How I realized I don’t suck at marketing (and how to get better at yours)

How I realized I don't suck at marketing (and how you can get better at your's)

Here’s an interesting confession for someone who now makes (at least part of) her living doing content marketing: I used to think I sucked at marketing. Like, really bad. 

Why did I think I was terrible at marketing?

I’ve thought about it since then and I think the main thing was that I equated marketing with sales. Both sales as in, getting on the phone and asking people for money (merciful Zeus, don’t make me do that), and sales as in, “if I was any good at marketing at all, obviously I’d be making like, six figures a year or more.” Neither of these are necessarily true for reasons I’ll get to in a moment, but first, let’s talk about my “come to Jesus” moment…

The outside perspective:

When I started interviewing for jobs last year, I got a surprise. I started out by applying to project-manager-esque jobs. Some account management, too, and I even applied for some office manager type jobs. And one of the places I had a phone interview for at an awesome company here in Austin, the HR manager pretty much changed my life. She said, “I’ve looked at your resume and you’re obviously really smart and talented, but I had one question: Why aren’t you applying for marketing jobs? That’s what came to mind for me when I looked at your accomplishments and skill set.”

Cue the record scratch.

Say what?! Someone who literally hires people for a living thinks I’m good at marketing? Well, huh. I have to think about this more.

In the next few weeks, I totally retooled my resume to focus on that part of my skill set, and soon, I had a job. Doing something I had previously thought I sucked at. And getting not only compliments from my director and boss, but getting results for clients. (Also, around six months after I originally applied to aforementioned company, I saw that they had a “marketing coordinator” position available and sent in my info for that…to be told my info would be passed along but that the position was probably too junior for me.)

As far as the idea of “sales” goes, I still hate getting on the phone and trying to do the hard sell. Honestly, I’d pretty much rather stab myself in the eye than talk to someone I don’t know on the phone. Instead of trying to force something like that, I generally go with the radiate and state the facts method, and it’s working pretty well for me.

As far as income goes, I think the main reason that I wasn’t making steady income before was a marketing issue, but not that I inherently sucked at it. I wasn’t applying myself to my own marketing and I wasn’t being consistent with marketing myself and my services. I think the main issue there is that I was so incredibly burned out it’s a wonder that I got through last year at all.

Getting better at marketing yourself: two suggestions

Believe in what you’re doing and avoid burnout

These might seem like two separate suggestions, but to me, they’re one and the same. It’s virtually impossible to believe in what you’re doing if you’re so burned out you can’t even think straight. Likewise, it’s impossible to market yourself if you don’t 100% believe in what you’re doing and the results you can bring to the table, and you can’t do anything well when you’re burned out.

I don’t have a pat answer for believing in what you’re doing. I know you do think you’re bringing value to the table, because if you’re here and reading this, you’re probably not the type of person that would try to sell someone snake oil. So remind yourself of that – save testimonials from clients, save nice things people say to you on Twitter, keep them someplace you can return to them, and remind yourself as often as possible that yes, you do rock at what you do.

Further resources for avoiding burnout: When you’re on the verge of crispy: a guide for the almost-burned out and The Kick Burnout Kit

Treat yourself as you would a client

Even if you’re not in the marketing field, I think this still applies. Why? Because you wouldn’t let a client’s projects sit on the back burner because you just “didn’t have time” for them, right? So why would you let your own business development sit on the back burner for the same reason? Give yourself and your business the same level of care and consideration you give your clients. Make sure you’re carving out at least two, and probably more like five (as a minimum), hours a week to think about your own marketing and how you can get better at it.

You might not like marketing but, fortunately or not, it’s a factor of doing business. And make sure to read the other posts in the July Word Carnival, Marketing without Marketing, which is pretty much this whole topic. Nobody likes to be “sold”. But professionals of all ilk have value to add to a product, service, or business. So how do you convey it without being a salesperson? Read the other entries here


  1. Pingback: Marketing without Marketing | Word Carnivals

  2. Great advice, Michelle. The really tough part, I find, is penciling in an appointment for yourself in the diary, but that’s the only way to work on your business consistently.


  3. For someone so young, you’ve doled out a big bucket of sage advice!

    Love your job search story … with the unexpected twist. 😉


  4. Great post, Michelle. I totally agree with the whole “treat yourself as your #1 client” advice. And Sharon’s right – making an appointment with/for yourself, and making it sacrosanct, is really the only way to go.


  5. It’s amazing what kinds of skills and subsidiary skills and tangential skills come out of the woodwork when you think you’re doing one kind of work and you’re really doing another.

    Marketing is one of those amazing cross-genre skills (like coding or writing) which makes you a rockstar in any industry you want to play in. What you’re addressing is that a “Career” is actually a span of various skills which scale and interact in cool, exciting ways when you’re put into a new position.

    In my experience, the best rockstars have been the people who look for interesting problems to solve, and then try to solve them. Not “SOLVE” them, but try to solve them. Which means they bring interdisciplinary thought (whatever their background is) to the plate and take a whack. I LOVE those people, and they’re so freaking rare.

    Awesome post, awesome advice.


  6. You hit the nail on the head here: “Give yourself and your business the same level of care and consideration you give your clients.” As a marketing coach I can attest to the fact that most folks kinda already know WHAT they should be doing. They just aren’t doing it on a regular and consistent basis. Showing up for your own business will get you at least 50% of the way there.


  7. Ah, yes. I still struggle with making time to think about my own business’ marketing. Most of the time I spend thinking about it is while I’m getting dressed in the morning, as in, while showering. I should really invest in some of these:

    Thanks for some seriously fantastic advice! The phrase “merciful Zeus, don’t make me do that” made me laugh out loud, by the way. 🙂


  8. Wow Michelle, sounds like you had a roller coaster of a year, but what has come out of it is a new found set of skills that you are good at and enjoy and that you are valued for too, which is awesome. We so need validation for what we do, be it from clients or colleagues. Like everyone else the line that I am taking away to polish and keep is to give myself the same care and consideration as my clients. Thank you 🙂


  9. “you wouldn’t let a client’s projects sit on the back burner because you just “didn’t have time” for them”

    That right there is the heart of getting your business act together. It’s so easy to overlook our own stuff in favor of “work” but we have to spend time on our own business if it’s going to grow and thrive. That’s a great perspective!


  10. Well, that was awfully nice of that hiring manager! I hope you get to work with her some day, she sounds like just the right kind of person to be in HR – the kind who likes people and enjoys fostering inherent abilities and talents.

    Excellent advice, AND I’m with you on the phone and strangers thing. Torture.


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