The Hyphen: Self-Promo Is Hard But Necessary

Hi friends—

Hope all is well,

During a photography workshop I went to years ago, a section of the course was run by a renowned photographer whose work I’d personally admired for years. He asked if one person out of the group would like to be used as his test subject. You’d get to keep the print afterwards, he promised. That would be cool, I thought. This opportunity would probably never arise again. Yet no one stepped forward, or put their hand up, even though it was clear we all wanted to do it. None of us wanted to be the person who might appear to be selfish, bolshy or vain. I was itching to put my hand up, but something inside stopped me.

Then one of the guys who was working on the set (who hadn’t paid to be on the course) stepped forward and casually said, “I’ll do it!” We all watched on, silently stewing. We missed out. Getting what you want, in premise, seems to be quite simple — you just need to be unafraid of ‘putting yourself out there’. But raising your hand and saying “me!” often doesn’t always seem like the most likeable trait, and so we stop ourselves.

Whether we like it or not, self promotion has become more important as our workplace becomes more digital. ‘Social recruiting’ is a thing: companies recruiting candidates through social platforms like Linkedin or Twitter. As the old saying goes: “no one is going to find you on the third page of Google.” (I wish the publishing process of great novels was that they were ‘randomly found in a dusty drawer’, but alas, they are not.)

And yet, self-promotion still often gets a bad rap. Whenever I ask people their thoughts on self-promotion, some agree that it’s crucial, but many think it’s crass and cringe. We read multiple articles stating that “you should blow your own trumpet more often” and yet, when we do, you can immediately visualise a sea of people raising their eyebrows at you.

I definitely believe in striking the right balance and not turning into human internet spam. Anne T Donahue, an online writer who is very good at promoting her own work on social media, says, “It’s a case of peppering your feed as opposed to pouring salt on it.” There is something icky and off-putting about someone plugging their “thing” 24/7 a day — it’s boring and starts to become background noise. We also have to find new creative ways, because the Internet gets louder by the day.

Louise O’Neill, best-selling author of Asking For It, says: “I used to have this real Irish self-deprecation thing, saying things like, ‘Oh, no, I can’t do that’ or ‘I’d be terrible at that’, but then people take you at face value. They’re like, ‘Oh, that’s fine; in that case, we’ll give that job to… Angela!” This is an important message — if you keep putting yourself down, or denying yourself key opportunities by staying quiet or keeping yourself small, then of course you can’t expect people to want to go out of their way to give you the job or discover your work.

My inspiration is the pitch monologue Andy Sachs gives Miranda Priestly in her office, which unconventionally scores her the job in The Devil Wears Prada. Go all in. Let’s shout about our achievements and other people’s. Self-promoting myself online has probably won me most of my greatest opportunities. Let’s get rid of the shame that still exists around sharing our own work.

TIP: Practise self-promoting to your friends. Tell them about the work you’re doing and why you’re proud of it. Then, practise writing that Instagram caption or LinkedIn post in this same tone of voice. Realise that self-promoting is not an ego move; it is a business move. If you tell people about your work, you’ll probably get more work.

My book SABOTAGE: Quieten Your Inner Critic is available now.

Feel free to drop me a line with what you’d like to see more of in this newsletter at

Emma xo


What’s New on Ctrl Alt Delete Podcast?

Dr Soph is a registered Clinical Psychologist and one of my favourite people to follow on Instagram. She has also contributed to my new book SABOTAGE.

We talk about how we don't actually love the word self-sabotage but it is a useful phrase to sum up why we do what we do, how to spot our behaviours and the tools we can have in our back pocket to help us get out of our own way. Self-sabotage can actually be useful and show us what we really want, or show us the conflicts in our life. It's us "seeking safety" basically. Available now across all pod apps.


An OMG Moment.

Coming soon to Ctrl Alt Delete. My first IRL interview since February. Dame Jacqueline Wilson! 👑When I think of my childhood I think of her books. Who would have thought, that one day I would interview her, AND that she would tell me that she had READ OLIVE?? WHAT A DAY.


Layla F. Saad wrote Me and White Supremacy to encourage people who hold white privilege to examine their (often unconscious) racist thoughts and behaviours through a unique, 28-day reflection process. She is now bringing out this brilliant guided journal. There are prompts and lots of space for note-taking, this is the perfect place to continue your antiracism journey. It’s out in November, you can pre-order now.

I guest’d on a podcast! I really enjoyed chatting to Selina Barker, host of Project Love (I’ve mentioned this podcast a few times in this newsletter, now I’m on it!) We talk about my new book SABOTAGE and why my imposter syndrome got worse the more I had accomplished. You can listen here!

Twenty years ago, Simon Sinek’s sister and their family suffered a tragedy that they don’t talk about very often. She wanted to talk about it on his podcast with the hope that it might help someone else. This is… A Bit of Optimism.


Love books? Come & join The Hyphen Book Club!

Here are some books I’ve recommended recently:

Life in Pieces - Dawn O’Porter
The Dip - Seth Godin
Insatiable - Daisy Buchanan
Some Body To Love - Alex Heminsley


Click here to join 55,000+ students by signing up to my Skillshare class! "5 Exercises To Build Creative Confidence"


Thanks for subscribing! I'm Emma, the person behind this newsletter. I am the bestselling author of The Multi-Hyphen Method, SABOTAGE, my debut novel OLIVE (a no.1 Apple audiobook!) and creator of the hit podcast series Ctrl Alt Delete. You can also follow me on Instagram here, and Twitter here.

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