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How To Promote Yourself Without Promoting Yourself

As freelancers, promoting yourself can be scary. There is something inherently sleazy feeling about saying “Here I am, come buy from me”.

But it doesn’t have to be that way.

If you have a service that other people need, you are doing them a disservice to not share it with them.

Whether promoting yourself makes you feel uncomfortable or not at all, there are ways to do it effectively and ways that may turn other people off.

I’ve been thinking about this a lot recently, in particular to Facebook groups. Being involved in Facebook groups is an incredible way to connect with potential clients and be of service to them.

But it’s not straight up promoting your stuff that will create that connection with the potential clients you want to see you.

Not only is it not the most effective way, but a lot of groups have rules to prevent it.

So how should you “promote” yourself then?

Here are the 3 ways I use to effectively get in front of my potential clients, without straight-up promoting myself:

Share a Story

In particular, a story that will inspire, educate or help your potential clients in some way. When I recently re-launched my web design website, instead of simply posting:

“Yay, I just launched my website! Come check it out!”

I took the the opportunity to share the things I learned during my relaunch. I did this as a post in a Facebook group I’m a part of and then turned it into a blog post (my most popular to date on that blog).

I showed the 3 main things I did differently with the website (hired a copywriter, got professional photos, focused on clarity) and showed how it increased my numbers (traffic & subscribers). I talked about the fears I had in investing in those things, and my advice to get over it.

The results from that Facebook post: I had close to 500 visits to my website and 32 new newsletter subscribers.

Would I have had that same result if I just said “come visit my website”? Probably not. And I know that because I have done it in the past and can clearly see the difference.

Of course- this completely depends on the size of audience you have for a post like that and the type of audience. If it is a support group for your industry, then it’s unlikely other members would be your potential client. And simply sharing your excitement that you launched your new site (without a story) is great.

The point is to share your story generously, without expectations (of traffic or subscribers or new clients) and the result might end up surprising you.

Be of Service

Being of service to potential clients is the best promotional strategy there is in my experience. In fact, even being of service to everyone can have amazing effects. Because it’s not just your potential clients you will get work from. It’s the connections you make and the people you help that will refer you. There’s nothing better than referrals, and people only refer nice people, especially helpful ones.

The ways to be of service are endless. Instead of spending mindless hours scrolling through feeds on social media, do it intentionally. Constantly ask yourself, how can I be of service online today.

Here are some ways that have been incredibly useful for me:

  • Answer people’s questions on social media, give advice from your experience and offer words of encouragement. If you’ve written a blog post on the topic they are struggling with, give them the link.
  • Do PIF (pay it forward) offers. I once offered to design & setup Facebook page tabs for the first 3 people to respond to a post. I had over a 100 responses. Many of which understood they were too late for the offer and asked how they could hire me to do it for them. Extra bonus: quite a few Facebook likes and newsletter subscribers. The point is to do it with no expectations. What small service can you do for a few people that would help them tremendously?
  • Take the conversation into private message. Offer to help in more detail than you could typically do in a Facebook comment, for example.

The more you give, the more you’ll receive. In clients, referrals, and woo woo general happiness. I promise.

Ask for Feedback

Without linking to your stuff.

I recently came up with a course idea (I’m full of them these days!) but really didn’t know if it was a problem people needed solved.

So I ask in a Facebook group- telling them the idea and asking what questions they have and if this is something they would be interested in.

Not only did I get the feedback I was looking for (400+ comments!)- but surprising side-effect, the people (55!) that were really interested took the time to click on my profile, find my website, and optin to my newsletter.

I didn’t ask them to do it. I didn’t plan on them doing it. I genuinely was researching and gauging interest in a potential offer.

A common way to gauge interest is to set up a newsletter list and ask people to optin if they want more information. Although this is great to do on your own site, in Facebook groups in particular, this can come off as too promotional, and the results will not be the same.

So be open. Ask for feedback. The more people see you and what you’re up to (and not through straight-up promoting yourself) the bigger your online presence will become.

The point:

You will grow your tribe (and business) best by stepping back from the idea of having to promote yourself and simply putting yourself out there in the most genuine way possible.

But you have to put yourself out there.

No growth will come from standing on the sidelines, reading through social media feeds and being fearful of “having to promote” yourself.

In fact, just strike “promote” from your vocabulary and replace it with “be of service”, “share your story”, “ask for feedback”. And do it more often.

The rest will fall into place.

I want to hear from you:

Do you worry about having to promote yourself?

What are your favorite ways to promote yourself without promoting yourself?

Let me know in the comments!


Leah Kalamakis Leah Kalamakis is the founder of The Freelance To Freedom Project and a web designer/developer for brilliant entrepreneurs. When she’s not hanging out in the FTF Community, you can find her people watching on the streets of NYC. Come say hi on Twitter, Instagram, or Facebook.

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{ 36 comments… add one }
  • Great post, Leah, and totally spot on. I think I told you I’m part of the Michael Port mentoring group and his whole system boils down to creating relationships and sharing “what you know, who you know and how you feel.” When you genuinely strive to be of service to others, marketing doesn’t seem like marketing so much anymore.

    Also, as I was reading through this, it occurred to me that there are no Facebook groups for the industry I’m in. Have you ever done a post on how to set up and run a FB group? If not, I’d love to see one!

    • Leah Kalamakis Leah

      Yes- Michael is spot on! I love when marketing doesn’t feel like marketing 🙂 That’s true, I haven’t seen a group for your industry either. Great post idea, will add it to my list!

