How to Self-Promote Without Feeling Pucky or Being Annoying (20 Ideas Up For Grabs)

Mayi Carles

Some people are just so great at talking about what they do + why they do it. They pull people in with a selfie + get everyone around them invested in their lifestyle in mere moments. You people, go away. This post is not for you. Kidding, you can stay… just don’t laugh at the rest of the world who really struggles with this self-promoty game.

Personally, the hardest part of my job is talking about myself to total strangers.

This past Monday I was put to the test. My super talented friend + professional hustler + public speaking powerhouse, Stefy Cohen, invited me to participate in a Girl Power conference. As the avalanche of ladies approached my booth, my heart raced as if I were riding a roller coaster, the upside down kind. Then, Loser FM started playing in my head: What if they don’t like me? What if everyone thinks my book is over-priced? What if my homemade granola isn’t good enough? Does this lace dress make me look pregnant? Wait… I am pregnant!!!

The front line is scary. I know.

Putting yourself on the line can be hard. It’s way easier to stay in bed. Tempting even. But you cannot leave your mark if you’re hiding. Even Batman has to leave his cave to fight crime + save Gotham + change the world. World’s not gonna conquer itself, I keep reminding myself.

I think many creatives struggle with promoting their work the most because, well, the work is so personal. But our small biz empires aren’t gonna create buzz for themselves. We must take the initiative to get out there + make a name for ourselves.

My goal with this post is to help you warm up your self-promoting muscles, so you feel more confident + less icky sharing your unique gifts with the world, because in doing so I’ll freshen up my un-slimmy marketing tactics + take them out for a ride, I’m getting rusty.

Here’s 20 promo-moves that won’t make you feel pucky + will definitively not annoy my tribe. Get grabby!

Sidebar Note

1. Start with how you can help them. 

The truth is people are not that into you. What they’re really after is what you can do for them? How your products + services can make their lives better? Ego stand aside. Narrow down your calling into a short + easy to read blurb. Then, place this comprehend sentence somewhere prominent on your website. I wrote mine with my 10 little fingers, so it felt like a personal hand written invitation to connect. How can I be of service? You can see this note on the right hand side of my sidebar, above the fold.

2. Let value take a front seat + self-promotion sit in the back. 

Focus on delivering outstandingly useful content that always adds value. If you share the best content in a way that’s helpful + actionable + practical, believe me, no one’s gonna think you’re a sleazy telemarketer. In fact, your audience is gonna be so eager to hear from you, they’ll probably subscribe to your newsletter just so they make sure they never miss a thing.

3. Teach what you know. 

Each one of us is an expert in something – a lawyer is an expert in law + a hairdresser is an expert in beauty care + a guy who sells hot dogs on the corner is an expert in street food. Start positioning yourself as an expert in your field by offering your educated 2-cents. Online, you can create blog posts + write guest posts for other websites that let people know you are an authority in the field. Offline, you can position yourself as an expert by teaching a live class + writing an informative article for a local newsletter or speaking at conferences.

4. Brand everything. 

Your brand is your company’s personality. Extend this over everything you do, from adding logos to your e-mail signature to your video backdrop. Create an identity for your brand + use it in all your marketing collateral + websites, anywhere that your business is represented really. Think about who your brand is + how you want to present it to others. How do you want to be portrayed? When you decide what you want your brand identity to be, create a brand book (also known as a style guide) so your brand stays consistent + tight. If you’re not sure where to start, take a look at some other examples of brand books.

5. Don’t forget about your printed material. 

When you send thank you notes to your clients, is your logo on there somewhere? When you hand out fliers, are they customized to match your brands look and feel? When you create downloads for your blog posts or products, do you remember to add your website in the footer? Well, you should. Consider looking at printed collateral designs that other graphic artists have created to get some design inspiration.

