How to Self-Promote without Feeling Arrogant and Salesy
Do you ever have naked dreams?
Like, you’re walking down the street, shopping, giving a presentation… And suddenly you realize you’re wearing nothing but your birthday suit. You want to find a place to hide, but there isn’t any.
Promoting your own work online may feel similar. For many bloggers, sharing other people’s stuff on social media feels natural. But when you post a link to your own work, it makes you want to hide under your desk.
You’re afraid that everyone sees you like a messy, imperfect, and vulnerable person who has no idea what she’s doing—which is, the way you see it, true. Or, you worry that everyone thinks you’re arrogant, self-promotional, and all you care about is money—which isn’t true.
There’s no place to hide. You’re standing in front of a crowd, naked.
In today’s post, I’d like to show you that it IS possible to self-promote in a way that feels natural, no matter how odd the idea seems right now.
And not only is it possible, but it’s also necessary. Here’s why.
Why you have to promote your work
Firstly, no one is going to do it for you. Not when you’re just getting started, anyway.
I mean, there’re many ways to help people help you promote your work, and they’ll be happy to do it, but you have to help them find you in the first place.
And secondly, keeping quiet doesn’t help anyone. By breaking the silence, you’re helping other people give themselves permission to do the same.
And of course, you’re making your work visible for people who need it.
By speaking up, you’re making the (online) world a bit of a better place.
Because if you’re afraid of self-promotion, guess who isn’t afraid: people who really are arrogant, selfish, egoistic, shameless, and only care about money.
And you don’t want your Dream Client to end up working with them, do you?
The life-changing magic of changing your focus
We’re afraid of self-promo because we don’t want others to think that we’re bad people. We want everyone to like us.
And that’s normal.
Now, let’s think about egoists: people who brag, boast, and thump their chests. Why do they do it?
It’s the same reason. They want others to like them.
The thing is, both shameless self-adulation and the fear of self-promotion focus on the SELF. The motivation is the same: to control what others think of you.
But in fact, you have little power over other people’s opinions. And the moment you realize it, you’ll be free.
James Altucher put it this way:
“No matter who you are, no matter what you do, no matter who your audience is: 30 percent will love it, 30 percent will hate it, and 30 percent won’t care.”
James Altucher, Choose Yourself
So, instead of trying to appeal to everyone, you can save your time and energy and focus on your 30 percent. The rest doesn’t matter.
And instead of focusing on the self, you can shift your attention towards something bigger than you.
Taking the “self” out of self-promotion
You aren’t in business to trot out and show how cool you are. You are here for a reason, and the reason is bigger than you.
In Big Magic, Elizabeth Gilbert expresses this beautiful thought that ideas are living things that have a mind of their own:
“Ideas have no material body, but they do have consciousness, and they most certainly have will. Ideas are driven by a single impulse: to be made manifest. And the only way an idea can be made manifest in our world is through collaboration with a human partner.”
Elizabeth Gilbert, Big Magic
Your idea chose you for a reason. It’s your mission to promote it.
Even if you’re too rational to believe that ideas are living things, reframing your work as something bigger than you can help you overcome your fear of self-promotion.
When you shift your focus from yourself to your mission, your fear will lose its power. You feel comfortable sharing other people’s work. Similarly, if you take the “self” out of self-promotion, you will feel more comfortable sharing your own work, too.
Whenever you feel the urge to hide, you’ll remember your mission, and you’ll step out of the shadow, no matter what.
Your idea needs you. And the world needs your idea.
How to make your voice heard
If you see self-promotion as cooperation with a higher purpose, you’ll do what it takes to make yourself (and therefore your idea) findable. But that doesn’t have to mean yelling at random people and doing things that are against your nature and values.
Here’s what you need to get visible:
If you aren’t clear about your core message, no one will listen to you because no one will understand you. Getting better at copywriting and writing as such will help you sell your idea without having to settle for cheap selling tricks.
You need to be confident in your message so that others can trust you.
Yeah, I know. It’s easier said than done.
Psychologists suggest to trick your brain by “acting as if”: Imitating self-confident people leads to success, and success generates real self-confidence.
(If you want to learn more, social psychologist Amy Cuddy explains the science behind this approach in her TED talk Your body language shapes who you are.)
Here’s what self-confidence looks like in the online environment. People who are confident:
★ Promote others, even if they’re their “competitors.”
★ Give away their best work.
★ Position themselves as leaders. A good leader isn’t the loudest person in the room, but the person everyone listens to because (s)he inspires and empowers people (by teaching, coaching, encouraging, listening, showing compassion, and in many other ways).
Imitating this behavior will make you look and feel more confident, which will lead to better results and real confidence.
No one likes being sold to, but we all are wired to respond to genuine enthusiasm.
If you’re truly passionate about your ideas, people WILL follow you and listen to you.
Being courageous isn’t the same as having no fear. In fact, it’s the opposite.
You don’t need courage if you have no fear. But if you are afraid—of failure, of rejection, of putting yourself out there, of self-promotion—you need a lot of courage to do the things you’re afraid of.
You can google blogging hacks and tricks forever. Many of them work, many of them don’t work, most of them only work under certain circumstances.
That’s why I don’t trust (and don’t teach) ultimate solutions and magic bullets.
But if there’s just one thing I know for sure, it’s this one: You can’t make it on your own.
✭ Self-promotion isn’t selfish. You’re here to serve people, so you need to help them find you.
✭ Your idea needs you and the world needs your idea. It’s your mission to promote it.
✭ Shifting the focus from the self to the mission will help you feel less awkward when you share your work.
✭ No matter what you do, you can’t control what others think of you. Concentrate on helping the people who get you and need you (your 30 percent), and forget about the rest.
✭ If you worry that you’re arrogant, you aren’t arrogant. Arrogant people don’t give a damn.
Help your Dream Client find you
Writing for Dream Clients is a workbook of writing prompts designed to help you exercise your business writing skills so that you’re ready to create unique, smart, and creative blog posts, newsletters, Instagram captions, social media posts, YouTube scripts, or podcast scripts.
It’s written specifically for people who want to market their educational or coaching services and products by building trust and empathy with their audience through writing.