The Trials and Tribulations of an Independent Freelancer – Your Online Bio Profile and Digital Footprint
It’s been a month since I last posted a blog entry over here and I am sure plenty of you folks out there may be wondering what I have been up to and everything, right? After all, leaving IBM after 17 years of dedicated work on topics I am very passionate about can definitely have a certain emotional toll that perhaps would need for some time to go by before moving into greener pastures. Well, that’s exactly what I have been doing in the last few weeks: learn, unlearn, relearn, and continue to help change the world of work. One human at a time.
Right after I announced I was joining Change Agents Worldwide, a lot of things have happened, as I am sure you would be able to guess, including my first business trip as an independent freelancer to the Enterprise 2.0 Summit event in Paris, meeting up some pretty amazing people (Old good friends and plenty of new ones!), celebrating my birthday shortly afterwards (@elsua v4.2 upload fully complete now!), and then upon my return back home I decided to go for a break, a detox break. One where I would have the opportunity to spend quality time offline, unlearning from over the last 17 years of big corporate work / life and start pondering what I would be doing next, including executing the system of me.
That break away from everything (highly recommend, by the way, if you are just about to embark on a similar journey) was just wonderful and so much needed I didn’t even realise about it till I eventually came back last week and got things started with my new business. Yes, as you can see, even on my writing I’m still coming to terms with embracing that new language and narrative of being an independent freelancer embarking on a new and exciting adventure. I know that time will eventually help out its fairer bit with the readjusment and everything, so I guess I will just let it play along. And wait. Patiently.
Interestingly enough, and over the course of that quiet period from the Social Web, I eventually spent plenty of time talking to people in my close networks about the massive change and what it could well mean for yours truly as I move forward into an uncertain, yet, exciting brave new world. And it was remarkable to notice how plenty of those good friends suggested how I may need between 4 months, up to two years!, for that transition to complete and to shake it all off. Whoah! I am not too sure I am ready for that. So I decided to kick things off, instead, and last week Monday was my first official day in the new job. And if there is anything that I have learned, and that I had a hunch for from way before about it becoming my new reality over the course of the years, was the fact that, whether you like it or not, you are the product of your networks and your networks are the product of you. So you may need to buckle up and start acting accordingly.
As simple as that. And right after that realisation I had that strong, big ah-ha moment, while talking to plenty of folks in my network (And many more to come, I am sure!, since I can only fit so many voice / video conversations on a given day!) that I may be successful (or not) as a freelancer on the topics that I am truly passionate about, but the odds increase tremendously when as part of that journey it all becomes a shared success, where one now embarks oneself on that determination to make your networks successful just as much (if not more!) along the way. Why? Well, because if you ever manage to make your network(s) successful, there is a great chance that you would be as well.
And to that extent last week was just incredible! The first couple of potential customer prospects came along around Social Business Adoption & Enablement. I am currently working this week on putting together the proposals for each of them hoping they will get accepted and we are off to some great work coming together. The usual catch up with my close networks brought up some pretty inspiring and thought provoking insights I am hoping to be able to blog about over here in its due time. One of them in particular has changed completely how I view my new work life and that one of others as I keep challenging them to think about that newly acquired insight that I will be blogging about shortly, since it does have a direct effect on my day to day work routines.
I resurfaced as well back from the dead quiet into the social streams and it’s been quite a surprising and reenergising experience altogether diving into the social networks while not thinking anymore there is a firewall out there! As a trivia of sorts, last week, as an example, I spent about a day and a half on Twitter alone, where I know that in my previous work life it would have been a whole lot less! And it was wonderful being capable of catching up with people’s lives and work from a far distance, but yet feel so loosely bounded. The engagement has been stunning and, of course, serendipity brought its magic into new heights resulting in having plenty of those same conversations not only about exercises of both clarity and work out loud, but also on finding ways of helping each other continue to grow further along. And that, of course, includes Change Agents Worldwide as well in the mix. Just brilliant!
