Leaving Cambridge University’s business school and going freelance on a part-time basis (I’m still keeping my hand in HE employment by managing the FutureLib Project: http://futurelib.wordpress.com) has prompted me to ponder many things – amongst them the place of my recently rebranded blog in my life. I was quite hesitant about posting my recent piece on the UX day I delivered at Lancaster because even though it definitely helped me to reflect on and share my approach it also arguably stood as an advert for what I could do as a commercial concern. Would it just be seen as advertising? Would my motives for posting be questioned? Should I keep blogging?
A few beers – a golden hoppy ale called Minerva since you asked – with the inestimable Emma Coonan (@LibGoddess) at Cambridge’s Devonshire Arms the other evening encouraged me to blog about the issue to help me to process where I currently am with this…
I’ve never been backward in coming forward – well actually that’s not true. Although I always knew I had things I could and should achieve – mainly because I knew I had a talent for writing and a good imagination – I felt crippled (even if I didn’t always show it) by a self-perceived awkwardness for many years. These feelings only started to dissipate as I took on more managerial responsibility and disappeared altogether once I was put in charge of the direction and fortunes of an entire service. As a librarian in an institution like a business school where you know you are pretty much at the bottom of the pile (despite having more contact time with students than everyone else – oh the irony!) if you don’t blow your own trumpet you will not be heard AT ALL. And I think that just as I became pretty adept at doing this on behalf of the service I also started to find it a more natural thing to do for myself too. Of course nothing in life is as black and white as this. I think I’ve probably always believed in blowing your own trumpet ’cause no-one else will.
And now as I I’m seeking to set up my own business and my livelihood is actually at far more risk I’m probably more convinced of this necessity. In the words of Ruddigore’s Robin Oakapple:
‘If you wish in the world to advance,
Your merits you’re bound to enhance,
You must stir it and stump it,
And blow your own trumpet,
Or, trust me, you haven’t a chance!’
But I guess this is less about me blowing my own trumpet and more about whether you can still share your endeavours when you’re also on the look-out for potential clients? My current take is that I think I can as long as I’m upfront about the fact and don’t pretend that I’m just sharing altruistically. To be honest I probably wasn’t much of an altruist blogger anyway as I think I was chiefly blogging for me so I could appreciate and reflect on what I had learned rather than being desperate to share it for the good of others. But are my reasons for blogging different now? I think they probably are. I didn’t for one minute decide to commit to it in order to ‘hard sell’ my services, for one thing that doesn’t work anyway (ask any library vendor who has tried this out on me!), but I did like the picture of a trainer being interested enough in his topic and pedagogical choices to be blogging and therefore publicly reflecting on their personal development. I do think very hard about how to achieve the best results from any course by optimising content and delivery, so why not share those thought processes? I know for certain that I can share ideas that others might find useful.
Am I any further forward in my thinking? On the one hand I feel comfortable with the idea of a trainer blogging and therefore reflecting to help ensure their courses are the best they can be, but on the other hand I feel slightly uneasy that some people might think I’m now just in the blogging game for marketing purposes. I’m not, but at the same time I’m not going to deny that I think it might very occasionally benefit my business. Time-permitting I’m still going to blog about what strikes me as innovative or thought-provoking to keep me connected to the library world (something that my FutureLib role should help anchor), but I guess the balance of posts will be crucial – those which sell what I’m doing and those which simply reflect on areas I’m interested in. I imagine that most posts will inevitably be a mixture of the two. I don’t want to get too hung up on that balance and just hope that as ever – as in the days of my libreaction blog – that people might just want to read what I have to say.
I think it says something that I’ve spent my Sunday afternoon blogging rather than preparing two documents promoting my training offering even if I am now kicking myself a bit for prioritising this post above them!
Anyway, do let me know what you think…
[Top image: ‘Question mark graffiti’ from Flickr CC: https://www.flickr.com/photos/bilal-kamoon/6835060992]