Terrifed of self promotion

“Help, I’m Terrified Of Self Promotion!”

Your wolfhounds are on red alert

Dear Clare

I am terrified of self promotion and it’s causing problems between me and my husband. The embarrassing thing is we both worked in marketing! He still does but I stepped away when our daughters were born. Then I started beekeeping and making beeswax candles and now I have a tiny business. I mainly sell to family and friends through word of mouth.

We’re fighting because he says I should actively market my candles on Instagram and approach local stores, but I can’t stand that idea. It’s a full-body feeling of JUST NO. The thought of pushing my stuff onto people and asking for money… It makes me sick.

But at the same time I know he’s right! I want to grow my business, we need more income and I would love to see my candles in stores. I take so much care over them. They’re expensive but they’re made right, you know? The reactions I get from people are very, very positive. And I would just love “candlemaker” to be my full time job.

The problem is, when it’s me in my shed working alone, I’m so happy. But when I think of potential buyers or shopkeepers judging me? I go off the deep end about how my candles aren’t that good anyway, and there are too many candles in the world and why should anyone even look at mine?

I don’t get it. Why am I so afraid when I used to do this for a living?


Dear Ellie,


We’ll have to talk quietly because your brain is trying very hard to keep you safe and it has excellent hearing.

These big feelings you’re having? The full-body NO and the nausea and the lectures you give yourself about your candles?

That’s fear and shame.

Listen, your brain quite rightly doesn’t want you to get hurt, ever.

When it hears ideas about promoting your candles and growing your business – even when those ideas come from you – it runs a few projections, consults your memory banks and concludes they are much too risky.

So it takes defensive action.

At the moment, that means sending fear and shame out to roam your halls like two wolfhounds with glowing red eyes.

When the wolfhounds hear a whisper about selling to shops or getting on Instagram their job is to freeze you in terror or make you throw up. Those sensations aren’t pleasant but your brain sees them as a price worth paying.

It’s pretty hard to promote anything when you’re quivering like an asparagus stalk.

I can’t tell you if growing your candle business or approaching stores will ultimately be right for you. Only you can say that.

But your wolfhounds are currently on red alert.

It’s taking very little to trigger your fear and shame just now, which makes it hard for you think and talk about your options. If we calm things down, the way ahead might become clearer.

Now, I bet you have a hundred examples of embarrassing, indulgent, vainglorious, seedy, barrel-scraping marketing in your head.

You’ve probably been quietly noticing them since you first went to college, and I’d wager that you’re still collecting them now as you click around the internet and go about your day.

Over the years, you’ve built up a vast landscape of Bad Marketing in your head. You know in graphic detail what you never, ever, ever want to be or do.

So let’s consider that box ticked.

Instead, start looking around for examples of marketing that thrill you. Rather than using up your training, experience and instincts in saying NO NO NO to the grush, look for the glimmer of people talking about their products in a way that makes you go OMG, BRILLIANT, HAT TIP TO YOU.

If you find yourself feeling superior, close the tab or turn the page. Go looking for stuff that makes you feel thrilled, humbled and inspired.

I promise you it’s out there.

Marketing for makers isn’t about glossy, triumphant perfection. It’s simple conversations with real people, in which you get to be a real person too.

That’s what people who buy handmade products are searching for.

That’s selling like an artist.

Also, let yourself love your candles.

Because, man, do you love those candles. You love them so much.

You can let yourself feel the enormity of that love without turning into a big-headed idiot. It doesn’t mean they’re perfect, or that you are.

But let yourself see and believe that your candles have a good heart.

They’re not for everyone, because nothing is, but they’re not trying to do anything bad. They’re here to make life a little better for the right people.

When you really know this, you won’t worry about pushing your stuff on people any more.

It’ll be so much easier to show up and speak clearly about the scent and the wax and your shed and your process. Especially when you have some fresh, exciting examples of how to do that in your head.

Then the wolfhounds fall asleep by the fire. The bees will buzz in the flowers.

And your brain will tell you it always knew this candle thing was a good idea.

With every warm wish for your success,


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