— Luis Suarez (@elsua) March 3, 2014
With a new logo, which eventually became my Twitter avatar while I am already working my way towards putting together a Web site with a brilliant designer I know and whom I would be introducing you all to him once we are ready for launch! (Yes, I am going to keep the suspense for a little while longer… He is that good! hehe)
But there have been some initial challenges as well, for sure. And some pretty good ones, too! Like, for instance the following one that I tweeted about and that I am still trying to figure out how to best work around it. To name:
Ok, so, why is it so difficult to rewrite your online bio/profile on social spaces out there? Struggling more than I thought I would Grrr
— Luis Suarez (@elsua) March 4, 2014
Ha! Who would have thought that after having worked at the largest IT firm in the world for all of those years, doing what I am really passionate about all along around KM, Social Computing, CommunityBuilding, Learning, Enterprise 2.0, Social Business, Open Business, etc., I would struggle this much now to put it all in writing to share it out there with folks. Writing your own biography or profile is not easy, perhaps it wasn’t meant to be in the first place, despite the couple of rather helpful links available out there to guide you on how you could get it done easily.
I mean, it’s been 7 years since I last updated my LinkedIn bio profile (Yes, I know, I know, so much overdue altogether!). It’s been well over a year that I last updated my bio in Google Plus, Slideshare, Flickr, Tumblr, amongst several other different social spaces. The About page, for instance, on my blog (Supposedly, the most frequently visited page from *any* blog, according to some studies) hasn’t been touched for a good couple of years (Even my profile picture will no longer show up!). Goodness! What a mess! Who would have thought having a good relevant bio that talks about your skills, experiences and know-how would be this difficult to put together and then share across, right?
Well, here’s when your network(s) will come to the rescue for you and help you out where you may need it the most! Right when I was conversing about this existentialist challenge on Twitter about updating your own biography in terms of one’s own digital bio footprint my good friend Esteban Kolsky shared this tidbit:
@elsua dude, dont overthink it – i have not revised mine since day one; your work is more important than your profile – write, not a profile
— Esteban Kolsky (@ekolsky) March 5, 2014
WOW! Right there it just hit me. And big time! Right there, indeed, I realised how most folks from my network do not necessarily know me because of my brilliant profile and extended biography, but more because of what I have done over the course of the years around the main themes I mentioned above already, and, perhaps, specially, around Social / Open Business. That’s probably where I should continue to focus on from here onwards, i.e. write about my / our joint work, instead of procrastinating away, day in day out, trying to figure out what to put together for one’s biography. The bio should be a collection of the work you have done over time and that you may well have documented, more or less, through your own Internet blog or whatever other social networking tool of your choice. Anything else is just a bit silly, don’t you think? I mean, it’s been 5 years since the last time that I updated my CV! Yes, 5 years! And no-one ever asked me to keep it up to date. There was work to be done, instead.
But what happens when you need to put something together for those people who may not know you just yet? What would you tell them? How would you describe yourself to them to give them a quick glimpse of what you are about without sounding too much like an elevator pitch (Topic that, by the way, I will be talking about plenty more shortly!)? Well, I gave that one a bit of thought and I eventually put together the following short bio:
“Luis Suarez is a Chief Emergineer, People Enabler and Charter Member of Change Agents Worldwide. A well seasoned Social / Open Business evangelist and 2.0 practitioner with over 15 years of experience on knowledge management, collaboration, learning, online communities and social networking for business, and has been living, for the last 6 years, a corporate world without email challenging the status quo of how knowledge workers collaborate and share their knowledge by promoting openness, transparency, trust, sustainable growth, engagement, connectedness and, overall, smart work. He currently blogs over at elsua.net and can be contacted over in Twitter at @elsua, Google Plus or LinkedIn”
And, somehow, it’s sticking along. For how long? I am not too sure, I guess it will be one of those projects on perpetual beta, but I do know for the time being it’s helping me focus not so much on putting together multiple bios for multiple different sites and get the job done effectively while I keep working along on other, perhaps more important, items. Like writing, or creating the new wave of all things #elsua.
Either way, over the course of the next few days, I will be updating all of the various different online bio profiles to include that text or something very similar, while I ramp up efforts for the Web site launch, which will mark the official kick-off of my new work life as an independent freelancer. Oh, and one more thing, since a long time ago I embraced both the working out loud mantra and the various different Open Business principles, I am also hoping to continue blogging over here from now onwards on a more regular basis detailing what it is like this whole new adventure. More than anything else, because I suspect that your learning is going to be my learning. And that’s a good thing, I suppose, don’t you think?
