Why do so many writers have a hard time with self-promotion? Think about it for a second. You know you should promote your writing to grow your freelancing business.
But if you’re totally honest, fear, doubt, or shyness sometimes gets in the way. Sound familiar?
That was one of my biggest stumbling blocks when I first started writing for a living. Fortunately, I learned to change my way of thinking to overcome marketing shyness. And so can you.
My own journey as a freelance writer and career coach helped me figure out how to help others overcome fear, develop confidence, and learn effective marketing skills.
Being an introvert, too humble, or having no confidence in your skills are a few factors that can impede your efforts to promote your writing, land more gigs, and earn well as a freelancer. Too many writers think the whole idea of self-promotion is arrogant and boastful. When I was starting out, I had somehow convinced myself that tooting my own horn was breaking some sacred social law. And that’s not the case at all.
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I just wasn’t confident in my writing or marketing early in my writing career, so I shied away from self-promotion. But I suffered more that way.
If you don’t promote your writing, you miss out on opportunities that could transform your freelancing business. I know I did. Being too shy to promote my writing meant I didn’t get huge clients with fat wallets. It was also the reason I used to scrape by with not-so-great clients to make a little money.
It wasn’t until I began marketing myself and overcoming my fear of self-promotion that I learned it was a key factor to surviving in the freelance world.
So, how’s it done? Well, here are five tips to help you overcome your fears, promote your writing, and start marketing yourself like a pro:
1. Talk about yourself without bragging
I ask my coaching clients to tell me a few of their best accomplishments. Often, I get a long-winded story or a seven-page essay with tons of unnecessary details (No joke!). When I review their submissions, I can easily see where they’re beginning to slide over into bragging.
To avoid this problem, when you’re talking about yourself, include how your experience helped someone else.
What was the outcome of your efforts? Who benefited from what you did? How can others learn from your experience? Other people do want to know about you, but avoid sounding like a broken record with your stories.
Tip: Work on this to improve your bio section in LOIs and queries. Think about how to showcase your talent and experience without blathering on and on about yourself when you get on a call with a prospect, or attend an in-person networking event.
2. Be confident, but not narcissistic
I failed this one early in my writing career. For the first four years, I worked mostly for content mills, not only because they were easy, but because I wasn’t confident enough to pursue private clients. I never thought anyone would pay me what I wanted, so I felt safe in the mills.
I was wrong. Going after content mill work is a dead-end way to promote your writing, and quickly drains you of confidence and creativity. And the pay stinks.
When I finally got fed up with mills and reached out to private clients, I discovered that my writing was good! Landing a few real clients on my own was a huge confidence booster. Once I got a taste, I wanted more.
Tip: Speak (and write) with confidence, and instill confidence in your readers and clients. Show proof of your confidence with your website content or client samples. Look for ways to promote your writing. Show a little confidence in queries and LOIs, discovery calls, or your website, and potential prospects will take notice. Just don’t go overboard.
3. Take credit for great work – It’s OK
It’s fine to be proud of an article, blog post, or social media campaign you wrote for a client. When you’re done with a project, give yourself an imaginary “pat on the back” and let others know. Toot your own horn. It’s OK, really.
People love to learn how others have overcome challenges, helped their clients succeed, or created buzz-worthy content. There’s more than one way to do this, but social media is a great place to promote your writing and share your client-success stories.
Learn to accept praise for your work
Some writers are too modest to take credit for a job well done—but you shouldn’t be. Modesty keeps you from going overboard and bragging, but the simplest way to take credit is to say, “Thank you.”
When I coach my career clients on how to market themselves, they sometimes tell me, “I don’t want to sound like I’m boasting.” But detailing your accomplishments as a manager or your contributions to a project is crucial to your self-marketing plan.
You don’t need to turn a recent writing project’s success into a long story — just mention how you were effective and who gained from it.
Tip: The next time you complete a project, mention it on social media, write a blog post about the process, or highlight your success in an LOI to a new prospect. If someone praises you for your work, take credit and say “thank you.” Need an example? Take a look at how freelancer Allen Taylor highlights his completed projects on LinkedIn.
4. Tone down achievement embellishment
If you’ve won writing awards, received recognition, or conquered defying odds, you want the whole world to know. Right? That’s great, but, don’t go too crazy.
Avoid long-winded, unneeded details about your achievements. For some of my clients in career transition, they want to include every single detail (And I mean everything!). For example, your bio in an LOI or query doesn’t have to mention every job you’ve held, school you’ve attended, or certification program you’ve completed.
I tell my career coaching clients that what they’ve done is great, but not to go overboard. For example, you can’t say you alone finished a project, if it was an entire team you led. Give credit where it’s due, and talk about achievements modestly. Also, make sure the accomplishments you discuss relate to your clients or prospects and how they can similarly succeed.
Tip: Take a closer look at your writer bio or “about me” page on your website and social media platforms. Look at versions of your bio you’ve used in LOIs and queries. Are you serving up a play-by-play of your entire work history? Of have you whittled it down to your most relevant skills and achievements? Need an example? Check out how freelancer Gary Schenkel did this in a recent LOI:
Case studies and customer success stories are a specialty of my content writing business. I combine my experience as a newspaper reporter and marketing communications professional to create detailed case studies that engage readers as they tell the story of how my clients’ products and services solve customers’ problems.
5. Be honest about your talent
Having multiple talents, especially in a writing career, is phenomenal. For instance, I’m a copywriter, blogger, and resumé writer. I promote myself in those areas specifically.
I can offer my services as a blogger, but not in all niches, because I specialize mostly in marketing. The same can be said of resume writing: Since I specialize in certain industries, I can’t tell my career clients I write for all industries. It’s not the truth.
There are two major problems with not being honest. The first is that you can promise too much and under-deliver, which makes for some very unhappy clients. The second is that once you’re exposed, it’s hard to regain that trust again.
Put simply: Don’t promise to do things you can’t.
Self-promotion shouldn’t feel shameful or offensive. You must market yourself to get business, especially in a freelance writing career.
Tip: You can still be an introvert, shy, or even have fears about freelancing and still be successful. But you can’t let this get in your way, if you really want to move up and earn more. Put these five tips into practice to overcome marketing shyness, and you’ll be on your way.
Need help with overcoming marketing shyness to move up and earn more? Let’s talk about it in the comments.
Nida Sea is a freelance copywriter, blogger and resume writer. She enjoys marketing and helping others to succeed in the online marketing world with her blog: Market Yourself.