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How to be weird in a way that attracts your peeps + builds your business

Recently, I had a new dominatrixing client referred to me by one of my most trusted peeps, and yet I was really hesitant to get on our first call together. Online, this woman appeared to be chic and elegant, styled and fancy. (All things I am not, as evidenced by everything I’ve ever created ever.)

When we got on the phone, this delightful creature told funny stories and made me laugh and told me all about her struggles with finding clients. That’s when it clicked: you’re not the person you appear to be online!

You’re MORE than that. Yes, you like pretty and girly stuff, but you’re also prone to making “That’s what she said” jokes. You enjoy a styled shoot just like the next person, but you’re also the one encouraging the bride to shoot hoops at her wedding.

My fantastic client was leaving out the “and” because being girly and wonderfully weird is way more vulnerable than defaulting to girly. Adoring details and making memories with clients is not as clear cut a line as simply beautifully arranging wedding bits and bobs to show off on Instagram.

She was dimming down her weird and was about 14.2 miles down the yellow brick Kinfolk road, posting perfect image after perfect image and giving her true peeps no chance of seeing her weird.

This, then, is a guide for bringing your weird to light without freaking out, going too far, or pushing all your peeps away in a flurry of strangeness.

First, assess your weird.

If the person I would meet in person, just the two of us at 7pm on a Tuesday isn’t exactly the same as the person you are online, you’ve got room to add your weird into the mix.

Weird means quirky, unique, interesting, and YOU.

Weird does NOT mean unprofessional.

Let’s divorce the two things, shall we?

Let’s separate your quirks from your professionalism: ability to treat people kindly, to respond to communications in a timely fashion, to ship products, to deliver services, and to do what you say you’re going to do across the board.

My inability to wear socks until it is absolutely necessary at some frigid point in October in no way impacts my ability to be on time for our scheduled coaching calls.

My love of Harry Potter doesn’t prevent me from being fully present and capable of supporting my clients when they need me most.

My love of the word “Fuckbuckets” doesn’t keep me from delivering sound, cash-making, heart-centered business advice for my peeps. If anything, it frees them up to be themselves. My last few dominatrixing clients have doubled their businesses when they stopped trying to fit in and let their weird bits hang out.

Also: ‘weird’ is another word for ‘vulnerable.’

It’s not easy to show people your quirks. Your brain’s job is to convince you that everyone wants to see only your pretty, pretty perfect life. What if people judge your house, your hair, your pets, your kids, your business, your life? What if they think your ninja moves are strange, or your book collection is stupid, or your devotion to black coffee is pretentious?

Brain wants you to play it safe and hedge your bets by showing people varying degrees of perfection porn. Your meticulously organized closets, your freshly arranged flowers, and your darling workspace are much easier to show off than your windblown hair, your chipped old mug, and your 6-day old bouquet that is starting to smell funny but that you still love because your kids picked those flowers for you.


Your peeps — the ones who will adore you and keep you in business for years to come — can’t love you if you don’t show them who you are.
They can only love what they’re shown.

If what you’re showing people isn’t all the way deep-down true, you’ll end up resenting your clients, hating your business, and resenting the shit out of everyone who lines up to give you money.

Fun, eh?

You don’t show people the real you, then they like the not-real you, then you assume that no one could possibly like the real you because no one currently does…because you’re not showing it to them. DO YOU SEE THE MADNESS OF THIS CYCLE.

Further. Weirdness and vulnerability are what we want from everyone else, but we’re the least willing to give to others first. It’s like a new couple in love having a hanging-up-the-phone fight:

You be vulnerable first!
No, you!
No, YOU!

Only no one goes first, and then we default to pretending we’re fine and exchanging social pleasantries.

::bashes head on desk::
::inserts Starbucks IV drip to counteract the boredom::

“Vulnerability is our most accurate measurement of courage.” — Brene Brown

Be courageous in small doses. You don’t have to go from referring yourself exclusively in the third person and keeping all your clients at arm’s length to suddenly telling us about every sexual encounter you’ve ever had, or every dream you nourish in secret, or cataloging your grossest habits and calling out each one, body part by body part.

