If you haven’t heard of former-Charlotte-Observer-journalist-turned-PR-expert Rachel Sutherland and Rachel Sutherland Communications, you’ve heard of some of the brands she has worked with: Vineyard Vines, Studio C, Habitat Metrolina ReStores, Project One and Cupcrazed.

Sutherland describes her personal brand as “uncomfortable honesty, hard work and transparency.” She has her logo tattooed on her forearm. She hates the terms “Mompreneur” and “#GirlBoss.”  She’s a self-described paper nerd who loves to buy stationery and is a huge fan of saying “thank you.” And her favorite app is Boomerang, which schedules emails.

I met her Monday when Donna Scott Productions featured her at the second DSP Women’s Entrepreneurs in Arts and Business Series event, “Selling Your Strongest Self: Cut The Bullsh*t.”

“The topic of selling your strongest self is one (conversation) I seemed to be having over and over again in different groups of women,” Scott said. “The convo seemed to always be centered around how we all found it so much easier to sell other people’s ideas, organizations or events versus our own — and why exactly was that the case?”

10 tips from Sutherland for how to cut the bullsh*t and sell your strongest self in business:

(1) Embrace the power of “no.”

“You don’t owe anyone anything,” Sutherland said. You are allowed to say “no” to meetings or offers with no apologies, with no further explanation.

(2) Similarly, don’t lessen your power in email correspondence.

Remove the words “sorry” and “just.” As in: Sorry for bothering you, I just have a few questions about your upcoming event.

(3) Have a website.

Even if it’s simply a landing page. Facebook is not enough.

(4) Set boundaries.

Particularly when someone reaches out to you to “pick your brain” about your field of expertise. You should expect someone to be straightforward when asking you to meet — and that person should provide optional dates and times (at least three).

And set boundaries when it comes to expectations, too. Sutherland makes a point of not being on her computer during the weekends.

Just because someone sends you an email doesn’t mean you have to answer it at that minute, she said.

(5) Be a reporter and edit yourself.

If you’re having a coffee meeting, be ready to keep asking questions. It’s a great way to break up an uncomfortable silence.

If you’re putting out a press release, make sure it’s never more than a page — cut down on the information when you have to, and be accurate.

(6) Maintain continuity in your branding.

While Sutherland admitted she could have done this better, she said it’s best to have the same account name across all social media channels, from Facebook, to Twitter, to Instagram.

(7) Don’t be afraid to put money behind yourself.

Her biggest investments in her company were hiring a lawyer (to write her incorporation papers, employment agreement and client contract templates — and answer legal questions that pop up) and an accountant.

“People can tell when you don’t believe enough in your own company or your own brand to not put money behind it,” she said. “So if you want to make money, you kind of have to spend money, too.”

(8) Teach people how to treat you.

If a client is repeatedly late on payments, present an ultimatum.

Like, she said, “You owe me this much money, you are this late on the payment, so either you can pay me or you can rip up my non-compete.”

(9) Similarly, really consider any agreements you sign.

“Pay to have a lawyer look at them,” she said.

A non-compete clause can haunt you for years if a contract job turns sour. And don’t take work you don’t 100-percent want.

(10) Be cutthroat about your decisions.

As a woman balancing family and business and event invitations, Sutherland said, “I’ve gotten exceedingly cutthroat about how I make decisions. And it comes down to, basically, will this make me money?”

If the answer is a resounding “no,” let it go.

Photo: Katie Toussaint

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