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I’ve been writing about sex for almost as long as I’ve been having it, starting with a college internship at the Boston Phoenix in 2003 (I was a late bloomer). Back then, I didn’t expect to eventually settle into that niche so thoroughly. But here we are, nine years later, and I still write about sex for a living.
For the longest time, I operated as if my brand was split. When I first entered the professional realm, for example, I worked full-time at an academic book publisher. The sex writing, meanwhile, was a sorta-secret side hobby I did in my free time.
Then I went full-time freelance. I was able to devote more time to my writing, and editors were just begging for open and honest sex content that didn’t take itself too seriously. But when I decided to diversify and launch a career coaching company for publishing professionals, I struggled with how to create a cohesive platform.
“Does your sex writing turn off potential coaching clients?” people asked me. I told them I wouldn’t want to work with anyone who was turned off by that aspect of my life. I told them that most of my clients chose me because of my unconventional background. I even mentioned that sex writing and coaching had a lot in common, in that I used humor and honesty as a means of connecting with both my clients and my readers. All of this was true, but it was still tough to market those two sides of myself simultaneously.
Then I took a good, hard look at the mix of work I was doing and asked myself: How can I make my professional brand more integrated and awesome? I realized I would have to embrace my sex writing roots more fully.
I began scaling back on the time I spent marketing my coaching business, and started promoting myself as a ghostwriter, editor, and consultant to mental health professionals, activists and educators specializing in sexual health. I saw it as a way to continue doing the writing I enjoyed while still helping others. I even began writing a prescriptive memoir about being a sex writer with sexual dysfunction. Suddenly, things felt a lot less Jekyll and Hyde.
Basically, I used my more unconventional experience to set myself apart as a professional. You can (and should) do the same. It’ll give you that extra je ne sais quoi that will help you stand out from the other business owners in your niche. How?
The first thing you need to do is pinpoint what sets you apart from others in your field. So what makes you an original? If you’re not sure, ask yourself:
- What do you love to do in your spare time? What would you spend your time doing if you didn’t have to worry about the bills?
- What do you naturally do well?
- What have been your greatest achievements? What heart-exploding accomplishment do you brag about the most?
- What do you want to be remembered for?
- What do other people consistently ask you for advice on?
Remember to ask other people where your strengths lie, too. You might be surprised by what others see in you.
Then, use this information to figure out a new way of describing yourself to others. For example, instead of introducing myself as a career consultant who sometimes writes about sex, I now present myself as someone who does content marketing and consulting for sexual health professionals.
Of course, it can be tough to draw a line between the personal and the professional when you’re using your personal life as a means of defining your career. So turn inward again and ask yourself: Who is my ideal client? Who do I want to be working with? What do I feel comfortable sharing with them?
Everyone who falls outside the vision of your ideal client — someone who doesn’t judge your hoop-dancing side hobby or your funeral-singing side gig but instead eats it up — well, they can go and hire that other copywriter/web developer/publicist/service provider. The one who’s nothing like you.