Writing Professionally: The Tao of Steve

The Tao of Steve was a romantic comedy from the turn of this century, a favorite of my friend and martial arts brother Kelly Dodge.  Personally, I prefer my comedies less romantic – and my romances less comedic — but that’s a matter of personal opinion.

In Tao, protagonist Steve has a foolproof set of rules for seducing women.

  1. Be without desire.
  2. Be excellent in her presence.
  3. Be gone.

You can apply these same rules to succeeding as a professional freelancer.

Be Without Desire. Of course you have desires, opinions, problems, difficulties and a personal agenda — but your clients and potential clients don’t need to know about them. When you’re pursuing and completing assignments, what matters are the job and the deadline. Save personal details for when you’re not working.

Be Excellent in Her Presence. Always put your best face forward whenever you’re interacting with a client. Check spelling on your emails, talk on the phone when you can give the conversation your undivided attention. Make certain you attach files to emails that need them. Meet your deadlines every time and without fail. Remain professional at all times. From my experience, this is the single thing that will set you apart from other freelancers.

Be Gone. Finish your work and move on to your next assignment. That doesn’t mean you can’t check in from time to time, foster a relationship and keep yourself in mind when they next need your services. But it does mean that you should complete your business in a timely fashion and wrap up each assignment as professionally as possible.

In the movie, Steve ends up meeting a woman who puts his system on its ear and turns him into a sincere and loving long-term partner. Like most romantic comedies with this storyline, the moral is that a long-term relationship is better than what could be called “romantic freelancing.” As a happily married work-from-home husband and dad, I have to agree when it comes to romance. For my work life, though, I’ll happily stick with freelancing.

Don’t get me wrong. I’ve had some of my clients for years, and value my relationship with them. But I have them because I observe these rules, and I’ve kept them because I don’t break them.

Thanks for listening.


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