I’ve been spending a bit of time over the last few months pondering my business model and my professional identity. In any business built on a personal brand — and writing fits that model — you hit a certain threshold point. What I am selling is myself: my ideas, my writing. But there’s only one me. I only have 168 hours in a week, and I cannot work for all of them.
There are obvious answers, like outsourcing administration and charging more. These are both good ideas. But there’s a limit on both. Some things I do are scalable. A book can sell lots of copies, but I can’t write more than one book a year, and to be honest, the number is probably lower than that. The article-writing part of my business is also inherently limited. I can top out a publication’s pay scale, but they’re not going to completely change their business model to hire me.
I interviewed several people (including frequent commenter @ARC!) for a Fast Company story that ran this week on scaling up Brand You — but some of the options for growth are not available to me, given the second part of the headline. What is my professional identity?
Am I a productivity guru? Or am I a journalist?
From time to time I am approached by marketing firms, or organizations themselves, who’d like to work together on projects. Productivity or time management fits with their brand positioning, and they’d like me to do spokesperson type work (often media interviews on their behalf). If I’m a productivity guru, that might be extremely helpful to building my brand. It gets my name out there. But if I’m a journalist, it’s not something I can do. I write for publications that cover these companies, and it’s possible I’d do so myself. A journalist cannot also be a corporate spokesperson.
I realize that this hard line, though, is less hard than I at first see it. After all, companies are more than welcome to hire me as a motivational speaker for their employees. Somehow that seems fine. And the publications that I write for accept ads from the companies they cover. Sometimes media outlets are even in the same corporate families as companies they cover.
So I’m not sure that there’s any particular intellectual rigor to any of these decisions. But my feeling is that I’m a journalist, and I’d like to continue acting as one. That’s one of the reasons I haven’t accepted any ads for this blog, and I don’t do affiliate sales either. I don’t think there’s anything wrong with other people making different decisions, but this is the one I’m most comfortable with now, given what I think of as my professional identity.
What suggestions do you have for someone like me to scale up her business?
Photo courtesy flickr user mscaprikell