Vulnerability is a practice. You can open a little every day.

No need to treat it as an all-or-nothing deal. You can start with a list of quirky yet harmless facts.

Here, I’ll go first:

+ I can’t wear high heels unless I’m the Maid of Honor in your wedding. Even then, I’ll have had my dress tailored to go barefoot at the reception.

+ My aspirational self is Martha-motherfucking-perfection-Stewart and my actual self uses Mod Podge and glitter for every craft project I undertake. Everything else is too complicated.

+ I can’t even look in the general direction of Kinfolk magazine. I want to walk into every scene and yell, “Bored!” before throwing glitter everywhere and ruffling up all the perfect scenes. (I’m really bad at perfection porn of all kinds, I’ve learned.)

+ My belly doesn’t like dairy, but ice cream is still my favorite favorite food. I understand that this is stupid AND YET chocolate marshmallow.

+ I invited everyone in the Fuck Yah Club to go watch Quidditch with me on Saturday. Because why not?

When you’re willing to show people the real you, they can actually fucking love the real you, and then you can make some friends that you actually adore who happen to sometimes give you money. (Some people call them ‘clients.’)

This is, I assure you, a far better fate than trying to remain “professional” while resenting the shit out of your clients, eroding your love of your work, and pretending to be someone else for the rest of your days.

Let your weird out.

Regale us with your strange habits.

Refuse to hide behind small moments of perfection.

We can’t wait to love you, just as you are. (Now, who wants to glitter craft with me!?)

***********Oh, and! This is important. You can take on weird at your own pace. You don’t have to show us your deepest wounds or unhealed bits. You don’t have to talk about anything you’re going through until you’re past the gaping wound phase.

In other words: please don’t try teaching us lessons about grief three days after your fiancee dies. Don’t teach us about anxiety when you’re experiencing a string of unexplained attacks that you and your doctor haven’t quite figured out. Don’t teach us about bankruptcy while you’re still crying on the floor every night and you’re $94,247.56 in the hole.

Give yourself a little room to heal, okay?

The point of letting your weird out is to be a touch more revealing than you find strictly comfortable without triggering all of your peeps’ collective ‘OH GOD I MUST HELP HER SOMEHOW’ feels. Triggering our motherly instincts helps no one and will only do damage to everyone involved.

Permission to take your time, granted.
Permission to show us your weird: given.
Permission to be exactly who you are, swears and ninja kicks and all: you got it.


P.S. Here are my top 8 bookstores on Earth. Because I know you know about bookstore weird.

How I write books in 6 weeks or less. (i.e. fuck the plan)

I’m sure you’ll be shocked to learn that I don’t write books like most people. Other writers tell me they maintain a fairly slow and steady pace, chipping away a thousand words at a time for months upon months. Years, even. They are perfectly capable of submitting detailed outlines to editors and of making a legit Table of Contents they’ll stick to as their book unfolds.

Not me. Here’s a behind-the-scenes look at the way I write, in all its glory. (Hint: there’s not really any glory. But there is a rainbow keyboard.)

First, I go hunting. I gather up all the scraps and bits and snippets I’ve written on my phone, on my laptop, and in my notebooks. Podcast pieces, class transcripts, and poems. Inspiring words I’ve written as responses to particularly moving e-mails.

All of it. Everything I’ve written since the last time I released a book. I let myself be overwhelmed by the immensity of it. That is, in some part, the point.

Then I edit. I cull. Ruthlessly and harshly, with a loving eye toward only the pieces that want to be a part of this particular project.

I weave my work like other people weave yarn, turning words into chapters, and chapters into the book.

It’s not logical or linear. (Currently, my Table of Contents is not in any way related to what I’ve written. It will be by the end, I promise.)

