The Reason Nobody’s Hiring You (and What To Do About It)
Photo courtesy of H.L.I.T.

The Reason Nobody’s Hiring You (and What To Do About It)

Written by Emilie

Topics: Renaissance Business

Today I’m going to discuss one of the big ideas from my book, Renaissance Business.

Lets say you’re a consultant, a nutritionist, web designer, babysitter or some other service professional. You decide to promote yourself online in order to attract more clients.

You might be well-established in your geographic area or among a small group of people, but to the wider world, your name is relatively unknown.

And so you set up a website. You use your full name as a title and domain, and your site features all the essential information: your background, the services you offer, prices, testimonials, etc.

You sit back, and wait patiently… as zero new business roll in.

How Come Nobody Cares?

Do you need to work on your SEO or get on social media? Should you look for promotion in different press sources or write guest articles? Should you hire a marketing consultant?

All of these tactics are secondary. They may help a little. But the real answer is something a lot more fundamental. Do this, and the strategies and tactics will work. Ignore it, and you’ll keep struggling.

Here’s what’s likely going on…

You’re Focusing on Self-Promotion, NOT on Building a Community

Not everyone needs to build a community. If you’re already an established authority in your industry, then it might not be necessary.

However, if your name doesn’t instantly bring up images of awesomeness in the mind of potential clients, then you’re going to have to prove yourself– or rather let others prove your credibility for you.

The Magic of Social Proof

Someone who’s looking for a service you offer should arrive on your website and walk in on a thriving community. They should see other people who are excited about what you’re doing. They should see people commenting on your blog and sharing your work.You’ve created a hangout spot. You aren’t just you saying, “look how great I am!Other people are talking… enthusiastically talking.

This must mean you’re important and know what you’re talking about.

Build Your Website around an Idea, Not Just You

Self-promotion is necessary, but it shouldn’t be your first priority. Visitors go to your website, not because of you (though they may connect with your personality), but because of something within themselves.

You aren’t hanging out on Puttylike because you like me (though hopefully that’s true too… ;) You’re here because you’re a multipotentialite. You have a desire to embrace all your interests and integrate them into your life. You don’t want to be pigeonholed or forced to choose one direction in life. You’re here because of something within yourself.

Focusing on your people isn’t just a matter of listing out benefits for them. It’s about creating a home where they feel safe and understood– a space where they can learn about themselves and discuss the ideas that you all share and believe in. It’s about the ideas.

Your Overarching Theme is this Idea

As a scanner, you’re going to want a way to talk about many different topics on your website so that you don’t get bored. This is where the overarching theme comes in. I discuss how to find that cohesive theme– the pattern that runs through all your interests– in Renaissance Business, and I’ll be getting into it on the blog in the upcoming weeks.

But another reason that you must know your overarching theme, is that your theme is the reason people participate in your community.

Your theme is what you believe in. It’s what drives you. But it’s also what drives your community members (be it multipotentiality, gratitude, confidence, evolution, non-conformity, art, etc.) and so they stick around, post comments and share your content.

See what I mean about your site not being about you? Your site is about an idea– something bigger than you. You are not your theme, just an example of it.

Self-Promotion as a Byproduct of Community

Self-promotion sometimes flows naturally out of building community. For example, on Puttylike I sometimes talk about my day when it’s related to “multipotentiality and lifestyle design” (my theme).

Occasionally I mention some web design work I’m doing, not at all as a means of self-promotion (I’m actually not looking for any new design jobs), but just as a detail in a story related to my theme. However, after publishing these posts, I invariably get emails from people asking to hire me for design work. This always surprises me. It’s not my aim at all.

If you focus on your theme and not on yourself, people who believe in the same ideas, will want to work with you.

Do Promote Yourself, but Make it Secondary

While self-promotion shouldn’t be the primary focus of your website, it should absolutely be included. Dedicate a page to products and services. Include all of that information I mentioned at the top: rates, services, testimonials, etc.

Some Examples

Here are some examples of lovely folk who include both community and self-promotion on their websites. Note how different they are from the typical self-promotional website:

Focusing on Your Theme Doesn’t Mean Hiding Your Personality

If you want to stand out, you must inject your personality into everything you do.

This may sound like it contradicts everything I just said, but it doesn’t. You can express your personality and still stay focused on your theme, as long as you position yourself as an example of your theme, and not the theme itself.

Throw photos of yourself on the sidebar, make your design real quirky (assuming you’re a quirky person), write about your experiences, open up, be vulnerable. Do all this, not as a means of self-promotion, but as a way of communicating a bigger truth– that overarching theme that you and your people all have in common.

