It’s an overcast Tuesday and my friend and I are busily co-working at a crowded coffee shop. I’m finding photos for future blog posts (read: procrastinating) and she’s designing an ebook (read: being productive).
I lean across the table to see what her book will look like, which photos she’s using. Here’s a man in a wheelchair, typing away on a Macbook. Here’s a Latina woman leading a meeting; here’s a black man pushing a stroller and leading a toddler by the hand towards the playground.
She sees me peering at her screen and nods. “Yeah, I realized that I talk a really good game on Twitter about inclusivity. Then I looked at my blog and noticed that I wasn’t really practicing what I preach. So I’m trying to do better.”
I glance back at my computer and the two photos I just favorited: a white lady doing yoga on a mountain top and two white ladies drinking lattes on a park bench. #basic
Maybe it’s time for me – for many of us? – to do better.
It’s always been a good idea for us to build our ethics into our businesses, but in 2017 it’s more important than ever.
8 easy(ish) ways to build your ethics into your business
1. Work with clients who create things you believe in
Well obviously, right?
I rarely work with clients anymore but when I did, they were awesome: Eating psychologists who help people stop dieting and hating their bodies, women in male-dominated fields, a clothing company that makes its dresses in America and pays its workers a living wage.
I turned down work from multi-level marketing schemes and a company with a racial slur as part of its name. I turned down a woman whose name turns up “scam” as the first Google result.
Having said that, I also realize that no one can pay their rent with values. Sometimes you really need the money and the client that’s a-knocking is fine-but-not-great. They’re not the ASPCA. We’ve all been there.
In those situations, I think it’s best to just not work with people or companies who are irredeemable assholes. Like, not Uber or Comcast or Haliburton.
2. Choose your vendors and suppliers with care
Every choice is a chance. Sometimes we can be the change we want to see in the world by being intentional and thoughtful about where we send our business.
We can choose a caterer that employs at-risk youth. We can have our business cards printed on recycled paper by a local, independently-owned print shop.
We can rent office space from landlords who don’t discriminate. We can a business loan from a credit union rather than a bank that has practiced predatory lending. You get the idea.
3. Hire people who are different than you
If you’re self-employed – what luck! – you are also in charge of hiring!
It’s a pretty well-documented fact that human beings are naturally drawn to people who are similar to them – physically, psychologically, and socio-economically.
So it’s no surprise that tech companies founded by twenty-something white dudes mostly hire … twenty-something white dudes. If we’re not careful, we’re all inclined to hire people who are exactly the same as us.
Let’s try to broaden our hiring horizons.
Obviously, this is a little awkward. I’m not suggesting you ask applicants about their ethnic background, gender identities, or sexual preference. That’s both illegal and gross.
But I think we can all benefit from
a) recognizing our own built-in bias to surround ourselves with people just like us
b) make a conscious decision to work on that
c) being open to allllll qualified applicants for a position
Not every VA needs to be a 22-year-old white girl! Not everyone needs a four-year degree in Computer Science to write code!
4. Work with brands and advertisers who align with your values
If you’re working directly with companies to create sponsored content you are, essentially, putting a big, red “I approved this message!” stamp on everything you create together.
If I was a vegan food blogger and I partnered with a leather goods company, I bet you’d notice. After all my talk about climate change and the environment, I bet you guys would notice if I did a Hummer-sponsored roadtrip.
Our readers and clients know who we are and what we’re about. They notice when we promote companies that don’t align with our values and they’ll unfollowing accordingly.
5. Use diverse photos in your marketing
Representation matters. It’s hard for us to imagine ourselves in a role if we’ve never, ever seen someone who looks like us doing it.
I’ve seen a million photos of blonde women drinking coffee in to-go cups or laughing over salads. I don’t think I’ve ever seen a marketing photo of a woman who looks like me working on an oil rig.
We can all do our tiny part by just being thoughtful about the photos we use. Can I find an image featuring anyone other than a thin young white woman? Nappy is a roundup of beautiful, free stock photos featuring black and brown people and the Lean In collection from Getty Images is great, too.
6. Promote + send traffic to people, companies, and websites you believe in
If I believe in a company or individual’s work, I can amplify their message (and help them make money) just by linking to them.
I can link to Trieu Chao a million times. I can tell Instagram how much much I love my CSA. I can tuck links into my Sunday post promoting ethical companies and under-appreciated bloggers and thought-provoking essays. Super easy! Super helpful!
7. Be open + honest about your ethics and where you stand
A reminder for all of us: when we’re silent in situations of injustice, we have chosen the side of the oppressor.
I know it can feel scary to take a stand about topics that are important to you. If you’re worried you’ll get push back or unsubscribes, you’re right. You will.
I know you might feel worried that if you’re vocal about your ethics, you’ll lose readers or clients. You might.
When you take a stand, the people who love you WILL LOVE YOU EVEN MORE. Click To TweetWhen you’re open about who you are and what you believe, you’re making it easier for people to commit to you or get off the wagon.
Also: the most important relationship you have is the one you have with yourself. You’ll like yourself a lot better if you stand up for what you believe. It feels good to look in the mirror and know you did your best.
8. Make all of this normal and business-as-usual
I think the best way to do all of this is to, well, just do it. I don’t need to yell about how Middlesex is a huge step forward for trans people and diversity and literature. I can just tell you that it’s some of the best writing I’ve read in years and OMG GO READ IT.
I don’t need to write three posts about how I’m committing to using more inclusive images I can just … start doing that.
I don’t have to go on and on about how great it is that Essence makeup doesn’t test on animals, I can just say “Look at this incredibly popular lip gloss that costs $2.49!”
But I want to hear from you! Have you found a way to include your values in your business model? If you have, tell us in the comment so we can try your methods, too!