Have you ever felt cringy when putting up a social media post about your business self? Have actively avoided a networking event that you know might benefit you? Have you ever downplayed your achievements for fear of sounding cocky, self-obsessed or arrogant?
If you answered yes to any of those, this blog is for you!
The word ‘self-promotion’ has negative connotations, even to the most successful solopreneurs. If I told the average entrepreneur / idea generator / creative / small business owner (whatever you’d like to be known as) that they need to self-promote a little more, it would undoubtedly instil cold shivers in them… at the thought of telling people that the good at what they do.
Sound true? Sound silly? Let’s work around that together!
What is self-promotion?
Very simply, we can split this term down into ‘self’ and ‘promotion’.
Self refers to ‘a person’s essential being that distinguishes them from others’ (Oxford Dictionary). Besides your DNA, it’s your identity, your personality, your character, your persona.
‘Promotion’ comes from the Latin word ‘promovere’, meaning ‘move forwards’. The modern definition of ‘promotion’ is the process that supports or encourages the advancement of a cause or an aim.
You can see now, that self-promotion is really not that complex, not that cheesy and not that difficult to begin doing. It is simply doing something that highlights how you differentiate from others, as part of a cause, such as increasing your brand awareness or securing sales or clients. It’s not a dirty word, as Stephanie Sword-Williams puts so insightfully in her book F*ck Being Humble – a must-read for all women because ladies, we’re often too humble!
So here’s my simple formula to help you start celebrating your wins, differentiating yourself from the crowd, and make it places. : )
Sign-up: Say ‘yes’ to networking opportunities
Networking has evolved from a simple process of meeting people and talking about them and you, to a scary occurrence that you force yourself into because your industry demands it. Can you relate?
Many find networking one of the hardest parts of business, so here are some things to make it easier.
#1: The hardest part is to say ‘yes’
Once you’ve signed up, that’s the hard bit done!
#2: When you walk into that room, I promise not everyone is looking at you
I know it feels like they are, but they’ll honestly just be wrapped up in their conversation, or looking for the nearest snack tray.
#3: It’s okay to take a friend
Taking someone you know to a networking event can make it a whole lot easier. Joining conversations as a pair can feel less interrupting; you can introduce each other as a way of starting the conversation. Your networking buddy is also likely to give you that boost that you need, telling people about that really cool thing you did but that you’re too humble to mention.
#4: There’s a line between confidence and arrogance
It can be hard to juggle confidence and arrogance when your goal of attending a networking event is to tell people about yourself / your brand. You want to appear confident in yourself and your business, yet not appear to be ‘pushy’.
Solution: The 80:20 rule is a good one to follow for this. Spend 80% of your words talking about the other person, and 20% of your words talking about yourself. This will make you think about being concise, effective and confident in what you’re saying.
#5: Set some goals before you go in
Whether you’re attending solo, or with your networking buddy, set some objectives for the event. This could simply be to talk to 15 people, or it could be to secure 2 clients from the event.
Throwing yourself in the deep end sometimes is the best policy. I attended a networking event after my 9-5 London job on a late November evening. It was a trek across the city but I eventually arrived at a women-only club (I didn’t know they existed until then) and was shown where the event would take place. Whilst I had thrown myself in the deep end, I’d done it strategically, with the event I was attending set up as a talk for one hour, then a networking opportunity after. This is a great way to start you off, as it gives you something in common and an easy conversation starter – because everyone has just been at the same talk! I made some great freelance connections and the whole event gave me a real boost. It’s truly not that scary when you’ve done it once.
Define: Get your mission straight
I’m not saying that you always need to know what you want. What I am saying is that you need to know the purpose of your deliberate actions. For example;
- Know that walking into that networking event, you want to get 10 LinkedIn connections from that event, with people whom you can add value to their experiences, in return for value in yours.
- Know that posting that Instagram image has the purpose of showing people what you’re passionate about.
- Know that running that Twitter poll aims to facilitate a debate with your connections.
- Know that your LinkedIn post about your 2021 wins and challenges, aims to give you confidence because nobody else will pat you on the back if you don’t yourself.
Getting your mission straight will not only set your intentions clear in your head but in others’ heads too.
Refine: fine-tune your online presence
Whilst, not every social media platform you have has to be for your business, in the past few years, we’ve seen the traditional split between ‘work Me’ and ‘home Me’ blend together with working-from-home increasing and the power of social media.
If you’re using your personal Instagram or Twitter account for your brand, make it easy to find you! This sounds so simple, but I see freelancers and small business owners get it wrong so often. There are a few ways you can fine-tune your profiles:
Tip #1: Buy the domain name that is your brand name, or your name; even if you don’t have a website, at least nobody else can build one with your name behind it
Tip #2: Similarly, try and make your social media handles as close you can to your brand name / your name; tricky in some cases I know, but consider that if yours is taken… you’ll need a more differentiating name. I’m not saying change your legal name, but maybe @yourfirstname.photographer?!?
Tip #3: Keep your posts and your presence on brand – don’t have a brand strategy? Get in touch and let’s make one together. Yes, even individuals need brand strategies.
Tip #4: Make sure your bios contain a CTA (call to action); if you want people to read your blog, link there, want them to drop you an email if they would be a good fit, make a contact button available.
Tip #5: Show some personality; I’m not saying post that pic of you on your girls or guys night, but show some passion, your ideas, what means the most to you. People like people, so be human :)
Need some help with your social media strategy? Check out my recent blog '5 steps to building an effective social media strategy' for some guidance!
I’ve been torn for years about whether to make my personal Instagram account more ‘businessy’. There is a tonne of pros, but also a good few cons. Instead, I settled for the following, but because that was what was best for me – and undoubtedly that’ll change at some point! I became more active on my Twitter. I identified that this was where my fellow freelancers, and some clients, were hanging out, so I went there to build my network and to be a bigger part of the discussion. Also, freelance writing and marketing (often unlike freelance graphic design), isn’t very visually appealing – so Instagram just wasn’t the right place for me.
Combine: Practice it again and again
Confident and effective self-promotion does not come overnight – I can assure you of that fact. But you can’t eat the elephant in one go, so chop it into bitesize, workable pieces. Sometimes you’ll cringe at that thought leadership piece you shared on LinkedIn. Sometimes you’ll crack a dead joke at a networking event with industry experts. But the more you practice, the easier it becomes, so keep at it.
Whatever stage you’re at with your self-promotion, I’d bet that there’s something a little extra that you could be doing. So sign-up to those networking events, define your mission, refine your online presence, then combine it all together in practice : )