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What is the bullshit with career titles?
I ask this question, as bluntly as I possibly can, for good reason. The industry that I work in is filled with conflicting messages. None of it makes sense to the outside world. None of it makes sense to the inside world. Therefore, it must be bullshit.
My company has moved from content strategy to content writing, and then to distribution. I’ve watched copywriters become content writers. I have watched content strategists argue until they’re blue in the face about what defines content strategy. Hell, I even weighed in on that one!
Now, we are seeing documentarians (technical writers, for you old-school folk out there) describing themselves as content designers. The User Experience crew are considering themselves content designers. Marketers decided that they are content strategists and content marketers, and pretty soon they will be content designers too.
Watching this madness swirl out there in the atmosphere, I have decided to take a step backwards. I don’t care for career titles. Unless you’re in a profession that actually is a profession, your title means nine-tenths of nothing. Chances are, the final tenth is something that you understand differently from your boss, that your team understands differently from you, and that your family refuses to understand. I say refuse to understand, because you keep trying to explain it, and not one little bit of it sinks in.
The entire career title idea, in my industry anyway, got shattered when the internet became ubiquitous and omniscient. We had all of these people who were dissatisfied with tech teams’ lack of attention to users suddenly stand up and say, hey hang on this isn’t right. So we had the first content strategists. As the ideas of the first writers and thinkers grabbed hold, they started to multiply – like a fertilised cell.
This cell, which was first content strategy, became a whole lot of cells really quickly. We suddenly had people serious about the end-user experience, and the UX community started to proliferate. We suddenly had writers understand that they were valuable in the tech space, for the purposes of improving end-user experience. Therefore the digital writer, or strategic writer, or (call them whatever you like) started to proliferate in new ways. We suddenly had marketers understand that digital required content visibility, so content marketing began to proliferate.
And now we’re at the place in this very young, burgeoning profession where it’s all about ‘design’. Design thinking is sexy, didn’t you know? Everyone has moved away from strategy and headfirst into design.
So what’s my problem? Well, none of it helps the end users – who are the people buying the skills.
Career titles are only valuable when you have a definite, important, understandable concept. Right now, none of this work is understood except by the people inside those roles, and working with people in those roles. The rest of the world is still light-years behind it. It won’t be until there is some kind of regulation or assessment, and a collective of influential people decide on a title, that a known title will take hold. And that, my friends is a long way in the future.
You might be wondering what I call myself.
Today, I decided that I’m a publisher. A publisher requires user smarts; business smarts; strategic smarts. A publisher requires an understanding of the roles of content, message, editorial, and business oversight. A publisher needs to understand business models, innovation, diversification. A publisher needs to have a grasp on distribution and visibility. A publisher needs to have PR smarts, people skills, the ability to create from nothing something of impact. I spend my days advising businesses and individuals on how to write, publish, monetise, promote, align with business objectives.
That is what I do. It feels right. I feel certain about it. So certain that I updated my professional Twitter account (yep, I separated my business self from my regular self):
And if you’re a long-time reader, you’ll know that this feeling of certainty is something I’ve been missing since about 2008. It is an absolute revelation.
On 11 September 2018, the Pixie turns five. If the business were a child, it is school-aged. I remember clearly when I started school; I was four and about to turn five. If my memory serves me correctly, I got Enid Blyton’s The Magic Faraway Tree as one of my presents.
So far, the Pixie has learned to sit up and stand. It’s learned how to walk. It can run. It’s just at the beginning of its education. It is learning what it means to form meaningful social bonds; it is learning that there are things in its world that it sucks at; it is learning how to find stability in some kind of new routine.
If the Pixie were a person, she is finding a new level of confidence.
Reflection 1: The words
In reflecting on this milestone, I realise that the narrative I’ve been putting into the world up until this point hasn’t been helpful either to me or to the Pixie. That narrative has been survive to five, thrive to ten. It began because I was afraid of failure. It began because I know the statistics about businesses. I’ve been in the Fail Category three times, and I was determined not to be in it again (and am still). But the reason why it has been unhelpful is because survive to five is about survival. When it comes to business, it means just enough. Surviving is just enough to pay the bills. Surviving is just enough to breathe. Surviving is just enough of a heartbeat to consider that you are alive.
Thriving? Well, now, that’s an entirely different thing.
Words have an enormous power. That’s why neurolinguistic programming is such a powerful tool. Those who teach hypnosis know better than most how your constructions, what you accept subconsciously, become the world around you – and how (and why) changing it suddenly gives rise to challenges.
Perhaps one of the most confronting, and famous, examples, is the work conducted by Dr Masaru Emoto. (The documentary about Emoto’s work is embedded below.) And if you use throwaway words, it’s time to think about how they affect you, too.
Reflection 2: The structure
When I started the Pixie it was me and an ABN. Then I decided to register a company, because at the time it seemed like a better way of protecting my own assets, such as they are. (Whether a flute, a beaten up car, and a $600 computer is worth company fees is another point, I guess.) My accountant was my aunt, but I had zero advice unless I asked the right question.
In my experience, lawyers and accountants only do what you ask. If you aren’t knowledgeable enough to know what to ask for – because you aren’t an accountant, and you are not a lawyer – then chances are pretty good that you will end up in a complete mess.
This has been my experience.
What happened was that I said to my accountant, I want a trust that can own a range of companies, so that I can grow this one and then kick off another one. So what she did was create a solopreneur structure that does not scale. My company became the trustee of the trust, which meant that nothing changed and I just had to deal with a lot of fucking painful and annoying things.
