I wish I could sell myself. That’s what a Wise Introvert email list subscriber (and fellow introvert entrepreneur) wrote to me. I am so grateful for her comment because I know that many of you feel the same underlying frustration.
It touched a soft spot in me too. Let’s face it, for most of us, self-promotion is an ongoing area for growth and confidence building.
Whether you’re building a successful career or a sustainable business, the requirement that, “I have to sell myself”, can feel like an overwhelming but necessary “evil” at times.
What does “sell myself” really mean? And can we think about it differently so it makes it easier for us to do?
Here are some of my thoughts on the matter:
What if…we don’t sell ourselves. What if, instead, we offer solutions – based on our own particular combination of skills, abilities, and personal qualities – that are perceived as valuable by another person who wishes to benefit from what we have to offer. In that case, an exchange is made between two equals based on mutual benefit.
What if…your job is to simply show up and BE SEEN by those particular people in ways that feel most natural for you so that you can be at your best.
What if…the more TRUE you are, the more clear you will be about the value you have to offer (and therefore be able to communicate that more easily).
What if…the most successful selling came from what introverts already do most naturally. Listening, researching, observing, noticing, asking questions, analyzing – understanding what the need is so you can speak directly to how you can help with that.
On a personal level, I recall many a time when I would apply for a job in a way that was not coming from a place of authenticity and strength. I would try to present myself in a way that I thought would prove that I fit in (figuring out how to “play the game” so I could be chosen), versus making choices that would lead me to where I would be valued – and valuable – just as I am.
Now, in my business, I face decisions daily related to the marketing and selling of my services. Now, I am consciously practicing the Be Brave, Be Seen, Be True that I am nudging other introverted women – like YOU – to choose (and I know that it’s not easy).
In doing so, I’m figuring out my own best way to do what I want to do, honouring myself in the process. So can you.
That said, fear will still charge in. Fear of not being good enough. Fear of being rejected. Fear that you won’t be perfect. Fear that you’ll get in over your head. Fear that you’ll sound/look foolish, unprofessional, or pushy.
Here’s the thing about fear. You can learn how to shift the balance and weaken its hold on you so that you can take action instead of staying stuck.
In the end, it is true that, if you want to earn an income (whether by getting hired for the job you want or by running a profitable business), you must find a way to communicate your value.
That value is about how you help others achieve their goals (not how you’re the most perfect person amongst your competition).
I would suggest that, if you are in a situation where you feel like you’re “selling yourself”, that icky feeling that I suspect we’ve all experienced, take a step back and ask whether what you’re doing is the right fit for you OR whether you’re trying really hard to do it the way someone else said is right (aka you’re changing yourself to try to fit in, be chosen, get paid etc.).
The more authentic the fit and conversation between what you offer and what your “purchasers” are looking for, the less the exchange will feel like a slimy sales job. It doesn’t have to feel icky. Figure out and then express how you can help them achieve what they want.
Be Brave. Be Seen. Be True…Be YOU.
A final thought: I know that putting yourself out there to be “chosen” feels very personal. How can it not be when you put your heart into your work? But, at the end of the day, you are not a more valuable or worthy person if you get that big job you want, or sell your top dollar service. You just made more money.
So on the flip side, not being chosen (or when nobody purchased what you were selling) is not a personal rejection. It just means you have more figuring out to do. So keep at it and find the resources you need to stay in motion! Somebody needs what you have to offer.
20 thoughts on “How to sell myself: an introvert entrepreneur struggle”
I don’t know why but I consider myself an introvert because I never look forward to talking to people and I’m always waiting to be approached, but I noticed that when I started my business, being a little social can be rewarding especially if people appreciate what you do. Sure it can be overwhelming as well, but it can be totally manageable. A very insightful post 🙂
Thanks for your comment Eleigh. Figuring out how much energy we can spend interacting with people (and then how to replenish our energy stores) is one of the greatest challenges as an introvert – and it’s different for each of us. As you said, it can be rewarding when we find our own right fit.
To help you clarify whether you’re an introvert, check out one of my earliest posts: https://wiseintrovert.com/introvert-test/ and then a more recent one with video links describing introversion in more detail: https://wiseintrovert.com/introvert-wish-help-my-partner-understand-my-need-for-solitude/
You outdid yourself with this article, Marla! As a writer who is also an introvert, I so related to the uncomfortable feeling of “selling” myself – which I feel like I’m doing whether I’m at a book signing, competing for a writing assignment, or marketing my blog. But you gave me a whole new way of looking at it with your awesome “What if’s.” For example, “What if…we don’t sell ourselves.What if, instead, we offer solutions – based on our own particular combination of skills, abilities, and personal qualities.” Yes! I love your positive spin on what can be difficult for us introverts. We can be true to ourselves while presenting our value, skills, and qualities to our clients. Great article!
