Shameless (but fearful) self-promotion

For 14 years, I’ve made my living as a freelance corporate trainer and business writer. I’ve had some ups and downs, but overall I’ve done pretty well, with a lot of repeat business and referrals. Because of this and because I am the laziest person you will ever meet, I don’t do any marketing. At all. No website, no networking, nothing. I don’t even have updated business cards.

I really hate trying to generate work, and not just because a big part of me would rather watch TV. I hate…selling.

Business people reading this blog: Then WHY did you go into business for yourself?!

Me: BECAUSE I wanted to wear my PJs to work, OK?!

Anyway, my workload took a little dip in 2010 – nothing to worry about. In fact, I welcomed the extra time for kid/life stuff.  But this year, it’s taking another dip, this time into darker, colder, fiscally nerve-wracking waters. No, I don’t get the metaphor either. Let’s move on.

So yesterday I reached out to an old client, one I haven’t worked for in a while, and asked for work. How do I hate this? Let me count the ways:

  1. I imagine they will be annoyed by the intrusion and won’t want to work with me [fear of rejection].
  2. I fear they will give me work and it will be tedious [fear of boredom].
  3. I worry they will talk me into a lower billing rate [fear of becoming someone’s bitch].
  4. I dread them asking for an updated resume, which is of course out of date…see lack of marketing, above [fear of tedious paperwork].
  5. I fear I will let it slip that I don’t find their work as thrilling as I pretend [fear of being found out].
  6. I fear they will see through my jolly “Hey, it’s been a while!”, recognize that my business is faltering a bit, at which point the naysayers in my head will exclaim, “See, told you it would never work!” The naysayers don’t actually exist. Doesn’t slow my crazy down. [fear of disapproval from people who aren’t any more real than demonic, murderous clowns. Cause there’s no such thing as demonic, murderous clowns, right? RIGHT?!]

So what did I get for facing all of these fears? Some work. Yay. So that was kind of easy. I bet now you’ll tell me to update my business cards.

Isn’t it  disturbing  annoying  endearing the way I share my neuroses with you all?

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20 Responses to Shameless (but fearful) self-promotion

  1. notquiteold says:

    Endearing. And although I am a business executive myself, I would rather sit in front of my computer than actually talk business to anyone.

  2. bigsheepcommunications says:

    From one freelancer to another, I share your distaste for marketing, networking, selling – blech. But, if you have a website, it can do a lot of selling FOR you – it’s like a little marketing buddy. A total pain to create, but very worthwhile. Ten points to you for calling and asking for work : )

  3. Debbie says:

    I’m with you. I’d rather do just about anything than self-promote…mostly because I can never figure out the best or right ways to do so.

  4. I recently updated my business cards. Now I have to get to some networking events.

  5. Gilly says:

    Selling *anything* has always been AWFUL for me! I couldn’t sell water to a thirsty person….because I’d just give it them. Haha! I think you were super brave to call an old client! Way to go!!

  6. My background and education are both in business, specifically publishing and advertising. I feel your pain, and share with you the un-updated business cards and utter lack of desire to market. But still. You do what you gotta do!
    And we’re all grateful that you share your neuroses with us 🙂

  7. Virginia says:

    I JUST found your blog via bloggy interconnectedness. I love your writing voice and can’t wait to dive in and read back on some of your stories that I’ve missed. What a great concept for a blog, and what a great thing to do for yourself, to accept those challenges.

    I’m going to have to spend a little time thinking about some challenges I might be able to make. Not promising I’ll come up with anything clever, but I’ll put some thought into it as I read back a bit. 😉

  8. Selling anything is awful. Having to sell yourself is the absolute pits. And you know why? Because it should be absolutely clear to everyone how absolutely indispensable those such as we are. But sometimes its good to do them a favour and remind them ….

  9. aliciaenvivo says:

    As funny as I find myself, you’re WAY funnier… thank you for the midday laugh, at work. Yikes, and speaking of which…. I should probably get back to it! (And yes, I am that jackhole who laughs at their own jokes – yep, definitely me.)

  10. Muff says:

    OK, do we need to have a little talk?

    Don’t think of it as self promotion or selling if you don’t like to do those things! (Love of Denial)
    Instead, think of it as helping others that are overburdened, and you have the skill and time to help them out! (Florence Nightingale Syndrome and/or total Narcissism).
    Have you thought of the alternatives to making a few calls to capture work? (Fear of Contingency Planning)
    Have you trained your girls to utter “May I have more cheese, sir?” in a cute little English accent while pouting their lips and rounding their eyes? (Fear of homelessness)

    The economy is brutal out there, and if you can resurrect a contact from the past and get work done with one phone call, count your lucky stars. It obviously means that your work is fantastic!

    People move, move with them or be left out in the cold.

    I recommend you read a patronizing little book called Who Moved My Cheese. It’s about making sure you aren’t stuck in one place without expecting your world to get overturned. I am sure you have seen it.

    (read it here:

    Also, if you want a shot at keeping your work life interesting at all, then you need to seek out new opportunities. Be brave and embrace your writing into a more active career. It doesn’t mean less time at home, it means you are good enough to CHOOSE which work available to you is good enough for you. How nice is that! But, you know what you have to do to get there, right?

    You don’t need an up-to-date resume or business card (although, God forbid you have these things…), use a portfolio approach if you don’t like the “corporate sales” approach. Referrals are your best bet to new work by the way…

    Oh, and don’t you think that this blog is a good place to start pointing people towards examples of your work? It’s excellent. Fun, entertaining, funny, enlightening… Find places to showcase what you have written and let the word spread on it’s own.

    I know you know how to make this interesting for yourself. Don’t count on others to bring in revenue. Count on yourself and knowing what you want. Great lesson to teach your girls as they grow up in a socially networked world…

    Now, are ya done whining?

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