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Three Tips for Mastering the Art of Effective Self-Promotion

While researching this article, I was shocked by the abundance of editorials that rail against the practice. A quick Google search produces headlines such as “ Why Self-Promotion is a Terrible Idea “ and “ Your Self-Promoting Is More Annoying Than You Think .”

Even headlines that tout the benefits of self-promotion are laced with warnings of societal judgement: “ 5 Tips for Practicing Self-promotion Without Being Totally Annoying “ and “ 40 Ways To Self-Promote Without Being A Jerk .”

We all have that friend who thinks they’re the next Grant Cardone, who posts inspirational quotes, uses hashtags like #entrepreneur, and hops from one pyramid scheme to the next.

And sadly, that’s the persona that comes to mind when talking about self-promotion-and it makes us recoil.

For some small-business owners, our fear of being perceived as unlikable, narcissistic, and arrogant causes us to hesitate when it comes to promoting our professional services.

But there’s a difference between being an #entrepreneur and mastering the art of effective self-promotion.

Learning how to promote yourself and your business is absolutely critical to your advancement and success-and it’s a concept that we should all learn to embrace and separate from the negative connotations that surround it.

Below are three things to keep in mind when learning how to self-promote in an effective way, without becoming an internet stereotype.

Promote yourself with intention at the right place, at the right time, to the right audience

There’s a difference between the aforementioned humble-bragging Facebook friend and someone who promotes themselves with intention.

What’s the intention of someone who boasts about themselves on social media or in a group of their friends and peers? To impress others? Does this person even have a clear intention in mind?

Now think about the way a business owner might promote themselves: by talking about the value of their skills and services to prospective clients, by touting the benefits of their product, and with targeted networking that puts them in front of the right audience.

Sure, your cousins might not be interested in hearing about what an amazing freelancer you are and how you’ve helped your clients make a ton of money around the dinner table at Thanksgiving. But your prospective clients would probably be very interested in hearing that story and how you might be able to do the same for them.

I became a believer in the art of self-promotion by spending the first half of my career in a male-dominated field and being mistaken, on more than one occasion, for the “pretty little secretary” in a group of my male peers.

And yes, that was an actual quote.

I didn’t have the luxury of being humble, else I would secure a permanent position in the background. And it wasn’t until I actively began to bring attention to my achievements that I gained some momentum in my career.

As a salaried employee, I frequently promoted my ideas, took credit for my successes, actively pursued advancement opportunities, and asked for raises. As a freelancer, I actively pursue large contracts and big clients. I ask for higher rates and am not afraid to tout the value of my services.

I have never received a raise, promotion, or business opportunity that couldn’t be traced back to my own active promotional efforts.

Good things don’t come to those who wait. They come to those who pursue them.

Substantiate your claims with case studies, testimonials, and referrals

Let’s go back to that previous example of the seemingly braggart friend on social media who is posting inspirational quotes and memes and talking about their own successes.

Now imagine that friend has actually built a multimillion-dollar business in an industry that you’ve been trying to break into. What if that friend was actually Grant Cardone instead of a Cardone wannabe? Would your opinions about that person change? Would your interest pique in what they had to say?

It’s one thing to talk about your successes; it’s another to be able to put your money where your mouth is.

If you can prove you’re great at what you do, it isn’t bragging-it’s just stating facts.

It’s even better if you can get a previous client or professional contact to offer a referral or vouch for you on your behalf.

Ever notice how some of your best clients and business contacts seem to be those who came to you by referral?

There’s a reason.

Talk about starting off on the right foot.

Quit worrying about the haters

With all of that said, there remains a certain vulnerability when it comes to putting yourself out there and singing your own praises. There will be haters along the way.

Women especially are more likely to suffer negative social consequences for self-promotion.

“We expect men to be assertive, so when they take the lead it feels natural to us. In contrast, we expect women to be kind and communal-so when they assert themselves, we react unfavorably,” claims the site.

This is why women are also more likely to be described as intimidating, aggressive, or bossy.

And to make matters worse, women also pay a penalty for being likable. According to the same site, when women are seen as agreeable and nice, we often see them as less competent.

Unfortunately, there isn’t a single easy answer to combat this problem. We must strive to walk the fine line between likeability and self-assertion and do our best to tune out the haters along the way.

I too have been called “bossy” and “aggressive.”

But I also know, had I let those words stop me from continuing to put myself out there, I would have denied myself the advancements and opportunities that were crucial building blocks in my small business.

“If a colleague says they don’t like how a woman bragged about her strengths or accomplishments in an interview, ask them to explore their thinking: ‘That’s interesting. Do you think you’d have that reaction if a man did the same thing?’”

“You can also reframe what happened: ‘I noticed that too, but I don’t see it as bragging. I just thought she was talking confidently about her talents.’ It’s also worth pointing out that a job interview is exactly the place to talk about your strengths.”

I cannot tell you how many opportunities would have not been made available to me had I not learned how to utilize self-promotion as a business tool. Embrace your promotional abilities with strategy, intention, and the ability to back up your claims-and who knows what doors might open up.

After all, no one is ever going to be as invested, or care as much about your business as much as you do.

Morgan Overholt

Tennessee native Morgan Overholt is a freelance graphic designer, owner of Morgan Media LLC and co-founder of Morgan and her team have worked with nationally recognized clientele from all over the world, including the Centers for Disease Control Foundation (CDCF), Kimberly-Clark, and Stanley Black & Decker.

Morgan transitioned into the role of freelancer and small business owner after spending nearly a decade in the traditional corporate world left her feeling unsatisfied and unfulfilled. Today, Morgan is passionate about sharing her story with other hopeful entrepreneurs who hope to follow in her footsteps. She has been featured on, Refinery29, and Business Insider.

Originally published at on October 29, 2020.



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Morgan Overholt

Morgan Overholt is a freelance graphic designer and owner of Morgan Media LLC. She is also a contributor for Business Insider and Collective.