Your Lack of Self-Promotion is Killing Your Business

anonymous woman covering face with mock up notepad

If you can’t celebrate yourself, how can you expect others to?

Photo Credit: Khosrork on iStock

Does the thought of promoting yourself and your achievements publicly make you sick? Then here’s your barf bag.

And when you’re done, stay tuned because this article’s for you. Especially if you’re a business owner. The truth is, if you’re going to succeed in business, you have to promote yourself. And you have to do it well. You must learn how to toe the fine line between effective self-promotion and becoming downright obnoxious.

As a freelance copywriter and solopreneur, I depend on self-promotion. If I don’t do it, it’s back to working for someone else. And I don’t want to do that. So I got over my fear of self-promotion quickly. And learning how to self-promote has helped me build a six-figure income in part-time hours.

But it can be hard, especially when you’re just starting an entrepreneur and finding yourself around this new world.

So why do we fear self-promotion? And how can we do it right?

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The distasteful side of self-promotion

Nobody likes a braggart, right?

Many of us are taught as kids not to toot our horns too loudly. We don’t want to run the risk of coming across as a self-conceited asshole. And we continue to carry these hesitations about self-promotion into adulthood.

And for women, it’s worse. Studies show that women are far less likely to publicly share their achievements, and they are more likely to downplay their accomplishments. This leads to fewer promotions and lower lifetime earnings than their equally as talented, or less talented, male counterparts. Some experts tie these gender gaps to women’s historical roles as caretakers. Women should be happy to take care of others, not complain, and not rock the boat, happily putting in oodles of extra work without compensation or recognition, a holdover from when most women were homemakers.

On top of not wanting to come across as a jerk, being hesitant to promote yourself can also be traced to imposter syndrome. You’re probably familiar with the term, so I won’t go into a lecture about it. But in a nutshell, you feel like a fraud or that you’re not as good as you are. So it stops you from doing all the amazing things you could do. And if you start blasting yourself all over social media about how great you are, and someone buys your services and thinks you’re not all that, well, that’s like the worst thing that can happen, right? And you run that scenario over and over again in your head. Even though it likely won’t happen.

So you do nothing instead. Your business just sits there, not reaching its full potential. Or you languish away in a lower-level job, limiting your earning potential and job satisfaction.

How your fear of self-promotion hurts you

Whether you’re a business owner or working for someone else, the fear of self-promotion can kill your success.

If you can’t advocate for yourself and share your achievements with your supervisor, you might be doomed to stay in lower-level positions or climb the corporate ladder more slowly. People who are seen as leaders aren’t afraid to shake things up a bit and know how to leverage the power of personal branding and marketing to make an impact. And those are the type of people business leaders want to see in their upper echelons of management, not meek and mild people who welcome conformity and never rock the boat. Harsh? Maybe? But true.

Never advocating and promoting yourself can harm your relationships, too. If you’re playing the dating game, there is an element of self-promotion. You need to let potential mates and dating partners know what makes you unique so you stand out from other potential love interests.

And if you’re a business owner, especially a small business owner or a solopreneur, sharing your achievements and promoting your products and services is crucial to your growth. Even the greatest ideas need some level of promotion. You can’t just rely on organic word-of-mouth advertisement and hope to grow in a meaningful way. Plus, many of today’s younger consumer bases want personalized insights into your brand. Authenticity sells, so you need to get your name, face, products, and achievements out in front of prospective customers.

You need to differentiate yourself from the competition. And if you cannot clearly articulate that and share it with the world, you can’t expect others to shoulder that burden and figure out what makes you or your brand special on their own. Because they might not find you to begin with.

How to overcome the fear of self-promotion

Overcoming your fears of inadequacy and self-promotion can begin with simple affirmations. A daily affirmation practice is something that has helped me overcome any fears I had about self-promotion.

Here are a few affirmations to get you started:

  • I have unique talents and/or services to offer.
  • I am intelligent and capable.
  • I am no better or worse than anyone else I’m trying to impress. We’re both humans trying to do our best.

