New Video: What does “Being Professional” Really Mean for Your Small Business?

We all define “being professional” in a different way. For ourselves and for our business. This video is about a blog post I wrote a in February of 2011, where I used the F word (in a way that was intended to be lighthearted and comical).

Most people “got it”, but a few people sent me emails saying that I was unprofessional to use such language, etc. I was surprised by the email feedback I received, since the comments in the post were overwhelmingly positive and fun. Immediately, I took to twitter to get some thoughts (without giving any details). This is the question I asked: Do you think it is unprofessional to use the f* word on your blog? I got quite a few responses. Some people said yes, some people said no. But the answers were cut and dry- no in between- just varying opinions.

And at the end of the day, I was actually kind of glad that an opportunity for discussion was able to arise out of this.

It lead to a great debate on twitter and ultimately, to this post. So, it was a good thing. For sure. And of course, everyone is entitled to their own opinions, and I appreciate those opinions (whether I agree or disagree with them). If you’ve ever been in a similar situation, watch this video and then, if you wouldn’t mind, please answer this question for me…

What do you define as “being professional” when it comes to small businesses?

*If you like this video and think others would benefit from watching it, I would  love for you to retweet or facebook it.

36 comments | Click here to reply

Hey Brittni,

My opinion is this: it’s your f***ing blog. It’s your online space. You get to decide what you want on it. If you’re being yourself and people don’t like it, then they should read another blog. That might sound a little harsh. But, I think the MOST important thing in our businesses is that we infuse them with our personalities.

One of my faaaaavorite blogs is Marie Forleo’s blog–and anybody who knows Marie or knows her stuff, knows that she sometimes says four letter words. And, she also says things that some people would find inappropriate. She doesn’t do it to be provactive–it’s just who she is. And, I LOVE her for it. I’m one of her raving fans, and part of the reason I’m a raving fan is due to her AWESOME personality. People who don’t like it, don’t read her blog or buy her stuff. But, I’m pretty she doesn’t care, because there are lots of people who love her and her stuff–and she makes lots of money doing what she loves and being herself.

April

Thanks for the feedback April. I agree with you- being yourself and infusing your personality and voice is vital for any business and that’s what will attract people to you and what you do. And create those “raving fans” that you mentioned.

By the way- I love Marie Forleo as well. Been reading her blog for almost a year now (love her video Tuesdays posts). And another person I love is Naomi Dunford, who cusses QUITE a bit on her blog. And people either love her or hate her for it. I personally love it.
-Brittni

papernstitch

Two words: Naomi Dunford

Should I say more?

Mayi Carles @ Heartmade

hehe. i know mayi, right? and there are tons of other examples as well. thanks for coming by and leaving a comment.
-brittni

papernstitch

OK I actually have more to say LOL.

Seriously, I could agree more with April, “It’s you’re f*****cking blog”. This is your home + your sanctuary + your place to vent + your platform of self-expression. How are you going to maintain that if you have to censure yourself?

Putting on a stupid + totally fake mask to obey the Flingstones book of etiquette, now that’s what sounds silly + absolutely ridiculous + unprofessional to me. And honestly, if you ask me “these protocols” makes people look fat + super ugly. Just saying.

Heck wear your pajamas on your next vlog, while holding a glass of wine + dropping the f bomb if you feel like it. The people that love you will love you even more for it + the people who don’t didn’t really like that much in the first place + they should go read an Almanac or something.

Mayi Carles @ Heartmade

Thanks Mayi. Really appreciate your input.
-Brittni

papernstitch

I say to those who did not like it … F*** You !

Have a nice day 😉

Patty

Yay I love that you brought this up I’m sorry you got some negative reactions! I agree with what’s been said, this is your blog so it’s your choice and if you want to be the authentic you and express your personality or have it be really proper. I mean I don’t care and yes if people don’t like it they don’t have to read it!!

