“I’m…this good? Are you sure?”
Then they want to add a disclaimer, or soften up the piece. It’s almost as if they are afraid they won’t live up to what the copy is promising.
See, in my copywriting work, I have the great pleasure of working with many personally driven entrepreneurs. They are doing business with heart and soul. They do it because they love it, and they’re on a mission to change the world with each client they serve.
While it’s cool being a part of someone’s business and helping them shine and get seen online, the challenge is promoting their work in a way that feels “right” to them. Small business people and solopreneurs are often so caught up in who they are, and how they present themselves to the world that they often forget their marketing purpose to attract and win new business.
The challenge of objectivity
Some of my clients (especially those new in business) balk when they read about themselves in the third person because they feel they are “selling” themselves.
It’s a problem they take personally, and it keeps them playing smaller than they should.
One helpful piece of advice I give when delivering copy for a sales page or email, is to try to see your own business from the outside.
Read the copy with the eye of someone who desperately needs your services or product. Know that it will change their life. Stop reading the copy from inside your own narrow perspective.
Overcome it With Confidence
Good marketing takes confidence. It also requires that you assume a level of efficacy you may not be used to. It’s an accountability thing, a belief in your abilities and how well you actually perform a task. As my copywriting mentor Sandi Krakowski told me, “Being a business owner means you have to drop the drama.”
When you decide to go for it in your business, you have to release your hesitancy. Seriously and with intention, you must let go your fear of not being good enough. It’s not a business if you don’t ask for money; and asking for money requires authenticity and integrity. People want to know and feel that they’re in good hands.
As you create your marketing strategy and produce your copy and content, the easiest way to get over your own junk is to ask yourself, “If I didn’t know myself, would I want to do business with me?”
If you’re running and marketing your freelance business, especially when you’re working from home in a bit of a vacuum, you might be susceptible to seeing our business from a single point of view.
You can add a lot of unnecessary drama if you don’t believe you’re good enough. You might even try to disguise a lack of confidence by telling about yourself too much. Believe me, I’ve done it!
Solo-preneurs and small business people can become obsessed with their preconceived view of themselves — what they’ve done, what they do, what they think, feel, and say — and unable to see themselves objectively as their most satisfied clients might view them.
An inexperienced copywriter or someone marketing her own business may use “I” in her marketing and copywriting, and totally miss the connection she could be making with her customers. You remember that customers really only want to hear about themselves, not so much about the person behind the selling.
That takes confidence and the ability to see yourself as others do, and then to relay that information objectively. You’re not bragging, just asking for the sale.
Yes, even if you are the face of your brand, you have to get out of your own way.
Illeism, the habit of referring to oneself in the third person, is symptomatic of someone who is not only uber-confident, they imagine how they’re viewed by others. Ever notice that it’s pretty common among sports and political figures? Generally, thinking, speaking, and writing from a third-person point of view may lower your dependability factor. Take this example spoken by Lebron James:
I wanted to do what was best for LeBron James and what LeBron James was going to do to make him happy.
A bit much, don’t you think? You’d probably laugh if someone talked like that in person. However, when you’re writing copy, knowing how someone would describe you or refer to you is invaluable! Lose the bravado and this is exactly what you should do!
Can you project too much confidence in your copy?
It’s OK to hold yourself to a high standard.
It establishes importance and authority in your brand. However if you frequently do business from an “I” point of view (how I help, what I do best, the way I serve you), you impede your ability to connect with your best customers.
In a misguided effort to assure their customer of their honest intentions, beginning copywriters may even assure the reader, “I promise I’m not selling anything,” (I’ve actually seen this in sales copy!) which looks like you really don’t know what you’re doing, or you don’t have the chops to deliver.
People want to buy from those who have the confidence to make a bold, declarative promise. Many customers truly want you to make an offer because an offer shows honesty, clarity, and purpose within a business.
I’m not telling you to promise something you can’t deliver on, but be confident that what you have is worth paying money for — at least if you want to succeed in your business!
As long as you come from a place of service to your customer, a genuine offer reveals honest-to-goodness possibility. It feels good to deliver the offer and it feels authentic to receive it. Buying customers rely on the quality of confidence because it dissolves their own doubts and inner objections.
As psychologist James W. Pennebaker points out, the third person point of view relates to speakers who assume a higher status than those who use the first person. We often think of someone who uses “I” a lot as someone who’s self centered at worst, and confident at best. But Pennebaker counters that “I” reveals a touch of insecurity and an internalization of others’ opinions and observations.
Get over feeling weird about third-person language.
Marketing — especially self-marketing — demands some stretching. Look up and out. See yourself from the outside in order to grow and say what you do with assurance.
“I” Vs. “She”
Two ways to start seeing how others perceive you, and market your business with confidence
Viewing your business from your own point of view, is a first-person mindset. It is actually a good thing, because this mindset reveals a commitment to clients and customers. Using “I” in your writing also allows you to tell your personal story, to share your purpose for your business, and to solidify your personal brand. It shows you are willing to be “on the hook” for your work and that your word is gold.
But internalizing your work also gets in the way of being able to claim a place in the market and the (presumably) positive outcome of working with you.
If you want to start getting a good idea of how others see you, and gaining that third-person mindset — ask your clients! They will tell you how you are different, where you stand out, and why they like doing business with you. They may also tell you where you trip sometimes. Negative feedback is sometimes hard to hear, but listening is a skill that will pay you back in spades. Unless you can read minds, you should come right out and ask those questions in an exit interview or a survey for your ongoing clients.
Additionally, you may try getting some valuable insight from Sally Hogshead’s book below. I did this work and was found to be an “Intrigue”: Discerning, Perceptive and Considerate. It’s a fun test you can take online, or buy the book How the World Sees You: Discover Your Highest Value Through the Science of Fascination, and learn even more.