Advice — Create your own luck: Three ways to promote yourself and attract new opportunities
Like it or loathe it, self-promotion is a natural component to shaping your ideal creative career. But for many, promoting yourself can be a painful task, tangled up in self-doubt and embarrassment. This is something that Stefanie Sword-Williams is on a mission to change with her platform, F*ck Being Humble, which encourages creatives to find the inner-confidence to proactively chase their goals. At a time when it feels as if opportunities are dwindling, here Stefanie makes a case for making your own and standing out against the crowd – with examples of creatives who have done just that.
I’ll be straight with you. I have spent so long trying to convince people that self-promotion doesn’t have to be cringy, self-indulgent or come across as an arrogant monologue on social media. And for some people, my words of optimism and guidance has been enough to challenge their preconceptions, but for many there is still a big sense of scepticism around the topic of self-promotion. And to be fair, if you’ve spent 20 years being taught that being humble is the best way to succeed, then I understand why you might have some reservations about becoming your own best hype-man (or woman).
So instead of me trying to reference successful musicians, artists, actors or celebrities who have made it (because let’s face it, they all have their own PR team marketing), I wanted to share a collection of self-promotion success stories that I’ve gathered in the past six months that can act as evidence. These are real stories about real people who have combined self-belief (the belief that we can do something with or without the skills) with action in order to create new opportunities for themselves, start something new and stand out against the competition.
1. Stop sitting on ideas, start actioning them
How many times have you and your friends come up with a random idea when you’re down at the pub or hanging out at home but never actually explored how you could make it a reality? You blame it on lack of experience, resources or funding and the idea soon loses momentum.
But what if you didn’t ignore those ideas? What if you documented every insight you observed and experimented with ways to solve them? By pushing yourself to actually explore the ideas, you open up the possibilities of creating industry-changing solutions in your spare time, not just the workplace.
Sometimes you don’t have to look further than the surroundings of your home to be inspired, so turn those ‘Wouldn’t it be great if…’ moments into real solutions that show exactly what you are capable of.
2. Be proactive with your social media
Something I always encourage people to create is a digital space to demonstrate your experience and abilities. A portfolio PDF is great, but unless you send that document to new prospects every day, how do you expect for them to know who you are and what you offer? Even portfolio websites can have limitations too, because until you build up your reputation in your chosen industry, you might find that companies aren’t actively searching for your website.
So instead of waiting to be found, it’s worth thinking about which channels you can use that already have existing audiences. You don’t have to invest in them all, but try to make sure you are regularly sharing content about yourself, your latest projects, wins, collaborations and relevant industry news. This can be across platforms like The Dots, LinkedIn, Instagram or Twitter.
Creating shareable visual content that can be liked, shared, tagged or commented on doubles your chances of getting noticed. Don’t just create a shop window, create an ‘always on’ digital profile that other people can engage with and share on your behalf. Then sit back, and watch the opportunities grow.
3. Network your arse off (online and offline)
Networking isn’t cancelled just because public gatherings are. If anything, it’s now easier than before, because you don’t have to spend time travelling, drinking cheap wine or getting trapped in dry conversations.
The best way to find good online events is to sign up to your favourite media and brand newsletters, follow communities on social media and trawl through event platforms like Eventbrite and The Dots to find the opportunities that suit you. Then it’s just a matter of introducing yourself in the chat function when prompted, sharing your website, social media handle and what you’re searching for.
Think about what you could share from the session on your own channels after the event; for example, tagged screenshots, photos, notes, or you could even create bespoke artwork your favourite quotes. You can send a follow-up DM on LinkedIn, tag someone in a post on Instagram, follow people on Twitter who attended the event, or start a thread with your favourite takeaways.
The nice thing about digital networking is that you actually have a bit more time to research and plan how you open up a conversation. And whatever you do, don’t worry that someone is too senior or ‘important’ to speak to; digital networking breaks down that feeling of hierarchy and makes that first move a lot easier to stomach!
Remember, all of these success stories happened because each person put their words into action. You don’t need to wait for the jobs market to pick back up, or for your portfolio to spotted by someone senior, to get noticed. You just need to take proactive steps in order to create your own space to thrive.