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"The second those words fly outta my mouth, it’s like the energy’s sucked right out of the room"

With branding and your writing voice, ‘just be yourself’? Is terrible business advice

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Sometimes being too cocky for your own good teaches you a valuable life lesson, if you’re willing to see it.

Caution: this may have started off like a post on the Tiny Buddha site, but there’s likely to be profanities floating around, so let’s not get all kumbaya just yet.

Random thought: Does anyone now ever read the word ‘site’ and think construction and chubby men in hardhats?

It was circa September 2010 and I was sat in my first ever class for coach training.

For those who think I was training to be a sports coach: think again.

It was the other kinda coach training.  Y’know, the kind that coaches wish you’d think of when they tell you they‘re a coach and you immediately imagine them teaching kids to play football. Coaches – amIright?

We were going through the dreaded ice breaker, (which disappointingly, didn’t involve anyone smashing a block of ice and inevitably meant no promise of mojitos at the end) and had to tell the group a little bit about ourselves.

(Quick! Think of something interesting that makes me look uber cool. Why do I now feel so desperately boring? DO NOT, under any circumstances, talk about writing whilst drunk or treasured collection of fallen angel figurines <– I actually considered starting one of these once. What. is. wrong. with. me?)

So my turn comes around and I give some schpiel about how I moved to London recently and wanted to try something new career wise.

My intro’s pretty captivating, made obvious by the fact that all seven people were focused on me and not falling asleep with drool gliding down the sides of their mouths.

I then decide to take my speech up a notch and  ‘just be myself’.

Dun dun dduuunnnnnn.

I plant both elbows on the table in front of me, lean forwards and confidently state I’m very competitive.

The second those words fly outta my mouth, it’s  like the energy’s sucked right out of the room. My statement’s powerful – but for all the wrong reasons.

I feel this immediately and follow it up with how I want to be the best version of myself and push myself to do better.

But no matter what I say, nothing makes up for the fact that my initial statement about being competitive rubbed everyone up the wrong way, with industrial sand paper.

My fatal error? Not reading the room before I decided to ‘be myself’.

Whilst I was being authentic (totally using this word ironically) and using a phrase that best represented me, to everyone else? I came across as a class A bitch.

To them, it was like I saw them as my competition. For them, the word competition made them think of overweight corporate bigwigs in dark suits sitting in shady back office rooms smoking cigars and makin’ deals.

And I was one of those suited dudes.

Of course this story has an ending that gets you in the warm n fuzzies – I became friends with many of those people, a couple of them are like sisters to me, and we see each other as a group annually (can I get a: aawwwwhhhhh).

But that initial interaction? Taught me a big lesson about branding and brand voice.

When it comes to representing yourself online, whether it’s through blog posts, your site (sans hard hat)) email or  social media updates, being yourself is definitely what you should do.

After all, there’s only one of you, so why not take advantage of that?

But here’s where the just be yourself advice falls short.

Most people think of themselves and their business in isolation.

Whilst they may consider their target audience when creating a training package or e-book, most rarely think what would my customers make of this piece of info about me? when writing just about everything else.

And that’s exactly the question you need to ask yourself when you’re sharing personal info – all of which adds to building your brand:

How does this connect me with my customers?

Case in point:
– Ramit Sethi: Talks a lot about his applications for college scholarships, his bi-coastal life and posts pictures of himself doing all sortsa fancy thangs in New York. Why? Because his audience are 20-30 year old guys who still think about college and aspire to the kind of life he lives
– Marie Forleo: Repeatedly brings her dog, fiancée and early career as a coach into the conversation because the majority of her audience are coaches and female.
– Danielle LaPorte: Makes lots of references to her spiritual side, her dog, her son. How many of her customers and followers have a family, pets and are spiritual? And how many of them connect with Danielle based on this alone? (answer: a lot)

How can you do this for yourself? Here’s a little exercise for ya:

*flicks over flipchart paper*

Answer these questions:
1. My customers can be identified as: __________________ (age, location, in jobs or not)
2. When my customers aren’t working, they’re likely to be doing this: ______________
3. The hopes my customers have after working with me are: _______________________
4. The things my clients ask me most about my life are: _________________________
5. My customers would most love to do this: ____________________________


Look a what you’ve written about your customers and find the common threads between those answers and your own life.

These are the kinds of stories and experiences from your life that need to start filtering into your website copy, social media updates, and blog posts.

There’s a reason why this is smart and strategic.

You’re accounting for the kinds of people you want to work with and finding threads of your life that they’d relate to.

You’re sharing parts of your life that they’ll recognise as their own, thus increasing the know, like, trust factor massively.

And the bonus? Is that they’ll eventually trust you enough to buy from you, which is awesome since you weren’t the insensitive douche who solemnly declared ‘yo, I’M COMPETITIVE’ the first time you met them.


I’m interested in your thoughts: What parts of your story connects you most to your customers and audience? I’d love to see you share in the comments below.

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  • Keith Clarke says:


    I like this.

    A lot (two words, not one 🙂 )

    Bookmarked as reference document to be looked at at regular intervals through the year. Every year. Just to be sure.


    • You’d do awesome with this since you’re in the same phase of life as many of your clients (or at least been through some stuff and out the other side – the stuff they aspire to achieve).

      I must have written ‘alot’ for about 5 years in school and it never got picked up on. All hail the unrivaled educational system in Yorkshire !

  • Mostly the search for a better understanding of life and myself connects me to my customers. Understanding it and wanting to live in the passion of it. I feel I fall short on presenting that in finding clients.

  • Love the blog by the way. I will be bookmarking too! Thank you!

    • Woo ! Happy to have you here 🙂

      You’re a coach, right? So by nature your customers will want to do the same thing (understanding themselves and life).

      One way you can present this to your audience is by writing about experiences similar to what they’re going through and show what you’ve learned.

      The tinybuddha.com website has been built on this idea alone – so you already know people are hungry for this kind of message.

  • Vishnu says:

    I’m going to bookmark this site, too lol (don’t worry, I alreadyhave!)

    Hilariously, I was thrilled to read this was going to be a Tiny-Buddha post. It wasn’t but it’s still solid business advice. Don’t just think about yourself but the people you’re serving.

    I talk about my personal life way too much and spirituality often but I think those are parts that resonate with my readers, clients.

  • Marianne says:

    Oh this is brilliant! I have been questioning what my “voice” is recently amd also just asked my FB group about this yesterday so I’ll be sharing this with them now. I think my most obvious common trait is being a mom and I don’t talk about that very often. guess it’s time to bring out some stories 🙂

  • Steve says:

    Yeah, there’s certainly nothing about writer’s voice that says you have to be yourself. And what does it really mean to be yourself anyway? I’ve never quite understood that. For one thing, I’m many people depending on the situation. I’m not exactly the same person I am when I’m writing online – I never make anything up, but my writing style and my personality are a little different. I don’t just put everything out there for the world to see, I try to be a little more selective than that.

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