I have the mouth of a sailor and I’m super queer and I talk about it and at first for years on my blog I was afraid to be who I was because people wouldn’t like it and be offended and then I realized that pretending to be someone that I wasn’t was doing everyone and my art a disservice. I know artists that are queer that don’t really talk about and I get why its not to hide but put the work first but I’m just totally not one of those people!!! I’m a loud, passionate, political radical queer and my art is as well. I vowed never to try and fit into other peoples ideas for the online art community again or try to be something I’m not again! If you don’t like me or my art, ok sucks for you but I like who I am, imperfect, foul mouthed and often inappropriate!

So what you said the F-word, big deal I thought it was funny, everyone else can suck it!

xoxo

Katie K

Thank you so much Patty and Katie K for your comments and thoughts, especially you Katie. I appreciate you telling your own story here and feeling comfortable enough to share it. Truly!

On another note, I just wanted to welcome people who don’t agree with my thoughts to feel welcomed to share their opinions as well, without any judgement from me. I absolutely welcome ALL ideas, not just ones that agree with me. So don’t be afraid to stand your ground if you have something to share.
-Brittni

papernstitch

Well, as my father used to say
“You can’t please all of the people all of the time, only some of the people some of the time.”

I’d say, it’s pretty good advice.

We can tie ourselves in knots trying not to offend and trying to be all things to all people.

I am a sometimes reader of Danielle’s blog Whitehot truth ( http://whitehottruth.com/). Her content is littered with f bombs and all sorts of other explosives! It is what she is and she makes no bones about it.

Perhaps the people that took issue with your post just weren’t expecting it! Unlike Danielle’s site, this site doesn’t have that vibe. It has its own vibe. So it just took them by surprise – and so they emailed.

The unexpected is good. Shaking stuff up is good. Examining the fall out is good too. Plan, Do, Review and then do it all again!

Hope that is useful.

cari-jane hakes

I like this Cari-Jane. A lot. “The unexpected is good. Shaking stuff up is good. Examining the fall out is good too. Plan, Do, Review and then do it all again!”
-Brittni

papernstitch

you are welcome Brittni! Yeah I wanted to say I still read blogs of people who do not swear I’m not anti-non profanity users, just pro being yourself and lots of people mostly don’t swear. I do think its totally up to you and your vision of your blog. Many professional blogs include profanity and others don’t so I don’t think it’s “unprofessional”. That’s the best part of new media, we get to decide what the new professional is! I’ve worked for a lot of dress code type companies and .com’s that are totally casual, let me tell you the stuff that was said at those law offices and banking institutions…I mean so wrong, jokes that are really not funny but offensive. I still feel like it’s like Mad Men at some of those places so who says that’s what “professional” has to be anymore?? It’s very exciting to see so many women running their own businesses online and who have carved out an entirely new set of rules, etiquette and basically a new profession. Social media, ecommerce and online communications, so awesome!

Katie K

Good point Katie…”That’s the best part of new media, we get to decide what the new professional is!”

papernstitch

Hi Brittni, I think is not -unprofessional- to use the f* word.

To me, being professional in my indie business and online blog, means I need to be respectful and polite with my clients and readers, without losing myself.

…the other day I posted on my blog a video I found on yahoo.com, it was about zero-waisting and there was a lady speaking English with a French accent. Somebody posted a comment saying she could not watch the video because she hated accents…
-I decided not to post that comment, I deleted it, because even though I want my readers to express themselves, I don’t want them to offend other people.

With this I’m trying to explain my point, there will always be people that just won’t agree with us but as long as we know we are being fair and polite there should be no problem.

I agree with your point of view about this issue.

Victoria

Victoria (Batzy)

How much do you care about “being professional” – over making a point? It’s interesting that people took time out of their days to write you regarding something like this. I would have written to ask for the best RV cupcake recipe.

amy

That is a very good question Amy. So glad you posed it. “How much do you care about “being professional” – over making a point?” That really is THE question to ask yourself when debating the topic of using the f* word.
-Brittni

papernstitch

Hey! I am a 14 year old girl, and my opinion on this subject is that yes, since it is your blog, you can do what every you absolutely want with it! When I look at my self, I don’t cuss, even though the people surrounding me do daily because I think it is immature and inappropriate. It has been a major problem with a few of the kids at my school. I think that this will be a problem in their life when they grow up. For instance, if my principle said a few cuss words here and there, I would probably not look at her so seriously. Well, that my opinion :/ Hope you consider it! 🙂

Hannah S.