6. Add that fancy code. 

Now that smartphones are so popular, having a QR code is a great way to subtly attract new business. Placing a convenient QR code with a link to your website on your marketing items will make it more likely that potential customers will actually follow through. QR codes can also be set to dial a phone number so that customers who are interested in your services can quickly find out what you can do for them.

7. Use social media to be social, duh! 

Sharing content for the sake of sharing content is a one-way broadcast. Engaging with your community is a conversation. One is “how can I gain” focused, the other is “how can I give” centered. Guess which one works best? Exactly! Don’t just pop on social media every time you have a new promotion or update your website. Be an active member of your community.

8. Create social content that your followers want to repost.

Asking questions + sharing quotes + posting brainteasers or even making jokes are all ways to try to encourage socialization. This, in turn will help get the word-of-mouth out about your brand + help drive up sales. And don’t forget to ask for the share – “tag a friend” or “send this to someone who needs to hear this.”

April Bowles

9. Nobody can say what your business does better than an enthusiastic customer or friend.

This is the picture my bestie April Bowles-Olin posted on Instagram as soon as she received her Life is Messy Kitchen cookbook in the mail. I instantly regramed it + got a boost in sales that day. Make an effort to follow up with customers + friends who have recently bought products or services to gauge their satisfaction. Ask them if they’d be willing to give a referral + provide a testimonial or share a cute picture, which many are happy to do. Use these gems you’ve collected on marketing materials + highlight them on your website + social media platforms. Getting referrals + testimonials + visual proof that your stuff rocks, not only increases your trust factor, but it generates more leads, which means more money in your piggy bank. The best marketing of all is happy clients.

10. Go to a networking conferences or event.

But remember it’s not about who talks the loudest or hands out the most free lollipops, you have to be brave enough to get vulnerable + make genuine connections. That’s how me + my business partner April Bowles-Olin clicked. We sat right next to each other at Marie Forleo’s Rich Happy and Hot LIVE. For us, building a friendship that would last a lifetime was far more meaningful than doing small talk with hundreds of women in a 2-day event. When it comes to relationships, always choose quality over quantity.

11. Don’t be a stranger, keep in touch. 

Meeting new people is important in self-promotion, but once you’ve met someone new, you have to be willing to maintain the relationship for it to be truly beneficial. Keep up with your former + current clients to let them know you still care. Sending out birthday greetings + VIP promotions is a great way to make them feel appreciated. Take the time to respond to posts on social networking sites. This extends to more than just clients + business relations. It also includes your friends + your neighbors + your old college buddies – everybody that means something to you, regardless of whether or not it has the potential to lead you to new business opportunities.

12. Consider doing some pro bono work.

Working pro bono isn’t just for lawyers, every business can benefit from the great word of mouth that comes from donating your time + resources. True tale: I’m such a loyal Kiehl’s customer that I got a call the other day to book a free facial, and I could even bring a friend. I was so astonished by this act of generosity that I told everyone I know how much I love this brand + how amazing their products are. You can’t beat the kind of glowing recommendation that comes from making someone’s day.

13. Craft your elevator pitch.

Nine seconds– that’s the amount of time people will pay attention before getting distracted by the next shiny object. Naturally we must find the quickest + easiest way to explain what you do (and practice it), so that during brief encounters with potential clients, you are able to make the most use of your time. They call it an “elevator pitch” because it should be short enough to last an elevator ride while still making an impact.

14. Be human. 

The key to self-promotional is to maintain a sense of humility. No one likes a bragging + boasting brat. Be a human being, not human spam.

15. Host community outreach efforts.

For instance, if you’re a cheese shop, host a tasting every Thursday. If you’re a painter, have open studio nights the first Monday of every month. If you’re a yoga instructor, let clients bring a friend for free on Sundays. These are all great ways to try establishing a repertoire with local clientele.

16. Tell good stories. 

Storytelling is an accent art. It is less about language + more about making people feel something. In the words Maya Angelou, “I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.”

