How to Brag About Your Freelance Work Without Being a Jerk

There’s a lot to love about making your living as a WordPress developer. You can set your own hours and work from just about anywhere. You can take on a variety of clients to keep your workload interesting.

But you also have to market yourself if you want to drum up new work. And for some, that’s just plain awkward. Being viewed as a braggart isn’t just an idle fear, it’s a real possibility. Boasting about your accomplishments can make you seem arrogant or full of yourself.

And yet, you have to brag sometimes if you want people to know about what you’ve done to land more work. I mean, how will a prospective client know your story if you don’t tell it?

It’s a conundrum, to be sure. But it is possible. And that’s what we’re going to talk about today. If there’s way to promote your skills and achievements as a WordPress developer without coming across like a Grade-A Jerk, it’s included here. 

1. Let Your Portfolio Do the Talking

This is the most obvious way to promote yourself without even having to open your mouth. Creating a beautiful portfolio website will allow your work to speak for itself. And that’s the best kind of promotion, really. It’s devoid of ego and stands to make the best impression at first (and even second and third) glance.

Remember to follow the primary rules of building a good portfolio, however. These include:

  • A clean layout with plenty of whitespace
  • Intuitive navigation
  • High resolution images of your projects
  • Easy to identify contact information

2. Frame Your Accomplishments in a Story

Talking about all the great things you’ve done is pretty boring to everyone except you, let’s be honest. Especially when presented in a very matter-of-fact way. “Did I tell you I landed X gig?” or “I’m working on X’s site now—they’re really popular!” might be interesting to your very close friends and family but everyone else might just roll their eyes.

If you want to let people know what you’ve accomplished, you can do so, but you need to make it interesting. Aim to entertain, not just present a braggy factoid. One of the best ways to do this is to tell a story. Frame what you’ve done in a good, old-fashioned yarn and you’ll get a lot farther in terms of sharing your latest achievement without appearing conceited.

A few ways to do this include:

  • Write a narrative-style blog post talking about the client acquisition process.
  • Breakdown your latest work in an analysis-style case study
  • Focus on the most interesting aspect of a project/client and share via social media.

3. Be Grateful

Sometimes, you just can’t help but want to shout from the rooftops about your latest accomplishment. And that’s okay. Being visibly excited is okay and even endearing. It shows you’re passionate about what you do and humbled when something particularly great happens. If you simply must brag, make sure it’s presented with an air of gratefulness.

A little bit of “I can’t believe this happened to me,” can go a long way toward showing others you care about what you do and will give off the impression that you deserve the good news.

4. Completely Fill Out Every Bio You’re Given

Whether it’s on social media or elsewhere, if you’re given a chance to write up a bio, do it. Don’t leave a single bio blank. This is an acceptable place to brag! Outline what you do, where you do it, and how people can get in touch with you. Include a link to your website and to your social media accounts if you can. There’s no need to embellish. Present your info in a straightforward way. It’s the easiest way to brag without seeming like you’re bragging.

5. Be More Than Present on Social Media

I’ve mentioned social media a few times already, but it deserves its own space here. Social media is where you can have a personal voice online and can directly interact with people. It’s great to have social profiles (with completely filled-in bios) but it’s also important to engage in these spaces on a regular basis.

Talking with people will make you appear human (because…well…you are) and create an atmosphere were your followers become your friends. When you have a group of social followers that are actively interested in what you do, it’s a lot easier to brag without appearing like a self-absorbed jerk. If your followers like you, they can act like a cheering section. Build a community like that and you can brag much more directly without offending a soul.

6. Inject Humor

A little humor goes a long way, especially when it’s self-deprecating. Did you trip over your cat this morning when getting out of bed? Manage to hit your elbows on every surface in your house? Almost pour orange juice in your cereal? Yes, these are all things I’ve done but that doesn’t matter. What does it that sharing funny little tidbits from your life like this on your blog or on social media gives people a sense that they know you. And it makes you appear oh-so human.

Being a flawed human being online makes you much more relatable. And giving people a reason to laugh (gently) at your expense, helps to balance out any bouts of bragging you might indulge in.

7. Avoid Faux Modesty

Self-deprecating humor is great but there are times it borders on faux modesty, or the dreaded humble brag. In fact, I think it’s best to just be straightforward in your bragging and save the humor at your own expense for unrelated comments. This way, you make it clear that your self-deprecation is sincere and your pride in your accomplishments is sincere, too. There’s no point in pretending what you’ve done is no big deal. If it’s a big deal to you, say so. Just try to avoid a social feed that’s full of only boasts. That’s a one-way ticket to an unfollow.

8. Focus on How Far You’ve Come

According to experiments conducted and published in 2012, psychologists found that participants were more likely to hold favorable views of someone if they used “self-improvement” claims than those who used “self-superiority” claims. This means, someone who references how they feel they’ve improved their skills as a developer over time is viewed in a better light than someone who says, “I’m a better developer than that guy over there.”

Comparing yourself to others will make you look like you’re bragging but comparing your current work to your old work or your current skills to your old skills is generally considered an acceptable way to highlight how far you’ve come. It’s bragging but it’s a non-jerky way to do it.

9. Leverage Testimonials

One of the biggest suggestions (across a multitude of articles and websites) is to get a wingman to do your bragging for you. Often, this is an equal exchange. You chat up their skills and experiences and they’ll do the same for you. Since people are less likely to trust positive claims about you when you make them, hearing the same info from another person is actually a really clever way to brag without bragging.

Still, the idea of finding a wingman can be a little odd. If you’re not looking for something so arranged, it might be a better idea to seek out testimonials, instead. Reach out to previous clients to see if they’ll write up a quick blurb for you. Featuring these on your site allows you to brag without bragging directly—which is totally acceptable.

10. Submit to Web Design Galleries

The goal of promotion is to get your work out there; for as many eyeballs to land on your work as possible. If direct marketing feels sleazy to you, avoid it at least to some degree by submitting your work to online design galleries. There are a ton of them out there for web designers, specifically. And if the community likes your work, it’ll be voted up to the homepage, which means even more people will view, comment on, and share your work. A few great ones include Behance, BestWebGallery, and We Love WP.

If you’re looking for a gallery that focuses on specific design elements, consider OnePageLove, Minimal Sites, or CartFrenzy.

11. Develop Partnerships

Another good way to brag without bragging is to avoid the need altogether. You can do this by establishing partnerships with other businesses who will automatically funnel work your way. You won’t need to lift a finger to promote yourself and the work will just land in your lap. Some of the best people to partner with include marketing agencies and PR firms.

12. Be You

Want to promote yourself as a WordPress developer without bragging? Just be you. Being sincere in how you present yourself goes a long way toward garnering your business more favor. Perhaps the biggest thing you can learn here is to come to a place of acceptance: some bragging is inevitable. It’s what you do in between the boasts that stands to determine your rep.

How do you promote yourself? What tactics do you use? Do you indulge in outright bragging or do you take a more subtle approach? Or maybe you know someone who brags and it drives you crazy! I’d love to hear your thoughts below.