How to Tell Everyone How Awesome You Are (Part 2)

Does self-promotion make you uncomfortable? Try this.

Welcome to One Thing Better. Each week, the editor in chief of Entrepreneur magazine (that's me) shares one way to be more successful and satisfied — and build a career or company you love.

Today’s one thing: Promoting yourself.

That one thing, better: Promoting with purpose.

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Last week, I wrote about how to promote yourself.

I got a lot of responses — mostly from people who recognize the importance of self-promotion, but who struggle to do it anyway.

Today, I want to help those people.

Let’s start with an email I got from a reader:

This is exactly where I've been stuck for years — working my butt off, quietly hoping people will notice how hard I work and how much I accomplish. When that doesn't happen, I think the people around me don't value me enough. It's been wearing down my confidence, especially as I get older.

But it's me who needs to change! I have a few ideas on where to begin after reading this newsletter, but... can you point to guidelines or tips for people for whom self-promotion doesn't come naturally? 

Yes, absolutely!

As I shared last week, I used to be exactly like this. I thought my hard work would simply be recognized and rewarded, and that self-promotion was garish and uncomfortable.

Today, I’ll share the first steps I took towards changing that — and creating massive new opportunities.

Let’s get self-promotional

Imagine trying to sell something that nobody wants. It’s embarrassing, right?

Now imagine selling something that everyone wants. That’s fun!

If you’re worried about self-promotion, you might be worried that you’re the product nobody wants — which is why you keep your greatness to yourself. To change that, we first need to validate you in the marketplace. We need to prove (to you!) that promoting you is valuable.

People often think that “self-promotion” means going big in public. That’s not true. Self-promotion just means being more visible to the people who can help you advance your goals — whether that’s emailing your network, sharing on social media, telling your boss about your wins, or anything else.

Today, I’ll share four things that helped me become self-promotional — which you can start doing today.

1. Start small, see results

You do not become a self-promotion machine overnight.

To start, you just need a tiny amount of validation — which means you need to run a tiny experiment.

My self-promotion journey began in 2016, when I became editor in chief of Entrepreneur. Until then, I had no audience and a relatively low profile. I wanted to build a personal brand, but worried: Will my friends scoff? Will strangers think I’m stupid?

I decided to run a low-stakes experiment. I created a new Instagram account that was focused on helping entrepreneurs, and told only few people about it. Then friends started following — and thanked me for the great advice!

Truly, I cannot overstate how important this small validation was. It emboldened me to share with more people.

This approach can work in infinite ways, even without social media.

At work, you could pick one person — a boss? a manager? — and start sharing some wins with them. (More on how to do that below.) You could start an internal newsletter, sending insights to colleagues. You could write an article, publish it on LinkedIn, and tag a few people you think would find it useful.

Just reach out. Absorb their reactions. Embolden yourself.

2. Share with a purpose

You know what feels weird? Emailing your boss to say, “Hey, I’m totally killing it — just wanted you to know!”

Now here’s what won’t feel weird: Emailing your boss to say, “Hey, I just had this great experience and learned something interesting — I thought you’d find it helpful.”

Maybe you just tried a new tactic or had an insightful conversation. You know something that others can benefit from — so you’re being helpful by sharing it. Oh, and now everyone knows about your success.

When you share with a purpose, you self-promote without explicitly promoting yourself.

This can take many forms. If you own a business, for example, don’t just hawk your wares on social media. Share your knowledge! Restaurants can start newsletters full of recipes. Plumbers can make instructional videos on YouTube.

And if you’re an employee at a company, become a resource for your team! At Entrepreneur, for example, my colleague Brittany Robins does something genius. She oversees digital editorial, and every week sends an internal email called “Headline of the Week.” It showcases a story that did particularly well, along with a breakdown of why the headline worked and how its success reflects current user trends.

I read it every week. And every week, I’m reminded of how well Brittany knows her stuff. That’s promotion with a purpose.

3. Use humor as a crutch

When I first began promoting myself, my language was casual and self-deprecating.

For example: When I launched a podcast called Problem Solvers in 2017, I sent an email to my professional network about it. Here was the subject line:

My email explained the show. It contained a funny gif, some jokes about why you might (or might not) want to listen, and at the end, I wrote:

You made it this far in reading a self-promotional mass email. For that, you are my hero.

Why did I write like this? Back then, I probably thought I was funny. But today, I see it for what it was: I was afraid. I didn’t want to appear self-important, and humor was my way of distancing.

This is not masterful self-promotion. But it’s good entry-level self-promotion. If you need a crutch, use it. Humor, sarcasm, self-deprecation, whatever. Get comfortable. The training wheels can come off later.

4. Promote others, promote yourself

Many years ago, I was telling my boss about something great my team had done. Then he interrupted me.

“You keep using the word ‘I’ when talking about your team,” he said.

This stopped me cold. It was true. I was saying things like “I decided to...” or “Then I changed it…” — but I wasn’t the only person involved in those decisions.

I was grateful, because that taught me an incredible lesson in self-promotion: When you hog all the credit, you sound greedy. But when you promote everyone around you, you build trust.

I try to always remember that. If someone compliments me on a project, I thank them and mention the other people involved. When I’m talking about a win at Entrepreneur, I compliment the people I worked with.

Carry this into everything you do. For example, my colleague Brittany’s “Headline of the Week” email is always hyping work from someone on her team. This makes them feel happy and seen, and still reinforces Brittany’s role as an insightful leader.

And if you’re a business owner who can’t solve a customer’s problem, refer them to someone who can! “Customers appreciate it,” says Lena Fleminger of Lena’s Wigs, who tells me she does this regularly. “They now understand that you’re not just trying to make a sale, but genuinely trying to help them solve a problem, even if the answer isn’t you!”

Ready to self-promote?

Remember, you’re not out there hawking. You’re out there helping.

You know something. You see something. You are experienced and insightful, and sharing your awesomeness can — and should! — help other people be more awesome too. 

Don’t sit around waiting to be noticed. Nobody will notice. But they will listen... as soon as you start speaking.

That’s how to do one thing better.

P.S. Can you do me a favor? Please forward this newsletter to someone who needs it!

P.P.S. Want to be in control of your time? A friend once showed me the “Freedom Squared” notecard, and I’m obsessed. Here it is.

P.P.P.S. Are you an early-stage CPG food/bev founder? I have a new company to help founders like you, and here it is!

P.P.P.S. Did you miss last week’s newsletter? It was about how to tell everyone how awesome you are. Read!

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