Episode 30: Sharing Personal Information Online (Plus a Q&A Special)

Al Indie Writers Podcast Episode 30 - Sharing Personal Information Online - Plus a special personal q&a session with Princess Jones


Listen to the Extended Cut

Listen to the Standard Cut

Show Notes

This page currently only features the special extended cut of Episode 30. The shorter version will be uploaded on Friday.

In this episode, I'm joined by Princess Jones.

Community Question

We start by answering a community member's question about sharing personal information online -- whether or not she should get personal on a client-focused freelance blog. Here's the question I received:

I like how you share personal stories on your blog. I wish I could do that. But when I try to on my blog, I always change my mind at the last minute. I worry clients won’t hire me or people won’t like me or I’ll make people I talk about mad. How do you deal with that? How can I be braver and open up on my blog? Or should I just stick to what I’m doing?

Our advice was pretty simple here. Client-oriented blogs are about clients, not you. So don't get personal there just to get personal. Don't try to make clients feel bad for you because of your health issues, family problems, or money troubles for example.

In the case of freelance blogs, we suggest only getting personal when your stories illustrate an important point relevant to your clients. Princess gives a great example where she shared a story on her blog about going to the gym. She's a black woman, but they kept trying to up-sell her tanning services, telling her tanning would help her keep her color. So she shared this story to illustrate the fact that not all prospects have the same marketing benefits that will appeal to them.

Personal Sharing on Niche Blogs, Social Media Accounts & in Books

Princess and I then tackle the more general issue of opening up personally on niche blogs, social media accounts, or even in books.

We go over some of the benefits of personal sharing.

For example:

  • It can help you build community and overcome the isolation of a writing career. Personal stories give readers a chance to connect with you on a more direct level through similar experiences (like the person asking this week's question connecting with me after I shared a story about my cat battling, and ultimately succumbing to, cancer).
  • Your personal stories also help you stand out among other bloggers or authors because no one else has your exact experiences. It's a chance for you to share something unique.

Then we talked about the risks of being too open online.

For example:

  • You risk pissing off readers. My general philosophy is that it's OK to lose readers or subscribers as long as you generally gain more than you lose from the content you choose to share. This is what I've noticed when I either rant or share very personal updates. I see far more unsubscribes than usual. But I always see significantly more new subscribers over the next few days as first-time readers find that content via social media and other channels, and it prompts them to subscribe.
  • You also risk pissing off friends, family, and anyone else you talk about in your personal updates. Remember that even if your own line isn't crossed, you might be crossing someone else's. Unless you have someone's permission, it's best not to post personally identifying information (for example, don't share cruel or embarrassing stories about your spouse or kids). Kids are my personal line. I don't believe in sharing personal information about kids at all publicly online as nothing can ever be fully deleted, and because they're not in a position to authorize you to do so.
  • There are also real safety concerns. A couple of links can be found below to resources to help you protect your address and phone number when you work from home. I also share a story about someone who tracked down my home address and mobile number and then proceeded to call to threaten me.

Special Community Q&A Session

After that, we moved on to a special community Q&A series where we answered personal questions submitted by blog readers and podcast listeners. Get to know a bit more about us, and see if anyone hit our "line" where we won't open up publicly about something.

Questions include the following (click the link for any question to open the podcast episode at that particular question so you don't have to listen to the whole thing to find what interests you):

*These questions are exclusive to the extended cut of the show.

Photos for This Episode

Below are photos related to some of the answers in the Q&A section of this episode.

This first photo is related to the answer regarding sports. Princess and I got off-track a little bit, chatting about my history with soccer and how I broke my ankle in five places at my very first practice with an all-girls team (when all nearby school districts suddenly tried to assemble them). This was after playing for years on guys' teams injury-free. Go figure!

I mentioned that I got the bright red cast because my school colors were red & white. This photo was only taken a week or two after the injury, on a trip to visit family in North Carolina. Needless to say, I didn't much enjoy the  beach or pool because of the cast, but what you see me doing here oddly enough is working on my very first novel manuscript. This was basically the transition period from my obsession with soccer to my obsession with writing. Sadly I lost the manuscript and all backups when the house burned down a few years later.

Funny thing is, if you knew me back then, you probably rarely saw me out of baggy jeans and tee shirts. So the fact that my mother caught me in a mini-dress and combat boots is slightly impressive. We talked a bit about how my height made me self-conscious in school, so I tended to "hide" in baggier clothes, never really looking for attention. Summers were a totally different story.

This next picture shows the huge "boulder" in the woods outside of Centralia that my cousin and I planned to climb. I didn't get a great shot to really show how huge this thing was. But if we have time to check it out in the fall, I'll try to get better pictures.

Here are a few other pictures from the Centralia visit we talk about near the end of the podcast (where Princess informs me I'd be the person to die if life were a horror movie because I'm constantly exploring and investigating crazy shit; she's totally right).

The first is the rear of the backstop from the old baseball diamond. Then there's the old basketball court that's pretty well-hidden. And finally there's the abandoned, graffiti-covered highway most tourists go there to see.


Listen Now (Full, Extended Cut)

Bonus Clips

The following are short bonus clips from my chat with Princess. These, including two full Q&A sets, were cut from even the extended cut of the show.

Bonus Clip 1: Sharing Your Address Online

This clip was a continuation of us talking about the risks of oversharing personal information online. It goes into more details about sharing your address in particular (our overall advice: get a PO box, Google Voice number, or use similar services to protect your private contact info when you work from home).

Bonus Clip 2: The One Thing Princess Would Never Share, Even if it Meant Jail Time

This clip starts with an extension of our chat about topics that make us uncomfortable as readers. And we get to the issue of children and animals. We finally found Princess's "line" -- the one bit of private information she'd never share, even though it might put her behind bars.

Bonus Clip 3: Princess on My Crazy Sleep Schedule, Plus Twitter Habits

This clip was from a side conversation with Princess. She was joking about my insane sleep schedule (or lack thereof) and wanted to ask me about it. That led us into the issue of Twitter habits as well, and Princess recommends a tool (the StayFocusd Chrome extension) for avoiding social media distractions.

Bonus Clip 4: What Was Our Favorite Concert?

This is the first of two Q&As that had to be cut from both versions of the podcast because of episode time limit targets. It's a quick one, and Princess's answer might surprise you.

Bonus Clip 5: What do we Want to be When we Grow Up?

This is the other Q&A set that had to be cut due to time constraints. A member of the community wanted to know what we want to be when we grow up? The short answer? We have no intention of doing any such thing.

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