Here’s a secret: promoting yourself is a team effort. The biggest mistake you can make when planning to market, brand and sell both yourself and your services is thinking it’s actually about you. Really, it’s all about them: family and friends, colleagues, clients, employers and peers.
Promoting yourself is about empowering, encouraging and motivating others to do it for you. The entire framework of social networks is built on trust, and word of mouth is still king in closing a sale. However, that doesn’t mean you can sit on your laurels and wait for people to notice you. To give others reasons to promote you, there are a few fundamental things you must get right.
There are many reasons why talented web designers and developers are overlooked, but you can narrow most of them down to fear of exposure. Whether you’re naturally shy, don’t like judgement or misinterpret self-promotion as something morally reprehensible, this leads to an irrational worry over getting your name out there. However, if you want to take your career and income to the next level, the reality is that you need to be seen and heard. Exposure simply opens up new opportunities with new people, which helps no matter where you are in your career.
There’s a strange irony in that when we work with clients, we go through a huge discovery and planning process, but when we work for ourselves, we don’t do nearly enough research.
The truth is, most of us don’t know what we’re about, cannot communicate what’s in our heads or have a lack of focus in what we have to offer. If it’s unclear to you what you want to say, how do you expect others to spread the message?
There are many ways you can tackle formalising the process of discovery for yourself, but a simple one is surveying those around you and finding out their perception of who you are. I go through this in detail on my blog in the article ‘The Art of Self-Branding’. First, ask people to list the first three adjectives that come into their heads when they think of you. Then, once you have answers from about 10 people of varying relationships, rank them based on how long you’ve known them and how important your link is.
Take some time to review the answers from people who know you well versus those who know you in a smaller capacity, and note descriptions that repeat. Armed with that data, organise your business practices and promotional strategies to suit. Communicate these tenets to others so they know what to say when people ask about you.
Finally, learn to make friends. This isn’t about social networking, per se; it’s about reaching out to others. Most importantly, relationships must be nurtured beyond hypertext. There’s nothing like connecting with someone in person, so meet as many people face to face as possible. With longdistance clients, insist on the occasional video chat or phone call. I’ve noticed that relationships I’ve had online for years change significantly after I meet the person; there’s a greater connection and urgency to help each other out. An increase in leads or opportunities becomes more inevitable after an in-person meeting.
Of course, this doesn’t mean you should be slack with your online networking. Join forums, send emails and update Facebook and Twitter regularly. Then ask questions and provide answers. Be yourself and be useful.
Promoting yourself is hard because it’s often quite personal, and not having complete contro is a bit daunting. But if you master these basic principles, you’re well on your way to getting others to notice you. Hopefully, they’ll want to work with you in the future.
This article originally appeared in issue 214 of .net magazine - the world's best-selling magazine for web designers and developers.