6 Ways to Stop Self-Sabotaging Your Online Marketing Efforts

When you feel stuck or lack confidence regarding your next move, it’s time to draw a line in the sand and make a change.

We all have stories we tell ourselves about why we can’t do something in our business. Whether we chalk them up to impostor syndrome1, perfectionism, or something in between, we’ve all been guilty of self-sabotage at some point during our entrepreneurial journey.

No one is immune. Our reasoning behind why we can’t do something is powerful, especially if we’re avoiding taking an action we know would be good for our business but that also feels overwhelming.

Now, everyone’s stories are different, but here are a few I’ve heard recently from colleagues related to marketing their businesses online:

  • I don’t have time to market my business online. Online marketing takes too much time.
  • The market is too saturated. There’s no way for me to stand out to clients online.
  • I don’t know where to start/what to do, so I don’t do anything to market my business online.
  • What will people think if I put myself out there?
  • I don’t want to stand out or toot my own horn.
  • I would like to market my business, but then impostor syndrome sets in.2 I’m afraid to be criticized.
  • I can’t sell (myself).
  • I’m a perfectionist, and I don’t feel my ________ is good enough yet to market my business.

The stories we tell ourselves can cause us to stall our marketing efforts, whether we realize it at first or not. The concerns expressed above are all legitimate. However, they shift from concerns to self-sabotage when we let them stop us from achieving more, whether it be finding better clients, tapping into a new specialization, or simply updating areas of our online presence like our website or digital profiles.

If we’re not careful, our businesses can remain stagnant for years, we earn less than we’re capable of, we work for clients who don’t pay well or respect our boundaries, or worse…we burn out altogether because we haven’t taken care of ourselves or our businesses.

How to Stop Self-Sabotaging Your Online Marketing Efforts and Start Taking Action

When you feel stuck or lack confidence regarding your next move, it’s time to draw a line in the sand and make a change. Here are six ways to stop self-sabotaging your online marketing efforts.

1. Ask for help.

None of us can know everything, do everything, or be everything in our business. When you’re feeling stuck or stalling out on something related to your online marketing, talk to a colleague, mentor, business coach, therapist, former professor, or someone who can relate and provide a different perspective. It’s okay to ask for help, to not have all the answers, and to recognize when you need support. If you feel like your online marketing efforts are constantly hanging over your head, talk to someone who can help you start down the path to reach your goals.

2. Flip the script.

Limiting beliefs are real. Similar to the stories we tell ourselves, we all have limiting beliefs. Recognize yours and make a concerted effort to shift these beliefs to a more positive and abundant mindset. Sometimes a mindset shift is all you need to start working on your website, polish your LinkedIn profile, or start sharing about your business on the social media sites where your clients are active. The sidebar below provides some examples of how to reframe your limiting beliefs.

3. Recognize that it’s okay to be uncomfortable sometimes.

When something worth doing is uncomfortable, it’s easy to make excuse after excuse about why we can’t do it. If marketing our businesses came naturally, we would all be steadily marketing year-round. Instead, I see many freelancers going to the opposite end of the spectrum: not marketing at all.

The key is to make your marketing feel like you. Don’t follow what everyone else is doing. Learn from others about what works and what doesn’t, then tweak these strategies to fit your business and personality. Create some email and LinkedIn templates you can use to reach out to potential clients and try to send a few messages to potential clients a week. The more you do this, the more comfortable you’ll feel reaching out to prospects. You can apply this tip to any area of your online marketing.

4. Make a focused plan.

When you start to feel overwhelmed with online marketing, it’s time to make a focused plan. Don’t stop yourself before you start because your sense of feeling overwhelmed is running the show. Instead, take some time to think about how to make your marketing efforts consistent and focused. This kind of planning and follow-through over time will lead to results.

5. Remember that no one was born knowing how to market their business.

It’s true that everyone has to start somewhere. Think about the colleagues you know, including those you admire from afar. How did they get where they are? How do they market their businesses with grace and confidence? How do they seem to achieve so much on a consistent basis? Just like everyone else, they took the first step. And then they took another and another. Don’t let not knowing exactly how to do something stop you from taking the first step.

6. Start small.

Reduce that feeling of being overwhelmed by breaking marketing tasks or projects into smaller, more digestible to-do items. You don’t have to do everything at once—that’s impossible for anyone! By taking this approach to online marketing, you’ll slowly build a sustainable, reliable approach to get new and better clients over the long-term.

Even small progress is worth the effort. Take it from our colleague, ATA Past President Corinne McKay, who shared this via Twitter:

Freelance tip: Honestly, 90+% of freelancers: a) do little to no marketing, while b) lamenting that everyone else makes more money, gets better clients, or does more interesting work. Even a moderate amount of proactive marketing will get you into the other 10%. (@corinnemckay)

We often make online marketing much harder than it really is. The stories we tell ourselves are strong enough to stop us before we ever get started. Work on taking a proactive approach and setting aside a few minutes a day. You can slowly increase the amount of time you put into marketing your business. But starting small is a step in the right direction.

Questions to Ask Yourself to Move Forward

The next time you find yourself making an excuse about why you can’t or don’t want to work on your online marketing, stop, take a step back, and assess why you feel this way. What brought you to this place where you think you can’t or don’t want to share your expertise with clients you know could benefit from your services? What’s stopping you from updating your website or reaching out to some potential clients on LinkedIn?

Sometimes the answers to these questions bring up uncomfortable feelings about who we believe ourselves to be or what we believe our capabilities are. Challenge those feelings and thoughts and push through them to find a way to take consistent action, even if it’s just one step. After all, that’s usually the hardest one to take.

  1. Impostor syndrome is the fear that we aren’t good enough at something we set out to do or that we’re asked to do, coupled with a fear of being called out as a “fraud.”
  2. You can find some tips on how to overcome impostor syndrome here: “How to Overcome Impostor Syndrome as a Translator or Interpreter,” http://bit.ly/overcoming-impostor.

Madalena Sánchez Zampaulo, CT is ATA president-elect and chairs the Governance and Communications Committee. She is the owner of Accessible Translation Solutions and a Spanish>English and ATA-certified Portuguese>English translator. She served as chair of ATA’s Membership Committee (2018–2020), Public Relations Committee (2014–2018), and administrator of ATA’s Medical Division (2011–2015). She has a BA in Spanish from the University of Southern Mississippi and an MA in Spanish from the University of Louisville. She is also a consultant for the University of Louisville Graduate Certificate in Translation. You can read more of her articles on her blog at www.madalenazampaulo.com/blog-home. madalena@accessibletranslations.com

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