I remember at some point in my childhood learning a very important truth:
Once you know the rules and have followed them for awhile, you can break them.*
*FYI I'm not referring to the LAW or your mumma's rules... more like cultural norms, habits, and conventions. 😉
I don’t exactly know where I picked this one up… but it was probably somewhere in high school English class when they finally decided we’d got the basics on spelling, punctuation, and grammar down pat.
I had some kind of breakthrough where I realised I was allowed to break a few rules and write with personality. Oh, the freedom!
And it doesn't just apply to your writing. It's often a good idea to break the rules and be a bit of a rebel in other ways too. Like your business, your marketing, and your life. It helps you to stand out, make up your own mind (instead of being a sheep), and carve out your own personality and style.
But before you go spray graffiti on your neighbour's fence or decide to shut down the website for your business because everyone has websites... you have to know what you're doing.
You have to be a smart rebel or you'll end up looking like an idiot.
In my experience, there are three steps to becoming a (smart) rebel.
1) Learn the ropes
You don’t know the rules yet, but you’re doing your darndest to figure out what they are and put them into practice. This is the research phase, the reading phase, and the asking questions phase. It can get a little tiresome, but it’s super important that you stick it out. If you're a newbie, you're probably in this stage.
2) Put it into practice
You're pretty sure you know the rules now and you stick to them as best as you can. You start to become more confident as you go along, and you can see why the rules are so important. As you get more practice, the rules become so second nature that you don't even think about them anymore.
3) Break the rules
This is where you get a little more sophisticated. It is not like part 1 where you don’t know the rules, but it is also not like part 2. Now you're deliberately rule-breaking – but only when and where it suits you. This phase can be experimental (hmmm what will happen if I do this?), or it could become your new go-to approach.
Breaking the rules can be pretty exciting. When it comes to writing your blog or creating content, it means that your brand can start to form its own unique voice and style. It means that you’re trying things that others probably haven't considered. It gives you the chance to go outside of the box.
Breaking the rules can also be a little risky. Some people don’t feel comfortable with rule breaking, and you might upset them. But if it takes off, you’ve got the potential for a big win! Especially in your business...
3 examples of rule-breaking in business
1) Transitioning from corporate to personal social media posts
Someone, somewhere, decades ago decided that all business-related communication and marketing should be written in formal, third-person tones. After all, it’s much more professional that way. And if you’re a small business, it makes you sound exactly like one of the big ones.
Well, I’m here to tell you that this is one rule that nearly every business (big or small) should challenge and break! Forget the corporate social media posts that abstractly discuss the “business”. Start updating your community with your own personal anecdotes, pictures, and perspectives. It’s much easier on the eyeballs to read something straight from another person.
2) Making your writing style more casual
This goes along with the previous example. While you’re being yourself on social media, make sure you carry it over to other areas of your marketing, like your website. Figure out what your style is, and use it. This could include adding the occasional emoticon/smiley amongst your writing :). Or cutting down on capitalisation. It’s okay to break a few spelling/grammar rules here and there, as long as it is obvious that it's part of your style.
Either way, make sure that the way you write is as natural as if you were talking directly to your customers face to face. Your customers should be able to hear you speaking as they read your words.
3) Letting your employees work anywhere, any time
One rule which is becoming bendier by the day is work hours. And this is definitely a good thing! People don’t live to work. They want (and deserve) a work-life balance! Providing the kind of work conditions and environment that allows your employees to spend more time with their families, run personal errands throughout the day, and decide when and where to work, will help ensure they stick around in the long run.
If it is possible to offer a virtual office at least part of the week, do it. Some of your staff only need their cloud-based files and their own laptop to get the job done. Chances are, they will reward you with increased productivity and output by being able to choose an environment that works great for them.
Hey you, be a business rebel!
So, whatcha waiting for? No need to follow all the rules anymore. Go forth and be a business rebel.
I’ve broken ALL of these rules and lived to tell the tale. I even broke two of them while you were reading. And if I can do it, you can too.
Over to you now… what rules have you broken lately and how did it go? Please share your secrets in the comments!!! 🙂 (Note the 3 exclamation marks in a row and smiley face).
Peace out you rebel,
P.S. Here are the two most rebel looking photos I could dig out of my archives...
Me when I was about 16 and somehow convinced my mother to let me attend the Soundwave festival in Brisbane so I could see Anberlin. Sounds rebellious, but I don't really look the part, do I?
Meeting my favourite singer (Stephen Christian from Anberlin) in some shady alleyway when I was about 18. Hey, there's some graffiti! And we're sweaty from a moshpit. #rebels