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Season 1, Ep. 4

03 March 2022

F*ck Being Humble - Online platform and event series that focuses on self promotion & Forbes 30 under 30. Stefanie Sword-Williams. Founder.

In this episode, we spoke with Stefanie Sword-Williams, award-winning author and founder of F*ck Being Humble, an online platform and event series aiming to change the way the world views self-promotion


How F*ck Being Humble started as a community where she wrote a blog about it that got picked up by The Times and BBC before she even launched a single event that ignited her growth

The steps Stef took in starting this community based around the premise of self-promotion

Stef reveals the most effective lesson around self-promotion that you can use, that she teaches at her workshops with the likes of Microsoft, ASOS and many others

Transcription -

Sina Sadrzadeh 0:09 Welcome to the fourth episode of Inside The TeqDen, hosted by me, Sina Sadrzadeh and powered by Scalar North Capital. This podcast is about the good, the bad, and the ugly of entrepreneurship from individuals going through their journeys. Today, we want you guys to hear firsthand from experiences of today's rising entrepreneurs as to what entrepreneurship really means in every sense of the word. And in this episode, we spoke with Stephanie Sword Williams, award winning author and founder of fuck being humble an online platform and event series aiming to change the way the world views self promotion. I've spoken to Stef several times, every time I speak to I get massively inspired. And so we spoke about how fog being humble started as a community where she wrote a blog about it and they got picked up by the times and the BBC before she launched a single event that ignited our growth and the steps that Stef took in starting the community based around the premise of self promotion. And also Stef reveals the most effective lesson around self promotion that you can use today that she teaches at her workshops with the likes of Microsoft, a sauce or many other large, large corporates. If you don't already, I actually host another podcast called The Millennial Entrepreneur that we've got about 80 episodes to date. And Stef is one of the most standout guests that I've had on the podcast before one of most popular because of how inspiring she is with her journey. So I highly recommend you stay at the very end for this one. It's a great episode. Before we jump in the episode, please do leave a five star written review of podcast if you haven't already. Or a five star review on Spotify. It really does help the podcast so much. Yeah, that's it for me. Let's jump in the episode. Hey, Stef, how are you?

Stefanie Sword Williams 1:43 I'm good. Thank you. How you doing?

Sina Sadrzadeh 1:45 Yeah, really great. Thanks. It's been a while since we last spoke. But I'm really excited to have you on this new podcast that we're really excited to launch I think, yeah, this will be episode number four. But yeah, massively excited to have you on again to talk kind of continue what we talked about last time, because it's been a few months since we last spoke, there must be a lot of exciting things that happened in that sort of timeframe.

Stefanie Sword Williams 2:03 Yeah, absolutely. And thank you so much for inviting me again. I really enjoyed our chat last time we spoke. But yeah, I mean, for those of you that don't know me or for being humble, I am the founder and author of a book being humble. You heard me right with those words. It's a platform business, consultancy book events series, everything you can imagine is aimed around helping people get over the fear of self promotion and be unapologetically proud of their achievements. And since we last spoke, I've been launching new workshops and events, I've been looking at different ways to grow the business. And I've also been looking at different ways that I can bring on support to help make that happen. So yeah,

Sina Sadrzadeh 2:46 that's amazing. Well, I guess like, because I guess most people wouldn't have listened to that all the conversation that we had on my own podcast, the other one, the entrepreneur, so it'd be great to talk about, I guess, what is fuck being humble? And also, how did he How did you actually start it?

Stefanie Sword Williams 3:00 So those of you that I've never experienced any interaction with foot being humble, my goal really was I used to work in advertising for seven years. And I really wanted to take the expertise that I learned from storytelling for brands and helping brands and businesses raise awareness, and teach people how to do that themselves. Because I think there's a massive oversight on how important self promotion is in our careers in order for us to reach our goals. So for me, it was a lot about how can we take or how can I take the learnings that I've picked up in the advertising industry and help people tell their own personal stories? Now, for lots of people, a big reason that we don't like self promotion is one, we've never been taught how to do it. So we fear anything that we don't know, too. We're so worried about what other people will think what other people say, and also three, that we feel like we have to wait until we are 60 years into our CT career, or we've won awards, or we've got a book deal. Before we talk about how good we are. And I suppose that sort of explains the name itself, which is fuck being humble. And the reason I chose to name the business that was because I really do see so many people holding themselves back because they are worried about sounding arrogant or sounding too intense. And actually what they end up doing is underselling themselves. So I can guarantee that but being humble is not a badge that you have to wear or you don't have to stand on a table or the megaphone and say how incredible you are. But what it is is a mindset to help you claim the things that you deserve, that you should go for the opportunities that are in front of you. And really just to unlock any of that self doubt and remind yourself that you are capable of so much, even when you don't think you are.

