Community Spotlight: How to Stay Professional in a Faceless Society

Carrying on conversations via text on a screen can sometimes lead to inappropriate communication with coworkers. Following these simple tips ensure your feelance job offerings don’t dwindle because of a few misguided emails.

Focus on the Job at Hand

Goals act as the destination point in the navigation system of life. Whether you write because you like the freedom it brings or because it makes your heart pitter-patter, you most likely have an idea of how you would like your career to improve over the next five years. Ask yourself how the current week’s workload helps you achieve your long-term goals.

Perhaps learning to write on a schedule will help you finish that novel you have been revising for two decades, or blogging about international hotels will give you a start as a travel writer. Maybe increasing your writing speed or gaining notoriety will alter your pay grade and allow you to quit your 9 to 5 job. Regardless of your dreams, completing your current assignment impressively drives you closer to your ultimate goal. Succeeding on the job requires communicating with coworkers, so your interpersonal skills matter.

Communicate as You Would in Person

Unfortunately, the internet has brought along advancements and simultaneously opened the door to trolls, people who stir up trouble by posting controversial comments anonymously. Without tangible relationships, some people tend to carry that presumed anonymity into professional situations, but every set of words in the workplace points to a specific author.

At home in your PJ’s while your much-needed first cup of coffee brews, you read the email from an editor who destroyed your piece based on preferences instead of grammar rules. While it’s easy to send a witty and insulting response, stop for a minute to calm your ruffled feathers, take a deep breath, and ask yourself a question. “If I had to see this person’s face every morning, how would I respond to this criticism?” If you’d choose not to respond at all in person, the answer is clear.

If the severity of the problem demands intervention, contact an administrator. Because you might or might not have contact with the accused ever again, the manager can decide if the issue needs to be addressed. In your communications, stick to the facts and use proper email etiquette. Avoid typing endless complaints, because you probably wouldn’t do that sitting in your boss’ office. Briefly explain the problem, and thank him or her for listening. Period. Your work is done. Don’t waste valuable energy plotting against a fellow freelancer you might never have contact with again.

Be Aware of Your Digital Footprint

Image via Flickr by Jason A. Howie

Every interaction you have with an employee, regardless of his or her position, opens up an opportunity for networking. The editor of your latest piece might work on your dream project. Creating a presence in a professional community will help you to design a web of connections that could potentially help you succeed, but think of the people you chat with as associates rather than friends.

Remember community forums offer no privacy. Anyone can retrace your steps and put you in a box based on something you said once. The recent 2016 election demonstrated that concept well. Past statements resurfaced as weapons against both candidates. In the spotlight, privacy withers first, and the internet’s glare blinds as intensely as the sun’s rays. Once you hit send, your words permanently attach to your persona.

Employers check profiles on social media. Anything made public, intentionally or otherwise, including icons and cover photos, is exposed. As a freelancer, your name becomes synonymous with your work, which makes writing in the digital age tricky. Consider how your personal opinions could affect job opportunities. If you desire to write for political magazines, stating your distaste for a presidential candidate might not harm your chances, but if you are eyeing a position surrounded by those who favor said politician, you best keep your opinions to yourself.

Separate professional and personal accounts by making your personal accounts untraceable. As you increase your following, Googling your name could produce a lot of hits you’d rather ditch. Think like a celebrity. Do you think Jada Pinkett Smith tweets her every move? No. The public eye scrutinizes enough without airing your dirty laundry. Take the time to review your public information, as well as past posts or tweets your friends see, and ask yourself if it reflects well on your professional image.

Don’t Fear Asking Questions

Many companies have an open door policy when it comes to communicating with higher-ups. While you don’t want to bombard your manager with questions answered in one of the guides, don’t hesitate to inquire about etiquette, protocol, or expectations. Unlike the real world where you will get a call into the office when you make a mistake, most likely as a freelancer, you will just stop getting work. The digital age is ruthless. It’s cut and dry. You succeed, or you’re not needed, so proactively seek guidance.

Consistently Submit Quality Work

Excellent work is a sign of professional prowess. When you turn in a beautifully written piece of work, you arrive at the Monday morning meeting in a professional suit with accessories to boot. Turning in late, sloppy, or low-quality work is like walking in with mangled hair and a stained and wrinkled shirt. If you need an extension due to unforeseen circumstances, send an email before your deadline explaining the problem. Don’t let a manager discover you nonchalantly failed to complete an assignment.

When it comes down to it, you are getting paid to create a work that defines you. The better your submissions, the less communication anyone has with you. Document every comment made on your pieces and make sure you don’t repeat your mistakes. If comma usage or the difference between and em dash and an en dash trip you up, research the grammar rule and refer back to the information frequently. The longer you stick with one company, the more names you will recognize, so make your associates’ jobs easier by excelling at yours.

Remember to treat people with respect as you travel through life. It won’t only benefit your career, it will strengthen your relationships.

About the author

Darla Vazquez

Darla Vazquez began writing for pleasure at age seven. After an eight-year stint as an elementary school teacher, she resigned to become a caregiver. She lives in Houston with her husband and son and loves to write, encourage, and advocate for special needs children.