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What To Do When You Are Afraid to Promote Yourself

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Episode 52 – What To Do When You Are Afraid To Promote Yourself

I see this a lot with the business owners I work with: they have a great idea that they are passionate about, but when it comes to promoting it – or even talking about it – they suddenly clam up and feel as shy as the new kid on the first day of school.

Or maybe they’re OK promoting their business, but they don’t want to be the face of it. No photos on their website, no personality behind their brand – and definitely no speaking engagements or other promotional opportunities!

If this sounds like you, don’t worry! That was me too when I started and it is still me to a certain extent.

Here are some ways of approaching promotion that I’ve discovered to boost your confidence and help you reframe why you are doing this in the first place.

Understand What’s Happening – It’s A Pattern Shift

First, let’s talk about the elephant in the room: of course it is scary to put yourself out there.

We are conditioned to be modest, not to boast and not to declare ourselves ‘special’ or that we know something other people don’t.

We are used to other people choosing us as being worthy of reward or giving us openings for opportunity.

We grow up seeing if we are picked for the sports teams (I wasn’t) or if we get good grades according to someone else’s marking system.

This is the norm in school, careers, sports, in so many cultural systems that we go through.

We can put ourselves forward but we don’t get to declare ourselves the ‘winner’ or the in the case of business it would be the expert or the leader.

It’s not the usual scenario, so of course it feels wrong and uncomfortable to give yourself a title of expert or to call yourself a leader (outrageous!) and then have the gall to actually go and tell people about it (the horror!).

What kind of self-centered, conceited, pompous asshole would do that?!
See what I mean?

I am not trying to make it sound worse here, I’m explaining why your natural reaction may not be to shout from the rooftops about your new thing.

And I get it. Actually my theme for the year is “Tell the world” to make sure I actually do tell the world about my work.

You are not alone

And here’s the big secret: Almost everyone experiences discomfort promoting themselves at some point.

Yes! Everyone! I did, Marie Forleo did, Tony Robbins did, even Oprah did. (I’m sure of it!)

The only difference is that successful business owners push through that anxiety and discomfort until they get to the other side.

It’s not that everyone else isn’t experiencing this – they are. But they respond to the feeling differently.

Sure, there are probably a few people out there who naturally love self-promotion, but for most of us it’s uncomfortable and frightening.

But it is something you’ll have to grow to get used to if you want a successful business, so go in knowing you’ll handle it with baby steps.

Choose Types Of Marketing Suitable For You

Everyone is different, so they can run their business differently, including the promotional piece. There are three fundamental pieces in your business – The Money Three:

1. Your Business Foundation

2. Your Sales Process

3. Your Lead Generation

The part where you promote is your lead generation, your marketing.

So choose marketing strategies that suit you. If you haven’t already get your Entrepreneurial Design Profile which will give you some insight on how you can run your business in alignment with your personality.

If you are more extroverted networking or doing live streams or speaking from stage could be a fit for you as an example.

If you are more introverted you may prefer to work on strategic partnerships or focus more on an active referral strategy.

Come back to your why

If it’s overwhelming to even get started promoting yourself, come back to your why.

You started this journey with an important mission in mind – for yourself and your potential clients.

So, why are you doing this – for a better future? For yourself? For your family?

Then ask yourself: Why are you doing this work? Why this thing instead of anything else you could be doing? Is there a particular problem you want to solve? A community you are passionate to reach?

As I’ve said before, every business needs to solve a problem, so presumably you started this business to help people – but you can’t help them if they don’t know you exist.

For me, this was a powerful way to reframe the act of promoting my business. It was no longer about me, but about the people I serve – YOU!

I realised that I’m truly passionate about helping people start their business in a way that’s going to work, and that people really do need what I have to offer.

When I look at my promotional efforts as it being about letting people know about my work and it’s about the audience instead of being about me, it’s much easier to get myself in the groove to do the work of promoting.

Understand That To Not Tell The World Is Actually Selfish

Taking that thought further – that it’s not about you, it’s about helping others – if you aren’t making important information available to others and putting it in places they can find it, you are actually actively doing those people a disservice.

It’s actually selfish to not let people know about something that can help them.

That doesn’t mean you should work for free, after all that would lead to you not being able to pay the bills and have to give up, which is nearly as bad as not doing it at all.

But it does mean that you have a duty of care to talk about your work and to let people know about it.

Detach from your fears

Another aspect of this I hear often is a fear of failure. People are afraid to put themselves out there because they are afraid to fail.

One great way to combat this is to detach yourself from expecting an amazing outcome every time.

If people ignore your Facebook post, just know that happens sometimes, especially with the current algorithm, and look for new things to try or better ways to approach your marketing. If you’re not proud of the way you write your blog posts, keep learning and keep practicing.

It’s a habit, not a one-time event.

It also helps to have a little perspective. Many people get caught in the trap of perfectionism and wondering what other people will think if what they share isn’t perfect.

But let me ask you: do you think anyone is paying THAT MUCH attention?