Hannah, Yes- there are definitely times when cussing is absolutely inappropriate (aka your principle speaking to a student at school that way- not appropriate). I do appreciate your opinion.

And that same idea can be applied to blogging as well: remember your audience. If your target demo is teenagers or young kids for example, its inappropriate. It all depends on your target demographic.

papernstitch

To me, a small business is professional when they consistently produce excellent quality work. Occasional (or frequent, even) cursing shouldn’t play into the equation of it in the creative field.

I actually read that post and didn’t even notice the F bomb, it’s just that ingrained in my vernacular. 🙂

Van

Haha. That’s funny Van…”didn’t even notice the F bomb, it’s just that ingrained in my vernacular.”
Thanks for leaving your thoughts.
-Brittni

papernstitch

Hey Brittni,

You definitely have guts for sticking to your guns and even blogging about this experience. That’s courage. And that’s way more important than the specific words we use. Its what’s underneath them that counts.

My whole life I kept my words ‘clean’ despite that I got crap for not using ‘language’. I never used a dirty word. Seriously. Up until a recent experience where I was way mis-stereotyped. Then I started an F-Bomb storm.

But coming out of that, I’ve realized that its still not me. So, I’m coming back to my true self. I don’t do that. But I don’t mind if others do, as long as they don’t give me a hard time.

All that to say. Just be yourself. Its the faking it that’s the real sin.

Jessica

Thank you Jessica. I really appreciate you sharing your thoughts. Being your true self, whatever that may be, is definitely the way to go!
-Brittni

papernstitch

What an interesting topic! I use all the words I know! whenever I think the situation calls for one of the words I know,I use it. Although I try to edit my voice to suit my audience,it should be obvious that this is your blog. You are a professional writer and marketer, therefore it’s up to you to determine your ‘professional’ behavior. It seems quite clear that you don’t plaster the blogosphere with f-bombs and you haven’t alienated your audience so your language/behavior must be acceptable to the majority out there. I think you’re absolutely wonderful and to folks who are offended – read elsewhere. To those who were disappointed…get over it. Adjust your expectations – we are all fallible, folks.

Laura B.

Thanks so much for your kinds words Laura!
-Brittni

papernstitch

I completely agree that there is a time and a place for these things. I don’t like it when people swear for no reason repeatedly to the point where it loosing all meaning. I think that your use of it was appropriate, in that to say I get it.

Having said that I do remember being a little taken aback when I read your post. I remember thinking “my goodness, did she just?” I think it was more do with the fact that I really wasn’t expecting it appear as it’s not your usual style. To contradict myself, if you had written ‘f**king’ I probably wouldn’t have batted an eyelid. There is a tendency to play the card – ‘I’m swearing, you know I’m swearing, but I’m watering it down so it’s socially acceptable.’

Typically I don’t think swearing is very professional but in this medium, a more person side to your business, I don’t think it undermines you at all.

Keep up the good work! 🙂

LittleMissPip

LittleMissPip- My husband pointed that out to me as well. If I would have used asterisks f***ing or something like that, most likely no one would have even noticed. I guess I just didn’t think about that at the time. Didn’t want to censor it. Ya know?

Thanks for your thoughts. I really appreciate it.
-Brittni

papernstitch

Don’t stress it. I always go back to what Seth Godin said:

If I get criticized for this, will I suffer any measurable impacts? Will I lose my job, get hit upside the head with a softball bat or lose important friendships?” If the only side effect of the criticism is that you will feel bad about the criticism, then you have to compare that bad feeling with the benefits you’ll get from actually doing something worth doing. Being remarkable is exciting, fun, profitable and great for your career. Feeling bad wears off.

alicia

Great tip Alicia. Seth Godin is so wise. I could listen to him speak for days.
-Brittni

papernstitch

WOW! Obviously everyone has a different opinion on this topic. SO here’s mine…since you asked! 😉

This is your blog & you know the audience you’re trying to reach so you can do what you want. Your actions will impact your business for better or worse. Same goes for all of us.

