Friday, May 9, 2008

Defining business: When to introduce the left hand to the right hand?

Naomi at IttyBiz recently posted a challenge to her readers to answer five questions about their businesses. (Note: this is not a meme according to Naomi) Trying to answer the questions created a bit of a dilemma from the standpoint of whether I consider myself having three businesses or one with three outlets?

I write this blog; well, you’re here reading it right. I also write a weekly community column for the local newspaper as an independent correspondent. Those who have been reading for a while may be aware of that as a fact but I haven’t linked to it or noted where it is so unless you are related to me you haven’t read my column. I haven’t mentioned my blog in my column either so my readers in the paper, unless they’re related to me, haven’t read me here.

If this sounds like a convoluted loop, that’s because it is. Crystal at Big Bright Bulb calls this Secret Business Syndrome and while I would like to contradict her she makes her point from her perspective which is marketing and business; and in that context that is probably a reasonable analysis.

Writers like me, and maybe like you, started a…uhm, okay let’s call it an anonymous blog…a while back. We blog anonymously for any of several reasons; and probably more than one (see Two Reasons). After a while we seize an opportunity to pick up a regular paid writing gig. The confidence we acquired from blogging regularly enabled the expansion but we continue to maintain two discrete systems operating.

If these two outlets are self-contained, and totally unrelated, and they are all the ambition you have, then you can probably maintain the firewall with no conflict of interest to your enterprise at large. But say all this regular writing and publishing has really been salting your taste buds and creating a thirst for more in new arenas? Now you face a dilemma. You would like to expand into a small or micro business and find more writing gigs. That means you need a portfolio, testimonials, and sources of potential referrals; but, your two existing platforms and audiences are not connected to each other or acknowledged openly that both are you, and in essence the left hand doesn’t know what the right hand is doing.

This is the point where I hit a wall trying to answer Naomi’s questions. Until I settle the question of “do I try to juggle three discrete systems; or, do I take down the walls and unify everything under one roof?” I am stuck. Every other decision that needs to be made hinges on the issue of “one or three.” Sorry if anyone thought there would be a bombshell revelation here, but there is not. This is still an issue to be decided. And I know that I am not the only writer-blogger facing this crossroad.

Share about your left hand – right hand dilemma, and how it is affecting your ambitions and goals. If you have successfully dismantled the wall between the left hand and the right hand; how did you decide, accomplish it, and/or what has it meant to your progress since doing that?


chelle said...

I have the opposite problem. Nothing is anonymous so I have no sacred place. My personal and business is so intertwined it gets frustrating sometimes.

Melissa Donovan said...

This is something I have been been giving a lot of thought lately. For example, it can be good to link the business website to the blog; clients can see real examples of my writing and get a glimpse of my personality. On the other hand, it's nice to keep things separate so you don't have to worry about being super professional all the time on the blog (in case the client sees you acting too casual for their taste).

I finally decided that a good approach is not to knock down walls and keep everything under one roof, but to have doorways (links) that loosely connect things together. This is a project I'm working on now (restructuring my business online) so we'll see how it works out.

Melissa Donovan at Writing Forward

G's Cottage said...

@Chelle - I know chelle; and I am sometimes amazed at your openness about your life. I don't think I could be that transparent in an "all-call" blog even if it were anonymous. But when I was starting out it did become a venting medium occasionally and I have edited the most glaring of those passages out.

@Melissa - I have been evaluating your current systems for segregating your business related blog and your website and the differentiation from your other blog.

I have a similar issue in that I want a website for promotion and a blog about my business writing interests and maybe my "coach"-type posts go there as well.

Still, I like posting my random photos and chatting about other topics. So, maybe I keep but move this blog for that purpose. I get more traffic than I get commenters here; and I wouldn't necessarily want to say they have to deal with all the business stuff that does not interest them because they come for the regional and holiday and photo posts.

This is a big step and it seems like it is taking forever. Yes there are decisions that need research, but they also feed the fear-frenzy. So I am trying to implement SelfMadeChick's suggestion of pushing through micro decisions and micro steps at this point to keep some kind of forward motion going.

Crystal | Big Bright Bulb said...

Thanks for the mention :)

I bumped into this problem when I started BBB and another blog at the same time, but lost my interest in the other. I have decent content out there though, so I'll be merging it in gradually. Need both hands for BBB!

Thanks again