Whether you write these and other affirmations down daily or speak them aloud, it’s a great habit to get into to boost your confidence and build your capacity for sharing your talents with the world.

And remember, if you can’t celebrate your own accomplishments, how can you expect others to?

Also, every successful business promotes itself. Why do the world’s most recognizable brands spend billions on marketing? If Mcdonald’s still has to promote itself, what makes you think you don’t have to promote your business, which I assume is far smaller than McDonald’s?

And if you’re a business owner or solopreneur, do you want to return to working for someone else? If the answer is no, then self-promotion is critical to your success. Use that as motivation.

Now share it with the world

Now that you’re on your way to breaking down your fears of self-promotion, what are some strategies you can use to promote yourself?

  1. Share reviews and positive feedback: This is a great way to engage in self-promotion without coming up with the words for yourself. And social proof is important when you’re selling products or services, so having reviews, testimonials, and feedback from others is important. Share these positive words on your social media channels and your website and anywhere else online associated with your business.
  2. Hire someone else to promote you: If you have it in your budget, hire someone else to write glowing words about you. Or have a client share their reviews on their social media sites, and then you can reshare on yours. I write a lot of About Us pages for clients, as many of them struggle to come up with the right words to describe themselves and their businesses without coming across as feeling boastful. They hire me to do it instead. A great copywriter or marketer can help you find the right words. Or if you’re job hunting, a recruiter can help you do this and promote you on your behalf and give you model language to use in your future self-promotion efforts.
  3. Guest posts: Collaborating with others and sharing your knowledge on someone else’s social media feeds or blogs is another way to self-promote without any ickiness. You’re providing value to the account owner while also getting the word out about your products, services, and expertise. And then, you can reshare and repost on your own sites.
  4. Give away free content and products: One of the most effective ways to grow an audience, build your authority, and to promote yourself and your products is to give things away for free. A free lead magnet, a free blog where they can get insights from you — people love free stuff. And once they consume those freebies, they are more apt to purchase from you. And advertising freebies hopefully doesn’t give you the ick.
  5. Collaborate with other people: Collaborations are a great way to promote yourself. Someone else can benefit from your expertise and vice versa. And they may also be willing to promote you because of that collaboration. For instance, I’m a copywriter, but I have a few website designers I collaborate with. We share insights and package our services together so we both win. Don’t be afraid to pitch collaborations, as long as you can establish with the other person what value is in it for them, too.
  6. Share your products and services: Even the greatest, most recognizable products and services in the world promote themselves. And you, too, need some sort of publicity. I offer coaching and digital products for freelancers in addition to my copywriting services. Every time I mention these services on my social media channels, guess what? I at least get a few orders off of it from people in those circles. People don’t know your products exist unless you tell them. Make it easy for them to buy by sharing and linking directly to your offerings.
  7. Tell your audience how you solve their pain points: When it comes to promoting any type of product or service, do you know what matters most? What it can do for the prospective buyer. So make your promotion about them. So is it even self-promotion at all, then? Instead of talking about yourself, talk about what your products and services do for them. How does it benefit them or make their life easier?
  8. Don’t fear over promotion: Not everyone sees everything you post on social media. And not everyone is on all social media channels. So don’t be afraid to post multiple times on multiple social channels. On average, people need to see a message at least 7 times before they consider buying. So don’t be afraid to share your products and services often.

Self-promotion takes a bit of practice. And it doesn’t have to be icky. Even though you’re promoting yourself, if you keep it focused on the value you deliver to other people, that can help remove some of the feelings that you’re bragging about yourself. I’ve also noted a few other ways you can self-promote without really feeling like self-promotion, like collaborations or giving freebies away. If you’re hesitant to self-promote, you might start with those options to ease your way into it.

And I hope you get over any hesitations you have. You deserve success. the world deserves to hear about you. And you can shape the narrative the world hears about you by sharing it yourself.

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