17. Tease em’, just a little. 

It’s not enough to create interest, you have to stop your reader from thinking, “Oh, that’s probably going to be about X + Y + Z. I bet I know that already.” Psychological tests reveal that most people assume they know more than they actually do, so you definitely want to make sure you’re not losing readers who “think” they know what you’re going to tell them. For example, Heartmade readers who see this headline: “How to Self-Promote” might assume she already knows how. As a result, she doesn’t feel compelled to read the article. That’s why: “How to Self-Promote Without Feeling Pucky or Being Annoying (20 Ideas Up For Grabs)” works much better. Ultimately, you’re poking should let your peeps know, “Look, I know you know a lot, but you don’t know this.” And this really encourages the curiosity gremlin to wreak havoc.

18. Host a giveaway. 

The secret to hosting successful giveaways is to first set an intention – why you’re doing this? Do you want to reward current readers? Attract new followers? Celebrate a special event? Build a relationship with a brand? Do you want more fans for a FB page? More backlinks to your blog? Ask yourself what you’re hoping to get out of it. When you know why you’re doing a giveaway + what you want from it, you’ll be better able to decide your giveaway criteria. And for the love of all things holy, please keep your requirements for entry as simple as can be.

Work in Progress

19. Think process, not end product. 

I’m talking about behind the scenes footage + outtakes + pencil sketches + bloopers + rough drafts – the stuff the camera captures just before or after you get it right. People wanna see it! They are hungry for the uncensored + unPhotoshoped + unedited version. There is power in this rawness. The messy material + on-set secrets + project sneak peeks can help you tell a deeper, more engaging story about your brand.

20. Take time to browse blogs that are of interest to you + leave thoughtful comments.

Of course, if a particular entry strikes your fancy. Commenting on other blogs is a great way to promote your business + do some potential networking. However, your comment can’t look like an advertisement or a self-promotion. That will likely be flagged as spam. Instead, leave an honest + heartfelt comment or ask questions that can start a dialogue between you + the blogger you admire.

Self-promotion should become a part of your daily routine, to the point that you forget you’re even doing it.

I’m confident that if you incorporate some of these tactics into your marketing outreach campaigns, you’ll be kicking butt in no time.

Now, I would like to hear from you. Can you think of other tips + techniques for more sensible + effective self-promoting ? What are some of your favorite self-promotion moves? Drop them in the comments below. 

I’ll be back next week with a new article. Stay tuned + thanks for being part of the Heartmade family.



  1. Wow, this is a really great list! I personally love Instagram. It’s so fun to go through tags and like things with people you have something in common. And usually, they come back and look at your account or follow back. It’s a great way to encourage others and inspire or be inspired. Same suggestion that you had with blogs, but with Insta. There is always good old fashion meeting face to face at an art gala or using business cards with your elevator pitch!

    1. I’m nuts about Instagram too. I haven’t played with hashtags much but I recently discovered that creating a hashtag for special event or theme works really well. If you have any tips for using hashtags would love to learn 🙂

  2. Oooh, Mayi, I love these. All 20 of them!

    I think the reason I like them is because they are very clear about being helpful and kind rather than just shouting ‘me me me’!

    I especially like point 11 though – the thought that it’s ok to really stay in touch with connections is quite hard for me. I always wonder if they actually want to. But I guess that’s something that I need to get over because I am perfectly capable of making friends;I just find it hard when it comes to ‘business friends and hoping that they actually want to know me!

    Many thanks for this great post!

    lots and lots of love

    1. You know… I used to really struggle with this one too. I HATEEEEE phone calls. Terrible at them. When people call my phone I seriously hyperventilate a little. Like having a mini heart attack. But I’ve found that keeping in touch via quick lunch dates or WhatsApp feels natural + effortless. Maybe you wanna find a medium for keeping in touch that makes you feel more Claire. Google Hangouts? Skype? Live catch up meetings? E-mail?

      1. Ha ha – glad it’s not just me! In the past, I’ve screwed up getting new clients because I hated answering my phone and calling people back (glad to say that I am much much better at that now!)

