3 Simple Ways to Toot Your Own Horn Without Feeling Like a Schmuck

Why is it that some folks in your industry end up with book deals, TV shows, and can charge exorbitant amounts of money for products + services, yet you’re still left in the dust chasing down every single customer?

Ladies and gentleman, welcome to art of business bragging.

The people who get ahead are the people that sing their own praises on a regular basis. Others turn into shrinking violets at the thought of talking up their gifts. They recoil in fear that the mere thought of “bragging” will have customers running for the hills.

Does this sound like you?

Houston, we have a problem.

If you don’t speak up for yourself, no one else will.

So, here are three simple ways to toot your own horn without feeling like a schmuck.

Brag about your Passions

Do you roll your eyes at the thought of having to listen to someone droning on and on about how wonderful they are?

Me too.

But I’m always lit up by someone that speaks enthusiastically about his or her passions.

Check out these scenarios:

Scenario #1

OMG Sally, I’m such an amazingly creative person. I mean, I’m THAT good. I can out-write and out-perform any other business woman out there. The media adores me and tell me so on a regular basis. The last networking meeting I attended, people were literally dying to talk to me – but I don’t have time to talk to all of them. I don’t waste time on people that aren’t on my level, ya know? I’m only going to talk to people that can help me get further in my career.

Scenario #2

OMG Sally, I just LOVE being able to use creativity in my business. When I have a new client that wants to pitch the media, I get those warm fuzzies of excitement bubbling in my belly. Little kernels of ideas go off like popcorn in my brain and the excitement is palpable.

So which is the cool brag and which is the icky brag?

I’m sure you’ve guessed #2 is the “right” way to brag. Notice that the second brag allows you to talk about your strengths, but turns the focus on what you can do for your customer.

The first brag is all about the “bragger” and even goes so far as to put other people down. Sadly, brag #1 is from an actual conversation I had a few years ago at a networking meeting.

I faked a stomachache to get out of it.

Tell a Hero Story

When you watch a movie – who do you root for?

I bet it’s the underdog.

As an entrepreneur, you’ve likely been an underdog at some point. Maybe you’re even one right now.

And if you’re like me, you’ve probably made some massive screw-ups that taught you a really good life lesson. Maybe this failure even led to business success.

Telling hero stories is a great way to illustrate how you overcame a specific problem. Your customers can learn from your solution and get to know you a little better along the way.

Your customers and the media can root and cheer for you as you pull yourself out of the dank recesses into a stunningly good situation.

Hero stories work well on your About Me page, in press pitches (think O Magazine’s Live Your Best Life section), and in blog posts. For an example, check out my own About Me page where I discuss some of my worst business foibles.

Show Off Your Knowledge

Bragging with useful content is a great way to showcase your expertise without having to provide your own kudos. Use your blog or social media profiles to dish out clever tips. Hit up LinkedIn groups or the “answers” section and help someone out. Leave thoughtful comments on blogs. Better yet, offer to write a guest post for one of those blogs.

People will be wowed by your smarty-pants advice. And you didn’t have to say a single word about your killer business prowess.

TAKE ACTION: Full bragging rights allowed! Toot your own horn right here on this blog. Leave a comment about your one secret weapon, ninja skill that makes you totally awesome-sauce.

Go ahead, don’t be shy.

Too much of a good thing...

is delicious. :)

Don’t hold back – sign up for (even more) totally addictive advice
on publicity, self-promotion + sales.

{ 46 comments } Add your comment ...

  1. Annika |

    Really excellent point to make, Melissa. Especially as women we're often taught that humility and bashfulness are part of being feminine so we avoid opportunities to highlight our talents thinking that is brash, unladylike behavior.
    I'm a fan of the kick-in-the-pants mentality, so I'm a fan of this one for sure:) Toot awayyy!!

    • melissa |

      Thanks Annika! I agree that especially for women this can be a difficult strategy. I’m giving everyone permission – women + men – to brag away here!

  2. I love the fact that my mosaic tile jewelry is the only kind like it in the entire world! I'm so clever, I came up with the patent pending process all on my own and… oops! I think this is the type of brag you warned us about!
    What I meant to say is " My jewelry is colorful, fun and reversible so it gives the wearer tons of versatility. I love having designs that range from classic to funky because it puts me in touch with so many different types of people!' (There. That's better!)

    • melissa |

      LOL! What a great save Deborah and your jewelry is beautiful. Brag away!

    • Andrea |

      Nice brag (both of them) Deborah A.

  3. I have ran and operated a National Networking Org. for Women Entrepreneurs for 8 years. I am creative and ambitious. During this time I truly helped many women to start, grow, and run their home businesses. I love what I do, it's truly amazing when I know someone's life was change positively because of the assistance I was able to deliver.

    • melissa |

      Wonderful ShaChen!

