3 Business Lessons from ACES 2019: Promotion
I’m officially an ACES: The Society for Editing groupie — this year, I attended the annual conference for the fifth year in a row.
Many ACES members are freelancers, and there is an unofficial business track at the conference. Many of my main takeaways this year came from these sessions, and they apply to any professional, on staff or independent.
Word of mouth is the best way to get new work or hear about a new job opening. Also, it always feels good to hear glowing praise from a happy client or manager. But you can’t just sit back and wait for the offers to come rolling in — you need to promote yourself.
Self-promotion feels icky to a lot of people. But I’m not talking about reposting “Hire me! I’m great!” on your social media channels all the time. I mean establishing yourself as an expert and making the ask.
Establish yourself as an expert
Speaking means presenting, and Laura noticed that when she started doing presentations, her business grew. Presenting gives you name recognition and it demonstrates your knowledge. If you’re on staff, presenting can raise your profile for the future when you’re ready to find the next career opportunity.
Freelancers want to find opportunities to present both to their referral base (such as ACES for editors) and to their potential clients (such as conferences in industries they serve). Employees can look for organizations that serve them as individuals and that serve their company’s industries. Think beyond the large, national conference: Look for local chapters of larger organizations or for local or regional organizations that offer training and need speakers. Offer to present internally to your coworkers or for a client you already do work for.
Public speaking isn’t for everyone, so another way to establish your expertise is writing. If you don’t want to start and maintain your own blog, then look for opportunities for guest posts (or, if you do have a blog, swap guest posts) or to submit articles.
Laura didn’t talk about podcasting, but that could be ideal for some people because it feels like presenting without the live audience.
There’s a lot of crossover between all these methods as well: An article can turn into a presentation and vice versa. A series of articles can turn into a book. Presentations can turn into webinars and other online products.
A note about compensation and pricing for speaking and writing: Time is a limited resource, so if you only want to offer your expertise if you get compensation for it, make sure you know what kind of compensation is acceptable to you before you start looking for these opportunities. Also, these different promotion methods can become new revenue streams.
Make the ask
When Laura gets a compliment on a good session, she likes to say, “Thanks — I give it to any group!”
People are busy, so you need to be direct about what you can do for them or what they can do for you.
Ask for referrals. One tip I’ve heard before is to include a line about referrals on invoices (now it’s part of my boilerplate language on my invoices, along with thanking them for the business). Let clients and referral partners know what other services you offer. They might not realize you can do more for them if you don’t tell them. I love using the phrase “you or a colleague.”
If you’re on staff, ask your superiors how you can get involved in projects that excite you and can develop your skill set. Or find opportunities to do work (paid or volunteer) for other groups that you’re passionate about. For example, I have grant writing experience from serving on the board of my community choir.
Then, share what you’re doing publicly. I have a “promote myself” category in my social media chart to remind to do this.
If you recently wrote an article, post it on your social channels (and tag the publication). If you’re giving a presentation somewhere, share that (and tag the organization or event). If you have a glowing testimonial, share that (although ask the person who provided it first).
Companies should have an annual review, so keep track of any accomplishments and praise at work to share at that time.
If self-promotion still feels uncomfortable, balance it with promoting someone else. In the writing world, for example, share books you love that are written by other people along with promoting your own book. When I worked for a membership-based organization, we would put members’ compliments on the bulletin board in the break room or share them through email, especially if they mentioned a particular person.
Finding the opportunities to promote yourself (or your company) as an expert requires making the ask. Submit that pitch or session description. Email a colleague about swapping guest posts. Tell your supervisor you want in on a project. You never know what could happen if they say yes.
Here’s my ask: If your organization is looking for editorial support, including copy editing, proofreading, or writing, contact me. I’d love to see if we can work together.