It’s entirely intuitive, and it’s not a bit like any class or system I’ve ever taken told me to do. I have a great deal of guilt, for example, about having edited 6,000 words the other day but ‘not doing enough’ because I didn’t also handle social media and the laundry and the grocery shopping. Yesterday, I did the social media and the grocery shopping, then felt guilty about having edited too quickly. Translation: my brain is still an asshole.

I weave quickly. My latest book went from 15,000 words to 30,000 in under a week.

It’s at 41,000 words and growing, as of this writing, and will keep on ticking upward as I add new pieces to fill gaps, make clearer points, and otherwise needle away at my own deadline.

Because I make my own deadline.

There’s no outer force pushing me to write — only my inner knowing that it’s time. This is the season to get it out, much like a pregnant woman knows when it’s time to push, only without forceps, and with way more alcohol.

I’ve made space for this to happen: no coaching calls, no Hermione D. Granger to walk and bathe and feed, no outstanding deadlines or commitments outside of my own.

I’m writing for me, for you, because the act of writing itself is one of the most joyful ones I know.

I still don’t know how it will turn out. I don’t know how much it will cost. I don’t know whether you’ll love it or hate it.

…and still I write.

Because it’s in me, it’s the thing that lives in my bones and that desperately wants to be out, away, and in the world.

I’m honoring my voice even as I don’t know what the fuck it’s doing or why the fuck it’s doing it.

So if you’ve ever felt like your process is TOO something — too slow, too fast, too linear, too logical, too uncertain, too messy, too vibrant, too fast-paced — there’s only one question to answer.

Are you doing the work? If you are, the process is perfect.

My process is a hybrid of labor pains and making space, like if a doula and a yoga teacher got together and had a happy hippie book baby, but they invited whales to come splash around on the beach so we would all know we’re on the right track.

Your process is just that…yours.

Fuck the plan, fuck the requirements and the endless planning, the labeling and trying to do it the “right” way.

YOUR way is the right way.

Relax, enjoy.

Here’s to your process, friend.

P.S.  Don’t drink the unicorn blood.  And put down that horcrux.

Everyone is not for everyone.

I’m at the wedding, plopped in an adirondack chair high in the yard, enjoying a cold beer while I watch folks in fancy dress mingle on the dock. The chatter of the other guests is all around me, a gentle fuzz of voices, when a woman stops in front of my seat.

“Who are you and why are you sitting all by yourself!?”

I blink. And laugh. “I’m the DJ’s girlfriend. I don’t know anyone.”

“Well, this is my daughter, Carli, and this is Grandma. Now you know someone.”

A blue-eyed old woman clutching red wine and smoking copiously plops down beside me. Carli, blond and light, proceeds to talk about Beverly Hills 90210 (“If my boyfriend is ever a drug dealer, I should dump him, right?”), her friends’ moms and dads (“They’re living together but she pays all his bills, that’s not right, is it?”), and her 10th birthday wishes (“Barbies, and a car for them. I would take pink or purple or white but not green”). We try the crab lollipops together. She pretends to like them. We laugh about all sorts of things. Then cocktail hour ends and whoosh! We’re relegated to separate tables.

Later, as dinner drags on, I feel a tug on my hand.

“Kristen I was thinking about dancing and I finished eating and…

Do you want to, like, hang out?”

That question, heartbreaking and tenuous all at once. So deeply vulnerable and childish (because of course I’ll say yes) but also, so adult. Asking for what you want.

It’s only by asking that I’ll say, “Yes, of course I would like to hang out with you, darling girl.”

We danced and danced and danced.

If you’re here, reading this, the work you do feels like an expression of your soul — or you’re trying to find the work that feels that way.

That work is inherently vulnerable. It’s exhausting and debilitating when people don’t like it or aren’t interested.

It’s scary to ask people to pay attention. It means tugging on the hands of people you like and asking, “Do you want to, like, hang out?”

Some will say no, or say they’re too busy, or beg off hanging out until later.

