How to Learn to Brag about Your Business Success
JinJa Birkenbeuel is the CEO of Birk Creative, a strategy agency founded in 1997 that creates enterprise-level branding, online and digital strategies for large enterprises and enterprise-thinking businesses. Birk Creative helps businesses get to know the digital ecosystem so they have the confidence to compete online and deliver the best results to their customers. JinJa is a serial entrepreneur. She is an Apple iBook Publisher for her digital book publishing company Birk Digital, an Amazon.com seller for Utah Carol, an Americana pop-country band she founded with her husband in 1995 and also helped design the Digital Coaching Program for Google, Inc., created to train underrepresented American businesses, which include all women, to succeed online.
3 power tips and 5 killer tactics to help your creative agency or freelance business get to 7 figures in 2018!
Are you a women-owned agency or creative freelancer afraid to write about your business success on social media because you feel you're bragging? Do you tell friends and family on a regular basis that you even have a business? Do you feel it necessary to endlessly network and attend events, etc. to drum up new business? Are you landing new business on a quarterly basis? Like a tree falling in the forest when no one is around—does it make a sound? Word of mouth, attending galas and fundraising events, and being a member of your local chamber only go so far in terms of advertising your work or business.
Consider this: Unless you are a global ad agency with incredible reach or a celebrity creative consultant working for the likes of Beyoncé or Taylor Swift, a word-of-mouth-business is, practically speaking, invisible and doesn't exist. If your business isn't online, a potential customer won't be able to find you or might think you're not really in business. You're saying, "I'm only about me. I don't care about being well-known and well-regarded. I'm so good, I don't need to be found. I'm my own best-kept secret! I don't want my competition to see my customers. I'm not as credible as a major agency. I'm actually not trying to make money. And, what's more, I'm not capable of competing."
The good news is you can get prospects to see your creativity at work-without it feeling like outright bragging. One tactic is to make your projects, work and agency presence ubiquitous-easily found through online search and visible everywhere online and also on social media.
Women entrepreneurs and women-owned small businesses, in particular, have a lot to brag about: We are second only to publicly traded companies in terms of job growth, with 274,000 net new jobs since 2007.
How to Overcome Fear of Self Promotion (aka Learning How to Brag)
Many small business owners and lifelong freelance consultants have children and homes to care for, parents to help, and partners to support. We have lots of experience in managing the personal aspects of our lives and are confident we do it well. So why can trying a new strategy or tactic for our business feel so risky? Fear is the killer of innovation. Being open to new learning creates innovation. Making mistakes is just part of the process. As Nelson Mandela said: "I never lose. I either win or learn." And doing nothing is a sure way to lose.
Remember when you were in art or business school and had to present your solutions or strategies to the class and take feedback, warts and all? You had to sell it. When you have a freelance business or small agency, it's no different. A business owner, freelancer or consultant who doesn't try to sell and promote won't get new customers to grow his or her business and build sustainable wealth. In today's market, you-your work, your freelance business or agency-have to be visible and selling 24 hours a day every day of the year! The most effective way to sell is through your online presence and "storefront," which can find customers and make money for you even while you sleep.
Here's the thing: a virtual storefront can comprise many things today. A website, a YouTube channel or a Facebook Live stream combined gives your business advanced superpowers. For now, let's just talk about your website. Your 24-7 virtual storefront is any freelancer's first step in self-promotion. You can post new portfolio work, show videos, share other blog content, embed your business social media feed and measure it all with analytics. (If you don't have analytics on your website, here's why you should!) By the way, your online storefront, like a manicure, investing or even a car tune-up, needs maintenance and attention. Post fresh content at least once per month.
Creating a website that works on mobile devices is taking the first step for killer self-promotion tactics, but you should also utilize free online platforms. For small agencies, effective and scalable self-promotion can take place on multiple social media channels. Focus your content on business development. Get a business page on Facebook, LinkedIn or Google+ to get started. For freelancers, sole proprietors and other creatives, Behance, Etsy, Pinterest, SoundCloud, or YouTube work wonders for self-promoting specific products and services.
Now that you've explored different platforms for self-promotion and are less scared of sharing, here are three quick tips relevant for all social-media-shy freelancers and time-strapped creative agencies to help you smash your fear of "bragging:"
- Post a vacation photo on Facebook (if you're a freelancer, show off your skill and create a custom collage or video) and tell your followers how you earned your [vacation/expensive dinner/night on the town]. For example: "I'm so excited to be taking time off in [Vegas/the Bahamas/Branson]. During this last quarter, my business [name of company here] [launched a new product/landed a new client/released a new video], and now I'm enjoying this short little break to celebrate [by myself/with my family/with my partner] [on the beach/in the country/at the spa]."
