You have something to say.
You've been saving it up for a while now, being patient, listening, taking notes, and researching.
You want your voice to be heard, but you're scared to open your mouth.
Reading about self-promotion and marketing is interesting, but it totally doesn't jibe with what you think will work for you or how you think you should share your work.
Sharing, talking, and putting yourself out there take a lot of energy, and most of the time you'd rather just focus on your work. Plus, you're a private person, so sharing isn't something you're typically comfortable doing.
So, how do introverts market their work?
A lot of people assume I'm an extrovert because I'm not shy. I associate more with introversion because I am energized by being alone--in both my work and free time.
If left to my own devices, I'd rather be alone--most of the time, in the woods with my thoughts (and probably a camera). I'm quiet around people, but not because I'm awkward. It's because unless someone else engages me, I'm happy being with my own thoughts. Once engaged or interested, I have no problem talking to people--even folks I don't know. I like being alone; whereas a shy person may wish he or she was better with social interactions.
Introversion may be all the rage, thanks to smart folks like Susan Cain. And, like a true hipster, I was an introvert before it was cool. Back in grade school, I'd hang out alone with Legos and the illustrating books that I would write. However popular now, Cain's book is still worth diving into, because a lot of the knowledge out there on marketing and self-promotion is not geared toward us.
I do lots of self-promotion for my work, and I go even further, because I write about it, too. Because I have a penchant for aloneness and quiet, here's how I approach marketing and the self-promo necessary for my work:
1. Scheduling bravery
Sharing can be draining. So I schedule sharing when I've got the energy and am feeling amped up to do it. That means putting newsletters in the cue sometimes weeks before they go out, prepublishing blog posts to go live at later dates, and even scheduling tweets way ahead of time. (I try to schedule the tweeting of articles I've written to go out at least once a day.) Luckily, social media (and tools like Buffer, MailChimp, and WordPress) make it easy to cue up as many things as you want for posting at a future date.
2. Not everything needs to be an open discussion
I'm picky about receiving feedback on my writing. Not because I think I know everything, but because I don't have the mental space to deal with a constant discussion of my ideas. That's why I don't have comments on my website and why I don't answer every tweet, or even have a Facebook account. Interactions require a specific headspace that I'm not always in, so I pick and choose which places I interact. For me, that means I always interact with my newsletter (because I enjoy that the most) and sometimes on Twitter (my social network of choice). You can pick and choose interacting with others, or turn off interactions if they don't suit you.
3. Focus on your audience
I talk about this a lot, but I focus my attention solely on my rat people. If some people are not into your work, hate what you do, or wouldn't ever think about supporting you, it's OK to write those people off. Don't answer their emails, don't reply to them on social media--pretend they don't exist. Difficult to do? Yes. Important to do in the long run? Totally.
4. Share what makes you strong
There's a lot of talk about authenticity, vulnerability, and honesty--and while those are good, seldom does advice out there paint the whole picture. You can share the honest and vulnerable parts of you that you want, and keep the rest to yourself. You don't have to share everything; you can just share what you're comfortable with or what gives you strength. If you're naturally private, then only share small pieces. If you're not comfortable sharing with strangers, just share tiny amounts publicly and share more privately with them (say, if they opt into your list or join a private Facebook community).
The most important thing about self-promotion or marketing is that you don't have to always be doing it. Do it at the end of your day; schedule it; do it once or twice a week. Then retreat to doing your work or recharging. I know how to reenergize myself (nature, reading books, watching sci-fi). Figuring how you get energy is important when you know which things in life drain it.
6. Find your medium
I know I'm not the best public speaker. I don't like big groups (like events or conferences), and I'm better at communicating through the written word. This isn't negative self-talk--I don't even feel bad about it--I just play to my strengths and only occasionally push the boundaries of my weaknesses. Whether it's writing, video, audio, painting, dance, whatever--find the medium you're most comfortable with and do most of your sharing in that way. And then sometimes, push against the mediums you don't think you're as good at, in order to grow.
7. Practice your story
A lot of the time, introverts aren't the best at talking about themselves or their work. I actually practice, by writing and rewriting my bio. Writing and rewriting book synopses. Sometimes, if I'm pitching a design to a client, I'll pre-write out all the points and benefits I want to mention when talking to the client. Practice before taking something public. For books or products, I also enlist help from other people (who are part of the audience it's created for) and get them to describe back to me whatever it is I'll be selling. That helps me with language and phrasing.
I definitely know that introversion isn't a one-size-fits-all label (and anyway, labels are for jars, not people), but the above points are what works for me. I hope one or more might help you if lean that way, too.
Remember the "self" in self-promotion is you, and guess what? You are in charge of you! Introvert or not, you make the calls on what fits and what doesn't. So do things in the unique way that works for you.
Marketing doesn't have to be you doing everything.
It can be a focus on one type of interaction, one social network, and one schedule that works for your on- and off-times.
As long as you're sharing your work with other people--the right people--then you're marketing. Because really, all marketing is is communication. And even introverts know how to do that, even if it's in small doses.