You can’t run a business, even the smallest of businesses, if you can’t promote that business. And if you’re like many people, selling yourself can feel…icky. Like, so icky you don’t do it.
This doesn’t bode well for your business. Sure, you think it’s pushy, rude, obnoxious. And it’s doubly hard because when you own your own business, separating yourself from it is like trying to separate the dancer from the dance, as they say. And it’s one thing to promote a big cause or someone else, but promoting yourself? Ick.
In a recent column on DailyWorth, I wrote about how conflating your self worth with the worth of what you offer is big trouble (“You’ll Never Get Paid What You’re Worth, and That’s OK”). It’s not only childish, but unproductive, because you risk either never getting paid or never finding anyone who can afford you. Neither works.
As with most things, the resistance to self promotion is purely psychological, and has more to do with your ideas about self promotion than what it actually is or can be. I attended a meetup here in Manhattan held by Taylor Jacobson and Tara Padua of Teampossible that dealt directly with this issue.
Now, I don’t have a real fear of self promotion (let’s say I’ve gotten much better), but even I thought, hmm, should I even GO to an event on self promotion? Seems indulgent. But I’m glad I did, and I’m sharing some of that wisdom with you. There are many people who find that they need to promote themselves and their business, luckily there are many ways to do this from online marketing on social media to something small such as Personalized Sunglasses that have their businesses logo on it, self-promotion is nothing to fear.
Following are the questions that Taylor and Tara used to guide us through the workshop, and I found them helpful. So, try asking them of yourself to help diagnose and get past your self promotion-itis:
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1. What do you think of great self promoters? Picture someone who’s really good at self promotion. She’s killing it, actually. What judgments come up about that person? Don’t filter, just say it. “What a media whore,” “She’s so self-absorbed,” “He’s full of himself.” Go on. I’m sure you have more. Maybe you’re envious, jealous, resentful, or wistful. (“I wish I had the balls to do that,” etc.) That doesn’t mean those things are true, necessarily, but the point of this is to catch your judgments by the tail. While shameless self promoters elicit a major eye roll from me, sometimes, they also make me feel like I should up my game.
2. What are you afraid people would say about you if you were better at self promotion? Note, they may not be the same things you said above. My fear is that if I were to excel at self promotion, others would cease to see the value in what I have to offer; they’d only see the sell; that my desire to sell would appear to eclipse my desire to help, motivate, or inspire. It’s also ironic that I might think self promotion would cause a loss of credibility—since the better you are at it, the more cred you actually have. But this fear is troublesome because it means that in order to be “real” or “authentic,” then, you have to stay small and not tell anyone about what you do. WRONG.
3. What story do you tell yourself when someone doesn’t buy what you’re selling? Ah. This is a good one. What DO you think when someone doesn’t bite on a pitch or when she goes with someone else? I have two responses: “I suck,” and “They’re stupid. F@$! them.” This way of thinking may make you feel good in the moment, but there’s a bigger problem there, stated brilliantly by marketing strategist, Daniel DiGriz, founder of madpipe.com. He said,
“If everyone who passes on you or says no to you is dumb, then you can’t improve, because you’re saying there can’t be smart people who disagree with you.”
Yes. Burn that into your brain. Go back and read it again. This is a huge pitfall—because this belief keeps you from becoming smarter and better; it keeps you stuck. You don’t have to think you’re the best to be worthy and valuable, and you don’t win by never being wrong. This is an egoic pitfall, and a real problem for your business (not to mention your love life). Because if you hinge your ability to self promote, and by that I mean communicate your value, based on the idea that you must be perfect, or the best, then every time you hit an obstacle or rejection, you throw your whole sense of worth and purpose into question.
Self promotion doesn’t mean you inflate your ego or pretend you’re something you’re not. You don’t have to win a popularity contest. You must know the value you offer, and know that it’s worth sharing with other people. You owe that to yourself and to everyone else.
(Read: Why to embrace the haters.)