If you’re afraid of marketing your services online, you’re not alone. The challenge is to deal with it. Psychologists say that one of the most effective ways to overcome a fear is “sitting with it” or exposing ourselves to it. Such exposure therapy allows us to face the fear that cripples us and stunts our growth. Can we overcome our fear of marketing the same way? Let’s explore!


As a language teacher you’re familiar with exposure therapy. You do it every day by encouraging your clients to speak or write in a language that’s not their own. You cheer them on because you’ve gone through this yourself: it’s hard the first time, but as you keep trying you improve.


Surprisingly, when it comes to marketing their services online, language teachers deal with their fears differently: 


  • They take a marketing class hoping it would teach them how to self-promote.
  • They watch videos about social media marketing and wait to create content.
  • They learn about Youtube algorithms but are afraid to hit “publish.”


I remember that feeling when I tried to share my first blog posts on social media. I’d post and think to myself, “Is anyone even reading it? Does it even matter?” These doubts prevented me from reaching further than my little readership and I felt stuck for years.


How to get unstuck in your business: Read Silvia Perrone’s story


In this post I want to take you down a rabbit hole with me (it’s fun!), dig out the definition of marketing so it helps us change our attitude towards it, and leave you with 5 mindset shifts to overcome your fear of marketing.


What is marketing? 


You’ll be surprised to find a number of definitions. In my business, I blend 2 definitions from the work of Seth Godin and Bernadette Jiwa. These definitions correspond to my values and take the pressure off the process of promoting my work.


I wrote more about aligning my values and practices here.


“Marketing is the ability to make change happen through stories where your potential clients recognize themselves.” 


When I started this blog in 2014 I thought marketing was about offering a product or a service with the purpose of selling it (so I can make an income and live my life). I hit a wall a few years into it because I ran out of ideas on how to offer my products and services.


I thought it had to do with words — so I took a copywriting course.


Then I thought it had to do with sales — so I took a sales course and learned about sales funnels (I even shared how to increase your course sales).


But when I heard (from Seth Godin) that marketing is about making change happen I felt relieved. All I needed to do was figure out what change I wanted to make through my products and services and then talk about the change rather than the offer.


The most compelling way of communicating change, as it turned out, was through storytelling, but not any storytelling (aka “I was born in X city and went to Y school”) but rather the storytelling that made my potential client see themselves in it. 


Bernadette Jiwa talks about telling stories that spread ideas in this 8-minute TED talk.


If I could share something that made my reader say, “How did you know this about my life?” (which is what a reader told me once after reading my Flowers in the Frost: The Untold Stories of Online Teaching) I knew I would make a sale. 


Both the change you seek to make and the way you tell your story takes a bit of time to emerge and it’s OK not to get it right on the first try. Keep this in mind: you discover the change and the story as you do the work. Discover by doing. Just like you get fluent by practicing. There’s no way around it.


5 Ways to Overcome your Fear of Marketing.


There are mindset shifts that we want to adopt on this journey of overcoming our fear of marketing. When we have a mindset, an expectation that things “should” work a certain way and there’s no other way around it, it’s hard to get curious and try anything new. 


So mindset shifts aren’t some woowoo methods to control our brain. Rather, it’s an honest look at our expectations and a conscious effort to reset them.


Here are some ways to consider:


#1: Face your fears gradually. 


You might be afraid of showing up online, or writing a newsletter or sharing your own blog post or you can’t stand the sound of your voice on a podcast (or see your face on a video). It’s not a good idea to try to overcome all fears at once.


Start with one. Start small. If you’re afraid of putting your podcast out there, start a podcast for your students only. Send it to them and hear their feedback. After some time, share it publicly. Then move on to your next fear. 


You might be telling yourself these 10 fear-based phrases that you don’t recognize.


#2: Any fear is bigger in the beginning but gets smaller as you face it. 


It all comes down to trying, repeating and not giving up when things don’t work. Easier said than done, but remember that at some point a new language was hard for you and now you’ve overcome that first fear of speaking the language.


The same will happen with marketing – any time you talk about the change you seek to make it will feel vulnerable and awkward. “Who am I to say that I want to change something? Doesn’t it sound too self-involved?” Notice those thoughts and know that you have them because you’re doing something right.


Resistance doesn’t show up when there’s no action. But, as Philippe Petit wrote, “To take off, you must place yourself against the wind.” The first time is the hardest, but it doesn’t stay in “the hardest” category for long as long as you keep practicing.


Do you think you're the only one who struggles with marketing? Share this with your teacher friends so they feel less alone ~ and thanks!Click To Tweet


#3: Creating a plan will help you deal with the root of your fears.


When you don’t have a plan, you wing it. When you wing anything for too long most likely you won’t get the results you want. So you’re afraid to try anything because you already know it won’t work. But are you trying strategically or just throwing spaghetti on the wall?


A plan is simply a list of things you want to do to let other people know about the change you seek to make in your business.


You can:

  • Write one blog post a week.
  • Post on social media once or twice a week.
  • Send one newsletter a week.
  • Record 2 podcasts a month.
  • Write to your friends/clients and tell them about your work (and ask them to share with one person).


A plan is as simple as a checklist. I create mine at the beginning of the month so I prevent “winging” and disappointment that comes with it.


Alexandra Franzen wrote this beautiful book on checklists.


To plan my month in advance I use the Opted Out Planner I created with Veronika Palovska.


#4: Fears are normal when you start something new.


As you complete small steps and move on to new ones, it’s normal to experience fear. It’s an indicator that the old routines are becoming second-nature and you’re growing as a person, and your business grows with you.


There’s no timeline as to how long it will take to move into something new. Some people can speak a language in 3 months, for others it takes a year (or years). But if you run a business and never experience fears, it might be an indicator that you’re avoiding growth, which will feel like stagnation and no forward movement. So work on something that you’re afraid of until you’re no longer afraid of it. Then it’s time to start something new.


#5: Surround yourself with those who are committed to overcome their fears.


A community is essential. I always knew that, and maybe I’m tooting my own horn here because I have a community for online language teachers that you can join (wink-wink;) But I realized the power of a community when


It’s a relief to know that you’re not alone and it’s one of the most grounding experiences for me. It pushes me forward when I see people going through a lot more than I am, who are still trying, taking risks, failing, dealing with uncertainty. That fills me with gratitude and ideas begin to flow. I also set an intention of showing up in the community to help and to learn. 


An Open Letter to an Exhausted Online Teacher.


Marketing is scary because we expose ourselves, sharing not just “helpful tips” but the why behind those tips. Why does it matter? Who cares? How is it going to change anyone? There’s audacity in believing in yourself and knowing that your ideas matter and they may in fact change someone’s reality forever.


It all depends on you: choose to stay in fear, and shame immediately comes up and keeps us “safe and away” from everyone. Overcoming fear means being willing to risk and expose ourselves – only then do we get the reward we dreamed of when we started to teach online.


How are you overcoming your fear of marketing your work online? Let’s chat in the comments!


Want to explore how you can teach a language without 1:1 classes? Click to learn more.

Smart Teacher's Kit

Login to: STL or Courses