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Lessons For Freelancers from the Ernest Tubb Record Shop

Ernest Tubb Record shopby Joe Wallace

I’m writing and working from the road this week. Yesterday I had a stop in Nashville and a visit downtown gave me some food for thought about the freelancing game. Nashville has plenty of music shrines including the legendary Ernest Tubb Record Shop which is, like the Rock And Roll Hall of Fame in Cleveland, a must-see destination for fans of a particular type of music who love not only the sounds, but the style and image of it all too.

I’m not really a fan of country music, but I do love vinyl records so I thought a trip to the Ernest Tubb Record Shop would be a fun diversion. There’s just one problem—there didn’t seem to be an awful lot of records in the place.

Now the obvious disappointment could be my own fault–after all, I’m the customer married to the idea that a “record shop” would naturally feature a lot of vinyl records. But these days the term has evolved to mean something a lot more than that even if actual records aren’t quite as in demand as they were in the 60s through the 80s when the recording format basically ruled the business.

But it got me thinking. Does my freelance marketing presence set up a potential client for any similar kind of disappointment? Am I somehow setting people up for one thing only to discover that I’m really something else?

Conversely, am I making the most out of my marketing (my resume site, cover letters, etc) and creating the right kind of image? The Ernest Tubb Record Shop may not be as fully stocked with vinyl as I’d expect, but the mystique the shop creates around Tubb, country music, and the era he recorded in? It does a very effective job of delivering that.

So now I’m taking a hard look at everything I do to put myself out there as a freelancer, an author, and as a blogger and comparing it to what I saw at the record shop to see if I’m missing the boat. Could my resume site be less cluttered with extraneous details that don’t directly contribute to a specific first impression?

Could I use graphics and text more effectively to convey who I am and what I do? Is there some kind of iconic image or series of images I could use on my resume page that tells you more without writing a word? How can I take these lessons to my blogs?

I know very little about Ernest Tubb, but walking out of the shop, I felt like I knew a lot more even though I don’t. Tubb, one of the heroes of old-timey “both kinds, Country AND Western” crooning, has a specific image and legend reinforced 100% by everything in the shop–even the stuff without his name on it–because of smart design, clever use of visuals and text, plus a complete lack of anything that would water down the Tubb brand–for example, the shop doesn’t sell any non-country music–it doesn’t cater to anything specifically outside it’s specifically definied niche.

I’ve got a lot of thinking to do about my own stuff compared to how effectively the Tubb shop comes across–it really is a masterpiece of marketing and even though I’m no country music listener, I see there is much to learn a lot from how the Nashville folks run their businesses….