        I’ve found actually meeting up with people feels the most comfortable in most cases, which is great because my business is moving less online and more into the actual real-life people world! It seems that real-life is where I am much more like me, which in turn, is what people need to see before they can decide to work with me. It’s all a great exploration!

  3. Thanks for the tips…sometimes I ASSUME people know what I do, and I forget to tell them. I also find that people love a glimpse inside what makes you “you” and your brand. That helps me connect with customers before we even start doing business together.

  4. Wonderful post! I have already tried some of those and THEY WORK and I plan to put in good use the rest of them, too! Your posts are always fun and ispiring at the same time!

  5. Love this Mayi! It’s such great advice and really encourages us to be human. Let ourselves be seen and connect with others. That makes it soooo much better. I really love all 20! You rock! 🙂

  6. As always – so right on. And as always, I’ve learned something new. I googled QR codes since I didn’t know what they were. I don’t own a cell phone but more and more people are looking at my sites on phones. Now I just have to have someone test the one I generated to see if it works! 🙂 Thanks, Mayi, for so much good advice.

  7. I know it is cliche, but i have learned the hard way that really being yourself works best. otherwise, at promotion events like at a table event or conference, you end up working on connections with people or organizations that seem to tic a few boxes professionally, but who have different values than you personally – and in the end all that effort either goes nowhere or somewhere you didn’t want to go. like in #10 – quality over quantity for sure!!

  8. Jajaja!! Mayi!!! Yo te sigo pero no te digo nada como va el traductor!!! Gracias por repasar todas las acciones de “vendernos” de la mejor manera…, aunque yo sigo en mi mundo de ideas…, cuando pase a la acción de avisaré .
    Besos desde Madrid xxx

  9. I’d add — Know why you want to promote yourself in the first place. I really believe you should have a pretty clear vision of what you want to accomplish with your promotion — where you want your business or your crafting to go as a result of promotion before you can do it effectively. It shapes your message, and helps you know what to measure to see if your promotion is being effective.

  10. I love this list – as others have said, all 20 items are really helpful.

    My personal favourite is number 16 – probably because, in my other life, I’m a fundraising consultant, and I tell my clients this all the time. Show don’t tell. Think about how you want donors to feel as that will stay with them – in fact, I think I wrote a blog post about it and used the same Maya Angelou quote too!

    Great post – I have only just discovered your site but I’m sharing this post and adding you into my Feedly list – thank you!

  11. Hi Mayi,

    Thanks for the awesome blog post this week! I was wondering, what do you think is the best way to start a blog? What do you suggest for the first entry? Do you have any links or something that might talk about this?

    Thanks again!

  12. Hola Mayi!

    This one goes to my top saved feedly articles, I’ll be using it for the next months. One I use already and I see working is engaging with other bloggers in their blogs, asking, sharing and just being there for them.

    Thank you very much!

  13. Hi Mayi, thanks for this wonderful piece 🙂 I’ve been doing a lot of thinking and trying to figure out what I REALLY wanna do, what kind of impact I would like to have on other people’s life and how I can optimise what I’m good at, what I enjoy doing and what I have been growing to be where I ultimately want to be.

    I’ll be hopping over to your blog pretty often to get inspiration and motivation as I embark on this journey 🙂 Thank you for the wonderful resources available!

  14. Hi, Mayi! So nice to “meet” you – your enthusiasm and helpfulness seriously jumped out at me from the moment I got here on your site.

    I’m here thanks to Lindsey from The Postman’s Knock – I love how giving and generous the creative and entrepreneur community is! Looking forward to catching up with your blog! 🙂 🙂


  15. I had never heard about you in my life. I just saw a post of The Postman’s Knock sharing this article. It looked interesting for me, I started reading it and I loved it! Congrats, great content! Now you earned a new subscriber

    Thank you so much for sharing this! 🙂

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