  4. Melissa,
    As "The Leading International Authority in Healthy Relationships & Healthy Sexuality," I have been fortunate to have my social media followers thank me for sharing my positive adventures as I, like you, ask others to share their experiences and their stories, too!
    Nothing is more exciting for me than to see others succeed and flourish, so the opportunity to give them a voice to share is awesome! Thank you for doing the same for your followers as building healthy relationships allows everyone to succeed!
    Andrea Adams-Miller, Revealing the Secrets to Ignite the Spark, Fire, & Passion, http://www.SexualityTutor.com,

    • melissa |

      Thanks Andrea and what a cool + spicy business you have!

  5. Amanda |

    I have an ability to make people feel warm and fuzzy about technical website stuff (like coding), even if they were terrified of it before! In fact, that's the whole premise behind my new course for women, The Girl's Guide to Web Design!
    I'm passionate about busting through the stereotype that coding is for men – and about showing the ladies out there that they CAN have the site or blog of their dreams (one that matches the gorgeous visions they have in their heads). :)

    • melissa |

      awesome Amanda!! Love that you deliver tech stuff in delicious satisfying bites :-)

  6. Thank you Melissa,
    This has helped me tremendously.  

  7. Tiia |

    My favorite thing about what I do is that I am providing an alternative to mass production. Designs that you won't see elsewhere. Hand making accessories, baby and home things that are truly original is something I practically live for. Combining that with my love of styling photos, dressing trends for the everyday and seeing beauty in the oddball, I can't think of a better way for design loving people to be the trendsetter and not the trend follower. In some cases, even customizing something just to a persons taste, so it's a perfect fit for their lifestyle.

  8. As an author nothing is more satisfying than when people tell me the different ways that  my novel impacted them. It made all the sweat and tears and years it took to write Angels of Humility worth it. Each day I pray that God will not just entertain people but change their lives through the book!

  9. As a seminar speaker my presentations and stories enthrall. With a twist in the tale I challenge and equip the hearer to be all they can be through humor and goodwill.

  10. I love to make other people shine and that in turn makes me shine so thanks to this post I'm gonna remember that's my brag tag! Great read Melissa!!! You Rock! So glad I signed up for this awesomness!!!

  11. Wonderful Article Melissa, thanks for the tips

  12. walter daniels |

    "It's not bragging, if you can do it." How many times have you heard that comment? The real test is in how we talk about ourselves. We have to brag, without bragging.

  13. Laura |

    Wow! These are great tips. Just like most people reading this post, I often feel super-shy about telling people about my awesome skills. This post is really helpful. How does this sound:
    "Problem solving comes so naturally to me that when I start with a new customer my mind is reeling from ideas that can make their website show off their amazing products. I can't wait to help each client bring in tons of visitors and convert those visitors into customers who will keep coming back! I feel really lucky that I'm getting to work with these wonderful people and pay the bills at the same time and I just want to share that with them so they can do the same."
    It needs a little work I think, but it's getting there… :)
    As always, thank you Melissa!

  14. Ed Trice |

    A great Yogi Berra quote comes to mind:
    "It ain't braggin', if you can do it."

    In the computer industry, it's often very difficult to discuss "how much better" your stuff is than the rest of the field. Even knowledgeable people scoff at some of the performance benchmarks we publish, because of what I call the David and Goliath Scenario.

    How can a small company from Delaware create 5.2 GHz computers when even the 'Mighty Giant' (Intel) can only produce 3.4 GHz systems?

    Go see my friend, Yogi (or visit my website!)

  15. Very very cool advice thanks – I go between wanting to tell of my accomplishments and worried that I'm bragging (which I had one nasty person tell me).

    I like the reframe of how to talk about your passions without it all being "me, me, me"
    Denise DT

  16. Melissa, this is such a liberating post! So many of us were raised to think that talking about yourself and emphasizing what you're good at and what benefit this can be to others was showing lack of humility and was 'bad.'  As a result we underplay our strengths and highlight (at least in our minds) our weaknesses.
    I've learned that to downplay your strengths so that others do not get to know you and how you can help them is actually selfish…and in business… foolish.
    Thanks for the great examples you gave on what to do and what not to do. :)

  17. Barbra |

    Many creative souls work alone and are more 'behind the scenes'  than  'on stage' so bragging is difficult. I have been learning how to brag appropriately and appreciate your thoughts.

  18. I teach small business owners how to write their own marketing copy. One of the ideas I stress: Marketing is a self-serving activity.
    If you don't find a way to tell someone why you are the very best at what you do, NO ONE will do it for you!

  19. I taught college English–lit and writing–for years and when I left teaching, thought I'd try my hand at writing fiction.  After all, I'd been talking about it for years.
    Well, I soon learned talking and doing are two different things.  Years later–years!–I finally understood the difference between show and tell, the true purpose of dialogue and that conflict and complication are separate entities.  So now, at last, I can critique for my writing pals and make comments that make sense.  That are even helpful–I hope.
    Yeah, writing is a humbling but such a satisfying endeavor..