But others. They will dance with you until the wee hours of the morning. They will turn you around and around in the fading light, gleeful and lit up like so many fireworks. They will make all the asking worth it, and they’ll reward all that rejection with a heart that’s full to bursting.

Ask, friend.

Ask your clients to talk to you.

Ask them to come to your workshop or lecture or party or event or or seminar or phone meeting or class or photo shoot.

Ask them to dance with you, and I promise, the ones you’ll end up loving will answer with a resounding, “Yes. What took you so long to ask?”

That’s only the beginning of today’s podcast, in which we talk all about finding your voice and inviting them onto your metaphorical dance floor.  (Also, in the kayak pictured?  Beer.  BEER BOAT AT A WEDDING.  Genius, isn’t it?)

P.S.  Why you don’t want to be failure-proof

Pay Me, Dammit!

Any of these sound familiar?

You’re afraid of making more money because you think you’ll somehow change — like making six or seven figures means you sprout horns and become a racist, sexist, no good, very bad asshole of DOOM. (It doesn’t make any sense when you say it out loud, but when one more BMW driver cuts you off in traffic, it seems to make perfect sense.)

Or you don’t think you deserve it.

Or you don’t trust yourself to make more money. (I mean, you keep spending the money you make sort of poorly — like, where does it go!? — so you figure you’ll just continue the cycle, only with tens of thousands of dollars at a time.

Or you’re caught in a pattern of just getting by, and that’s how you’re most comfortable: NOT getting paid.

Or you’re actually quite secure in letting your partner or family member or friend or patron pay the majority of the bills, and you quote-unquote ‘just’ make fun money, so why bother making any more?

Money can only give you the ability to be more you.

If you’re already a selfish prick, you’ll get more selfish and more prickish. If you’re already an asshole, you’ll get asshole-y-er.

But if you’re a generous soul, you’ll get more generous, because you can afford to make donations without worrying about whether your kids will have shoes.

If you’re already fun, you’ll just rent the inflatable Jurassic Park bouncy castle AND the inflatable dinosaurs to hang in the backyard for the epic movie night screening instead of having to choose.

When you let money flow into your business and your life — i.e. get paid — you’re evolving as an entrepreneur.

You deserve to be paid for doing the work you do.
You deserve to not be stressed right the eff out about money for 80% of every day.
And you deserve for other people to see your work in the world.

You deserve to be seen.

Pay Me, Dammit! is a class about money, but it’s really about all the ways money is a stand-in for the ways you’re holding yourself back. We tackle ‘em, together, and then I throw down scripts and techniques that just plain make you dollars.

PLEASE, use the scripts, follow the instructions, and let me know how it goes. When you find $1,000 in your inbox or actually call back that customer or draw better boundaries around your business, I’d freaking LOVE to hear about it! It’s not easy to make the changes that bring in the dollars (see all the reasons mentioned earlier), but when you consciously catch bad habits in action, they lose their power.

Listen in.  And get paid, dammit.

P.S. Up next: the excruciating pain of asking for what you want.

The ultimate sales tool isn’t what you think

When you think of absolutely crucial sales tools for your business, you probably think of technology.  Apps, credit card swipes, merchant processing accounts, and maybe good ol’ Paypal.  But in truth, your ultimate sales tool is an attitude.  It’s the art of not-reacting to whatever is coming up with your clients, no matter how awkward, and is known as…wait for it…non-reactive presence.

Non-reactive presence is the most important skill you’ll need to master for long-term success in keeping your peeps happy.

(Where non-reactive presence means not losing your shit when you’d like to completely and utterly go berserk.)

Cultivating your non-reactive presence means maximizing your ability to keep yourself calm and centered at all times. Even while receiving criticism or negative feedback. Even when people are being unreasonable or a little bit crazy. Further, it’s being able to find the useful nuggets hidden within the words a person is saying. You’re building your ability to actively postpone reacting or matching the person’s energy.

