Real Work Isn’t Sexy.

When you’re a professional services provider – like, say, a social media person or a marketing person – your job is presumably to offer your expertise to a company that needs it to supplement and enhance their own. To solve a problem, make something easier, make something better, make something go away.

The single most important piece to doing that well is to understand what, exactly, that business needs in the first place. And sometimes, what a business needs from you is not glamorous, not lofty strategy, but real work.

And real work isn’t sexy.

Putting your expertise out there for others to buy is smart. And many advisers and consultants – myself included – ventured out on our own because we believe that we have experience that is valuable and can help other businesses succeed. Perhaps we didn’t think we fit into an existing job description, so we created our own. We then build a business based on what we’d like that job description to look like.

The trouble starts here, because there is increasingly a disconnect between what we’d *like* our jobs to be, and what our customers and clients *need* our job to be.

We all want to be big thinkers. Strategists. Visionaries, praised for our high-level thinking. It challenges our minds, validates our place on the planet among those with brain power and the ability to create seismic shifts in the business universe. Everyone wants to be the architect. Few want to wield the hammer.

But the reality – especially in this economic climate – is that execution sells. It’s what helps a business put one foot in front of the other and actually make tangible, visible progress against their goals. This is what businesses need all the time, but most especially when budgets and human resources are uncertain. They don’t always need an aspirational three-year plan (or they may already have one). Sometimes, a down and dirty framework in a project-based mindset with no-frills execution is what works.

The dirty work – even in our touchy-feely social media world – is in the details. We can’t always be theorizing. Sometimes it’s time to quit talking and get down to business.

Find the blogging platform, train the team, make it work, maintain it. Build the social media newsroom – including uploading every last press release. Source the white-label social networking software you need, implement, train, populate the content.  Make sure the graphic designers are talking to the web developers. Get that e-newsletter written every month, on time. Write copy. Lots of copy. You get the point.

Can you do these things? Are you willing to? And very importantly: are you effectively communicating that to the people that you want to hire you?

If you really want to demonstrate your value to a business when they need you most, show them that you’re willing to pick up the hammer, roll up your sleeves, and go to work. How are you doing that?

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  • http://www.raouldukemedia.com Eric

    VERY well said!

  • http://www.nimblenotes.blogspot.com The Nimble Assistant

    Great post Amber. That’s why I think VA’s are such a great fit for many businesses!

    Nimbly,
    Jennifer

    The Nimble Assistants last blog post..No Ho-Hums at Home only Drive and Passion

  • http://www.raouldukemedia.com Eric

    VERY well said!

  • http://www.nimblenotes.blogspot.com The Nimble Assistant

    Great post Amber. That’s why I think VA’s are such a great fit for many businesses!

    Nimbly,
    Jennifer

    The Nimble Assistants last blog post..No Ho-Hums at Home only Drive and Passion

  • http://www.pragmaticmarketing.com Elizabeth Hannan

    Such a perfect Monday post! Good job:)

  • http://www.pragmaticmarketing.com Elizabeth Hannan

    Such a perfect Monday post! Good job:)

  • http://www.loudmouthman.com Loudmouthman

    Or as I have been apt to comment its time to JFDI. Social media is a smart application of communication online but you actually have to Do stuff with it for it to get any value back.

    Well said indeed

  • http://www.loudmouthman.com nicholas butler

    Or as I have been apt to comment its time to JFDI. Social media is a smart application of communication online but you actually have to Do stuff with it for it to get any value back.

    Well said indeed

  • http://www.suzemuse.ca Susan Murphy

    Excellent point, Amber! I think a lot of us spend way to much time thinking and not enough time doing. Sure, companies hire us for what we know. But they need to be hiring us for what we can do, too.

    All the talking in the world doesn’t get my clients’ messages out there. It takes actual, sit down, plan it out, design it, write it, produce it, and publish it work. It is hard, and it is not always exciting or glamourous. What is exciting is seeing the results of that hard work. The real payoff is not in the theory, it’s in the practice.

