[Not so long ago I wrote a post entitled, ‘It’s ok to be disliked’. This current post develops the theme of being honest with yourself and others as a strategy guaranteed to generate success. Remember, a tadpole is not a failed frog.]
The room is full with busy busy networkers working up a sweat in the vigour of their enterprise. The room itself is some sort of club on the eleventh floor with multi-million dollar views of the harbour. Business cards are being exchanged with the hand speed of an Olympic freestyle champion. It’s early morning, or I may have had a beer or a glass of red to lubricate the gift. I’ve settled for a coffee.
“Good morning. Storyfox copywriter Sydney. I’m a copywriter, obviously, What do you do?”
I’ve been to a lot of events like this in the past twelve months and often felt like an impostor. Yes, my business name is ‘Storyfox’, and I’m a copywriter living in Sydney, as you probably guessed from my introduction. But I’m just a startup, so the portfolio could do with a bit of beefing up, and the client base consists of two semi-regulars and for the rest it depends which way the wind is blowing on a given day. Weeks can easily pass in absolute commercial silence for me.
Of course you don’t let on. You dress like a million bucks in suit and tie and swagger. You talk the talk like it’s just natural, and when the nibblies come round you pretend not be hungry and limit yourself to one biscuit and one cube of cheese, or whatever.
Anyway, I’m at the window looking out over Government House (you know that sandstone mansion in the Botanical Gardens) and Garden Island, out towards the Heads, where the sun is climbing into the sky with an explosion of amber light drenching the whole panorama of Harbour and morning. I’ve got my phone out taking photos, just in case I get to use them in my blog.
A guy comes over and introduces himself as Michael, and I can see from his tag that he’s in advertising. Fantastic, I’m thinking, “a prospect”. I’m pretty sure he’s noticed that I’m a copywriter. So, naturally, we chat about what we do and swap cards, and I ask lots of questions, because that’s what I do. I don’t have a choice really. It seems everyone in business builds their conversations out of a steady flow of acronyms and buzz words. Either you ask the questions and learn or you nod your head and fake it, beating a hasty retreat at the first opportunity.
But Michael’s cool. We chat about clients and jobs and wish-lists. After a while I dare to ask: “How’s business?”
He raises one eyebrow slightly in reply: “Fragile.”
Honestly, I could have laughed. Inwardly, I’m sure I was laughing. Since when do you tell the truth at a networking event? Whatever happened to the golden rule that if you can’t make it, you fake it? I’m sure I was at least smiling. It was such a relief to discover that I wasn’t the only tiny little leaking vessel on a stormy sea ready to be swamped by the next rogue wave of misfortune.
“Yeah. I know what you mean.”
We talked about the common difficulties of being a startup, and the typically tough period of getting established. I came away with renewed confidence and with a new perspective, a very useful tool to have. In business, if you want to succeed, you have to learn quickly. I learned that the disaster I thought I was going through was the same disaster everyone goes through early on, so it’s really just par for the course.
Michael mentioned a project he thought he might be able to work on with me.
We shook hands, made our thanks and promised to try and stay in touch.
At the next encounter I introduced myself: “Storyfox copywriter Sydney”, and I added: “I also do a bit of business coaching on the side.”