Ideas + Insights

How to promote yourself without promoting yourself.

Tess Robinson

This is an excerpt from our Calling the Shots Ebook.

When I cast my mind back seven big-fat-exhausting years to starting this thing called Smack Bang, I’m instantly awash with nerves, apprehension and the urge to inject a good lashing of valium into my eyeballs. I was 22-years-old and had no idea what I was doing. I should have been scared out of my mind.

The funny thing is though, back then I wasn’t. Not even an incy-wincy-little-bit. I guess I didn’t know what I was in for. I was ballsy, brash and bright with optimism. I was young, dumb and I hadn’t yet worked out what a scary place this world is. I was crazy confident and gave zero F’s about what other people thought of me. The idea of putting myself out there to get new clients came to me just easily as eating 17 Caramello Koalas in one hit. I was capable of blasting my work out into the public, the same way my dog blasts out a wee in the middle of the street – with no shame and a strong dose of #sorrynotsorry.

And let me tell you, it’s a good thing I didn’t care back then. It meant that we got busy, fast. I was building an Instagram audience, writing blogs, perfecting my portfolio, meeting and greeting, and kissing babies. Before I knew it, we were fully booked. It was exciting, and on behalf of my naive, green, younger self, I am forever grateful.

Still, I know as well as every entrepreneur that the ‘Marketing Hat’ isn’t always the comfiest one us business owners have to wear. If the thought of writing an ‘about page’ makes you want to punch yourself in the face, or the thought of getting headshots makes you want to fake your own death and run away to Mexico, then this blog is for you. Putting yourself out there can be terrifying – we all know that visibility triggers vulnerability. Promoting yourself and your work can set off a string of self-doubt, followed by procrastination or paralysis, and a perpetual internal soundtrack of ‘this is lame’, ‘I am lame’, ‘what if people think my work is ugly?’, ‘what if people think that I am ugly?’, ‘who am I to do this?’. The miserable shame spiral continues.

I get it, PROMOTING YOUR WORK TO THE OUTSIDE WORLD IS DAUNTING (caps required). It brings up the most deep-seeded feelings from within your glass-case of emotions. This is particularly apparent in today’s context, as we now communicate on a global scale. We no longer bang up a sign on the front door only visible to those within our postcode, we upload an image that is instantly visible to 7.5 billion people. If that doesn’t fill you with all the dread of bumping into Pennywise the clown in the middle of the night, I don’t know what will. I am going to tell you to pull up your adult pants, take a spoonful of concrete and wrap your laughing gear around it, because if you want to do the work you were set upon this earth to do, and make the impact you were born to make, at some point you’re gonna have to face the music and put yourself out there. You don’t like the word ‘marketing’? Cool, it’s still crucially important. Call it, ‘Sassy reach-out mode’, whatever you will, but if you take anything away from this chapter, let it be this: Marketing is simply reminding people to hire you.

If you’re serious about attracting more dream clients into your life (and I know you are), then cast your weary eyes over these quick hacks to get you in the mood for a little bit of Promotion with a capital P. I’m not going to pretend I have this whole marketing thing figured out, but I’ve certainly come a long way since uploading an exceptionally fluorescent, lime green logo to my website.

  1. Get out of your own way.
    Sometimes we become the biggest roadblock to our greatest vision. When it comes to promoting work, usually, it’s ego and self-doubt that get in the way of kicking major goals. Feel this creeping into your world? Try taking a step back and look at the bigger picture. Often, the vision is far bigger than you are and your purpose far greater than you, so feel free to stop honing in on the granular reasons why people won’t hire you (that mole on your left shoulder, the slightly peculiar sense of humour), and zoom out to see what it is that you’re actually creating! What value are you adding to the world? Focus on that and forget your own stuff. Just do good work.
  1. Stop waiting for perfection.
    Waiting for perfection is like waiting for your children to put two of the correct shoes on in the morning (or so I’ve heard). I used to be a prisoner to perfection and would lose myself in the perfecting of each pixel and every goddamn micro-detail imaginable. But then I slowly began to see that things didn’t need to be perfect to generate epic results. Striving for excellence is all well and good, but striving for perfection is a bit crazy. Obsessive perfectionism is the arch-nemesis of productivity, second only to laying on the couch doing diddly-squat all day. Of course, aim for genuine, brilliant and extremely high value at all times, but don’t aim for perfection. Do what you can, with what you’ve got and put it out there and test the result yourself. If you stress too much-overdoing everything exactly right, you’ll never hit publish on your website, you’ll never send out that blog post, and you’ll certainly never send that ebook you’ve been working on for months on end to market. Fretting and being a perfectionist about everything you do merely keeps those sparkly dreams just out of reach.
  1. Make it about your message, not about you.
    If the bright shiny ‘me’ spotlight feels uncomfortable, feel free to pivot it slightly. Shine the light on your work, your purpose, your process, your brand, your surrounding assets. The key is to get purposeful and focused on promoting your message rather than you as an individual. I’ve found using this approach makes the art of promotion feel eleventy-billion times easier. When I feel like digging a hole and hiding out, I shine the spotlight on my team, our studio, our portfolio, our clients and our ethos. It’s great, because it keeps the momentum, without making you feel like you’ve sold your soul.
  1. Don’t be desperate.
    As a freelancer or small business owner, it’s easy to get panicky when the phone begins to stop ringing. It’s easy to scream to your boyfriend over the phone “The sky is falling, the sky is falling!!!”. But for the love of all things good and holy, don’t panic. Slice up some cucumbers, pat those babies onto your eyes and take a chill pill. Transcending into an emergency state of panic fuels your sense of desperation… and I hate to break it you, but clients can smell desperation a mile away. Even when you’re drowning in desperation and self-pity, you need to slap on a smile, and pretend like you’ve got everything under control, and your rent isn’t in fact twenty days overdue.
  1. Chew on abundance.
    Without getting too Tony Robbins on yo’ ass, I do believe the idea of manifestation has some merit. If you have a good scroll through Instagram, you’re bound to find at least 17 million inspirational quotes. Ignore the “live, laugh, love” ones and find one that says something along the lines of “what you focus on expands”. This is the shiz. If you focus on constantly having “zero clients, zero money, and zero ways to feed yourself or pay your rent” chances are things aren’t going to improve anytime soon. However, if you shift your perspective to focus on the bright spots, you’ll begin to attract more of that into your life. Even when our bank account begins to dwindle here and there, I always believe that I am 100% abundant. Whether it’s just a simple reminder I tell myself, or within my morning meditation, I focus my drive and my vision on abundance. And abundance is what I get. If you tell yourself for long enough, you’ll eventually convince yourself… and your bank account. Chew on that.

At Smack Bang, we’ve been lucky enough to have a somewhat steady flow of customers for the most part of our existence. But I guess that’s not just luck; we work tirelessly and endlessly to do great work, give our clients a first-class experience and market ourselves silly. Of course, just like any business, there are slower seasons, when we’re racking our brains to come up with new tactics and ideas to get more clients through our doors.

I know the stress of stumbling around trying to come up with new and improved ways of generating new leads all the while losing sleep at night wondering if I might eventually have to jazz up my resume and go get a real job. Whilst it often feels that our amount of leads coming in is out of our control, I can tell you right now, it’s not. That’s just one of the B.S. myths we tell ourselves that keeps us playing small. Generating red-hot leads isn’t rocket science or the exclusive rights of other more established businesses around. Instead, I believe that with a little skill, practice, creativity and persistence with our marketing, we can learn to attract a steady flow of dream clients through our doors quick smart.

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