    Thanks for continuing to keep our eyes open!

    Susan Murphys last blog post..Social Media is NOT an Innovation

  • http://www.suzemuse.ca Susan Murphy

    Excellent point, Amber! I think a lot of us spend way to much time thinking and not enough time doing. Sure, companies hire us for what we know. But they need to be hiring us for what we can do, too.

    All the talking in the world doesn’t get my clients’ messages out there. It takes actual, sit down, plan it out, design it, write it, produce it, and publish it work. It is hard, and it is not always exciting or glamourous. What is exciting is seeing the results of that hard work. The real payoff is not in the theory, it’s in the practice.

    Thanks for continuing to keep our eyes open!

    Susan Murphys last blog post..Social Media is NOT an Innovation

  • David Benjamin

    This not only applies in the social media world, but in just about every industry out there. If you once were a sales manager with a great team, how do you perform when your team gets cut in half yet your goals are hardly adjusted. In these tough times we are going to be asked to do more with less. We all must roll up our sleeves and make a difference.

    Enjoyed this post!

  • David Benjamin

    This not only applies in the social media world, but in just about every industry out there. If you once were a sales manager with a great team, how do you perform when your team gets cut in half yet your goals are hardly adjusted. In these tough times we are going to be asked to do more with less. We all must roll up our sleeves and make a difference.

    Enjoyed this post!

  • http://www.tkpartnership.com leslie Carothers

    Amber:

    In my industry, furniture, what you have said here is EXACTLY what I have to be willing to do and DO do to sell my services, but not the entire picture. Increasingly, CMO’s/CEO’s see value,but want me to PROVE value through drilling down and working on the daily nitty gritty for them-as you’ve said here- and, often, at a reduced price since the ROI is still in process of definition and does not include direct closing of the sale. Because, truth be told, social media efforts are a marketing EXPENSE not a top line revenue source.. All the things I do for my clients are wonderful and sexy, as you said, but it’s only a SALE that generates cash flow for them-something out of my direct control.

    I would recommend that everyone, if they are not already doing so, frame their conversations around two deliverables:

    1. The ones you mention in your post which will save them enormous amounts of time and frustration-both of which can have a dollar value assigned to them.

    and

    2. How SM tools can be used to drive sales -one on one to the end user. Without sales, what I do doesn’t matter. All companies are looking for right now, in my opinion, is the fastest route to keeping their doors open and great marketing doesn’t do that, but a great sales team does. All I can do is to convince them that SN offers them a more targeted,authentic and faster approach to helping their sales teams close more sales.

    Keywords: save time, close sales, tighter targeting, lower overall mktg. spend in the short term.

    Thanks for the thought provoking post.

    Leslie

  • http://www.tkpartnership.com leslie Carothers

    Amber:

    In my industry, furniture, what you have said here is EXACTLY what I have to be willing to do and DO do to sell my services, but not the entire picture. Increasingly, CMO’s/CEO’s see value,but want me to PROVE value through drilling down and working on the daily nitty gritty for them-as you’ve said here- and, often, at a reduced price since the ROI is still in process of definition and does not include direct closing of the sale. Because, truth be told, social media efforts are a marketing EXPENSE not a top line revenue source.. All the things I do for my clients are wonderful and sexy, as you said, but it’s only a SALE that generates cash flow for them-something out of my direct control.

    I would recommend that everyone, if they are not already doing so, frame their conversations around two deliverables:

    1. The ones you mention in your post which will save them enormous amounts of time and frustration-both of which can have a dollar value assigned to them.

    and

    2. How SM tools can be used to drive sales -one on one to the end user. Without sales, what I do doesn’t matter. All companies are looking for right now, in my opinion, is the fastest route to keeping their doors open and great marketing doesn’t do that, but a great sales team does. All I can do is to convince them that SN offers them a more targeted,authentic and faster approach to helping their sales teams close more sales.

    Keywords: save time, close sales, tighter targeting, lower overall mktg. spend in the short term.

    Thanks for the thought provoking post.