Let’s do it!
You know that summer is almost gone when September comes along in full force, work peaks up again a notch or two, and conference month kicks in. Pretty much like March, after the rather long winter months. I am not sure why, but it’s really interesting to see how both March and September themselves seem to be the busiest times of the year, at least, this year, in terms of public speaking and attending various different conference events over the course of a short couple of weeks. So as I get to prepare myself for the upcoming European World Tour I will be embarking on shortly I just couldn’t help get reminded of the power of changing the world through a rather simple, yet, incredibly inspiring action: the sharing of ideas.
Indeed, late last week I bumped into this short article by Michael Hyatt under the suggestive heading “How Your Next Speech Can Change the World“. It’s a couple of years old already (Got to love the Social Web, for that matter, in helping resurface, once again, the true golden gems hidden out there!), but it is totally worth it. It points out to a TEDx East event speech that the one and only, Nancy Duarte, the presentation goddess, put together to help demonstrate how powerful delivering a good presentation can be to excite and inspire your newly found hero: your audience.
In the past, I have been sharing a good number of different articles over here, in this blog, where I have referenced plenty of practical hints & tips on the topic of public speaking. It’s a subject that fascinates me, because there is always room for improvement. There is always something new that you can learn about inspiring others, no matter how seasoned your presentation skills may well be. There is always an opportunity to do better. That’s why, as a public speaker myself, I keep collecting, digesting, reading, learning as much as I can on the whole theme of public speaking, which is why, as of late, I have been enjoying tremendously the good bunch of rather interesting and relevant links on the topic have been shared by folks like my good friend Peter Billingham. Lots of really good stuff in there to keep you busy for a while helping you fine tune your public speaking skills.
I do realise how there are plenty of dos and don’ts for any public speaker, plenty of interesting role models and a whole lot other articles, dissertations, blog posts, various presentations, practical hints & tips, along with lots of know-how, real life, down to earth, experiences in delivering good, pragmatic, stunning speeches, but if I were to highlight and recommend highly a single resource, my new favourite is the one Michael highlighted on that short blog entry from a couple of years ago from Nancy Duarte herself. Why? Well, for multiple various reasons, but perhaps because of this superb quote that I think pretty much resonates with my own experiences with not only the public speaking I have done in the past, but also what I have learned from having attended, witnessed, gotten excited / amazed by the several hundreds of presentations I have had the privilege of experiencing fully over the course of the years. To quote:
“If you communicate an idea in a way that resonates, change will happen“
How empowering and truly inspiring is that quote to highlight how important the sharing of ideas openly out there, through the Social Web as well, perhaps, has been all along? How inspirational can it be that the main obstacle you need to get rid of when promoting your idea(s), your passion(s) is no other than yourself. We all are our very own first obstacle in sharing what drives us, just because we think no-one is going to be interested, nor find it relevant, or because no-one is going to pay much attention, or perhaps because we assume no-one is going to like our very own ideas.
Ether way, if you would want to learn a lot more about the drive behind those ideas, your own ideas, about the empowering inspiration of story, who the real hero is, after all, when delivering a presentation, how critical “meeting with the mentor” may well be, and what’s the shape of a great presentation, eventually, this is a video clip you just can’t miss. Nancy Duarte at her best. Be prepared to be wowed, because you will.
I know for sure it will be totally worth it the 18 minutes that it lasts and I can guarantee you that you will never look at a presentation at a public speaking event the same way.
And that’s a good thing.
Earlier on this month, my good friend, Euan Semple wrote a short blog post on the topic of how tough it is to put together that initial first blog entry, if you are new to blogging, and even more so if you are an executive. It’s just like the whole world is watching you for that first article and you just want to do things right. You certainly don’t want to look like a fool, never mind that feeling of being ridiculed by your peers if things don’t work out. You just can’t afford to go through that and that’s where most of your reluctance to blogging comes from nowadays. You know how it goes, the longer you leave it, the stronger the pressure on you and when you, finally, decide to get things started with your own blogging you realise it’s not going to be as easy as you thought it would have been, but will it be worth it? Well, for the sake of bravery, authenticity, honesty and openness, yes, it surely will. Even for you as a CEO.
