So said P.T Barnum, the US showman. I was thinking about this after reading an article in Jezebel about self-promotion for girls (without being a jerk). Americans are generally much better at self-promotion anyway. Possibly because they only get a lousy nine days annual leave per year. I remember reading about how David Hassellhoff, after Baywatch and before American Idol, was in the UK trying to relaunch his career, and after appearing on a daytime chat show, he handed out copies of his CV to the audience with a note: Thank you for taking an interest in my career.
On the other hand, a very good friend of mine who happens to be married to a television producer, said that during a party, a girl they knew slightly presented her television showreel to her slightly pissed husband, asking if he would give her some feedback, there and then. Equally yuck.
Without delving into the whole Self Esteem thing, in Blighty we seem to pride ourselves on career self-deprecation to the point of not just hiding our light under a bushel but burying it fifty miles underground. That book you wrote? Well . . .you don’t want to boast because mum said that men don’t like bluestockings. That script? So she wrote a script but have you seen the state of her kitchen cupboards . . .tsk tsk! An Oscar?! It’s in the downstairs toilet! I’m ashamed to admit that just after a series I’d written received a good review, I was with my producer and he enthusiastically mentioned the review to a third party. I went red and mumbled something about ‘not doing that much and it was down to casting.’ Embarrassing because all I had to do was say, ‘Yes I’m very proud.’ What was I scared of? A person I’d just met over lunch might think me big headed?
So many of us are freelance and we have to learn to get out there and promote our work, without pissing people off. It seems to boil down to a couple of rules.
1. Inform, don’t brag. Say ‘you’ve been interested in my work in the past so I thought you’d be interested in . . .’
2. Be clear about what you want in your own mind. ‘I want a 10% raise. Here’s why . . .’
3. Be low key. Facts and information rather than bluff and bravado.
4. Don’t mix messages. Christmas and birthday cards which include work plugs are really irritating.
5. Use other people’s words about you.
6. Be generous. Not in a creepy ‘you scratch my back’ way but if you get a tip off that you know could help someone else, do it. It takes a while but you do build up a bank of good will, especially if you don’t expect an immediate return. This is very important with freelancing. I don’t understand the attitude of there’s only a finite amount of luck and goodwill to go round.
Oh and this good friend who is married to a television producer? She suggested keeping a Nice Things File. It sounds so simple and it is. You just write down every nice remark that anybody makes about your work, professional or friend. It’s the equivalent of an electric blanket on a freezing night. Because I don’t know about you but I often need a nudge to remember the kind words but all the nasty ones are burned into my memory.
Any other self promotion ideas?