    Leslie

  • http://twitter.com/hooshy Hooshna

    I’ve recently dealt with issues around big projects coming through with the smallest little errors. As cliche as it sounds, the devil *IS* in the details – the proofing, the consistency, the vision matching up with the outcome, etc. It isn’t at all sexy, but it’s our bread and butter.

    Thanks for this, Amber. You always bring it.

  • http://twitter.com/hooshy Hooshna

    I’ve recently dealt with issues around big projects coming through with the smallest little errors. As cliche as it sounds, the devil *IS* in the details – the proofing, the consistency, the vision matching up with the outcome, etc. It isn’t at all sexy, but it’s our bread and butter.

    Thanks for this, Amber. You always bring it.

  • http://www.onebyonemedia.com Jim Turner

    This can be said of many other things as well. That marriage, or being a parent, or anything that requires taking the good with the bad. Great thoughts Amber.

    Jim Turners last blog post..Twitter Keeps Flying But Magpie Makes The Money

  • http://www.onebyonemedia.com Jim Turner

    This can be said of many other things as well. That marriage, or being a parent, or anything that requires taking the good with the bad. Great thoughts Amber.

    Jim Turners last blog post..Twitter Keeps Flying But Magpie Makes The Money

  • http://prophotorental.com Jared K

    This is the kind of post that makes a business owner like me (who would be a *client*) smile.

    Oftentimes, I can come up with the ideas. I don’t really need to pay someone for that. I need to pay someone to figure out the best way to *implement* the ideas.

    But there’s a bit of a catch-22 here also. Presumably, you work at an hourly rate, and your “idea” hourly rate is probably much higher than your “roll up the sleeves” hourly rate. Otherwise, it would cost too much to hire you to do it. Alternatively, you could sell yourself as the idea person, and then have your own employees who come in and implement them.

    Great post, and shows that you really “get it” when it comes to looking at things from the client’s perspective.

  • http://prophotorental.com Jared K

    This is the kind of post that makes a business owner like me (who would be a *client*) smile.

    Oftentimes, I can come up with the ideas. I don’t really need to pay someone for that. I need to pay someone to figure out the best way to *implement* the ideas.

    But there’s a bit of a catch-22 here also. Presumably, you work at an hourly rate, and your “idea” hourly rate is probably much higher than your “roll up the sleeves” hourly rate. Otherwise, it would cost too much to hire you to do it. Alternatively, you could sell yourself as the idea person, and then have your own employees who come in and implement them.

    Great post, and shows that you really “get it” when it comes to looking at things from the client’s perspective.

  • http://www.azimuthbranding.com Steven Paul Matsumoto

    You mean I can’t get by with just saying look at how brilliant I am? I knew there was a flaw in my plan…

    Great Job, I love it…

    Cheers!

  • http://www.azimuthbranding.com Steven Paul Matsumoto

    You mean I can’t get by with just saying look at how brilliant I am? I knew there was a flaw in my plan…

    Great Job, I love it…

    Cheers!

  • http://www.semiosiscommunications.com/blog/ Peter Korchnak

    True that, Amber. I, too, set out to do the strategy stuff, and discovered I spend more time doing the nitty-gritty implementation stuff. Things are beginning to even out, though, and balanced strategy-execution projects are coming my way.

    The how is in the attitude. Show your prospects and clients you can get down and dirty, and the reward of visionary projects will be yours in the end.

    The how is in consistently saying, “Yes, we can help”, figuring out a way to do so, and then doing so.

  • http://www.semiosiscommunications.com/blog/ Peter Korchnak

    True that, Amber. I, too, set out to do the strategy stuff, and discovered I spend more time doing the nitty-gritty implementation stuff. Things are beginning to even out, though, and balanced strategy-execution projects are coming my way.

    The how is in the attitude. Show your prospects and clients you can get down and dirty, and the reward of visionary projects will be yours in the end.

    The how is in consistently saying, “Yes, we can help”, figuring out a way to do so, and then doing so.

