Freelancing means there’s no difference between the company and you. For me, this means firstly that I can bitch about myself over a cup of tea, but be magnanimous and forgive myself because I’m so good at what I do. Secondly, it means I read far too many productivity and self-management blogs to try and get my staff under control. They’re great – my favourites are Lifehacker and Stepcase Lifehack, both of which have lots of great advice, although not very often the advice I really need: “stop reading blogs and get on with something!”.
One piece of advice they frequently repeat is the need to manage our online identities, to make sure that what people see about us online isn’t damaging, and is hopefully helpful to us in getting the jobs, clients, partners and lifestyles we want. This is often a two-pronged effort, consisting of a “landing page” website (mine’s under construction) and a tightening, throttling even, of social media. The logic says that if our future bosses, partners and colleagues are all googling us to dredge the dirt on our misdeeds, then we should get there first and tidy up.
I got curious – what does the web really have to say about me then? There’s a site called webmii that rakes up everything it can find on a name you give it: on my name it found a couple of pictures of me that I use for profiles, and my profiles at places like Facebook, LinkedIn, Xing and so on. So far, so innocuous.
Google had more to say, and also found my profiles and comments on:
and comments on a board where I thanked Dashama (my online yoga teacher) for her free yoga lessons. It also found this blog, and my previous online home, Bolts from the Black.
Ok, deep breath, that is actually quite a lot. There are details about almost every aspect of my life. A total stranger could find out very very quickly, (even more quickly now that I’ve collected all those links in one place!) that I’m a Quaker and a non-theist, a linguist, teacher and translator, a film, book, comic, music and comedy lover, a traveller, a student, a divorcee, newbie aikidoka and a person who starts things she sometimes doesn’t finish. But what didn’t it find?
Hate. There isn’t any hate, for me or from me: I have argued with racists and I’ve told a Yahoo asker that he really should write his own university essays, but that’s all friendly, open-minded stuff. There’s no badmouthing, no threats, no lies. There’s drunkenness, there’s a great deal of silliness and friends, and there are some really, really, unflattering pictures. If a prospective client were to look me up, would they, after discovering all of these things about me, still be interested? And does it matter?
No. For me, it doesn’t actually matter, because it’s all true. It is, however badly judged and embarrassing, all me. Maybe I could conceal it from people, and maybe they would be more likely to give me what I want – but I would have basically lied to get it.
I come from a small town in Wales where your business is everybody’s business, and I wasn’t brought up to do things in public that I don’t want my mum to find out about – there is really no hope of keeping things secret forever in a small town. If the internet has made us a global village, then we’re all living in the online equivalent of my small town, knowing the neighbours talk and hoping they aren’t saying anything bad. From experience, I can confirm that there’s nothing you can do to stop them. All you can do is watch your mouth, exercise a bit of self-control, stand by what you’ve done if you had good reason and apologise sincerely if you didn’t.
So, potential clients, bosses, colleagues, partners, please feel free. If you find things you don’t like, then I’m glad for both of us that we’ll never be forced to upset each other in person. If you find things you like, good! There’s plenty more where that came from, because that’s the real deal.
As Dan from Gloucester once wrote on my boiler, “Happiness is free – fill your boots!”