Your Turn

Has building an online community helped you get more clients? Is there anything about this process that worries you?


If you’d like to learn more about turning all of your interests into one business, check out Renaissance Business.



  1. L.L. Barkat says:

    “You are not your theme, just an example of it.” Terrific!

    I agree about the Community thing. It’s so much more powerful (and fun) than strict self-promotion. :)

  2. Denise says:

    Currently, I don’t use my blog to promote my business, but I’m sure I will eventually. Guess I can’t answer the first part of that question…
    However, I don’t see where the worry would be. This opportunity we have to form a community with our clients is pretty awesome… I look forward to doing that in the future.

    • Emilie says:

      I think starting with community and then integrating a business is a great way to do it. That way you’ve already built up trust and rapport. Plus, like I mentioned in my comment to Nick, community is a fabulous way to do research and get an idea of what potential clients actually want.

      And yeah, as for the second question, I’m just curious from those who haven’t built community, what’s stopping them. I wonder if it’s a fear that it won’t work or if it feels too difficult or what.

      • Denise says:

        OK, I can understand. It’s the “putting yourself out there” that can be scary. You could put in the effort, try to involve people to form some community and get zero to little response.

        I’m trying to build community on my blog at the moment and that’s the worry I have about it on some days.

  3. Nick Laborde says:

    I can’t say that my site has gained me any clients… at this point I don’t have a business to send them too. I’m actually using my site to figure out what that business is and how I can serve people.

    Thats not the most effective way of approaching it, but as a scanner it’s helping.

    • Emilie says:

      I actually disagree with you, Nick. I think one of the best benefits of having a community is research. Seeing what people respond to, having a space to interact and get feedback. Running a community is the best way to come up with product/service ideas. I think you’re doing everything right. :)

  4. simone says:

    smarty smart!

  5. Rob says:

    Emilie, for the past few months I’ve always seen your blog as a prime example of what you’re saying here. I almost always ask my consulting clients to come over and have a look at your site for so many reasons. Because they too have many interests. Because you’ve built this thriving community in less than a year. Because your personality shines through so well here. It all adds up to an amazing experience when a visitor stops by, making you an amazing example of your theme :)

  6. Shut up your face! Thanks so much for spreading the gospel, and for including me here. Such loveliness!

  7. Building a community takes time…you won’t get instant results unless you beg your mom and closest friends to be a part of that community. In fact, that may be all you have for the first little while.

    But once you build that community, it is priceless! Agreed. Every comment I get on my blog, every email I receive from a reader…they all get answered. It’s vital to create connections with people. They’ll tell their friends about you, etc….

    Just found you today and I’m glad I did!

  8. Rick Wolff says:

    It’s me, your friendly devil’s advocate, back again.
    My car is at a mechanic as I write this. I did not pick it based on a “community.” I asked my landlord if he knew a good mechanic nearby.
    My design clients come as either a contact in person, or by word of mouth from other satisfied customers. My website serves as a portfolio, and a less-important dumping ground for ideas that won’t fit on Facebook or Google Plus.
    I cannot imagine gathering a community of people excited about what I do, and chattering among themselves about it. I can imagine people not wanting to bother to look up who’s around, and just going with the last guy they spoke to who does what they need.
    I have a craft. I do it well. But I don’t get all cosmic about it. It’s not a cause, it’s not a mission, it’s a profession.

    • Emilie says:

      When you talk about your car mechanic, you’re talking about a different business model, one that is based on traditional marketing (advertising) to get leads. Here I’m talking about finding clients through community building. A community space where people want to hang out allows them to get to know you over time, come to like and trust you, and ultimately want to work with you.

      You’re also confusing the service itself with how you attract clients. In Renaissance Business I talk about how your website is the community space centered around one overarching theme that resonates with your people. However, your products and services are specific offerings, each solving a particular problem or helping in a particular way.

      Building community is how you get people interested in your message and in YOU. You give them a place they want to hang out and make it about them. Then if they want more focused, in depth help, they can purchase your product or service. Fostering community essentially replaces advertising.

      You say you can’t imagine a community of people passionate about what you do, but I can think of many design websites that are precisely that: Colourlovers for example. Even my buddy J.D.’s site isn’t all about him. Another example in a different field is Marketing for Hippies. Sure he’s selling his products and consulting services, but the focus is on the values that him and his community share: sustainability, green, conscious, ethical business.