Sina Sadrzadeh 4:46 That's amazing. That's something I see especially with young people because they're doing a lot of them are doing some amazing work, but I just don't think it's like naturally in them to sort of promote themselves to like shout about what they're doing and they kind of like hi In the shadows a bit more. I've been there as well, right? I'm still kind of on that journey. So I guess like Is it is it mainly towards that sort of like younger generation?

Stefanie Sword Williams 5:07 Interestingly, I definitely, I'm coming up to 30 next year, which is crazy. And I always wanted to target people kind of my age, the youth audience was always something that I wanted to focus on. Because if we can nip imposter syndrome and self doubt in the bud early on in your career, the better results we'll see later down the line. And obviously, with the name of the brand, the aesthetic is very youth focused, I try and use memes and 90s and noughties references. So there are definitely like throwback elements. But I've been really pleasantly surprised with how big the audience has grown and the different demographics within that. So as well as the sort of community events that I run, which predominantly target Gen Z and millennials, I do a lot of corporate talks. So my clients vary from Microsoft to a source to Innocence movies. And obviously, when I'm speaking to businesses, you're getting people at every level, you're getting multiple genders, you're getting completely different walks of life, attending the events and learning. And that's not to say that there aren't some skeptical people, but generally, I've been really happy with how well the sentiment has gone down across the board. And actually, it's connected quite emotionally with some, I'm not going to say old people, and I'm not gonna say older because I don't want to be offensive in any way to the age group, more experienced perfect, but generally people that you know, the next generation up or that basically on a millennial, let's say are younger, and generally, they actually feel really seen. And they feel finally, like somebody is saying something that they wish they'd have heard 20 years ago, or 10 years ago. And that, again, has been really amazing, because it's almost an audience that I didn't necessarily think or know I would emotionally connect with. But I have done just by giving them the permission to now finally go on and share what they put out or to finally be able to unlock their full potential. So yeah, it's really been such a rewarding feeling to see that the brand has been able to basically reach so many different generations.

Sina Sadrzadeh 7:26 It's amazing, because I've obviously, since we last spoke, I've been following your journey ever since then. And before to be fair, and it's been it's been amazing, like you're doing these talks with sort of big corporates, but I think would be amazing, because obviously, I've heard this story before. And it's an amazing story about how you actually, so you're in the advertising role, and you had all these thoughts in your head, you know, I don't wanna wait until I'm 60 to be celebrated and all these different amazing things. How did you, I guess, practically start that to kind of like, take that whole message of I want, you know, to stop the whole stick, you know, stigma behind no self promotion, how did you kind of start it more practically