So glad it was helpful to you Julie and thanks for taking the time to comment. As you say, there are so many ways for us to show up and be seen, it’s a matter of figuring out how to remove (or at least minimize) the barriers that hold us back from opportunities so we can go for it, choosing our own path to success. Our thoughts/beliefs/assumptions usually play a significant role in barrier creation so that’s often a great place to make tweaks from the inside-out 🙂
This is a very inspiring article! I am an introvert, too. I can so relate! I am struggling and overcoming… not giving up on my dream!
I love how one subscriber’s courage to share her comment can speak so clearly to so many more people. That, in itself, is a perfect reminder why it is so important to keep stretching beyond our comfort zones to be seen. We are not alone. And, as you say, when what you desire is so clear and strong and true, it will keep inspiring you to accept a certain level of discomfort in exchange for the pay off (versus when we’re trying to be and do something that does not feel authentic – that feels exhausting). Thanks for your comment Kimberly.
I really enjoyed reading your post today, Marla. It drove home the point that we can challenge ourselves to shine our light and make an impact in a way that is authentically us. We may have to dig deep within to do that, but it is worth it because of the lessons we learn in the process. Thank you for a great read. ~Stacey 🙂
Well said Stacey, thank you! Be Brave, Be Seen, Be True…Be YOU.
Great points, Marla. The idea of having a conversation on your value or what you offer is all about coming from an authentic place. And solutions and the value you offer somehow takes it away from being so personal.
Thanks Diane and I know that you must have similar conversations with your clients who are making career decisions – it’s still about having clarity and confidence in what they have to offer an employer. Once they are clear about that, they can figure out how to communicate it in a way that suits their own personal style. Each step builds confidence.
All good points. I get all the fears you listed. I am an introvert. I am always worried of coming off pushy, sounding dumb, not being taken seriously or being taken too seriously, etc. I definitely don’t “sell” myself. You made some good points and things to think about.
Thanks for taking the time to comment, Tonya. Trust yourself and find your own way to be seen…you’re already getting noticed so keep at it (and start writing your first 1000 words of that book!). Congrats on your Liebster Award: http://transformingserenity.com/my-first-liebster-award/
I love this! One of the most difficult things for me as an introvert is the idea of selling myself — especially when it comes to blog promotion. Thanks for the reminder to focus on being myself and meeting needs. This is what really matters.
Just think, Brittany, if you hadn’t taken the risk to share one of your recent posts, a number of people who read it (including me) wouldn’t have found you. And, as you saw in your comments, what you chose to write about influenced people to think differently. What you do and how you do it matters. It’s worth being vulnerable and having the courage to put your work (and therefore you) out there. By the way, here’s the link to that post for people who might be interested in getting a better sense of what I’m referring to: http://thenestednomad.com/2015/04/09/love-hate-all-inclusive-resorts/
What a timely post. We were just discussing how difficult it can be to “sell yourself” and easy it is to promote others. I am not really an introvert but I do have trouble not taking rejection personally. Thanks for the tips & tricks!
My pleasure Betty and thanks for taking the time to share your thoughts. I think it’s interesting that we both promote other women and share their stories as a way to make a difference (each in our own way). We care – and everyone wants to belong and feel worthy – so it makes sense that we hurt when we feel rejected. And we can choose to lick our wounds (I think most of us are stronger than we know) and try again. My sense, in reading your posts, is that you’re exactly that kind of woman!
This is such an important message Marla, and while it’s all true, for me your point about selling solutions instead of ourselves is the key. Like many other Introverts I’m much happier working behind the scenes, so it seems ironic that I enjoyed a successful “extrovert” career in sales that required me to do a LOT of public speaking and public relations work. What made the difference for me was that I genuinely believed in the product (Hawaii) and while others talked about facilities I told stories about people and the culture – things that touched my heart and make the Islands so much more than just a resort destination. When I began talking I stopped being Marty and turned into a storyteller talking about a place and people that I love.
Thanks so much Marty – I love the example you share. It speaks to how it’s possible to be successful AND authentic when we align the inside with the outside. That’s something we can all learn to do!
Thanks so much Maria for granting my Introvert Wish. I put it out there but didn’t think you’d answer it… you really are the introvert’s fairy godmother. Thanks for these brilliants tips…. I’m going to put them into action. Jay (ISTP!)
So glad you found it helpful Jay and it was fun to connect with you more via Twitter @wiseintrovert. Inspired & imperfect action is where it’s at…do it your way. PS> I’m INTP – you’ve got a unique approach and perspective – share it! Marla
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