Most of us understand the importance of being honest – of being our authentic selves in everyday life.

However, I’ve seen that real honesty and transparency is often lacking when it comes to our brands, leadership, careers and businesses, despite these ideas being pushed on us regularly. Following politics for a week shows this to be so.

Too many of us underestimate the power of being fully honest in how we present ourselves and do business. People often fear that being honest in your interactions with prospects means that we could show too much that could negatively impact how others see our professionalism.

Being truly honest is more important than ever and it should run through every aspect of your brand, including how you talk to prospects and others. People are tired of decades of dishonesty. People yearn for it in their leaders. And you are a leader.

It’s very easy to feel we need to be indirect; to hide away certain parts of ourselves in order to attract an audience and the people who will buy from us.

You might be surprised to see how common dishonesty is in how people do business these days, and you will be even more surprised to see how often you yourself can be often unknowingly – dishonest.

Dishonesty does not necessarily imply being devious, cunning or intentionally setting out to lie to people.

Dishonesty is simply the act of hiding something out of fear, at least, that is my definition of it in this particular context.

For example, we are dishonest when we pretend to be a larger corporation, when in fact we’re just a solo freelancer.

We are dishonest when we are not clear about our intention in the emails we write to potential clients.

We are dishonest when we only share very superficial – safe – information about ourselves in an attempt to fit in and be liked.

The lines between business and all other parts of our lives are blurring. Those who get it, are allowing our personality to seep into how they do business.

Illustration by Alex Mathers

Illustration by Alex Mathers

Because honesty is often thought of as allowing ourselves to be vulnerable, we sometimes think of honesty as a form of weakness, when in fact it is our greatest strength when we exercise it. We can be dishonest to ourselves just as much as we are dishonest to others. And it can be damaging to ourselves and our success.

What are some of the ways you can bring honesty and greater transparency into what we do for a positive effect?

Firstly, bringing more of yourself into your brand presentation is one of the best things you can do to make your brand more memorable and engaging for prospects.

People are much more likely to want to work with you when they trust you.

Showing more of who you are will lead directly to building this trust.

The way to do this is to share more of your story (the context surrounding your art) and what makes you interesting as a person throughout your brand, such as your about page.

Tell people a little more than the fact that you are hard-working and professional and passionate. Those things are great, but everyone says those same things.

What can you share that is truly unique to you?

Go a little further and speak directly to the potential client with real honesty about your background and how you intend to help them.

Obviously you don’t need to reveal every ugly detail about negative aspects of your past, but you want to tell us those things that will help build a picture of why you could be valuable to us, for example through the struggles you have overcome to be the person you are today.

So tell your story, give us a little more depth into what makes you a human, and emphasise those parts of you that add to your value as a brand.

Don’t be afraid to tell people more than you feel comfortable with. Being a little personal can be a really powerful tool to showing others that they are just like you – that you are human too – and they will be drawn to you more readily as a result.

Giving the world some context around your product or service is extremely valuable. People like to know what you are about and will be drawn to stories.

A strong personal brand is one that has a story thread running through it, so make sure you share a little more than simply your work. Give us a little more of yourself.

I try to be more honest through everything I share surrounding me and my brand online from stories of mistakes I’ve made, to being a clown on Snapchat.

You really have an advantage in this way over many larger companies, many of whom cannot readily tell a story of the creators behind it because they are made of large numbers of people.

But as someone doing their own thing, working for themselves, you can really add a human, personal touch to your brand in ways others cannot.

Beyond your website, your story can be told in many ways, through several mediums/media.

For example, you can share your work on Instagram, but also provide a little context around your work through sharing posts of your work process and everyday life.

People are interested in this stuff.

Show a real image of yourself on your website and elsewhere as another example of transparency.

People want to know who they’re working with, and people much prefer to work with humans than faceless entities. This will make a huge difference.

Another way to show honesty is through the way you communicate with prospects and clients. It’s easy to think that we need to be impersonal and professional-sounding when we speak to new people. We need to view communication as making friends in business, rather than dry acquaintances.

So this means talking straight and simply, without shame, rather than being indirect and stunted.

For example, if you are approaching someone new that you want to work with, rather than pretending to be interested in something they do, when you are not, and coming across as awkward, just tell them what is on your mind. I.e. that you are interested in working together because you know you have a great product that can help them.

As long as you come from a position of value, be as honest as you can be and people will be happy to engage with you.

If you’re ever in doubt of what to say to someone new, just think of how you can demonstrate your value to someone, i.e. how they will benefit from knowing you, while being clear and honest.

Tell it to people straight. If you don’t know what to say, tell them you don’t know what to say.

Just don’t hide behind a barrier in your communication. Honesty makes things quicker and easier, and more than anything else, allows you to promote yourself without stress that you aren’t being yourself and hiding anything.

Honesty in a world of deception and manipulation will get you noticed.

You will build a successful business with a loyal audience through living and breathing honesty.

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Posted by Alex Mathers

Alex is a project starter, sometimes finisher, writer and illustrator. He started Red Lemon Club in 2009 with the aim of helping talented creative people leave their mark.

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