I sat in my therapist’s office in 2011 complaining about a project I had agreed to take on at work. It was to lead a spirit day. They wanted me to get people motivated and in a fun work mood. So I organized a pajama day where I would bake cupcakes and run a contest. The date was approaching and I didn’t want to do it. Some things had happened in my personal life and I was tired. My therapist challenged me, “So don’t do it.” We had been working on controlling your controllables for a while and this was definitely my own controllable. “Oh…well… I mean…” I stumbled around my words for a moment and she tried again. “Just tell them you don’t want to anymore.” I finally found the words, “I said I was going to so I’m going to.” Immediately she clapped her hands together, sat up with new energy and said, “That’s my favorite quality in a person. Doing what you say you’re going to do. That’s integrity, that’s reliability.”
Up until that moment, that hadn’t been something I had valued in myself. In fact, it felt burdensome… I would see other people flippantly cancel with zero guilt and think, “Why can’t I do that?”
I might be about to open a can of worms. Actually, I HOPE I’m about to open a can of worms because this is something I have been thinking a lot about.
On day 15 of my 100 series, I talked about the time I sent out ten emails to photographers I didn’t know to see what their initial email looked like. I know, it’s weird but also it was incredibly enlightening because what I got back was impressively bad. From auto replies to information that was outdated by two years, to overly sales-y calls to action, and of all ten replies, only one thanked me for my inquiry. Only one showed enthusiasm for my interest at all.
In an industry where we worry about oversaturation, we are given very easy ways to stand out and we don’t.
Lately, I’ve had some crazy experiences and I’m wondering if you have too. From sending in inquiries to businesses and never getting a reply, to working with people who say they’re going to email me on a specific date and simply don’t, to ordering a custom product online only for the maker to never reach out with further directions. I even saw a recent Facebook post about a girl who reached out to a crisis center for Postpartum depression and had to wait two weeks for a reply. From a CRISIS CENTER!
Years ago I had a friend who was often hired as a freelance artist. He told me that in order for people to work with you, there are three qualities people look for. You have to be likable, you have to do good work, and you have to have a fast turnaround time. Then he said you only need to be two of those things. So you don’t have to do the best work as long as you’re fast and likable. You don’t have to be fast as long as you’re likable and you do great work. And you don’t have to be likable as long as you do great work and have a fast turnaround time.
So can we pause here and have a self aware moment? If you’re being completely honest, seriously, no one has to know…
Are you likable in your business? Do you reply to inquiries and DM’s with enthusiasm and gratitude? How do people feel when they’re working with you?
Do you have a fast turnaround time? Are you constantly sending emails that say, “I’m so sorry, it’s been busy, I know I said Thursday but it’s looking like next Monday.”? Have you had that happen to you before? How did you feel when it happened? Chances are they feel that same way… frustrated, disappointed, and a little skeptical.
Is your work great? Are you consistently looking at your work with a critical eye and investing in ways to improve? Are you taking on each project as if it’s wildly important or have you sunk into a repetitive funk where you’ve found yourself uninspired and doing work that is less than what you’re capable of?
And lastly, when you say you’ll do something, do you do it? Does your website say you’ll reply within 24 hours but you’re consistently missing that mark? Are you cancelling lunch dates last minute to the point that people believe scheduling with you in the first place is a “hit or miss”?
These are hard questions to answer… heck they’re hard questions to ASK! But I believe they’re necessary for growth and personal development especially if you, like me, are running a small (*ahem, tiny*) business and need ways to stand out in your market.
This post was almost going to be titled, “The Best Reason to Do Anything.”
Because you said you were going to.
As reliability as a characteristic fades, it’s value increases. People are on the lookout now for businesses that follow through, that reply to emails quickly, that show enthusiasm and gratitude and effort. So I’m going to challenge you… in 2020, cancel less. Follow through more. Pay attention when you say you’ll do something and attach a mental flag to it. Imagine, “This thing I just said I’m going to do is important because I said I was going to do it.”
|Denise Karis is an Arizona photographer who enjoys musicals, Doctor Who and breakfast burritos. IG @denisekaris|
Thanks to Jesus Kiteque and Stil and Marvin Meyer via Unsplash for the awesome office photos!
Hey. Do you mind if I tell you a story? One you might not have heard. All the elements in your body were forged many many millions of years ago in the heart of a faraway star that exploded and died. That explosion scattered those elements across the desolations of deep space. After so, so many millions of years, these elements came together to form new stars and new planets. And on and on it went. The elements came together and burst apart, forming shoes and ships and sealing wax and cabbages and kings. Until, eventually, they came together to make you. You are unique in the universe. There is only one of you. And there will never be another.