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Heidi Scott Giusto, Ph.D. owns and operates Career Path Writing Solutions, which she launched shortly after graduating from Duke University with her doctorate degree in 2013. Dedicated to helping individuals and businesses succeed when the stakes are high, she delights in coaching clients to success as they take the next step in their careers.

I was introduced to Heidi via another North Carolina entrepreneur when I had too many resume writing clients and needed someone to refer projects to. Heidi has helped take over surplus work when my calendar is full, and she’s made some great connections for me when her schedule starts to bulge!

Aside from resume writing, I also write for magazines. About a year ago I had the opportunity to speak with a magazine to pitch some article ideas. The first questions the publisher asked me were:

  • How many kids do you have?
  • What does your husband do for a living?

If I had been a potential employee interviewing for a job, these questions would be pretty illegal. However, as a freelance contributor, what employment law protections do I have? Virtually none. I shared the experience with Heidi over lunch. Part of her work includes coaching individuals through interviews. The tips she gave me were so helpful, I decided to turn our talk into an interview here!

Heidi holds certifications in resume writing, interview preparation, and empowerment coaches. She has written for organizations including FBI-LEEDA, BiteSizeBio, and CareerIgniter and is the editor for a New York Times best-selling author. Heidi has been featured in US News & World Report and is a recent recipient of the Forever Duke Award. You can find her on LinkedIn, follow her on Twitter @HeidiGiustoCPWS, or opt-in to her monthly newsletter for writing tips and proactive career management.

200 Words With Writer Heidi Scott Giusto

writer heidi scott giusto

Writer Heidi Scott Giusto

Write Naked: When writers and other freelance creatives meet with prospective clients for the first time, conversations may drift to personal topics. How can freelancers politely and respectfully avoid these topics to keep the focus on business?

Heidi Scott Giusto: Be prepared to redirect the conversation in a way that focuses on the client’s needs. If the conversation starts to stray off track onto your mutual love of gardening, you can redirect by saying something like, “I’m sure we could talk about gardening all day, but let’s get back to what you need. You mentioned you’re having a difficult time doing…” Depending on the tone of the conversation, you can also offer a light-hearted joke. One time, for instance, when a prospective client asked where my children were while we were meeting, I quipped that my toddlers were fine taking care of themselves.

WN: Funny! What warning signs should freelancers look for as a red flag to end the meeting?

HSG: If you are feeling uncomfortable or sense the person is not respecting your desire to stick to professional topics, I would end the conversation by stating your need to make it to another appointment. Thank the person for their time and encourage them to follow up by email if they have any further questions. (There’s no need to burn bridges, so I’m always polite.)

WN: Many professionals include brief personal details in their bios, which may seem like an invitation to discuss non-business aspects of their life. What do you recommend freelancers include or exclude on their websites, social media, and professional bios to help minimize risk of discrimination?

HSG: I encourage people to think strategically about what areas of their life might prompt discrimination and then make a thoughtful decision about what they want to share. Details that are not “hot button” items are usually safe, such as heterosexual relationships, pets, and mainstream hobbies like cooking and sports. But sharing other details such as religion, sexuality, and political stances very well might come at a cost. It’s up to each individual to assess whether that cost is too great to bear. Some people might not want to advertise they are in a same-sex marriage (e.g., When not working, Sharon loves spending time with her partner and their two golden retrievers) while others would feel like a fraud if they weren’t upfront (e.g., When not working, Sharon loves spending time with her wife and their two golden retrievers). There is only a difference of one word between the two examples, yet that one word holds substantial meaning. The key: think about this information in advance to reduce the chances of getting caught off-guard.

WN: What’s your #1 tip for initial consultations?

HSG: Focus on learning about the person’s needs first and foremost. I start my consultations by thanking the person and then asking either how I can help them or what they are hoping to accomplish by working with me. I never start the conversation by trying to sell them a service or product.

WN: I end my interviews with a James Lipton question. What sound or noise do you love?

HSG: Children laughing uncontrollably. That sound is hard to beat.

Special note: Heidi launched a special 3-month blog series today that profiles PhDs who have transitioned out of academia. Check out her first post in the Transitioning PhD Series.