No one likes a bragger, but self promotion doesn’t have to be in your face. Unfortunately, thanks to over-the-top ‘finance bros’ posting on LinkedIn every five minutes, promoting yourself has got something of a bad rap. This is tricky, because promoting yourself and your offering is a core part of running a business. After all, if you never tell people what you do, how will they know to buy from you? The good news is that there’s a mid-point between handing out t-shirts with your face on (but if that’s your thing, by all means go ahead…) and cowering silently in the corner. Fear of promoting yourself is very common, but it is something entrepreneurs will need to find a way around. Read on for six of our favourite tips on combating fear of self-promo.
Ease yourself in
As the old saying goes, the more you do it, the easier it gets. We all remember the first time we spoke on Instagram Stories, sweaty palms holding Post-It notes covered in prompts. I remember the first time I ‘chatted’ on Stories – I practised in the bathroom mirror and re-recorded the video 76 times (before eventually posting the first take, obviously). Self-promo doesn’t have to involved professional-quality videos or big bold LinkedIn posts — it can be as simple as telling people around you what you do and what you offer via a quick phone call. Ease yourself in slowly, and once you feel comfortable, you can start sharing your message far and wide.
It’s much easier to put yourself out there when you feel confident in what you offer. Whether you’re about to launch a new course or have just taken your side hustle full-time, it’s worth gathering some quick feedback on your messaging from people you trust. If you can, gather some testimonials and case studies from people you’ve already worked with — after all, when it comes to marketing, their word counts for more than your own… Have a couple of calls with work friends, past clients or members of your community and see if they’ll help you tweak your messaging. When you know you’ve got your pitch, well, pitch-perfect, you’ll feel much better about sharing it with the world.
Remember why you’re doing it
When faced with challenges or stressful situations, it’s natural that our first urge is to run and hide. Not many of us love getting on Instagram / sending our sales emails / posting on LinkedIn to tell our audience about our new offering, but the simple truth is that if we don’t, we won’t make the sales we need to sustain our business. As you start building your confidence when it comes to self-promo, keep your goals front-and-centre. We all need to think back on why we’re doing this from time to time, whether we’re running our own business to give us more time with the kids, or to allow us to travel full-time. It’s also worth the cheesy reminder that we grow through challenges — and yes, that’s scientifically proven. What feels tough now will pay off in leaps and bounds in the future.
If you follow any mindset gurus on social media, you’ll likely have heard of affirmations by now. According to mindtools.com, affirmations are “positive statements that can help you to challenge and overcome self-sabotaging and negative thoughts.” Over time, the repetition helps you rewire your thinking, replacing your previous thoughts (‘I’m rubbish at self-promotion; no-one wants to hear what I have to say’) with positive ones (‘My business allows me to help loads of people; I’m excited to spread the word about what I do’). For best results, it’s a good idea to write your own affirmations specific to your worries, but you can also get inspired by these self-promo-specific affirmations from VeryWellMind:
- “I have something unique to offer.”
- “I am talented, intelligent and capable.”
- “I am no better or worse than the person I need to impress. We are both human beings.”
Focus on providing value
A good rule of thumb is to give more than you ask — because no one likes being sold to all the time! If you’re promoting yourself and your offering 20% of the time, for example, make sure you’re giving ‘value’ the other 80% of the time. That way, you don’t have to worry about annoying your audience, because you spend most of the time sharing your knowledge with them. Free value could include how-to videos, blog posts, a podcast, downloads and webinars — figure out what you most enjoy producing. Next time you find yourself feeling wobbly about self-promotion, remember just how much value you’re providing.
Learn from others
If you feel uncomfortable self-promoting, you might find that you’ve got a bit of imposter syndrome at play. Your best bet is to look around you for guidance: who is self-promoting really well? We love following experts Stef Sword Williams, founder of F*ck Being Humble, and Found and Flourish member Sara Dalrymple for tips on sleaze-free self-promo. If you’re involved in a small business community, chances are most people in your orbit are doing some form of self-promotion. Have a look at their social media channels and see how they promote themselves in non-icky ways, and have a think about whether you could apply some of those approaches to your own business. At the end of the day, your goal is to attract your dream customers — the ones who love your business, your offers, and what makes you unique.
About your author
Phoebe is Found & Flourish’s resident Business blogger, she is London-born and Frankfurt-, Paris- and Amsterdam-raised. Combining her Master’s degree in Entrepreneurship with 10 years writing for international publications, she’s the founder of BURO155 and Wellby, helping female entrepreneurs achieve their business goals through strategic online content. Phoebe is also a writer, and has written for outlets including the Huffington Post, the Guardian, the Next Web, For Working Ladies and Restless Magazine.
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