Promoting ourselves — tooting our own proverbial horn — is a practice we tend to view as selfish. But is it? Self-promotion (or self-marketing, as I prefer to call it) isn’t just the best way to make it to the top of the corporate ladder when it comes to succeeding in some career fields, but it is a necessary part of launching and growing a personal business, brand, or identity.
Some professionals feel the pressure to self-promote more than others – freelance writers and artists, solopreneurs, career coaches, contract workers, and agents just to name a few. If they don’t make themselves visible, no one else will, and their careers will fail. Even though they’ve chosen these career fields, it doesn’t necessarily mean they’re comfortable with the self-marketing that comes with it. What often happens is that they eventually realize that they need to learn to be highlighting their strengths much more if they want to succeed.
I’m one of those reluctant self-promoters… what about you?
I find it hard enough to ‘brag’ about myself on my resume, let alone in the queries, pitches and LOIs that come with freelancing. The “about me” paragraph always makes me feel uncomfortable, no matter how many times I’ve written one. Although I’m still learning, I’ve picked up a few survival tips of how shy, introverts like us can find our place between the uncomfortable edge of ‘this isn’t me’ and standing in the corner hoping someone will notice us. Without further ado, here are my top five self-marketing tips for shy people.
1. Create a standard “about me” resource you can easily refer and link to.
If you’d rather not have to give a speech or compose a bio every time you work up the guts to approach a new prospect or experience the relief of being asked for the information, make it easy on yourself. About.me is a great free resource, but you can also add a personal statement to your website, LinkedIn profile, etc. The beauty of this approach is you likely will develop a good paragraph or two that sells your strengths since you keep referring and re-reading what you have on that bio.
2. Ask your friends and family for input on your bio, pitches, and applications.
It might be hard to come up with words that feel real or honest when describing yourself, so let others who know you best do it for you (not literally… you need to put forth some effort!). This is also a good way to learn how your expertise and services come across to others, and how to improve that image.
3. Utilize your natural network.
Are you a part of a club, group, church, or volunteer organization with others who share the same hobbies, interest, goals, or beliefs? This is a great place to practice your self-marketing skills and start expanding your network. Could anyone you know benefit from your services? Could someone they know? Hand out your business cards, website or profile link, and ask others to pass them along, too. You’d be surprised at how far this simple step can reach in finding both customers and colleagues.
Editor’s Note: Okay here, let me try… I run a site called MoneyNing.com that helps others achieve financial independence. Spread the word and tell them to come to the site!! 🙂
4. ‘Collect’ compliments and positive feedback.
Consider the clients, customers and colleagues you already have. Are they satisfied with your services, and would they be willing to write up a brief statement about it? You’d be surprised at how many people would readily do this for you. Having a few personal testimonies looks great on a business website, and it simultaneously takes some of the pressure off you to self-market.
5. Focus on talking about your work (your passion) and not your self.
People gravitate toward others who project confidence and energy in their elevator speech. If you find yourself freezing up when it’s time to talk about yourself and what you do, focus on your work and what you love about it. Think of self-marketing as just talking with a friend about your passion. Assuming you actually enjoy what you do (as I should hope), that enthusiasm will be catching, and your sense of self-consciousness undisturbed.
There are certainly more tips than this, but it’s a good place to start. Do you struggle with self-marketing? Do you have any helpful tips to share with the rest of us?
And for those ready to take it to another level, here is how to network your way to a higher income.
Sandy put in her long hours as a cashier at the local Speedway. After three years, she decided to open her own chalk-lettering business. She wanted to make money doing something she loved — just like she’d heard about online and on television.
So she tried.
Six months in, Sandy was back full-time at Speedway because she was never able to grasp the networking required to grow her business.
Lindsay, her cashier cohort, opened her own pet-sitting biz at about the same time, yet her business was already booming. Lindsay knew how to make connections that would create a solid base for her business.
Without a solid foundation of relationships, no business will survive.
Sir Richard Branson, owner of the Virgin mega-enterprise, will tell you that. As the head of over 400 companies, he testifies that only the ones built on strong networks thrive.
So how do you network like Richard Branson to grow your business? Here are 7 steps that will get your income increased in no time:
1. Get your feet wet early.
It doesn’t matter if you’re starting a side gig or a full-on entrepreneurial endeavor with investors and partners. Jump in early. Don’t sit and wait for people to come to you.
Waiting in that ridiculously long line at the grocery store? Chat up the lady behind you. Talk to the cashier when it’s your turn. At the library? Talk to the librarian before leaving. Make it a point to meet new people wherever you go. They won’t all be customers, but some might tell their friends and family about you.
2. Don’t be selfish.
You’re excited to pull in new customers, but you can’t just meet someone and drop your name or your card. You must get to know the people you’re chatting with. They won’t be interested in you if you don’t show interest in them first. The connections that matter will come, so be patient and play courteously, like you were taught when you were little. Ask them about themselves, why they do what they do, and make genuine connections.
3. Meet your industry’s influencers.
When you’re connecting with them, be conscious of their time and don’t be pushy or ask too much of them. As a matter of fact, don’t ask anything of them before you’ve offered yourself or your help first — and often.
4. Be genuine.
People can tell when you’re sincere. They can also tell when you’re forcing that niceness from somewhere uncomfortable. Eliminate the thought that you’re forming relationships in hopes to better your business; think in terms of friendships. Because in friendships, your goal is to be there for the other person with whatever they need. And when you give, they’ll feel compelled to help you when you need it most.
5. Become a superior listener.
People reveal a ton about themselves when they share even the minutia of their lives. If you’re a great listener, you’ll hear more than what they’re saying. This one thing can help you grow more than anything else: Understanding people.
6. Perfect your timing.
The point of networking (though you shouldn’t think too much about this) is to make an ask when you need to. If you start the relationship as a good listener and helpful friend, you can ask for a sale when it’s time — without feeling guilty. Get the timing right (after investing time and energy), and you’re more likely to hear a yes. Get it wrong, and you’ll close the door on the relationship altogether.
7. Display confidence.
When you meet people with confidence, either online or off, they’ll see you as an authority. If they like you and know you’re knowledgeable, sales may come without your even asking. They’ll think of you when they need a service or product you’re offering.
When you’re starting any business, talk to people, learn more about them, offer your help, and be confident. They’ll remember you and want to be a part of what you’re doing. Sir Richard Branson is the king of business — and if there’s anything you need to learn to increase your income, it’s how to network the way he does.
Do you think networking is still as important in today’s online world? Which one of these tips is your favorite?