  20. Chas |

    You made me re-read your About Me page and refreshed my memory of how good it is. And a note to Amanda~ not all guys are good at code. :-)

  21. My secret superpower is that I am awesome at connecting people with information, or with other people.  I use this in my coaching business by providing a wealth of information, and connections with other people who can help my clients get what they need or do what they want to do.
    I've got a raft of communication tools (good for most everyone), and a lot of personal and learned experience in the realm of "Outside of the Box" relationships, particularly polyamory.
    I most love those times when I get to take a client on a Shamanic Journey, and to help them talk to a part of themselves that they might have been out of touch with for months or years–or forever. I feel blessed to be a catalyst for people's growth and change, and to be a part of their process of healing and transformation.

  22. I love owning my own arts and entrepreneur center
    to share my joy of the arts with the youth in the area.
    My challenge is to get the upstairs apartments finished
    to provide income so I can hire teachers and help pay expenses.

  23. Those are great tips and I really enjoyed the sample dialogue.

  24. Melissa!! 
    Excellent post!! What a great way for everyone to toot their own horn!! Thank you!
    I think my secret sauce and 1 ninja secret in my business is that I make people feel very comfortable and I am easy to relate too and that helps me in my business as I coach & consult women entrepreneurs on how to grow their business and help them bust thru any blocks that are holding them back from reaching their unlimited/full potential in order create a successful business so that they can leave a legacy for their families and the next generation to come!! 
    Thanks so much for everything you do ~ I love all of your posts..they are so helpful!

  25. Melissa, wow. Great advice. Thank you. Procrastinating 30 years to write a book is pathetic, so finally, I made a 100-day challenge on April Fool's Day 2009 to write 5 daily blogs (Life's Big Choices) to leave a trail for our young son in case something bad every happened to me. That was nearly 5,000 posts ago. Keep inspiring and helping others. jeff

  26. Hi Melissa, Thank you ! You have wonderful insight and information.  Best to you. Margaux Monet

  27. Sibyl |

    I have a friend that doesn' t like to brag about herself and now I can tell her how to do it the right way.  
    Also, if all the people/businesses featured in my book, How to Ditch the Corporate World and Rock Your Own, acquired new customers, I truly would be as happy as they are.  I love helping others follow their passion.  
    Great post Melissa. 

  28. Debra |

    Hi Melissa,
    It seems I've come full circle in my professional life without realizing or planning it to be that way.  I spent my first professional life working with learning disabled youth as an Occupational Therapist.  When I eased into the Small Business world as a Cookie Manufacturer, I thought I had left the service world behind.  Now, having used my creative, analytical, and interpersonal skills, I've become a go to person in the arena of Gluten Free Baking.   It's like coming home to feel the joy my customers show in their faces and express in words when they taste our Gluten Free cookies and muffins.  When I'm able to help a parent grasp the positive way to introduce Gluten Free foods to their child who is just diagnosed with Celiac Disease, it's a rewarding experience for us all.
    I used to think that the business world was cold and cut throat.  I now see the partnership that is possible with consumers and wholesale customers.
    I truly love what I do !

    • melissa |

      Hi Debra! It sounds like you’re already the go-to expert in Gluten-Free baking, so think about what’s next. Is it that you want more media coverage or maybe to leverage that coverage into a book deal or something else? I’d love to see you bring out your personality on your site – your photo, bio, some topics you speak on in the Gluten-Free world. You’ll make a bigger connection and attract more media coverage by emerging from your brand into a personality. Shine!

  29. Hello, I'm Walethia Aquil I create powerful professional brand br taking professionals from invisible to impeccable within a competitive market place that generates business building results.

  30. Carol |

    The thing that really makes me get out of the bed in the morning is when an author or a publisher actually thanks me for getting them a great interview on a national radio station or for securing a celebrity to endorse their book.  Actually it feels kinda good even if I don't get thanked.

  31. RIta |

    Having worked as a HR professional for many years but always having a love of theatre and the arts in general I resigned to train as a professional actor and after graduating worked in usual way, jobbing actor and enjoying it.  By chance I got involved in the learning and development area as a business actor using theatre based skills to support communications programmes. I got such satisfaction from this work that I set up  my own business using the combined skills and experience supporting trainers  to give delegates the opportunity to practice new skills in safe environment. The results are astounding!  Feedback confirms the positive outcomes and delegates go back to the corporate world confident in using these skills to make a difference.

  32. Sorry for the long start at the previous comment… I did not write here first because I checked  misspelling first, pls delete if you can.
    Have a nice Sunday! Viktoria

  33. Lynn Buckner |

    I love sharing and helping others get happiness and success even beyond their dreams. My passion is to identify people's strengths and then help them see what they are missing that is very special!
    I work with people in the medical field. They frequently have difficulty "tooting their own horn". I enjoyed the article and will share it with them. Your words will give them great food for thought.

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