Stefanie Sword Williams 8:00 really interesting, one of the things that I always try to do is make myself a guinea pig on any of the things that I give advice on, because I want to show that it is achievable, it is accessible. And you can do it in multiple different ways. So in terms of starting flipping on the platform, I just literally started with an Instagram post, wrote an article on LinkedIn and it went LinkedIn viral as much as that can be. And it picked up really good press and momentum. And that sort of snowballed into really starting to build attraction and excitement around the idea. And I think the ways that I activate self promotion, the ways that I advise people to do it is, I think a few different stages can help you with it. So first of all, it's really useful for you to understand what your intentions are, what your dreams are. And I try and say dreams, because I think sometimes goals can be quite limiting. If we don't achieve a goal by 2022, or 2023, we start to do what we're doing with our lives. Whereas I feel like dreams have this limitless potential that you could achieve at any point in life. So I try and encourage you to think about what do you what are your dreams, and even to the extent of like, if a newspaper was going to write a headline about you, what would you want them to say? What would you be really proud of? You know, what would you want your grandkids to say? What do you want people to say about you when you're not in the room. So really starting off with that visualization of what it is that you are trying to achieve or you'd love to achieve? And then in doing that, you can start to work backwards and think, okay, and in my personal example, I really wanted to be a TED speaker. I've been obsessed with TED talks since the day I laid eyes on the platform. And I always said to myself, Wow, if I had if I ever got the chance to speak on there, you know, that would mean I've done something in my career that could be so profound that people want to listen to it. And I I kind of had that realization that when I was working in advertising, you know, five days a week, I was both an account director and a Business Director. Very After looking after clients, I didn't necessarily get the chance to communicate my opinions to show my strengths. Outside of the business, I knew that I wasn't necessarily going to go out and represent the company, because there were other people that could do that. I didn't necessarily want to be the MD in advertising and all those, all the opportunities that I may have got the chance to showcase myself, I was starting to realize that that actually wasn't going to be the right path for me. So in knowing that, that was when I started to think about, okay, what do I care about, and I started to build the business. So I really, you know, from a very personal perspective, and what what drove me and motivated me is that I was like, I do have that ambition and that dream. And I don't want to limit myself to only have only be able to achieve that in my day job. And that was sort of what started for being humble on the side. And, and then in terms of actually doing it and getting on with it, I few things like setting reminders in your diary, because I can guarantee is the last thing you will want to do, you will find excuses not to do it. If you can get a scheduling tool that can pre schedule your posts across social media, that's brilliant. I always say to people, if you're in a room and you have the chance to speak about yourself or celebrate something you've done, please take make the most of it, please speak up. Because you never know how often those opportunities will come around. And the more you practice, the easier it gets, I can handle my heart tell you, if you don't look back and cringe at some of your self promotion, you're probably not growing. And I do it all the bloody time, which can only tell me that I've put myself out there in multiple different ways. And I'm starting to learn how I can actually refine how I want to come across and how I want to build my personal brand.

Sina Sadrzadeh 11:42 And what do you say when you say, you know, set a reminder to actually start doing it when you were? You know, at the beginning, I guess what was the ambition? And what are you kind of like doing in that process? Were you, you know, setting you know, you wrote you wrote like a LinkedIn article, and then you're doing just like social media posts was that was kind of like it to build an early sort of community of, you know, we don't need to wait until we're 62 to self promote and kind of advice around that.

Stefanie Sword Williams 12:05 Absolutely. So for me, it was I actually ran a talk recently about how to change careers. And essentially, I was pivoting from advertising into career development. I'm not a great coach, I never claimed to be I've had no training in it. In fact, I pride myself on not being that. But obviously with that men, I do have to do a lot of building my online reputation so that people start to associate me with this new industry in this new space. So it really was, you know, posting on socials three times a week, maybe on Instagram, and then posting on LinkedIn, maybe once a week or once every two weeks just to get the ball rolling. I'd say I've pulled back a little bit on Instagram, just because I think it's particularly since we've come out of lockdown. And since we've started to engage in different areas of the business and all of those things. I know the importance of growing a community on social media, by also really, really advocate for doing the promotion in person to. So you know whether that's at a networking event, I mean, one of the things that really got the ball rolling was I just talked to anyone and everyone about foot being humble, like I wasn't shy about it. And I think sometimes when we start projects, or businesses or go freelance or whatever it may be, we kind of wait to see if it succeeds before we tell people about it. And I'm I'm the opposite. I probably run before I could walk. But the amazing thing was really sort of observing the positive reactions online is 100% something that I think everybody needs to focus on because I think you are vetted online before people even consider you. But I think in person, you know, it can really be if you feel awkward about hitting send on a LinkedIn post, try doing it verbally because that could be a lot easier for you. It's really about your own approach and what feels most natural.

Sina Sadrzadeh 13:54 It's amazing hearing Stef's journey of growing fucking humble in such a short space of time I did promise you guys amazing episode. I think I've delivered on it because i It's so inspiring to hear about that. But I really wanted to delve deeper to see sort of what were the real growth factors in growth, in fact, being humble because the growth has been so fast, and there's a short space of time, I want to see what was kind of like key instrumental moments in the journey that really skyrocketed her brands where it is today, especially because the brand is so heavily based on her as an individual, her personal brand. And so it's really interesting to see and hear about that journey. And so yeah, we talk about it now.