Blogging is coming back, in case you may not have noticed. Even for senior executives it’s becoming one of the most empowering opportunities to engage in an open, direct dialogue with your audience(s) about whatever the subject matter you may decide to write about. The thing is nowadays most executives feel like blogging is something that their communications & PR teams should be doing for them. After all, it’s just another publishing platform, right? Well, that may well not be the case, perhaps. Euan defined it as a “slippery slope” and I couldn’t have agreed more with him. To quote: “First they help you, then they start to write the posts for you, then you get busy or bored, and the next thing you know it is not your blog but someone else’s“.
That’s probably one of the best descriptions of why I have never believed in ghost writing myself either over the course of the last 10 years that I have been blogging already. It just doesn’t work. And that’s probably one of the main reasons as to why blogging is so tough. It requires lots of energy, hard work and good effort to make it happen and for that you may need more time than just posting a tweet, or a short message on LinkedIn, Google Plus or whatever the other social networking tool. And we all know how tough it is nowadays to make time for your social interactions, even for blogging, in between your ever increasing workloads, right? Where is the balance then?
The balance is on trying to figure out whether you really need a blog or not for yourself. Remember, blogging still is the most powerful key element on the Social Web out there to help you build, sustain, nurture and develop your own personal (digital) brand. So should you, as a CEO, or a senior executive, for that matter, start blogging? Most probably.
The good thing is that those folks who may decide to jump into the blogging bandwagon do have it relatively easy in terms of the huge amount of resources, helpful how-to articles, pragmatic blog posts, lessons learned, hints and tips, productivity hacks, numerous user guides on blogging that surely help address the potential technological barriers, even for guest blogging. Even more so The Next Web has put together a stunning article where they have detailed “The 15 Best Blogging and Publishing Platforms on the Internet Today. […]“.
So there are plenty of choices and helpful support / resources out there, no doubt. Why is it so tough to get things going with your own blog then? Well, I think Euan pretty much nails it with this particular quote which pretty much summarises some really good and practical advice:
“Be brave, say what you really think, say it in your own words. And I mean your own words – the way you would talk to a friend. Not falsely informal nor nervously official. Your real voice, the real you. Surprisingly this is what makes it so damn hard. We are often not usually our real selves at work. Often we have forgotten how to speak normally! It feels raw, you feel vulnerable, it an’t natural. But it is. It is the most natural and effective way to truly communicate with someone. To make a real connection. If you can remember how to do it, and write like you mean it, then things can only get easier and real magic starts to happen.” [Emphasis mine]
Indeed, at the end of the day, it’s all about a couple of things, really. It’s about whether you, as the blogger, may be able to find both your own blogging voice and your own blogging style, no matter how high you may well be in the organisation. And stick around with both of them. Being afraid or fearful about what others, including your peers!, may say about your own blogging style / voice is not going to help much. In fact, it will manage to keep you in your cave for a good while, so that you, too, can conform with their own inability to leap forward and get their own blogging going. That’s where Euan’s commentary on bravery is so accurate. We just need to be braver out there and share more of what we know and what we are good at and what we would be able to keep writing on and on and on for years as if it were still the first blog post.
Yes, absolutely!, blogging, eventually, is all about sharing your passion about that subject matter. About making it contagious for others. About being open, transparent, trustworthy enough to comfortably share your thoughts out there in the open, understanding that they may be incomplete, imperfect, awkward, at times, perhaps, but they are still your thoughts, your passion, your blogging voice and style coming together. Now, I am pretty sure we don’t have an issue with finding our passion, do we? I think we all know pretty well what it is that drives us not just at work, but also in our personal lives.
I think we all know how we can, once again, become more authentic, transparent, honest, open, engaged, more our selves, really, on the Social Web out there while we interact with others. We just need to bring it back and don’t take ourselves too seriously. Let’s not forget the play factor, please. Will your peers continue to make fun of you and ridicule you? Most probably, since that’s how they would want to keep hiding themselves and fight their own uncomfortable circumstances by deviating the attention elsewhere. Should you care about it? Definitely not. Remember, after all, you have got a passion hidden inside wanting to burst out and be shared with the rest of the world. Yes, that’s the moment you know you are now ready to start your own blog.
Yes, we know, we have been waiting for you all along. Don’t worry, the waters are lovely.
Welcome to the Internet Blogosphere!