s personality and facilitates content creation by telling you exactly which phrasings work well within your brand and what you should avoid.

If you’re interested in getting a style guide outlining the tone of voice of your company, drop me a line! I’d love to help.

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