Learning from life: what I learnt from marketing my business

Black woman leadership, whiteboard business analysis and presentation for meeting, workshop planning and team mentor. Manager talking, training and working vision, strategy idea and finance analytics.

Michelle Parry-Slater is always Open To Learning, Open To Reflection and Open To Sharing, but this month she looks at being Open To Work

I changed my LinkedIn profile to show the #Open To Work banner on my profile photo. I did this as an experiment for this blog. I run my own business – I am always open to work, but does publicly saying so make any difference? I am no algorithm expert so I don’t know what that banner is expected to do, but I conclude it did nothing. I had one message from someone I know wondering if I was OK, but no recruiters, no head-hunters, no push notifications of jobs. Am I doing it wrong? How should I be marketing me?

I’ve learned that less formal marketing approaches are actually my most powerful marketing tools

With many people in our profession seeking work, both in organisations and as freelancers, I am curious how best to make that known. I am not a marketeer, I’m an L&D consultant with 10 years in my own consulting business. I know great marketeers, and none of what I share here is a slight on them. But what you are about to read, like all these blogs I write for TJ, is my own learning from my own life. I feel the need to say ‘don’t try this at home’ as my get-out-of-jail-free card. But I am always curious to encourage people to try stuff – let me know how it goes!

A decade of dedication

When I set up Kairos Modern Learning in 2014 I thought I had about two to three years of playing at self-employment before I would need to get a ‘proper job’. I figured by then everyone would get how to change work and workplace learning to be more effective, efficient, engaging and enjoyable. Here we are 10 years later and I’ve never been busier in work, particularly around change and development. How did this happen? Certainly not by using LinkedIn’s Open To Work (but hey that might work for you – tiny trial it and see).

I didn’t know how to market in the formally organised sense with a comprehensive marketing plan, a target audience, or emailed newsletters and marketing campaigns. I only know how to do good work, build relationships and use that to build a reputation. I’ve learned that less formal marketing approaches are actually my most powerful marketing tools.

I only ever want to be in service of my clients and my industry, so I have simply done that. The key has been that I have willingly and openly shared my experiences with the industry. Back in the day sharing was through Twitter, which offered fabulous feedback, ideation and networking. In my first 2 years of trading about 80% of my work came from connections I made on social media.

Service not sales

More recently Twitter doesn’t quite offer the same community, but WhatsApp groups and LinkedIn are picking up some of that space. Paying attention to people and their problems helps you spot where you can be helpful and support them – which is NOT to suggest selling to them. Indeed, the opposite is true for me. If I can give a leg up, or share an idea that helps someone shine at work, I would rather do that than charge. This is why I write these free reflective blogs, for example, just to help people think about their own context and how they might try something new.

In a one person business, people are buying you and the value you bring

Initially, the thought of gaining a voice on Twitter, Linked In, Instagram or TikTok was so cringe. It means putting myself out there, feeling super uncomfortable doing so. Except you cannot run a one woman business and be embarrassed at shouting about it. Getting over the embarrassment was eased by knowing I was helping people. It isn’t natural to me to be shouty about me, so I made my sharing about the work, the value, the usefulness. In a one person business, people are buying you and the value you bring, they buy you because they believe they ‘know’ you, or someone they know also knows you. Offering authenticity matters because referral work is the best work; it doesn’t give the ick like asking for the work does.

Thinking differently

Over all my years in business, without a doubt it is relationships and networking which result in good work. Meeting people at conferences, at #LnDcowork, online, through my book, my blogs and articles, or presentations and webinars: this is where reputation is built. I’ve been lucky enough to be peer-recognised with a HR Most Influential award for my reputation. All this comes from nurturing relationships. People matter. People buy from people. That is what I have learnt from NOT marketing my business for 10 years.

So how do you market you? What would your peer network say about you? What is your authentic reputation? How do you build and nurture relationships? All good things to think about to market you, be you freelance, in house or anywhere in between.

Michelle Parry-Slater

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