  • http://www.garydcohen.com Gary Cohen

    Amber,
    Could not agree more. Great post. The truth is that by being a player coach and rolling up your sleeves from time to time, you get first hand knowledge of what works and what does not. Layered on top of experience, that is a killer combination. There is something to be said regarding those that talk and those that do…
    Gary

  • http://www.garydcohen.com Gary Cohen

    Amber,
    Could not agree more. Great post. The truth is that by being a player coach and rolling up your sleeves from time to time, you get first hand knowledge of what works and what does not. Layered on top of experience, that is a killer combination. There is something to be said regarding those that talk and those that do…
    Gary

  • http://insightsandingenuity.com Heather Rast

    What a refreshing perspective. I agree, its very gratifying to be involved from the get-go with a sweeping strategic plan, something that could revolutionize the way xxx is done or change the face of xxx.

    The reality is, wearing the prom dress happens but once a year (maybe) and the regular street clothes–the “getting stuff done clothes”–are necessary the other 354 days a year.

    The personal gratification can come from first earning the gig/relationship, successfully coaching a partner down a path destined to build results, and always in a job well done (putting your heart in every graf of copy you write!).

    Heather Rasts last blog post..Social Marketing: Can You Friend Your Way To Sales?

  • http://insightsandingenuity.com Heather Rast

    What a refreshing perspective. I agree, its very gratifying to be involved from the get-go with a sweeping strategic plan, something that could revolutionize the way xxx is done or change the face of xxx.

    The reality is, wearing the prom dress happens but once a year (maybe) and the regular street clothes–the “getting stuff done clothes”–are necessary the other 354 days a year.

    The personal gratification can come from first earning the gig/relationship, successfully coaching a partner down a path destined to build results, and always in a job well done (putting your heart in every graf of copy you write!).

    Heather Rasts last blog post..Social Marketing: Can You Friend Your Way To Sales?

  • http://www.socialmediaexplorer.com Jason Falls

    Fantastic reality check for all of us consumed with our own smarts so that we think we’re above the dirty work. I loathe my daily hour of bookmarking and monitoring for clients. Guess I’ll check that disposition at the door from now on. Thanks for whipping us into shape.

    Jason Fallss last blog post..How To Use Links And Linking Effectively

  • http://www.socialmediaexplorer.com Jason Falls

    Fantastic reality check for all of us consumed with our own smarts so that we think we’re above the dirty work. I loathe my daily hour of bookmarking and monitoring for clients. Guess I’ll check that disposition at the door from now on. Thanks for whipping us into shape.

    Jason Fallss last blog post..How To Use Links And Linking Effectively

  • http://twitter.com/hdbbstephen @Stephen

    Amber, “spot on”, as Jason says. But I must say that there are times that it is a little bit sexy, maybe more often that a prom-night once a year. Like when a client suddenly “gets it”, and is able to go off on their own.
    Or perhaps that isn’t what you mean by sexy, rather it is “satisfying”.

    @Stephens last blog post..hdbbstephen: @JennFowler The older stuff I found in my Gram’s basement where successive uncles lived and left vintage paperbacks behind! A gold mine!!!

  • http://twitter.com/hdbbstephen @Stephen

    Amber, “spot on”, as Jason says. But I must say that there are times that it is a little bit sexy, maybe more often that a prom-night once a year. Like when a client suddenly “gets it”, and is able to go off on their own.
    Or perhaps that isn’t what you mean by sexy, rather it is “satisfying”.

    @Stephens last blog post..hdbbstephen: @JennFowler The older stuff I found in my Gram’s basement where successive uncles lived and left vintage paperbacks behind! A gold mine!!!

  • http://www.thisisherd.com Dirk Singer

    Execution matters…yes indeed it does! Well said, there is sometimes a little too much playing the expert in this area and not actually doing the do

  • http://www.thisisherd.com Dirk Singer

    Execution matters…yes indeed it does! Well said, there is sometimes a little too much playing the expert in this area and not actually doing the do

  • http://www.emersondirect.wordpress.com Marc Meyer

    This so resonates with me right now, but with everyone. I think it was probablly something you said to yourself at one point as well. We all need the occasional reality check from to time.