Stefanie Sword Williams 14:31 I definitely would say and I don't want to say lucky because I don't want to undersell how hard I work to bring it to life. But when I launched that the article why I created a self promotion platform called foot being humble. It did spread really quickly. And I was asked to speak to the times and there was a double page feature of me in print. And then a week later I went on BBC World News, and I went on the radio and all of this happened before it even launched an event, which was the primary goal for me, the primary goal was just to run community events that could help people really educate them through workshop led events, because I think there's more than enough panels out there. Think there's more than enough, you know, podcasts and all those things. But I wanted to teach you how to network, how to earn more money, how to self promote all of those things that were not spoken about. So I usually run like a 60 minute work like workshop or webinars online. And that was sort of like the unique selling point was that actually, not many people were educating through such a thorough format. And it really it was, it's been a lot around word of mouth for me, because I've built a brand with a swear word at it. And I have been blocked on Facebook and advertise it, and Facebook and Instagram for advertising. No, actually, you know, but as I'm not actually able to advertise my own self promotion brand, which is hilarious, really, when you think about it. But in saying that everything you see with being humble is organic, which not many brands can say. And I would say definitely the name has had a huge impact. But it was literally like event, once I launched in May, end of May, June, I was in a lot of price, July, August, and in September, I ran my first event. And then it just started to gradually really, really build nicely. So my first event there about 40 people came second event, there were about 60. And the third event about three months later was 180 people. And that was how organic it was. That was it was word of mouth, like people were talking about. And obviously, like I was working my ass off selling tickets, no spreading the word. But there was, you know, there isn't not many people want to talk about self promotion. So I think I found that thing that everybody was struggling with. And I was positioning it in a very unique way. And I really think that's a big testament to the growth of the business.

Sina Sadrzadeh 17:01 That's amazing. I think like when you talk about, you know, being lucky or whatever, you did capitalize on that, you know, immensely. And a lot of people get sort of opportunities like that, but they might not capitalize in the correct sort of way. And kind of like, oh, yeah, I should have done it this way, should have done it this way. But it was it's always nice to hear when these sort of opportunities come people capitalize on them very, very well. I think you're very prime example of I doing that. So effectively, which is amazing to see. So I guess going to the now, what's the community looking like at the moment?

Stefanie Sword Williams 17:32 It's so mixed. So like I said at the beginning? Well, I know that I will always resonate with women, I know for a fact the name itself, and the content will excite and intrigue women. Men are sometimes harder to get on board. But it's really diverse. It's my followers are based in the UK, US and Europe and Australia, actually, because I can sell my book out there, and it's been doing really well there. So definitely having a global presence definitely growing very quickly. And also just really a mix of self employed freelancers working for businesses, CEOs, brand managers, you know, like a real mix of roles and levels and ages. And that is something that I really value. And I really am grateful that so many people have engaged with it in that way. But yeah, it's been, I'm always really shocked. And actually, most recently, I got an email from the Royal Society of Arts inviting me to be a fellow. And that they sort of explained that it was based on this positive social impact that I've had, through foot being humble how I was, you know, a support and a lifeline through a lot for a lot of people during the pandemic when they were losing jobs. And I honestly was so moved by that because I was shocked that they were even watching what I was doing. And they even know knew who I was doing. And I, for anyone listening, I always say to people, you just never know who's watching. So yes, it might feel awkward in the moment. Yes, it might feel a bit Korean, but actually, you never know who might like your post, and then somebody else sees it, or who might share something in a meeting after you've presented it. And I was talking about a book, I listened to a book called Six bigger women recently, and one of the things they talked about in that is, do you choose whatever is the most comfortable thing to do in the moment? Because if you do, you're not necessarily pushing yourself and I think it's much more comfortable not to self promote, of course it is to Netflix and to ignore it. But that discomfort that you experience will actually pull in such big rewards in the long run. And I think, you know, I've had trolls I've had critics I've had somebody ripped me to shreds in the Financial Times, without any proof or any reasoning for it. I've absolutely had those moments but it does definitely his moments like the RSA telling me that, you know, they want me to be part of their 30,000 People of innovators and impact changes that are doing great things. The same with Forbes, making the Forbes Under 30, less for me, that was, you know, I was going up against 1000s of people. And I made that all based on foot being humble, all based on two and a half years of investing in myself and my personal brand. And I nominate myself that so I always want to be transparent about that. But it is like you say, I'm very good at capitalizing, but I do think it's really important to remember that there could be some really amazing people watching and listening, even when you don't feel like you're maybe getting the most likes or engagement. There are so many people out there that could help you and could essentially transform your career if you're willing to put yourself out there.

