Since I went freelance over six years ago, a lot has changed. We weren’t talking of social media back then. I was a “blogging consultant” and what I told people about was “the living web”. At some point what we did was “social software”. Somewhere along the line “social media” showed up (who still speaks of “web 2.0” nowadays?), and it’s become a pretty well-accepted umbrella term for all sorts of stuff from “viral videos” to “facebook marketing” to blogging to digital strategy to online communities… And all the rest.
At some point here in Switzerland, the social media industry matured. I went from being one of the very few people in the French-speaking part of Switzerland who could come and give a talk on “blogs and the living web” (when I started out) to one of the many fish in a larger and larger pond (including, sadly, some sharks). In other words, there are now people who specialize in creating marketing campaigns for facebook pages, others who are experts at Twitter, yet others who are full-time community managers.
I realized a couple of years ago that there was no point in me trying to compete with marketing/advertising agencies. Or community managers. I’m not a marketing expert. Or a community manager. Or many of the specialized roles that have appeared over the last couple of years. Today there are people who have full-time corporate jobs with “social media” in their job title — good luck finding any of those in 2004-2006.
You might remember my specialist/generalist series of articles. In today’s industry, I have a generalist profile (it’s a question of point of view of course, I’ll always be a “social media specialist” to the outside world). That makes me a great person to bring in during early stages of social media adoption/development (one reason I work with lots of freelancers and small organisations) and in situations where a wider view of the field is necessary to break through what are becoming the social media silos. It also makes me a good social media course director, because I have this global overview 🙂
There are, however, areas that I am specialized in — or have specialized in, over the years. I started out being a web standards advocate (Pompage.net and the associated mailing-list live on). I gave a whole bunch talks (and wrote some code) around the question of languages and multilingualism online. Until recently (and still sometimes, actually!) another area of expertise of mine was teenagers and the internet (I’ve lost track of the number of talks I’ve given in schools, but it’s probably somewhere around 50).
Today, the two areas I “expertise” in are blogging and freelancers/freelancing. I’ve been doing quite a bit of soul-searching as I prepare the much-needed revamped version of my professional website, which I won’t even link to here, it’s so horribly painfully out of date. Maybe once the new version is up I’ll come back here and add all the relevant links 😉
Blogging: I’ve been blogging since July 2000. Blogging is my thing. It’s in my DNA. I’ll probably never stop, even though I am blogging less than I used to, because there are now other channels of communication and self-expression that were not there in the early days of blogging. I’m a blogger. Professionally, that means it’s a tool I love, and that if you need somebody to get you started in the world of blogging, or help you progress along the way, I’m your person.
I’ve been playing around with WordPress since forever (even written a bunch of plugins). I’ve been the editor of the French-language ebookers travel blog for three and a half years. Last year I helped get the Paper.li community blog off the ground (not even mentioning the countless others amongst my more “modest” clients). I’ve advised and coached companies as varied as Intel (2007), Fleur de Pains (2008) or Solar Impulse (2010) on their blogging, and developed services in blogger relations for Web 2.0 Expo Europe, LeWeb, Solar Impulse, and now Orange. And how could I forget Bloggy Friday Lausanne!
Enough with the list. I’ve been doing this blogging stuff for a long time, and doing quite a lot of it.
Freelancers/freelancing: the freelance ride has not been smooth for me, though I’ve made it. I’m somebody who self-analyzes a lot, and so I have spent a lot of time reflecting on how to manage one’s life and job when one freelances. The first outcome of this trend was the Going Solo conference (now a group on facebook), and then the eclau coworking space in Lausanne. For many years I have also had lots of freelancers amongst my clients: people who have little or no web presence and want to get started, or learn how to blog, or use social media to make themselves more visible. All this ties together nicely, and I appreciate it goes beyond social media: business strategy, productivity, negotiating and dealing with relationships, work-life balance…
So, there we go. I initially wanted to speak about the wisdom (or not) of specializing in “blogging” nowadays, but the introduction of this post took on a life of its own, so there you are! I’ll keep that question for another post.