    Marc Meyers last blog post..Where are your customers?

  • http://www.emersondirect.wordpress.com Marc Meyer

    This so resonates with me right now, but with everyone. I think it was probablly something you said to yourself at one point as well. We all need the occasional reality check from to time.

    Marc Meyers last blog post..Where are your customers?

  • Pingback: It may not be sexy, but it’s what sells… « im.seeking.balance

  • http://www.servantofchaos.com Gavin Heaton

    You know, the “real work” often looks sexier to the outside world. Just like business travel which “sounds” fantastic when you talk about destinations, but the reality includes scurvy hotel rooms, dinner with uninteresting strangers and jetlag.

    The best part is the stories that you get to tell at the end of it all ;)

    Gavin Heatons last blog post..The Filter-Tipped Internet

  • http://www.servantofchaos.com Gavin Heaton

    You know, the “real work” often looks sexier to the outside world. Just like business travel which “sounds” fantastic when you talk about destinations, but the reality includes scurvy hotel rooms, dinner with uninteresting strangers and jetlag.

    The best part is the stories that you get to tell at the end of it all ;)

    Gavin Heatons last blog post..The Filter-Tipped Internet

  • Cynthia Frisina Gray

    Very timely and a good reminder. Sometimes we need to be architects…the rest of the time hammering nails is what a clients needs. Thanks for great post!

  • Cynthia Frisina Gray

    Very timely and a good reminder. Sometimes we need to be architects…the rest of the time hammering nails is what a clients needs. Thanks for great post!

  • http://www.onetrouser.com Onetrouser

    Definitely. You’ve described exactly how I feel. Well, for me it helps reading Brian Tracy and listening to those podcasts how to become a manager guru (i do that while driving home to office). I feel that the only way out is learning to implement more of our ideas by the hands of our helper-teams. The earlier you start, the more time left for thinking. thinking. and creating.

    Onetrousers last blog post..Social media in (re-)action?

  • http://www.onetrouser.com Onetrouser

    Definitely. You’ve described exactly how I feel. Well, for me it helps reading Brian Tracy and listening to those podcasts how to become a manager guru (i do that while driving home to office). I feel that the only way out is learning to implement more of our ideas by the hands of our helper-teams. The earlier you start, the more time left for thinking. thinking. and creating.

    Onetrousers last blog post..Social media in (re-)action?

  • http://www.cluelessfashionista.com Ashia

    Wow! That’s a GREAT post. I’m trying to figure out how I can do a mass distribution of it to everyone I know and make sure that they read it. I work with tons of dreamers who have great ideas but no framework in how to actually execute those ideas. I have been called a dream killer because I ask the feasibility questions that people don’t like to address.

    Thank you for this post. I am a new reader of your blog and I plan to subscribe.

  • http://www.cluelessfashionista.com Ashia

    Wow! That’s a GREAT post. I’m trying to figure out how I can do a mass distribution of it to everyone I know and make sure that they read it. I work with tons of dreamers who have great ideas but no framework in how to actually execute those ideas. I have been called a dream killer because I ask the feasibility questions that people don’t like to address.

    Thank you for this post. I am a new reader of your blog and I plan to subscribe.

  • Amber

    @Jared that’s a high compliment, and I thank you. We’re all in business to be helping someone, yes? And I’ve *been* the client, so it’s important to me that I take the time to understand what mine want and need.

    @Peter The best laid plans still mean getting out a pen and paper sometimes. :)

    @Stephen I think it’s more the idea of *other* people’s idea of sexy. There’s this perception that the really valuable work is sometimes in the loftier stuff, and I’m saying that’s not true. And yep, when the lightbulb goes off or a project gets to a successful conclusion, that’s both sexy and satisfying in my book.

    @Ashia Thanks, and welcome to the community. I’m really glad to have you here.

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