I do remember that post, & I’d been reading your blog for a bit. Not too long, but long enough for it to jump out at me because I’d never seen you say anything like that before. It didn’t offend me. I still love your blog & I think you’re a valuable resource.

So maybe that’s it. It stood out, which was your point, but it didn’t stand out in the way you wanted it to perhaps. I think with Naomi, Marie, & Danielle…that’s common language for them, so people expect that if they’re reading those blogs. They didn’t expect it from you so it was a shocker.

Now for me…my audience is moms & I don’t use any sort of language on my blog. I don’t want to offend anyone, & it’s not going to hurt me to not use it. But, I am being myself. I don’t use that language anytime. If I want to make a point about something…I say freaking. I do use that word a lot! Like people who teach about blogging…they say to write like you talk. If you talk that way, write that way. If you don’t, don’t.

BTW…I agree with you. I “FREAKING” love red velvet cupcakes!

Meagan

Absolutely Meagan. It stood out and I think that’s why a few people decided to email me about it and express their thoughts. It all boils down to your audience, and mine is a bit of a mixed bag (which I absolutely love). And I never want anyone who comes by to feel upset or uncomfortable, as I try to keep things fun and upbeat around here. 🙂

I appreciate you stopping by and leaving your thoughts.
-Brittni

papernstitch

I can definitely see why people might have been shocked if you don’t normally swear as it’s not what they’re used to encountering from you… I don’t have a problem with the F word myself but but I guess we live in a world where swear words are still starred out in newspapers etc and judging from the fact that people took the time to email you about this it’s obviously something that *some* people are bothered by.

For myself, I swear quite casually in my private life but I’m always super careful about my language when I blog or tweet, sort of in the same way that I err on the side of politeness when emailing my customers and will only become less formal and more chatty if they respond that way.

I think swearing on blogs is a bit like strongly voiced opinions about politics etc, complaining about someone/something publically, or sharing details of your private life … sometimes these things are appropriate and sometimes they’re not, and only you can work out when those times are based on your personality, your ideas about your “brand” and who you think your audience is.

Lupin

Thanks for sharing your thoughts Lupin. I agree that I think it was more shocking to some people than it might have otherwise been because I don’t normally cuss on the blog. In really life, I use colorful language pretty frequently, so it was bound to happen at some point.

Anyway, appreciate your point of view. Have a great weekend.

Brittni

papernstitch

Okay, since you invited all perspectives -I will comment today.

I’m not a fan.

I’m a mom of two little kids and involved in a circle of high-schoolers and expect neither to speak that way. Both are too immature to use language of that sort appropriately and therefore censor my words (and subject matter) accordingly as they are highly impressionable. I really find no need to use language of that nature. With that being said -I totally agree with other posters that your blog is your platform. If I don’t like it -I won’t read it! With that being said -I’m still here and reading your blog. 🙂

Renae Bradley

Thank you Renae for your input and alternate perspective. I really appreciate you coming by and sharing your thoughts. After reading and responding to all of the comments so far on this topic, I’ve gained perspective on my readers and the dialogue that’s spawned here has been wonderful. Exactly what I hoped for.
-Brittni

papernstitch

Some people are so sensitive 🙂 You have nothing to apologize for. I often say if you’re not pissing people off on occasion, then it’s a good sign you might not be pushing the envelope. And let’s be honest…using a cuss word now and then is not that controversial. Every business has a target audience; that means everyone else isn’t necessarily going to like or care about what you’re doing. And that is of course, just dandy.

Christian

Thank you for sharing your thoughts Christian. I agree- its not that controversial to throw a cuss word in every now and again (or more than that). And I certainly can’t please everyone. Appreciate you stopping by and leaving a comment.
-Brittni

papernstitch
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