First off, if you are a creative entrepreneur of any kind (blogger, artist, photographer, musician, etc.), you’ve probably already realized that promoting yourself and your projects/business is absolutely vital to your success. And for many of you that probably makes you feel SUPER UNCOMFORTABLE. I think many of us (myself included) grew up hearing that we shouldn’t talk about ourselves too much as it might come off as bragging or like we are full of ourselves or something. But, if you’re about to launch your latest line of handmade necklaces and you don’t tell people… well, chances are no one is going to buy one (because they’ve never heard of it!).
Self-promotion is key to a creative entrepreneur’s success. It is absolutely vital and there’s really no way around it. If you’re still in the boat of I-don’t-feel-comfortable-promoting-myself, let me gently encourage you to step out of your comfort zone. You can do this. You really can! And there are lots of ways to self-promote without being (too) annoying. But the bottom line is you have to give yourself permission to talk about the things you work hard on. Here are five ideas to get you going:
1. Start a newsletter/email list
Ground breaking, I know. But here’s some real truth, we didn’t start a mailing list for the first six years we had a blog. We already had multiple books and an app out before we ever started one. So silly! I think for a long time we thought no one would want to sign up for an ABM newsletter, but we were wrong. The great thing about an email list (or newsletter, I’m using the words to mean the same thing here) is users have given you permission to contact them by joining the list. They WANT to know if you have a new product out or are offering a sale.
You can find about one million articles online about starting and maintaining a newsletter. One resource I really like is the Smart Passive Income Blog, so check out Pat’s site if you haven’t already. There are also lots of different sites that can host your email list. (I recommend using a reputable one as there are legal considerations when you start a newsletter—mainly that users are able to opt out anytime they choose. So pick a site that can facilitate this.) We have used and liked MailChimp, but it can become costly the more your list grows, so do your research and find a source that works for you.
Once you have a newsletter, just remember these three things: make it easy for users to find it and sign up (don’t bury it in your website design or no one will sign up since they can’t find it!), occasionally reward users for subscribing by offering a special discount or a free download of some kind (depending on what type of products or services you offer), and don’t be afraid to use your newsletter often. We used to be very afraid that if we sent out too many newsletters everyone would unsubscribe because it might feel too spammy. If people want to unsubscribe, they will. Don’t worry about it. Just make sure you are offering real content with each newsletter and see how your users respond, then adjust accordingly.
2. Host a giveaway
Everyone loves getting something for free, right? I know I do. Hosting a giveaway is a great way to remind people about your projects but also offer them a chance to win something. Let’s say you just launched your first e-course. Hooray! You post about it online and wait for the students to start rolling in. After a few days or a week your post is buried and forgotten. So how can you remind people without being a broken record? One option is to give away a few “copies” of your course. This will generate interest, and it’s a way to get your course in front of eyes again without having to say the exact same message you posted before.
One word of caution on giveaways is you have to be strategic and also cost effective. If you’re promoting a digital product, like my example with the e-course, then you can afford to giveaway as many copies as you like since there are no printing or shipping costs involved. But what if you make custom wedding dresses for a living? How can you possibly host a giveaway? If it’s not cost effective to giveaway a custom wedding dress, what else could you offer that relates to your product/service? Could you create a downloadable mini wedding planner you could giveaway? Do you have the skills to create a necklace or other accessory that might not need to be sized and can more easily be made and shipped without costing you an arm and a leg? Sometimes you have to get creative to get your idea out there.
3. Offer a discount or sale (for a set amount of time)
This is a similar tactic to hosting a giveaway. Basically when you host a sale you get to talk about your project again but without being a broken record (because you’re informing everyone about the sale). If your discount or sale is only for a set amount of time, even better! This gives people a more immediate call to action letting them know they only have so long to take advantage of the sale, and it gives you the ability to talk about your sale at least twice: once to announce the sale, and once toward the end of the set time to remind everyone the sale is about to end. Setting how much you can discount your project for is up to you and your margins.
4. Publish related (free) content
This is most effective on a blog or website, but it can also work on many social channels as well. Let’s say you are publishing a cookbook. The day comes and you blog your heart out about your new cookbook! OK, great, now what? It’s two weeks later and you want to remind everyone about your cookbook again, but how can you do this without being totally annoying (and you already hosted a giveaway too :)). Why not post an original recipe (not found in your new book, or one that is), and at the end of the post say something like, “If you enjoyed this, then you’ll love my new cookbook where you get over 100 original recipes. Click here to learn more!” Yes, it’s got a touch of sales-y in there for sure, but what you really just did was give people something for free and then offer them more if they want it. That’s not annoying, that’s actually a lot of work and really nice. And it’s a great way to remind people of projects!
5. Incentivize others to promote too
If you don’t want to do all the talking yourself, or if you want to reach people that you don’t currently have a connection to, then I highly recommend you look for ways to incentivize others to promote your project. The ultimate example of this is to set up an affiliate program. If you’re not familiar with affiliate programs, google it. But basically it’s a way to partner with others so when they promote your project and sales are made, they receive some set amount of payment or a percentage of the sales.
Other ways to get others to help promote is to offer them your project early or at a discounted rate. For example, when we released both of our apps, we sent goodie bags with iTunes gift cards to friends and other influencers a week before the launch. They were able to learn about our app, download it for free, and get a few goodies while we hoped they might like our new app and post about it on their channels. If you go this route, know that not everyone you send a goodie bag to is going to necessarily post about your venture. But if they like it, they might. And if they don’t, just chalk it up to the cost of doing business.
I could probably write another 1000 words on each of these five ideas, but I think I’ll leave you with these thoughts for now. If you have questions regarding any of these, or if you have other small business questions, feel free to leave them in the comments. Thanks for letting me share and to all you creative entrepreneurs reading—GO YOU! We’re totally rooting for you here at ABM. xo. Emma