Blowing your own trumpet is Sole Working 101

Setting up your own business is really exciting, but remember you’ll have to sell yourself to make it work. No space for false modesty here!

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If you’re keen on setting up your own business, there is one really important question you must ask: am I ready to go out and sell my skills? Am I willing to tell people how good I am and how much money I’m worth?

 I’ve met numerous employees over the years who really want to work for themselves, but their answer to this question is an embarrassed ‘No’. The very thought of setting out to sell themselves is like fingernails down a chalk board.

 Let’s be clear – if you want money in the bank there is no place for false modesty. People need to know just how good you are. And not only that you're good, but that you’re worth decent money. Blowing your own trumpet is Sole Working 101.

 False modesty

 It's false modesty if you have a skill that others want and you’re good enough to earn a living doing it. In which case to hold back from telling customers makes no sense.

 Having said that, I totally understand the reticence. It took me ages to feel comfortable talking about my fees. The subject of money is a tough one for many of us. Not to mention that sales is a skill in its own right, so it’s not in everyone’s gift to go out and sell themselves.

If this is your problem then there are ways around it:

 Take on a sales person - if finance allows, you can employ someone to do sales for you. Before going down this route, make sure you’re ready to give a clear steer on the type of sales process you want eg: if you’re selling a relationship (coaching, mentoring, consulting etc), then an aggressive sales style probably won’t deliver for you; if you have a product to sell, then ‘softly, softly’ may lose you momentum. You also need to define exactly when you want to be included, what role you’ll play and how you want your prospective customers to be handled. If the sales person gets this wrong for your offering then you’ll do more harm than good.

If you want someone else to do the sales for you but your income is variable – which is true of most of us when we start – then consider working on a percentage. This is a good incentive for the sales person and means you only pay them when you get paid yourself.

Look for partners: join others who are keen on the same business. If you can find someone who understands sales that’s ideal. If not, then at least you can work together to find ways of managing and give each other support with phone calls and meeting prep. Building a supportive community can also be a real advantage in the lonely world of sole working

Find Associate work - look for established businesses that already do your work and see if you can join as an Associate. You’d still be self employed, but with someone else doing the marketing and sales. This is how I started and there were a number of benefits: I got to work with experienced people which taught me a huge amount; I just had to turn up and deliver; I got experience with large companies that I could never have accessed on my own; I earned good money because all my working time was paid which certainly wasn't the case when I was looking for my own clients.

There are downsides of course – you have to wait to be offered work so you’ll need to invest time building the relationship and getting your name to the top of the list. Also the daily rate will be lower because the parent organisation take a proportion of your fee to cover their time and effort in finding the work. But if you don’t want to do it yourself, it’s worth it. The other downside is that you don’t get to build a list of clients because they belong to the parent organisation. There is no way around this. It’s your solid ethical stance that will make you good to work with, so compromising that is never worth it.

 Find your own selling style – you can choose to get to grips with sales and overcome your reticence. I did this in the early days and tried the traditional sales process. In retrospect I took some very helpful ideas from the sales training I did, but I also soon realised that it wasn’t a style that suited me. So I thought about the people I wanted to work with and considered how best to approach them. Pretty soon I had a style of my own that focused on building the relationship, understanding the relevant issues and only then talking about how I could help solve the problem. And given that most people are happy to talk about themselves and the challenges they face, it worked pretty well.

 So don’t let the idea of selling put you off, but don’t avoid it either.  Think it through carefully, take advice and work out your strategy. Given we know you’re good at what you do, get this licked and you’ll be well on your way.  

If you have found other ways to get around the challenge of selling yourself, let us know. 

Post your questions in the comments section below, ask us on the Psychologies Facebook and Twitter page or email I’ll be posting regularly, answering your questions.

Judith Leary Joyce

Great Companies Consulting

In 1996 I made the shift into business, taking my knowledge of Gestalt Psychology into the realm of Executive Coaching, Facilitation and Leadership/ Management Development. In 2001 I worked on the 100 Best Companies to Work For list, then went on to write my first book Becoming an Employer of Choice which was followed by Inspirational Manager and The Psychology of Success. Since then I have worked with organisations across the sectors from large corporates through to young start ups, public sector and charities. Now it’s time to help you have a love affair with your work and get exactly what you want from your career. To find out more about my work and coaching go to


Go to the profile of Julie Spencer
almost 4 years ago

Beautifully written and motivating blog, thank you.