Not only is marketing hard, but it feels pushy and rude. This is a big reason I no longer work for myself full-time. When I lived in the Netherlands, I had a little editing / proofreading / translating business, and before and after that (here in Canada), I’ve done a lot of freelance work as well. I work my ass off to get the first few clients, and after that they come to me by word of mouth, which is lucky because I really hate self-promotion.
I mean, I know it’s an essential part of business. But it feels really wrong and artificial to say “hey, hire me because I’m the best!” or “look at this beautiful stuff I made; give me money for it!” It’s not that I think I’m bad at my work, but rather that it makes me very uncomfortable to push myself onto others.
There seems to be a fuzzy line between effective self-promotion and aggressive campaigning. I admire people who can market themselves, handle rejection, keep themselves separate from whatever product or service they’re selling, and basically put themselves out there in the world to achieve their goals.
This is coming up for me now in the context of an ongoing contract I have with a small charity to handle their web site and social media. It’s been a great learning experience in a lot of ways. Their site was initially set up by a pro and I do the maintenance while the pro is my backup for technical questions. As time goes by, I can handle more and more of the technical stuff myself, which benefits the charity since I am cheaper than the pro. And it benefits me as well, since I’ll be able to use these skills on future contracts.
The client’s website is a self-hosted WordPress site. It’s quite different from the wordpress.com site I use for this blog. For one, the stats aren’t included, but you have to download Jetpack (or similar) to access that info. Also, you don’t have the same ability to easily follow other blogs and have them appear in a Reader.
A super handy app called Hootsuite is what I’ve been using to schedule tweets. Facebook allows you to schedule posts, but Twitter will only let you do so if you provide them with a credit card number. Hootsuite apparently lets you manage all kinds of social media (Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, Google+, etc.) but I don’t need that much, so I am happy with the free version which only lets you manage three accounts.
Part of my work with this client has been making presentations to and writing handouts for the BoD to explain what I’m doing and what I need from them. It’s not enough to have a Facebook account and just share posts from others; the Board has to provide me with content that I can then share. I think a lot of people have this idea that social media is magical: simply by signing up, you will have access to the world and everyone will know about you. So there’s definitely an educational component to this contract.
One of the fundraising campaigns this charity participates in is Giving Tuesday. They’ve asked me to advertise on social media (Facebook and Twitter) about their participation in Giving Tuesday. So I’ve spent time watching the Giving Tuesday tutorials about how to use social media effectively for fundraising, and it has been a real struggle. I hate the way capitalist and commercial language has taken hold in all areas, and I hate how pushy I feel every time I send out a tweet saying “hey! donate to this fabulous cause!” (even though I really believe it is a fabulous cause!). I’m about as non-businessy as they get, and here I see I should be doing campaign analysis and researching best practices and enlisting corporate partners and estimating cost-benefit ratios and evaluating assets and managing campaign integration and gathering promotional materials and so forth. Just thinking about this makes me feel like I need an expensive suit and shiny shoes and a stylish haircut.
I don’t know how much of my reluctance to promote myself (or, in this case, my client) comes from old childhood messages that I should not bother people with my needs, or how much comes from my own extreme dislike of advertising and pushy salespeople, or how much comes from insecurity or introversion or just lack of practice in putting myself forward. But the client is paying for this, so I am learning it and doing it. Maybe this will translate into more comfort in promoting my own work as well.
Do you do work like this? Do you find self-promotion difficult? I’d be grateful for any tips or ways to reframe how I think and feel about this aspect of my work.