  • Oh Leah,
    you are just So good at creating genuinely interesting buzz around what you do, without ever being douchey.
    Thanks for the tips 🙂

    • Leah Kalamakis Leah

      Thank you Maria! I’m glad I don’t come off as douchey 🙂 Isn’t that a strange word- shower in French?! I wonder why…

  • Oh my goodness, yes! I always worry about self promoting and I don’t really think I’m good at it. I much prefer an approach like this, but then get nervous because I’m never really sure my efforts are working and struggle with the feeling that I should be doing more. But my focus with my blog has been just to share my story, be real and be open and hope people like that and are attracted to it. Thanks for affirming that! I’m going to work on the other ideas too.

    • Leah Kalamakis Leah

      I know the feeling, and yes, it is often hard to determine if it’s working. The only factor to look at really is if your biz is growing, and if so- you’re golden!

  • Great post and very relevant – I have constant ‘putting yourself out there’ fear but am currently trying to man up and get over it! Some great suggestions here that I’ll be sure to remember thank you.

    • Leah Kalamakis Leah

      Yes- gotta get rid of that fear Callie! Thanks for the comment!

  • So spot on with this one, as always Leah! Sharing…

  • Wise words Leah. I sometimes find it hard to offer help without expectations.I’ve done it before and felt taken advantga eof. I set up a Facebook page for s.o. who loved it and promplty gave his business to a competitior : (

    • Leah Kalamakis Leah

      Yeah, that can be the downside. I find that it is a very small majority however that take advantage in this situation. I’m sorry to hear that happened to you. Keep truckin’ because I think most people are nice, and thankful, and you’ll be rewarded for your generosity most of the time. Maybe it’s about who you are being generous with and you need to be a little more picky 🙂

  • Love this post Leah…’s all about sharing a story that people can relate to and providing massive amounts of value and service.

    Putting yourself out there might be the most difficult thing to do because it makes you feel vulnerable, but that’s where the beauty of it resides, people will love you for who you are and not for who you are trying to be.

    Great post!

    • Leah Kalamakis Leah

      Exactly Cesar. Always wise words from you!

  • You’ve perfected the art of self-promotion without being obnoxious. Once again, thanks for the great post!

    • Leah Kalamakis Leah

      Yes, Amy- the opposite of obnoxious is what we’re going for here!

  • Pimping other people and their wins (no matter how small). It makes me feel good, and I treat people the way I’d like to be treated. 🙂

    This is a brilliant post, Leah. Spot on. 🙂

    • Leah Kalamakis Leah

      Ohhh I love that!! I use it too and it feels soooo good. But you are the master at that for sure! Thanks Halley.

  • Elizabeth

    Great post Leah! I always feel awkward promoting myself. This post has been really useful! thank you.

    • Leah Kalamakis Leah

      I know the feeling Elizabeth! But glad the post was useful to you!

  • Perfect timing, thanks for this Leah. This has been on my mind lately. You want to get yourself out there but you don’t want to shove it down peoples throats . cheers Lisa

    • Leah Kalamakis Leah

      Thanks for stopping by Lisa!

  • Great post Leah! I’ll definitely be taking some of these self-promotion recommendations in the coming weeks!

  • I’ve learned as a 16 year old kid that the best way to promote is to offer free stuff 🙂 That’s how I got into the business. After making free graphics and website layouts for a while, people started asking me to make websites for money. It was a pleasant surprise!

    Sadly, as years went by I had less and less time to create the freebies, and moving my portfolio to a new domain (with the only one remaining dedicated to freebies) meant I had to get people to my new website all over again.

    I haven’t tried asking for feedback before, but considering the response you’ve had it seems to be worth it.

    I did answer a lot of people’s questions, but I guess I was doing it in the wrong communities, as I rarely got anything back (even answers to my own questions). So I suppose the essential thing is actually to find a responsive community. It’s kinda demotivating when you’re putting in the effort, and barely get a thank you, let alone traffic to your site.

  • Great post, I love all of these tips! As a newbie freelancer I’m just starting to get to grips with learning how to promote myself + have always shied away from it but your tips come from a really authentic place – being of service is key! Thank you xx

  • Love this! Thank you so much for sharing this! Promoting myself does make me feel uncomfortable but I like the way you explain it. The more you give, the more you will receive.

  • I’ve never thought of or read these tips before! Thanks for sharing! I’m planning to start doing freelance this year and am very new to the whole process.
    Q- where/how do you find Facebook groups to join? This is my first time hearing about industry groups!
    Thanks again for this post!

  • jan

    Have to say, Leah, you are a girl after my own heart. This is totally the way I attempt to live my life, my love, my business. I look forward to reading your work, meeting you, and working with you.
    With kindest regards,

  • Nnadi Victor

    Awesome post Leah. For me, I feel I’ve been getting this promoting thingy wrong for a while. I tried promoting myself as one of the top in my Industry and i am actually still climbing the ladder. I’ve learnt from you to be sincere and selfless and willing to help others.

  • I do worry to self promote @times i do feel i might annoyed a few people on my social media ..Either way i still post my promotions but with such thoughts in my head of what others might think or so..If i stop promoting my self than no one will even know i exist or book me for i gotta keep the hustle on ..I really appreciate your Pointers on how to promote in the most genuine way possible.. Gotta Try IT..
    Best way to self promote without self promoting!?!? .
    Still working on that ,trying to search a way to self promote without self promotion & other ways to do so that are more catchy and intresting to the Audience to get them to comment ,like or ,share MY Bussiness with others .
    Thats how i ended up in your page 🙂 LEAH KALAMAKIS

  • Yes, as a writer and an introvert, I definitely struggle with how to promote myself. I do plan to guest blog on a few sites and such. Later on, I will update and relaunch my website, once I know what I can offer regarding products/services (ie books, writing coaching, etc)

  • Great advice about promoting (or not promoting) yourself on social media! These days with so much going on internet wise ist really easy to get lost in the shuffle!

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