- Piggyback your post paying attention to another successful online business. For example: "I love the products on sale at [business name] this year. I'm going to use [X] at my next client meeting because it aligns with my company's brand values of quality and fun."
- Apply to get your agency verified on Google (and Bing). Are you a bricks-and-mortar business that serves clients at your location? Or do you have a home-based business but travel to your client's location? You might be eligible for a verified listing on Google, the number-one search engine in the world. Apply to get your business verified and listed on Google Maps so customers can easily find you. A verified listing promotes your business as credible and stable.
Can you see now? Getting online by using free social media tools couldn't be easier! It's the second step in the process after making a mobile-friendly website.
Now, let's talk about 5 killer ways you can transform the way you perceive yourself to get the confidence to be even more visible online.
1. You are a maker and an employer, not a consumer.
In the United States, we learn to consume and to be consumers. We don't often learn how to be makers, creators or founders of small businesses. But did it ever occur to you that, as a freelancer or small agency with a strong online presence, you have the power to disrupt a larger, less agile agency's pipeline to customers? (Watch this video to learn about global technology advances that impact entrepreneurs.) You have this power because you can use the same tools the big brands use to advertise to their customers. Your website, that 24-hour online machine to help you make money, is one of those tools. The same goes for recruitment. Tools like Indeed, Glassdoor, and LinkedIn that big companies use to seek new employees are available to your business also. Repeat to self: "I am an employer. I am a business. I am selling. I am not buying."
2. Get access to powerful digital tools-the same tools the big brands use!
There are many digital tools that will give you the right platform to self-promote. Here are some of them:
- Create a search engine optimized (SEO) mobile website. Your website needs to be clearly visible and functional on the latest mobile phone systems, like Android and iOS. Be sure to test your site on different browsers and multiple devices.
- Get verified online on Google (https://www.gybo.com/business) and Bing. If your freelance business or agency (whether at home or in a downtown building) isn't searchable online all the time, potential customers will be unable to find you.
- Launch or consistently maintain at least two social media channels, such as Instagram and LinkedIn. Instagram can help define your brand by showing things you are interested in, and LinkedIn can be used to reach influencers, community stakeholders and other buyers of goods and services.
- Post videos of your freelance work and talk about a problem you successfully solved for a client. YouTube videos are great drivers to your brand and provide an intimate view of your business to potential customers. Did you know that YouTube is the number-two search engine in the world? Consider this: Your future customer and employee are using YouTube all the time. Put your freelance work on YouTube to help these potential customers and associates experience your agency! Try YouTube Director, a new Google product for making inexpensive and templated videos. Have a look at our self-promo video that we created with YouTube Director.
- Buy as much measured advertising as you can afford. Your options include AdWords, Facebook, Instagram and YouTube advertising. Anyone can buy an online ad, just like the big brands do. Consider buying ads with entry-level, super-easy-to-use AdWords Express as a trial. Using AdWords Express is great when you have a landing page designed to download a free white paper, a product or service to sell, or a YouTube channel you want to advertise. Click here to find out What Is A Landing Page.
- Use Google Analytics, Google Keyword, and Webmaster Tools to track your website traffic so you can post content designed to appeal to customers.
3. Go digital for your small freelance business and make more money.
Just like you take care of your clients, you have to take care of your freelance or small agency business too! Gone are the days of physical networking to drive business sales-no more paper flyers or print ads. Even for bricks-and-mortar businesses, customers learn about you online. According to Deloitte, digital tools are a boon to small business.
4. Become an international business by going online.
Consider this: When you start making digital tools work for your business and move 90 percent of your promotion, content, and brand messaging online, you can potentially reach global customers. Online marketing removes location boundaries. I receive pitches from freelancers all over the world, every day. I hire freelancers from London, Berlin, and Stockholm. I researched and found them all on Google.
5. Ask for help and remember to "Google It."
Don't stop going "analog." Boldly asking for help from friends, family, and others, when you are in need, shows confidence and conviction in your goals and beliefs. It also shows fearlessness. You'll be delighted to find out how many experts, other freelancers and small businesses will help you-but first, you have to ask. And if you need practice with asking, ask the universe first! When I was a child my mother used to say, "Let's ask out loud and throw some coins to Zeus!" Asking for help and stating what you need is liberating, and it does get easier the more you do it. But remember also, any question in your mind's eye can be Googled. No doubt, there will be an answer to your question online. (Click here for top tips on how to search on Google.)
In conclusion, "brag" about your successes on the internet by using all available free digital tools so you'll have the best year ever! Promote the success of your clients too. (Always ask permission first!) If you own a freelance business or agency and commit to learning about digital tools and using them to make way more money and find new customers, you're on the road to heightened online visibility (with international potential), a more powerful personal and business brand reputation, and a significant increase in business income. Consider it future-proofing against becoming, as Bob Dylan put it, "a complete unknown, like a rolling stone."