I’m super lucky to have found two things in the past couple of months: Someone with emotional intelligence and communication skills who just happens to be an accountant; and the courage to pay for her work. This is the third restructure in five years. It means new ABNs, new TFNs, new bank accounts(!).
The right structure is going to do a few things. One is that it will allow me to take advantage of amazing things like the R&D Tax Incentive. One is that if I pay myself as an employee of the company, then I also pay superannuation, which is mega exciting. In the past, the advice I had gotten was: Don’t pay your debts off (HECS) because you can spend the money on properly; don’t worry about superannuation, because your savings do the same thing.
Which sounds great when you don’t know anything. But the truth is, the company needs to be compliant and to do the right things, and I also need to save money as an individual. It’s not the same thing. To my mind, if my business isn’t doing the right things from the get-go, then I am going to have an unrealistic expectation of what it’s going to take to employ other people, as opposed to using subcontractors forever.
Reflection 3: It feels different
Somehow, somewhere in the Force, being at this place feels different. I have had to go through loads of spiritual growth to get here. I have battled with my own ego, with my desires for freedom versus desires for stability. I have learned how not to build systems, how to spot the right people to trust. I have learned about bullshit business authors and those whose works are actually right on. I have learned that how I think has a massive impact on my reality.
Importantly, I have learned that I am ok with seeing this as my job.
Since spending time this year writing creative works, I have also found myself regaining helpful distance from my business. Why is that important? That helpful distance means that I have much less of a problem in reaching out to people and saying hey this business exists and this is how we can help you. Sales is critical for growth. That sounds like a no-brainer. I have had to learn to sell; I have had to learn that it’s ok to approach people to tell them how we can help. When it’s just you then it’s all about you.
This week I had the dawning realisation that all of the narratives in my closest network – my family – are not the narrative that I am writing. They are micro businesses, designed only as jobs for singular people. They have grown organically, they have no real desire to scale.
That’s not my story. The Pixie is a company that I want to grow. The Pixie is a company that I want to run like clockwork whether I am there or not. That’s a really different thing to being a technician and doing the work. The impact that I can personally have in the world, when I have a company humming along and growing even if I’m on holidays, is so much greater than if I was doing the work myself.
And so, that’s where I am right now.
I want to express my heartfelt appreciation to you for being one of my readers, and for sticking through this gigantic post reflecting on the last five years. I would like to express majestic gratitude to everyone around me that has supported me to this point so far.
But I would also like to express warmth, gratitude and appreciation to myself. Without my own persistence, courage, and spiritual growth, I would have gone and gotten a job by now. Congratulations to me for navigating the challenges and barriers, and for doing the work to appreciate the good stuff along the way.
Gene Simmons was recently in Adelaide, as part of the Gene Simmons Vault tour. I had an amazing time, as a guest of a Vault buyer (my husband). For the details, keep reading; but first, the 20 things I learned just being near this guy for the best part of a day.
20 Things I learned from Gene Simmons just by being near him for a day
- Decide on & wear a uniform. It makes life easy, sure, but it becomes part of your brand.
- Ideas are nothing until you go to the detail.
- Pay 110% attention to every person you talk to. No matter what. In this case, it made the 5 minutes with Gene feel like a lot more. He was present with every single person.
- Paying focused attention conserves your energy.
- Put on an amazing show, no matter what you feel like, no matter what the “show” is.
- Back up your team mates. Even if you kicked them out of your band because they did too many drugs.
- Be thankful.
- Be honest and say no if no is the answer. (Don’t bullshit people.)
- Get paid for every single thing that you do.
- You are important.
- All things worth doing take *time*. Lots and lots of time.
- Make wise decisions about how you spend every minute of today’s 24 hours.
- Never rush, even if the environment you’re in is rushed.
- Be smart about contracts and trademarks.
- Working with professionals makes everything easier. Even when your mate doesn’t remember his own songs.
- You’re never too small to have other people carry your stuff.
- You’re never too big to carry your own stuff.
- Success comes from unexpected places.
- Know your place, know your team members’ places, respect needs and places. Extrapolate this to inputs and outputs; know your own inputs and outputs, and know the needs of those either side of you.
I’m sure there are more than 20. But 20 is a good list.
So, what is the Vault Experience?
You can learn about the Vault and the details here. Gene was here with his solo band, and with Ace Frehley.
In Adelaide, here’s what we experienced:
- Admission for soundcheck. Gene wasn’t there (he flew in from Canada at 4 pm.) But Ace Frehley was. Gene’s band is seriously talented.
- The show itself, front row (of course). Both of us got to sing on stage with Gene & band – at separate times; girls for one song, boys for another.
- Most of a day hanging out in a private party at the Hilton Hotel in Adelaide from 1 pm – 5 pm, at which we:
- Had a private Q&A with Gene and Ace
- Hung out with other fans, and made new friends
- Could spend time chatting with Ace throughout the day, and the band when they turned up later
- Spent 5 minutes with Gene, talking to him and getting things signed, including the Vault itself + more
- Had pro photos taken.
I didn’t buy the Vault; my husband did. (He’s a much bigger fan than me.) But I am still a fan of Gene… just more of his knowledge than his music. Even if his music does also kick arse.
It only happened if you have pictures!
Here you go; here’s a set of cool pics. You can see all fan photos at the Gene Simmons Vault.