A question I’ve been asked a lot is how to get others to notice your work.
Whether it’s getting interviewed on podcasts, getting articles published by industry publications or just increasing awareness about who you are and what you do—it’s a fairly common want for folks who run their own business.
The problem is the way most folks attempt to go about it is wrong. I hate being as black and white as that, but it’s true. Here’s why…
Cold pitching, unless you’re ridiculously great at it, is an effort in futility. It’s hard work, but not smart work. Especially if you’re cold pitching publications or huge podcasts, all you’re doing is getting your email (that you probably spent a great deal of time on) into some intern’s inbox, which already has 1,000s of unread pitches from people exactly like you in it.
Now I’m not trying to turn you off promoting yourself or getting your name out there, nor am I trying to be downer. I’m just trying to lay the groundwork for working smarter to accomplish what you’re after.
For the same amount of time and effort, I want to offer you a different way to accomplish the task of getting your name out there. It’s a four-step process, and it’s simple (but not easy).
You ever notice how everyone’s an expert at everything on the internet? Everyone’s got 2 months of experience learning about something, which they then turn into an info-product?
Don’t do that.
You don’t have to perfect your craft (note: this is impossible), you don’t have to hole up in solitude for decades working on something, but you do have to have a bit of real world experience with doing, trying, failing, fixing, adjusting to pass the sniff test for people with bullshit detectors (i.e. everyone on the internet).
You can’t get good at your craft by reading articles about it on Medium. You can’t get good at your craft by buying a course on the subject, which you turn around and copy the course your just bought to sell as your own.
You can’t just jump ahead of learning into teaching or sharing. Plus, the learning part is the funnest part—it’s where you get to really know and understand just how many moving parts are involved. It’s where you can start to understand the impact and ramifications of choices you make about what you do ripple outward.
It’s why it’s easier and more enjoyable to learn to dance when no one’s watching (except for that ridiculous show—but that doesn’t really build experts, it builds on the idea that we like to laugh at famous people acting like fools). You don’t want to be known as someone who’s hilarious to watch fail at latin ballroom, you want to be the one who kills at dancing latin ballroom.
Honing your craft is how you build a point of view about it (teaser alert: more on this in the final step).
Do you know how many times I’ve struck out at cold-pitches to publications or huge podcasts? Every single time I’ve tried.
Do you know how many times I’ve got a chance to write for or be interviewed when I got a warm intro to someone? I bat 1000 with that, because if I’m one degree of separation away from that person, someone I know will speak kindly about me on my behalf. And more importantly, they’ll skip the intern’s unread inbox pile and go directly to the decision maker.
If you’re paying attention to others, you’ll notice that the folks who seem to have the most success, or at least are the ones who are showing up in all the places you spend your time online are the folks who seem to know everyone. That’s not a coincidence or just because they’re super extroverted. It’s a very specific and smart strategy. First, getting to know other people who are in, related to, or connected to what you do is interesting because you probably care about what you do and love to learn more about it from others. Second, there’s no downside to connecting to other people (we’re hardwired to crave this).
I can already hear some of you sighing about this. “But I’m an introvert, I can’t do those things!” or “But I’m socially awkward, I suck at those things!”
Here’s the difference between being good at your craft and being good at business. You can be a great designer or writer or whatever and totally rock at step one. But then if you don’t also do step two, it’s hard to run a business, because running a business means networking, since that’s how deals happen at every level. I’m completely introverted and painfully awkward, and I still work at learning about new people, reaching out to them, and staying in touch.
Whether you’re a freelancer, a tiny business or work at a massive corporation, you’ve got to network a little. Liking tweets isn’t networking. Handing out business cards, rapid fire, at conferences isn’t networking. Networking is being a human and getting to know other humans who are doing similar things. Trust me, they’re super interesting and they’ll think you’re super interesting too.
I know zilch about publicity and getting it. There are pro’s who do that, but most freelancers or tiny businesses won’t want to or even won’t be able to afford the great ones.
This is totally fine. You don’t need to use a PR professional to get notice for your business. Sure, they can help, most of us don’t need that level of notice to succeed. That’s probably why most web designers or conversion copywriters aren’t on Good Morning America or on the front page of the Washington Post.
I’ve never cared much about getting my name out there or being featured in publications. Sure, it’s awesome when it happens, but I’ve never put any energy into getting it. Instead, I put my energy into building and fostering my own audience, i.e. the people who are already listening and paying attention.
There’s brilliance in building your own audience first (which I only realized after the fact, but pretend I had a plan, because it makes me sound smarter). Think about what people pay attention to? They pay attention to things others have proven they’re already paying attention to. It’s like credibility—a huge podcast isn’t going to want to have you on a guest if you have no audience or social proof that other people care. Which is actually totally fine, because those one-off instances of press, even if they’re huge, are short-lived. Whereas if you work at building and fostering a connection to your own audience, on your own platform, then that relationship can last for as long as you put energy and effort into it.
The main reason people pay attention to anyone is because they first make sure others are paying attention to that person. People get book deals if they prove their audience cares about their writing. People get interviewed if they prove their audience cares about their opinion (more on this in a second).
So start with your audience and your own platform. You can be brilliant about this from the start (instead of only in hindsight, like me).
I put a lot of people off. There are a ton of folks who hate me and what I have to say (I know this because they tell me about it all the time).
Why? Because I don’t mince my words or ideas. I’m intentionally clear about my point of view in what I talk about because I want people to be clear on me.
The consequence of being like this is a few things. First, it makes your ideas far less boring. (Note: as a person, I’m super boring, but since my ideas are opinionated, they aren’t). When was the last time you saw a news piece about someone who didn’t have an opinion about something? That’d be too boring to air or print. Second, this helps put people off quickly if they aren’t right for the group of folks you want to reach. Seriously, I’ve noticed that if a person is super offended that I used “fuck” in an article, they’ll be the type of person that won’t get a whole lot out of what I sell, for example. Third, and most importantly, by being honestly who you are and sharing honestly what you think about things, it draws the right people closer to you. The people who get what you have to say and why you’re saying it. It makes you memorable to them and gives them a rally point for what they think and feel that’s similar.
If you’re wondering what your opinion is about the work you do, or can’t figure out what polarizing thing you believe about your work, then refer back to step one. The more you learn about your craft, the more you’re going to know what works, what doesn’t, and why. That forms a point of view, and leads to being able to honestly share that insight.
Finally, know that like everything else, this is my own opinion, shaped by my own experiences and warped by my own tremendous yet fragile ego. I’m blunt and seemingly harsh above because I want you to do well. You’re also free to do the opposite or half, and prove me completely wrong. But if you are going to learn how to do latin ballroom in public, make sure to send me the Youtube video.
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