Professionalism for Fun and Profit

Barrie and I were sharing a rant in a hangout a couple of days ago and it seems like a good time to share it with others. I’ve gone off a few times before about some of these, but since many of them still keep popping up with annoying frequency, I think they’ll bear repeating.

Town cryer

1.      Just because you think you have something to say, doesn’t mean you should.

Most of us have opinions on just about any topic. In my experience, the people that are most worth listening to are often those that have the least to say. Not always, obviously, but often.

In the SEO world, there’s a lot more that’s unknown than known. So when you’re talking about things that have no definitive answer, it makes sense to qualify your statements as opinion or conjecture. Stating wild-ass guesses as fact not only misleads others, it points you out as the wild ass you are. Decidedly unprofessional.

2.      Proclaiming yourself to be an expert, ninja or guru only impresses YOU.

Want to impress people? Try making some sense. Try presenting an intelligent analysis or discussion, looking at all sides of an issue. Billing yourself as some sort of “expert” won’t impress anyone but you. And if you’re doing so, then you’re obviously already quite impressed with yourself. Too much so, in all probability.

What impresses people about others is when other respected professionals refer to them as an expert. And that’ll happen after they earn it with deeds, rather than empty, self-serving words. The “Look at me! Look at me!” approach is a quick way of making people look the other way… permanently. Unless being a professional ass is your goal, avoid this rookie mistake.

3.      Don’t beat someone else’s dead horse.

Surprisingly, few people actively search for the 27th regurgitated version of a tired topic. If you can’t bring something of value to the table, save the wear and tear on your keyboard and our eyes. There are enough brainless wannabes out there, eagerly parroting every sound-bite. Do you really want to be lumped in with them?

That’s not to say that you can’t offer a different take on things. Just realize that if you aren’t offering any original thoughts on a topic, a lot of people are going to assume that it’s because you have none. The most successful professionals in nearly any field are the thought leaders, not followers.

4.      Don’t forget where you come from.

All of us were new to this game once, so don’t be too quick to sneer at some novice just because he asks a question you think is elementary or makes a mistaken observation. Coming down hard on him isn’t going to help. If you’re going to correct him, try doing it in a way that explains without chastising. Odds are that he’ll chastise himself, once he realizes his mistake. A proverbial kick in the teeth never helped anyone keep an open mind.

If you treat a novice like a professional, they’re much more apt to act professionally to others.

5.      Treat your clients like your loved ones.

As consultants, every decision, every action, should be taken with our client’s best interest in mind. If we’re doing our job right, from the bidding process forward, there should be no surprises for either the client or us. If you or your client are being surprised midway through a project, it’s because YOU didn’t cover all the bases in your SOW or contract. Period.

Every single action taken should be in the client’s best interest. You should be rewarded for your work, obviously, but in my opinion, if you take actions because they’re in YOUR best interest, you don’t deserve to call yourself a consultant.

And if you take actions that can end up doing your client harm, at least without them fully understanding the risks, then as far as I’m concerned, a visit to the Emergency Room sounds about right for you. Sound harsh? Tough! Getting your client penalized could put him out of business, make his family go hungry, get him evicted. If you’re okay with that risk… telling yourself “it’s up to him to know what he’s getting into”… you’re a sorry excuse for a consultant. Hello! That’s why people HIRE professional consultants!

wordcloudThere! I always feel better after a rant. But rant or not, the above points are valid and if you’re trying to build a solid reputation with clients and peers, they’ll all stand you in good stead. Equally important, ignoring any one of them can hurt your credibility and give you a reputation nobody will envy.

How about you? What are some of your pet peeves? Feel free to rant… it’s invigorating!

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