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Want To Get Ahead? Channel Your Own Weirdness

by Hanna Brooks Olsen
creativity, featured

be weird stand out

Image via Flickr

Vulnerability, though it’s often been historically viewed as weakness in business, has gotten a lot of attention lately. From the confessional nature of many successful CEO’s blogs (think Richard Branson and Rand Fishkin) to Dr. Brené Brown’s now-famous TED Talk and subsequent books, the push toward authenticity among public figures is hard to miss. It makes sense; after decades of shellacked celebrities and aspirations of impossible standards, perfection has grown exhausting.  It’s not just in marketing or business, either — even in the hip-hop world, vulnerability has become a marketable trait.

In an interview with NPR’s Steve Inskeep,  Microphone Check‘s Frannie Kelley explained the success of 27-year-old rapper Kendrick Lamar as “partly the vulnerability.”

“It’s partly a years-long strategy, laid out by his management team in partnership with, now, a major label. But I think maybe, also, it’s the time. I think that there are moments in hip-hop culture and pop culture when we become ready for somebody to complicate our lives,” she explained.

And it’s not just Lamar’s open, honest lyrics — it’s also his quirkiness.

Inskeep elaborated, “it’s a reminder that almost everyone is a little bit weird. And if you’re going to be creative, part of the creative process is just getting to that point where you can just channel your own weirdness and not be trying to replicate what it is that you’ve already heard.”

The effectiveness of weirdness as a marketing tactic is well documented. In the ad world, and especially in the era of digital sharing, the ability to be weird and also sell a product has proven to be a better way to get attention than straight-forward advertising. In regard to your own personal brand, it can not only help you get noticed by potential clients, but also make you better at what you do. Unusual ads and campaigns are more memorable, which is truly the point of advertising in the first place.

Weirdness is, in the creative world, something of an annuity. The Freelancers Union’s Kate Hamil recently detailed her own experience letting her own unique quirks help drive her business strategy — and how well it works. Many brand and marketing professionals, she explains, tend to look the same. But, she says, that’s just not necessary.

“You can be yourself – your authentic self – and get clients. You do not have to fit into some artificial mold to find freelance work,” she explains.

“What’s more, if you can accept (and even amplify) your own weirdness, if you let your sense of humor leak through, if you try hard to pursue opportunities based on your authentic interests (and not some dubious expert’s marketing plan)… you will build stronger connections. You will gain better clients. You will enjoy your work more.”

CreativeLive CEO Chase Jarvis agrees, advising that creative entrepreneurs who are new to the field to try to be the best at their craft that they can be, but to focus more on doing it their way.

“How do you make an impact? Do the things you love, but do them better, harder, faster, and do it regularly,” he explains — but adds that the way to get better is actually just to do the kind of work you want to do.  If you love it so much that you wouldn’t want to be doing anything else, that’s where the competition begins to fall away. Try to be different, not better.”

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Hanna Brooks Olsen

Hanna Brooks Olsen is a writer and editor for CreativeLive, longtime reporter, and the co-founder of Seattlish. Follow her on Twitter at @mshannabrooks or go to her website for more stuff.