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How to Promote Yourself, Even When You’re Uncomfortable Doing It

The first rule of talking about you: It’s not actually about you.

I was recently on Instagram Live talking about my book, when someone made this comment:

Don’t forget guys, he’s getting paid for this.

Years ago, a comment like that would have killed me. I was afraid to promote myself or my work, because it always felt like begging. So when I did promote myself, I did it with self-depreciating humor. When I first launched my podcast, for example, I emailed my friends with the subject line, “In case you’re not sick of my voice.”

But today I have no problem promoting myself. I talk clients into hiring me for speaking engagements. I talk universities into buying hundreds of copies of my book. I am out there. And I’m making much more money as a result.

So how did I go from one to the other?

First, I watched how gracefully entrepreneurs promote themselves. There’s no fuss. No tap dance. They instead frame their sale as a benefit. They talk about how useful their work is.

That concept started to sink in for me: Useful.

I needed to think of my self-promotion as useful—not to me, but to the people I’m reaching.

Once I discovered this, I ran a little experiment. I get many connection requests on LinkedIn, primarily from strangers. For a while I had no idea what to do with these people. But then I tried something: I accepted everyone, all at once. Hundreds of them. Then I personally sent them all the same short message.

“Hey, thanks for connecting with me on LinkedIn,” it began. “I'm guessing you're already aware of Entrepreneur magazine, so I wanted to make you aware of a few other, related resources that might be interesting to you.”

Then I told them about my podcasts and personal newsletter.

The response was immediate and enlightening.

“Thank you so much. Love this!!!” wrote one person.

“Jason, this is awesome! Can’t wait to check it all out!” wrote another.

One guy quickly listened to multiple episodes of my shows, then wrote a thoughtful note about them. Another listened, reached out for advice on building his own podcast, and we discovered a potential partnership for both our brands.

I’d worried that self-promotion was a burden. Now here people were literally thanking me for doing it, and offering new opportunities. I started laughing out loud. It was so nuts!

I still do this, years later, though I've evolved the message I send. I’ve also learned something big and very important — and this is what I told the guy on Instagram Live, when he made that comment.

I said, look:

If you create or do something useful to other people, and you believe it can help them, then it is your responsibility to tell them about it.

Because you are giving them something of value.

I don’t care if you have a company, make a product, or if you wrote something that people should read. Maybe you’re just talking yourself up at a networking event. Maybe you’re at a party and meet someone you think you can help.

When you think of promotion as a gift — as a thing you do to help others gain access to your greatness — then promotion isn’t awkward. It’s also not something to be scared of, or embarrassed about. It requires no hesitation.

Just the other day, I was in a bookstore signing copies of my book. A customer started looking at the book, but clearly felt shy asking me about it. So I turned to him and said, “If you buy it now, I can sign it for you!”

He told me his girlfriend is going through a career change, and asked if the book could help. Absolutely, I said. He called his girlfriend over. We talked for five minutes about what she’s doing, and I explained some of the relevant lessons from the book. She was sold.

And she thanked me.

That’s nothing to apologize for.

Let's Loudly Quit "Quiet Quitting"

How to Promote Yourself, Even When You’re Uncomfortable Doing It

I hate the phrase "quiet quitting." Why?

  1. It treats an old thing as new.

  2. It frames the problem all wrong.

So what's smarter? I discuss on New York's PIX11 — watch here!

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Cover credit: Getty Images / Westend61