      Oh and HEY, if we’re talking car mechanics, ever listened to Car Talk on NPR? Good grief. I bet those guys have people knocking down their doors to work on their cars!

  9. Fruit Maven says:

    I think this is great info and I agree completely. It’s difficult to figure out how to implement. I have not historically been a great connector in person and online I appear to have a similar struggle. I think I tried to create a community on my blog but somehow people don’t engage. I’m really not sure why. I get a lot of traffic, but not a lot of sticking. You ask above in the comments why people don’t create community. I guess my answer is that I’m not sure how because I kind of thought I did and it didn’t exactly work.

    • Catherine says:

      I think your website is cool Fruit Maven! I also have a love of interesting food and fruit. If I had the money I would grow a lot of fruit trees. I think one thing that would add to your pages is an advertising partnership with CSA’s. Direct investment in your topic would probably grow interest… I mean, there’s not a whole lot you are actually “selling” right now.

      Keep with it! I think mostly it’s just building that fruit database over time and the visitors will come. Hmm…spread your presence on food and health forums?

  10. JocelynBrown says:

    I must have missed this post but found it today! Yes, this is what I want to do with my site, transition it into a thriving community! I had started some art/creativity blogs in the past and had pretty good momentum, but then my desire to write blogs and post them fizzled out. That is my wall… I want to try again with my new vision which I have developed after reading your blog a while and going back through some of my journals and idea books. I found several themes that I come back to again and again over the years. So, here’s to building a new community! Thanks for this post.

  11. Emilie,

    I missed this post first time around, since I had not yet discovered my puttypeepness. Now that I have entered the peepdom, I find your wisdom and guidance so helpful. I started with your blog, then moved onto your book, RB. For once in my life I didn’t hop all around and did exactly what you said (which says a lot, since I never read a manual-that made learning WordPress interesting!). The result? As you know, we just launched, but I want to thank you and let others know that if they are thinking about going down this path, that what you offer in your book in invaluable to people like us-multipotentialites. It speaks to the way our brains are wired in a way no other book or site has. You are a treasure.

    I read the email tease about this post before I even got out of bed, as I let the dogs out, I thought, “OMG, I need to run up and see if we are doing what Emilie says!” I have decided that you need to add a product to your store: A little rubbery bracelet that says: WWED (What would Emilie do?) Thanks again, Emilie!

  12. Livia says:

    This really gives me a good clue to better blogging and growing a community. Give your heart to it! I think in my previous websites I’ve sought a way to express myself but wouldn’t really dare. My first attempts at blogging were a mixture of looking how other bloggers do it, trying to find something useful for any reader and then also trying to find my own voice. As for now the texts were either too distanced in tone or too much about myself and my musings. There was no overarching idea for any visitor who might drop by. Puttylike gives me a good starting point – thanks :-))

  13. Willi M says:

    Dang and I’m reading this after I bought my name as a domain LOL. Guess I’d better get a second. :-) This will be crucial to the redesign of my site. Thank you so much.

  14. Anne Kelly says:

    I’m still in the determining what my idea is phase. I had a foggy realization that my writing was not communicating. This article helped clear the fog. I can see my writing is more about me and not about the message I want to offer people. I started focusing this morning on improving my writing and communication. Thanks, Em!

  15. Alex says:

    What if you just have no patience for stupid people and can’t always be nice enough to build a network? I mean some people just drive me nuts! I’m afraid I’ve “burnt” too many bridges.

  16. Robyn says:

    For a youngun you make loads of sense :).I joined your community not long ago and thus far I really enjoy your contributions and they are always packed with gems! To hear this about self-promotion frankly is a relief to me. Being an introverted scanner that cringes at people that are really out there pushing their stuff plus the thought of button-holing myself into one form of moi in the web world this concept is something I could fly with! Awesome

  17. Héloïse says:

    Thank you for your article and your blog Emily.
    This article is the shift in perspective i needed today. I was in a single activity for 5 years (facilitation @ and am now into a next step : i am called to be more of a free potential, changing more often and easily my offering as i go with the flow of life. I recently rent my name as a domain for my new website and i could feel something wasn’t fitting.
    The overarching theme is what links me to the people interested in me and me interested in them. Offering a space for dialogue with them, that would nourish me and them is an exciting idea to integrate in my project. Without knowing, building trust and community is what i have been growing in the last years. I was earning money thanks to people who saw me in practice but i was not able to advertise or sell myself in a way that would allow me to be both be aligned with my values and earn money. Maybe that’s gonna change :) !
    Thank you and hugs from France,

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