People Aren’t Paying As Much Attention As You Think

I hate to break it to you, but they’re probably not. Even my best friend doesn’t read every blog post I write or watch every video I do.

Almost certainly what feels like a huge scary big deal to you is not a big deal to anyone else. That video you recorded where you think your hair is bad? If you’re delivering value, no one is going to care.

And, even better, that big deal won’t feel like a big deal a year from now. So just remember whatever details you are worrying about now, in the grand scheme of things is not that big a deal.

So move ahead, do the thing, publish the post, upload the video and keep moving forward. Again, it’s a habit. If you want to be a successful business owner, it’s a habit you must encourage in yourself.

They say that business is 20 percent doing the work and 80 percent promoting it.

It’s an inescapable fact that if you want to succeed, you will have to promote yourself – at least until you’re successful enough to pay someone to do it for you!

It all comes back to reaching those who need your help.

If you shift the focus from promoting yourself to reaching the people who need you to solve their problem, everything else – including the fear – has a tendency to shift with it.

I’d Love To Hear Your Thoughts

Do you have a fear of promoting yourself or your business?

What triggers it for you? If you’ve been able to move through it, what was the biggest help for you?

Please share your experiences in the comments below so that they can be helpful to others going through the same thing.

10 Comments

  1. shim on October 14, 2019 at 9:09 pm

    your article is still super helpful, especially your voice is pleasing

  2. Waleska santiago on June 4, 2019 at 12:20 pm

    Hello
    I have a huge fear in going out there and promoting myself. I can easily do so on social media. But I feel like theres more to just promoting on Facebook.
    I ordered business cards so that I can go out and hand them out to people and try to engage in conversations with them a out my business. But everytime I think of doing so. I claim up. Although I’m doing pretty well with clientel, I still feel like I can do much better. Get more people. I can come up with some good ideas on how to do it.

    Growing up I was always to myself and till this day I find that I’m socially akward. In a way where I can be around people but I cant have a conversation. My mind goes blank, when I want to join the conversation intentionally so I stay quiet and smile. I can have a full blown conversation in my head about whatever they are talking about, but I feel like I open my mouth and no words come out. It gets frustrating at times.

    I love what I do and I want my business to grow. But I know that I have to go out there a d communicate with people what I do.

    • Cat LeBlanc on June 5, 2019 at 8:57 pm

      Thanks for sharing Waleska. There are LOTS of ways to promote your business that don’t have to involve showing up in person remember as well :-)

  3. Sarah on February 2, 2017 at 12:55 am

    Hi Cat!!

    Very late comment but your article is still super helpful. I just started a lifestyle youtube channel and I feel awkward promoting myself just because I’m known to be quite reserved so it makes me self-conscious about what others will think haha. But your tips are very helpful so thanks a lot for writing this artcle (: much love!!

  4. Tess Hansel on February 4, 2016 at 9:03 pm

    Hi Cat

    This is so true – it’s hard to promote yourself! I’ve just started promoting my book Take Back Your Bladder Control with one silly exercise I discovered. Now I’m starting to promote the book (and me as part of the package) and it is tough putting myself out there but what keeps me going is the thought of reaching as many women as possible so they too can recover their bladder control. Your article is very timely and so much appreciated – it’s not about me it’s about them. Thanks so much.

    • Cat LeBlanc on February 5, 2016 at 11:54 am

      You are so welcome! Thanks for commenting Tess :-)

  5. Irena on February 4, 2016 at 6:42 pm

    Dear Cat,

    I just started to build my new website with no content yet. I’m not afraid of telling people what I do. Probably because I’m blogging since 2005. :) But I must tell you that after all those years I feel I told everything. It’s just a feeling…. Sometimes I wounder if it wouldn’t be better to stick just with paid traffic and put my time and energy into creating my products. What do you think?

    • Cat LeBlanc on February 5, 2016 at 12:04 pm

      Hi Irena,

      Essentially you need some form of lead generation that leads into a sales process so that people find out about your business and then buy something. You can blog as a form of lead generation. In my opinion blogging is a long term game and you don’t have much control over who finds your content. Yes of course there is SEO but you can only influence so much. Personally for experienced business owners I prefer paid traffic going into a process that you know will turn an ROI e.g paid traffic -> webinar -> sales convo or paid traffic -> optin freebie -> autoresponder sequence. With paid traffic you can scale as you choose whereas with blogging/organic traffic you have much less control. Personally I like to do both to have a short term and long term plan for consistently growing my business. For new business owners I like to make the process a bit simpler so you don’t need to set up webinars etc. The key is to find what works for you and stick with it.

      Good luck!

      Cat

      p.s. If you want more info on what I mean by lead generation and sales process there is a lot more in this webinar > http://www.onlinemeetingnow.com/register/?id=ja0rvk69x3

  6. Kerry on February 4, 2016 at 3:59 pm

    Very timely for me Cat as I type up some letters to put with my “refer to me” package.

    Thanks

    Kerry

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