Growing your non-reactive presence skills means having happier, more fulfilled customers for the lifetime of your business.

How? Because you’re growing your ability to see the thing behind the thing. A person is screaming about the photos being delivered ten minutes after their due date, but really he’s screaming because his wife has just been diagnosed with cancer and his kids have been in trouble at school lately and he’s frustrated with everything and everyone, ever.

Non-reactive presence doesn’t take things personally.

You can handle what you’re responsible for, but you let the anger, rage, shame, embarrassment, disappointment, sadness, or melodrama that’s being aimed at you fly right by. You breathe deeply, you ask the right questions, you take notes, and you take action. You don’t let yourself get swept up in the drama.

Because humans are humans. Even after all this time.

Although you are a stunning human being who always does impeccable work, you are still dealing with other human beings. At some point, they will be less than thrilled with what they bought from you, even if you delivered exactly as promised.

Often, people are polite enough not to point out the one tiny little thing that bothered them because it was overshadowed by the other things they did enjoy. These people won’t give you constructive criticism unless you solicit it, and even then they might not say anything negative.

Some people, however, seem to enjoy critiquing things. They enjoy finding faults and pointing out a better way to do things because they feel they’re so much smarter and more experienced than you. Or they did have a dissatisfying experience, but their reaction seems disproportionate.

Regardless of why a customer is upset, it’s your job to stay calm.

Remember that the way a person reacts has nothing to do with you and everything to do with how he or she chooses to handle life. You’re dealing with a human being who has both free will and self control, and his or her reaction doesn’t mean you’re a terrible person.

Sometimes you can fix the problem, sometimes you can’t.

When you’re in a sticky or awkward situation, breathe. Deeply.

You’ll think, “Oh, you’re one of THOSE people. I know where this is going. A long rant with some purposefully mean things mixed in with the point you’re actually upset about.”

Keep breathing deeply. Yup, it feels hokey to write, but it really can be that simple.

When you’re ready, read that long email and skip past the parts that are vague or intentionally hurtful and demeaning. Are there any valid points? Is there any constructive criticism hidden in there? Could you have communicated better, done better? How could you improve?

This is often the only criticism you’ll receive. Constructive criticism, given gently and with love, is rare. If you try to ignore this other type of criticism completely, you’ll have lost an opportunity to hear feedback on how you can improve. You will always have something to learn, a method to streamline, a product to enhance, or communication skills to hone.

But that’s hard to see. If you’re dealing with internet communication, take a break. Step away from the issue for at least an hour, if not 24 hours, to give yourself space to respond as a non-reactive presence. We both know firing off that “Fuck you, too!” e-mail will do no one any good.

When you can stay calm, get to the root of the other person’s upset. You do that by asking specific questions to help understand the problem more clearly. Possible questions that might help: how long have you had this concern? Where did the company fail to meet your expectations? What helped you form those expectations? What might we have done differently to have prevented this from happening? How can we make it better? What can we do about this?

Take notes and listen carefully. If you only react to the anger coming at you, you’ll be really angry and unable to help. If you have a lady screaming at you because she expected pink cupcakes and is getting blue ones, well — you can whip up a new batch in no time and send her on her merry way without ever losing your cool. If you scream back, throw her cupcakes at the wall, and order her to leave the premises, you’ve ruined the day for both of you.

Ask the customer what he or she would happen in a perfect world to fix this issue. When the issue doesn’t have an obvious solution, and it often doesn’t, asking your client for suggestions about fixing the issue can help tremendously. A coupon, a discount, or a free bonus will often be the answer. And then the situation is resolved.

Take action. Do what you’ve agreed to do in a timely fashion. If you’re going to edit the project within 24 hours, do it. Fix it. Handle it. And keep your cool.

P.S.  This and other sneaky crazy-awesome sales tips are included in Introverts at Work, available in print or digital formats right now. 😉

Photo // Lauren Guilford, Steer Your Ship Costa Rica