Are you talking yourself out of business?

As I mentioned in Monday’s post (“Anyone who says, ‘Looks don’t matter,’ is a liar”), my mom and I went to a spa last weekend. During my massage, the massage therapist and I were chatting a little bit. I think I said something like, “I bet after all this work, you’ll need to hire someone to give you a massage.” And then I laughed.

I should mention that, up to this point, I felt very comfortable and relaxed. The massage was going great.

And then, she started talking negatively about herself and her profession.

She went on for a good 10 minutes about how she’d never get a massage because all massage therapists are perverts. She would never let anyone touch her. She talked about how she was really bad at draping and that draping was the worst part of massage therapy school. “But, don’t worry, I’ve never exposed a client.”

I’m sorry, what??

This was my first massage (which she knew) and I had plenty of my own reservations about stripping down to my underwear and letting some stranger touch me. I had kind of gotten over it (she is a professional, it’s perfectly fine, I told myself) — until she starting talking down about herself and her profession.

What she said completely changed my experience. Her lack of professionalism made such an impression that it overshadowed her excellent technical skills.

What I learned

Business is about so much more than just the service you provide. I’m very conscious of my own short comings. I know I have highlighted them for clients on numerous occasions. Maybe it’s a fear of failure, so I feel like I need to warn them first, just in case I mess it up.

“Well, I’ve never done this before, but I’ll give it a try.”

I’m sure my clients are brimming with confidence when they hear that one. I’ve had a very good track record so far, and I took the job because — even though I hadn’t done x specifically before — I have the skill set to be able to successfully complete the job. My clients don’t need to hear my nervous inner dialogue.

Before I went in for my massage, the salon owner said very positive things about the masseuse. I felt completely confident and trusted her expertise. But, after hearing her speak down about herself and her profession, my opinion completely changed. After all, if she doesn’t believe in her skills, why should I?

What you say matters. No matter where or how you say it.

It is so important to pay attention to the language we use in person, on the phone, via email, on Faceboook, on Twitter — everywhere. It all matters. Off the cuff comments or random rants on Twitter still make an impression.

I have a tendency to do or say stupid things when I’m rushed or nervous. Since I can quickly compose and publish, I don’t always take the time to edit myself. But, I’ve realized that it’s important to take time and think about what you want your brand to say about you. Because we all have a brand, even if we don’t own our own business or have a logo.

What do you think?

I’m still discovering and developing my brand. Where are you at in the process? Have you had any experiences where a comment changed your perception of a business?


  1. Deb Pang Davis on April 25, 2010 at 12:46 am

    The part about how she would never let anyone give her a massage = huge cringe factor and then saying she would never expose a client? Eew.

    I do agree that in this day of “real time” information, thinking first about what you are going to share is important.

    I also think that sharing some insecurities or being honest /upfront with your potential clients shows you are a real person.

    Good food for thought!

  2. on April 25, 2010 at 1:57 pm

    Thanks Deb!

    I think you’re right. It is important to be a real person, especially when you are a one-person business! I think this goes for designers, hair stylists, actors, etc. When someone hires your business, they are hiring YOU – so there’s no sense in trying to hide your personality.

    While I agree that it’s important to be authentic and honest with clients, it can be really counterproductive to “talk down” about yourself and your work. I think it’s all about choosing your words carefully and thinking about the context you’re presenting the self-criticism in.

    “This project didn’t turn out very well.”
    “On this project, I think we could have improved x, y, and z.”

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