My guest blog “Lawyers – write what you mean and mean what you write” is over on Happy Go Legal this morning. Many thanks to my friend Chelsea Callanan for the opportunity to impart some writing words of wisdom to people in the legal profession, who, if we’re being completely honest, tend to be a bit, well, verbose in their written communication.
Guest blogging is something I’ve been meaning to do for a long time, but haven’t really put much effort into pursuing opportunities. That’s about to changed based on my Happy Go Legal experience. I won’t say it was easy, per se (a little lawyerspeak never hurt anyone), but the way it unfolded was just incredibly natural.
It started about two years ago with a tweet about a payment issue with a client (in very general terms, of course). Chelsea quickly responded with helpful advice (in fewer than 140 characters, no less) and, being a champion of the entrepreneurial spirit, offered to meet for coffee to discuss small business issues. Our schedules didn’t click, so eventually we connected at a monthly Social Media Breakfast Maine, where we exchanged cards and talked in very vague terms about finding a way to work together. (In between, I’d had an opportunity to interview her by phone for an article about a business competition she and her sister had won.)
Fast forward to early July. I was copy editing articles for a client, including one by an attorney who doesn’t exactly write in the language of briefs and court filings, but he’s darn close – particularly for a layperson. I found myself having to re-read sections two or three times just to understand them. And I have a master’s in English.
Naturally, I had to share my frustration with someone. Enter my old reliable, Twitter. I love concocting analogies, so I tweeted, “Reading this lawyer’s article is like chasing a super fast cobra through a dark labyrinth. #runonsentences cc: @CEFIPLAW @HappyGoLegal.” See what I did there? I tagged both Chelsea and Happy Go Legal (which is technically also Chelsea). Why? She’s the only attorney I know personally and I wanted her to see it.
She quickly responded (as Happy Go Legal). “Yikes. Love the metaphor, but don’t love that you gotta do it. #catchthecobra” immediately followed with “Maybe you just inspired a new blog post: #lawyers: write so others can read your words.” Recognizing an opportunity (I think even my 4-year-old would have), I offered to write it. And you know how that worked out.
OK, now that you’ve waded through this somewhat (maybe overly) lengthy back story, I’ll get to my point: Always look for opportunities, and if you don’t see one, make one. Or as my good friend Jodi Flynn of Luma Coaching (who, by the way, is a tremendous fountain of positivity and excellent advice) often reminds me, “Be open to all possibilities.” So when you see an opportunity, act. It may or may not be a good fit, and it may or may not work out. But there’s a 100 percent chance it won’t work out if you don’t give it a shot.
Most of my clients and projects have come as a result of networking, which is the best way to create opportunities. I’ll meet someone, we’ll talk about what we do, maybe exchange business cards, maybe just plug email addresses into our phones, maybe meet up for coffee and a more in-depth conversation, maybe work together. That’s a lot of maybes, but I’ll take “maybe” over “no” every single time. In the words of that eternal optimist Lloyd Christmas, “So you’re telling me there’s a chance.”
I tell people I’m a terrible salesman (my stats from a year-plus in a call center will back me up), so I’ll never, ever put on a hard sell – especially upon first meeting someone. We’ve all met “that guy/girl.” You know, the one who continually turns the conversation around to why you need their product or service. Also the one you escape at the first opportunity, then spend the rest of the time avoiding. The real “life of the party” type.
That’s not me. Rather than view that person as a potential client (I’m tempted to use the word “mark”), I engage in a thoughtful conversation with no hidden agenda or sales-y subtext. My only hope is that at least parts of that conversation will be memorable. It’s the George Costanza approach (without the “By Mennen” sing-songiness). Consider the memorable parts of the conversation the sable hat I’m leaving in someone’s mind, or – staying with the metaphor – their apartment.
Later, if that person needs – or knows someone who needs – my services, that “Co-stanza” jingle may float across their conscious mind. If so, they may give me a call or drop me an email.
If not, no worries. What have I really lost? At worst, I’ve taken the time to get to know someone I may now consider a friend. That’s what happens more often not, and it happens because I’ve viewed and treated that person as just that: a person.
Does this mean I’m bad at business? To some extent, sure. But does it work for me? Absolutely.
And if you’ve got “Co-stanza” in your head, what better proof that it works?**
*The opinions expressed herein are strictly the opinion of the author and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of the author’s family, friends, business acquaintances or the general public at large.
**Results not typical. Actual results may vary. Use only as directed. Consult your physician before embarking on the George Costanza approach.