Self promotion. Whether the words stir up enthusiastic excitement or deep-rooted repulsion inside you, there is no doubt of its importance to those of you for whom attracting clients and buyers is important.
The more flexible, in control, and independent we want to be in our craft, the more of an understanding of self-promotion we need.
The trouble is, many creative freelancers, and self-employed people in general, are walking into a life of independent work with little understanding of what works and what does not work, especially when the rules, at least on the surface, are changing.
I plan on looking at promotion and marketing a lot more closely through Red Lemon Club over the coming weeks, but for now, let’s look at those things that are not working, so that you know what to leave out of your promotion strategy (and what to start putting in):
1. Being too ‘salesy’
The fact is that people are no longer switched on to anything that sounds like a sales pitch or to anything that sounds like someone is trying to sell them anything, full stop. Selling in a ‘salesy’ way may have worked in 1945, not so much today.
“Selling in a ‘salesy’ way may have worked in 1945, not so much today.”
Selling these days is a gradual process, one in which you nurture a positive emotional connection with potential clients and customers, giving them a choice as to whether they want to buy from you or not.
In my view, it’s ok to make people aware of a sale, product or launch about 5-10% of the time, amongst people who already know you and already have some rapport with you.
No more than that.
2. Thinking only about the short term
Shift your perspective from short- to long-term. In the short term, you want to sell your product or service today, or you want more newsletter subscribers today, so you push your sales pitch onto anyone and everyone in one go, all in one day.
With a long-term perspective, you work at it bit by bit day by day, taking small steps in building trust with people from the ground up. You’re dedicated to working on building a legacy, not being a one-hit wonder.
3. Not knowing your product
What is it that you are selling? Sounds obvious, but you need to be completely clear in your mind as to what it is you have of value to offer people, and how it can benefit them. Then, it becomes easier to explain to people why they need your product, especially when they can sense your own enthusiasm for a product that you actually ‘get’.
4. Having no system
Promoting your stuff without a system in mind will inevitably lead to frustration and burnout.
Sure, you may find the occasional success by sending out thousands of emails or the odd tweet about something, but by not having an idea as to why you are doing what you are doing, you will struggle.
An example of a system would be in setting target-oriented goals using specific means, such as getting hold of ten leads every week through engaging on forums, and then following up with each lead within 5 days or acquiring them. Another example would be in attracting 300 new subscribers to your newsletter each month via your blog posts and other means, and keeping them interested through weekly newsletters and further, ongoing engagement.
“By not having an idea as to why you are doing what you are doing, you will struggle.”
A good system should be tailored to your preferences and your style, and what works for you. In today’s environment, you get back what you put in, and the more of a defined system you have in place, the more efficient these efforts will be.
5. Not knowing the basics
It’s a little known (or known, just often forgotten) secret that a huge reason as to why some people are good at some things and not at others, is simply knowing (the basics and more) of what you are doing.
This means getting some books out and reading some articles (like this one and others!) on how to promote your work and attract new customers and clients. Once you’ve done that, you’ll be at an even further advantage by learning the specifics of how to market your work.
6. You are not demonstrating credibility
Having a wonderful portfolio of quality work can often be all it takes to convince a prospect of your applicability for a project. This is one form of credibility. However, there are many other forms of credibility that you can, and should make obvious to potential clients.
This includes demonstrating expertise in an area in your field through blogging, teaching and newsletters, testimonials, past clients and awards. Actively and consistently engaging with an ever-growing group of people and followers, will too build your credibility as a professional.
7. You look desperate
One of the biggest turn-offs for prospects and potential buyers of your stuff is when you are transferring the message that you lack something. If it sounds like you absolutely need something, it looks desperate, and you discredit yourself and the value of what you can provide.
An example of this is asking for a Facebook like without even knowing the person you are asking, saying anything ‘salesy’, or hammering a 50% off sale all day through Twitter.
“If it sounds like you absolutely need something, it looks desperate, and you lose credibility.”
Find another way. That way is to introduce people to your product by engaging with, and helping others all the time. If your product is truly remarkable, which it should be, people you attract into your sphere will help market it for you.
8. Promoting all at once
Keep any obvious promotion to a small proportion of the overall action you are taking and focus on sharing pieces of what you do bit by bit. It’s better to email two or three people a day every day, than five hundred in an impersonal, bulk email whenever you remember to.
9. It’s all about you
Keep reminding yourself that the art of self-promotion isn’t about the self at all. It’s not all about you. You need to be thinking about your audience; your market; your people and what you can bring to them, and what you can do to improve their lives, and serve them.
Give advice, write interesting stories and blog posts to inspire others, promote the work of other people and businesses. These are things that bring people to your own brand, indirectly, and these are things that will get people to spread the word about you.
10. Stomping instead of treading lightly
Be sure to direct an awareness to how you are coming across in places that are visible, such as on social media sites. The dangers of upsetting the trust and perception people have of you wherever you go are now very real.
Avoid being aggressive, pushy, controversial and insulting. Tread lightly. Think before you speak. People will respect you for it.
11. Not doing the ‘tedious’ stuff
Too often overlooked is the ‘small’ stuff. All those things you think you don’t have time for because they are too monotonous, tedious, small-scale, boring or hard work. Little and seemingly difficult things are often the most important.
If you do these things, such as writing a meaningful blog post, especially when you don’t feel like doing them, you will be a cut above so many others.
A lot of things you can outsource, but a huge chunk of hard work is unavoidable, especially when it comes to dealing with people, responding to emails and questions, and simply serving people.
“Little and seemingly difficult things are often the most important.”
