How to Sell Yourself Even If You Hate the Idea of Selling

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Before leaving my cushy office job to become a freelancer, I knew I had to do more self-promotion. Making a career change meant starting from scratch and re-establishing my reputation in a new industry.

The only way I would make a decent living was to learn how to sell myself. That prospect didn’t excite me. It made me feel icky and anxious. However, it was an attitude I had to adjust.

If you hate selling, it’s time to develop a new mindset. Your success as an entrepreneur, freelancer, or side hustler depends on your ability to sell yourself. It’s not as problematic as it seems, and you’ll warm up to it once you realize it can move you closer to success and further away from failure.

What’s Behind the Aversion to Selling?

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Like many sales-phobic people, my dislike of selling came from unpleasant experiences with people trying to sell me stuff. Here’s what selling can feel like:

Selling feels like exerting pressure, and it can be one of the most uncomfortable feelings if you’re on the receiving end. Instead of perceiving enthusiasm and passion for their product, the sleazy salesperson resorts to high-pressure tactics that make us feel trapped and devoid of control.

Selling feels dishonest and manipulative. We all know that archetype of the car salesperson. They’re slick and fast-talking, quick with a shallow compliment. In some unfortunate cases, they’ll smooth-talk you into buying something you later realize you don’t need or is way out of your budget.

Selling is irritating. Getting repeated phone calls from unrecognizable numbers can be all kinds of annoying, and so can unsolicited trash in your email inbox. Honestly, what part of “no” don’t they understand?!!

Fortunately, selling doesn’t have to involve any of these characteristics, especially if you’re promoting your own business or increasing awareness of your services. If you think selling must be high-pressure, manipulative, or annoying, you might be doing it wrong.

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Unique Pitfalls of Service Providers

Some aspiring freelancers and entrepreneurs think they can do without self-promotion altogether. This is especially the case with service providers. They might believe that their expertise alone is enough to draw in business. This notion is false, and it can rob otherwise deserving professionals of income.

You can be the best at what you do, but it won’t matter if nobody knows you exist. Only selling yourself can make others aware of what you have to offer. Zig Ziglar said it best:

Nothing happens until someone sells something.

Zig Ziglar

You need to sell yourself if you want to break into a new niche or go into business for yourself. Even if you’re the most sales-phobic freelancer, you can move past your hang-ups and get good at self-promotion. It just involves an attitude adjustment and the following strategies:

Adopt an Attitude of Helping

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If you hate selling, then you probably wouldn’t dream of trying to push something that another person doesn’t want, need, nor can afford. Instead, you’d rather help by offering them something that’ll make them happy or solve a problem. There’s nothing manipulative about that, right?

You just have to pinpoint what product, service, or skill you have that would add value to other people or businesses. If what you have to offer is helpful, it’ll be memorable. More importantly, helping others allows you to . . .

Build Relationships

Building relationships is the cornerstone of promoting yourself and growing your business. Part of it involves connecting with and learning from people who have done what you’re trying to do and getting the kind of success you want.

Relationship building is also about showing up for people who need you. If you’re a blogger who has a knack for writing attention-getting headlines, create a free guide on writing headlines for your readers to download. If you look for and connect with others in meaningful ways, they’ll see the value in what you offer, and some will even pay for it.

Relationship-building is about showing up for people who need you.

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Be Authentic

Be honest about who you are and what you’re offering. This also means showing your human side. Talk about your mistakes by showing what you’ve learned without undermining your credibility. If you’re doing something that’s new to you, let people in on your journey. Perhaps the best way to convey your journey is to . . .

Tell a Story

A few years ago, I was stopped at a red light on my way to my office job. I thought about the day ahead, and I just started crying. But my meltdown couldn’t last long. When the light turned green, I quickly composed myself and gently pressed the gas. That day I vowed to find a way out of my grinding, stressful job.

I guess that is my origin story that inspired what I’m doing now. Most people can relate because it often takes a pivotal moment to motivate you to make the change.

Anyway, most humans have a natural ability to tell and remember stories. Tales are easy to tell and share with others, and they can solicit a strong emotional response. In many instances, they have more impact than hard-core evidence or statistics.

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Consider creating a story that describes how you got started on your current path, especially if it was born out of a single, decisive moment. Tell it in a personal way that shows your human side and resonates with others.

Share What You Create

Be like the state of Missouri and think, “Show me.” Instead of trying to talk a big talk, show the world what you do or make. If you want someone’s business, let them see how you can help them solve a problem or add value to their enterprise. The more you offer demonstrations, samples, or prototypes, the easier it’ll be for people to support you and sing your praises to others.

Lean on Content

The Girl Scouts have cookies that sell themselves. You can have the same kind of leverage when you can lean on quality content where people will see it. If you have a website, provide well-written, engaging articles, blog posts, white papers, or social media posts to educate readers and share your knowledge.

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Here are a few ways to use content to sell your expertise and boost your brand:

  • Discuss in-depth a product that provides a solution to a common problem.
  • Talk about a valuable lesson you learned from a mistake you made.
  • Publish a well-researched white paper to highlight a new product/service you’re launching.
  • Create a blog where you post regular articles.
  • Take a topic in your industry and present it differently or discuss the pros and cons. Be a little controversial.
  • Post an interview you’ve done with a respected field expert.

If you love writing, this can be fun for you. If not, consider enlisting one or more skilled writers to help you maintain fresh content. I might be biased, but investing in a professional writer is worth it!

Whatever content you post, just make sure that it’s helpful. You don’t want it to feel like an ad, but it needs to add value to your target audience. Even more exciting is that you build a community when you start to get followers.

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Gather Some Testimonials

Do you still cringe at the thought of selling yourself? Let others do it for you. If you already have satisfied clients, consider asking them for a short (2-3 sentences) testimonial to post to your website. A testimonial should highlight your services’ impact on a final product, such as increased revenue, sales, conversions, new customers, etc.

When asking for a testimonial, it’s best to provide a few questions your client can answer without much effort. HubSpot recommends some questions for getting top-notch testimonials:

  • What challenge were you trying to overcome, and how did I help?
  • What surprised you most about working with me?
  • What made my product/service stand out from others?
  • What sold you on deciding to work with me?
  • What made you happiest about working with me?
  • What have you been able to do as a result of hiring me?
  • What’s one word or phrase you would use to describe what I offer?
  • What was it like working with me through COVID-19?

HubSpot has excellent examples of email templates you can use to request testimonials.

Final Thoughts

Hopefully, you can now see how selling yourself doesn’t have to feel icky. The more you do it, the more confident you’ll be, and you might even enjoy it. The key is to put your misconceptions aside and adopt a different attitude.

Try it today! Start with one of the strategies above and see what happens. You can leave a comment below if you have a success story. It could inspire someone else.

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