“I learned a long time ago the wisest thing I can do is be on my own side, be an advocate for myself and others like me.” – Maya Angelou
You know what’s scary, besides clowns, Furbies, and that monster from Pan’s Labyrinth? Giving someone your business card and saying ever so casually, “Hey, you should check out my blog.” In the same vein, so is asking someone out on a date. Both involve putting yourself out there and suggesting that you are worthy of the other person’s time.
Vouching for yourself is not always easy or comfortable, and it comes with the risk of alienating the very people you’re trying to impress. One of the biggest takeaways from attending The Hive, a European blog conference set in Copenhagen this year, was how to strike the delicate balance between aggressive, shameless self-promotion and being your own advocate. How do you root for yourself without being The Most Annoying Person in the World?
The speakers all tackled different elements of the blogging industry. There was the Pinterest team from France, Katie Treggiden from Confessions of a Design Geek (who encouraged us to “tell the story of who you are with your whole heart”), the lovely Anne from Anne’s Kitchen, and several others who explored topics including blog monetization, personal branding, and finding authenticity in blogging. These hour-long talks were interspersed with smaller workshops ranging from food photography to SEO. The weekend was a whirlwind of advice, inspiration, and hands-on learning.
Still, there was plenty of time to chat with other bloggers, which was the main draw for me. I wanted to meet other people who were doing what I was doing, people who had been doing it for a long time, and people who were interested in getting their foot in the door. Blogging has evolved into such a ubiquitous activity; everyone has something to say and a unique way of saying it. But it’s still in some ways a tight-knit industry with only a handful of household names. Creating a blog is easy, but sustaining and growing a blog is not!
My initial fear when I signed up for the conference was that I would be a small, silly fish in a sea of big ones, but I was relieved to find out that everyone I talked to was down-to-earth and approachable, and many were in the early stages of their blogs too. I met design bloggers, healthy lifestyle bloggers, parenting bloggers, and other travel bloggers like myself. We were all there for the same reason: to learn from each other and represent our blogs in the flesh.
This brings me back to the main question: How do you become your own advocate without rubbing or everyone the wrong way?
Whatever you’re pursuing, whether it be blogging, acting, a freelance gig, a promotion within your company, or a significant other, you first need to believe (wholeheartedly!) that you are offering something valuable. And you are. It might be a work in progress with some kinks you need to sort out, but it’s still something to be proud of. Also keep in mind that advocating yourself is not the equivalent of disparaging others. It’s incredibly important to root for others, too. In every industry, there are those that are on top and others clamoring to get there. Observe and learn from the leaders, but help the ones trying too. Your success does not have to be contingent on everyone else’s failures.
I’m so glad I bit the bullet and attended the blog conference; it’s inspired me to attend similar events and opportunities in New York. Speaking of New York, I am so happy to be back and it’s strangely comforting to step on smelly subways again. I still have a lot to share about Europe, so stay tuned for upcoming posts!
Do you struggle with advocating for yourself sometimes? What are some other ways to promote yourself tactfully?