If you look into the memoirs of successful people, you will see the ‘tedious’ work they went through to get where they got. As they mostly had passion for what they were doing, this tedious work would have actually been enjoyable, because an appetising goal was in sight, and it can be the same for you too.
12. Not expanding your people base
This should be a central element to the work you do in generating exposure for your work.
Even though you may have several loyal and great clients, your business is stagnant if you aren’t continually (and I don’t mean to the point that you are exhausted – it’s a gradual process) bringing in new people to your circle of influence.
13. Misunderstanding the value of word of mouth
The most effective form of promotion that exists, is when other people tell others about how good your product or service is.
What are the best ways to increase the likelihood of your service spreading through word of mouth? By being surprising, and going the extra distance for your clients. People are unlikely to talk about you much if you are just ‘good’ at what you do. Go extra.
14. Directing your marketing to the wrong places
Knowing where and to whom to direct your promotional efforts comes with an understanding of your product or service and your targeted group. Once you know for certain what kind of people will benefit from what it is you do, then you will be clearer on the direction in which to point your self-promotion effort.
The first place you should be looking to make contact with is where your previous clients are. Repeat business is a very real thing. Get previous clients on your newsletter and keep them updated that way. Better still, get them on contact list so that you can eventually reach out to all of them individually.
15. Not continually learning or adapting
This is a follow on from point 5. Once you know the basics (and beyond) of what it is you need to be doing as part of your promotional strategy and business as a whole, you can’t stop there. Things change, people change, fashions change, and you need to be continually learning and adapting to stay on top of the game (it is, after all, effectively an exciting game you are playing).
When you stop learning, and adjusting and improving based on what you’ve learnt, you are losing ground.
16. You do not have a mentor
Having people to learn from and look up to as you go along, whether a direct friend, coach or colleague, or someone who’s insight you can follow indirectly (such as in a book), is hugely valuable. A mentor has been there before, gone through failure and experienced success.
Taking this experience is invaluable, especially when you can refer to this someone over the long term.
Get as close as you can to any kind of mentor, who has been there before and the benefits will be profound.
17. You do not use stories
Telling stories as a backdrop to the way you present yourself as a brand in any setting has tremendous power. Story-telling has always resonated well with human beings and hooking in our interest.
Use interesting stories to create a context around what (and why) you are sharing, and you will move from simply being a faceless provider of something, to a real, juicy, flesh and blood person that we can relate to.
18. You don’t truly love your craft or product
Do you really have a strong interest? One that keeps you motivated just by thinking about it? Or perhaps you are doing something that simply gets you by. If it’s closer to the latter, that might explain why it’s tough to try and sell something that you’re just not massively proud of.
Work on something that you’d want people to know about. Promotion will then inevitably be easier.
19. You are failing to make use of technology
If you are turning your nose up at technology, not to mention the huge value technology of all shapes, media and sizes possesses in aiding your promotional activities, you could be falling behind.
Scratch that, you are falling behind.
20. Relying too much on technology
On the other hand, it’s very easy (and addictive) to get eaten alive by the attractiveness of various forms of technology so that you end up with too much to do with too many options and too much complexity. This way you also fall behind, and never really gain a foothold anywhere.
Strike a balance; see where things are working, and what technology can (and doesn’t) work for you; keep things simple, and you will reap the rewards.
21. You are driven solely by money
If the ultimate reason for what you are doing is linked to monetary gain, you need to either re-adjust your focus so that developing your craft/work and bringing it to the world becomes your main priority, or find something else to work on that you can become genuinely excited about.
Having your eye on financial reward for your work is absolutely fine, in my view, and a great motivator. But if a passion for the work you do falls too far behind, you will likely fail to succeed.
This imbalance will shine through via shoddy, rushed work and various other unpleasant manifestations.
22. Not presenting a defined product
When it comes to your actual product or service, we have already talked about the importance of knowing what exactly it is you are ‘selling’, as well as who exactly you should be directing your marketing towards.
This is all important stuff that come before presenting your product to real people.
The next hugely important thing is in presenting something that is really obvious to people. No matter how ‘original’ what you have might be, people need to be exactly 100% clear on exactly clear what it is they could potentially be using or buying and how they will benefit from it.
23. You are shouting, not having a conversation
This is a nice analogy to think of when getting the word about your stuff out there. Instead of advertising your work (shouting, blabbing on about yourself), you need to be listening, engaging with people and adding to the value of other people’s lives (conversation).
Quit shouting so loud and listen!
24. Forgetting to make use of past clients
Past clients, of all the potential people you might work with in the future, are the most likely to work with you again.
Take advantage of this and keep them in your networking loop. Treat them well, and add to their success as a means to have them remember you when they next come to needing your services.
Also don’t forget to ask previous clients for things after a job is over. Getting a good testimonial from one is gold. Use it and post it on your site or with your products (with permission).
“Past clients are the most likely to work with you again.”
Ask a client you had a good experience with to recommend referrals of other appropriate prospects for you after a job. More often than not, they’d be happy to help or at least recommend someone they know who may be able to work with you. Asking is underrated and so often fruitful.
25. Your work is not different
Like with any product (and this applies to your services), make sure you differentiate yourself from the rest through the work you do. The way you work with people also falls into this. Being different means you stand out. Standing out is noticeable and memorable. Think and be different (thanks Apple).
As these points show, promotion is not just promotion. It permeates throughout everything you do when you have a product or service to share with the world. Understanding it and how you might be doing it in such a way that restricts your success as an independent creative or freelancer is hugely important.
There are other points and I’m sure many stories people have if they are willing to share, so do contribute in the comments below!