Sina Sadrzadeh 20:53 Yeah, I mean, word of mouth for you has been been absolutely immense, for sure, I think would be great to talk about for the last sort of five minutes or so is I guess, how do you do that self promotion? So effectively? I know, it's a very, very open question. But I guess to the last sort of five minutes, what would be kind of your key takeaways on how to like self promote yourself was, I guess, like, what's been the most effective thing that you've been? You've been teaching at these sort of like workshops that's really resonated with people.

Stefanie Sword Williams 21:17 So I use a formula called the three G's or a framework, maybe not a formula that sounds a bit serious, doesn't it? So the three G's my recommendation was self promotion is be genuine. So that's being open, honest. Talk about the highs and lows of the successes, talk about what you do and didn't like, share things, even if you think it's a bit shit, you know, be honest about these things. And be gracious. So show gratitude, show appreciation, reference people that were part of those successes, you know, give credit where credit's due, consider how frequently you're doing it don't be a pain in the ass always do all the time. And then finally be a giver. And this is the secret kind of ingredient shall we say that I think really takes you from just being someone who is boasting about their successes to being someone who wants to show as a leader or show as somebody that is wanting to see others succeed too. So for example, if I'm going to talk about the fact that I we recently won a big and you know, a new big client, and I'm you know, I'm so happy that I've just got to deliver this huge workshop. Rather than me just set talking about the workshop itself. Something that I found really effective for myself, and I know lots of people adopt it is then adding a piece of advice for other people to take on themselves. So the way that I secured this was through X, Y, and Zed. Top tip, if you've not heard that the first time, definitely follow up because it was a you know, persistence that helped secure this deal. Or, you know, don't ever say yes to the first number. Because there's always more budget available, whatever it is, give some takeaways give a tip give an actionable piece of activity or advice that somebody can go and do. Because that really shows that you are able to talk about yourself, but it kind of shows a level of emotional intelligence, that it's not just about you, you're wanting to help better other people as well. So I think that's been super effective. And then another thing that me and two of my friends do as a freelancers, we have a WhatsApp group where we share our wins before dins. And we voice now our achievements that we've done that week, two or three achievements that we're proud of, and it could literally be washing your hair or go for a walk, or it could be you know, securing a client or saying no to someone, you know, it could be taking some time for rest and, and the really amazing thing that I've noticed is one it helps to create frequency and like a pattern of behavior of doing it. Sort of a habit essentially, to it helps you to actually reflect on what you're doing. And three, the BS your voice noticing it means that you practice verbalizing it very often we can write it down. But when it comes to speaking in a performance review, in an interview with a pitch, we freeze up. So that's been hugely successful, and I share this in almost every workshop webinar podcasts that I'm on, and I can't tell you how many people have messaged me and been like I made a winner before dins group. It's amazing. So shout out to Poonam and Daisy are my work wives that have helped me get through the pandemic and also just been such positive support in that way. So definitely find people who want to see you do well, and that you can unapologetically brag to about all the wonderful things you're doing and they can do the same to

Sina Sadrzadeh 24:37 Absolutely Stef, that was some amazing advice to end the episode on I'm not gonna ask any more questions. I think that is an amazing note to end on. It's been amazing chatting to you again. And I'm sure those people will find so much value from this episode. I certainly have anyway how can people stay in touch with you and stay in touch to your journey going into the future

Stefanie Sword Williams 24:53 so they can absolutely add me on LinkedIn so Stephanie Sword Williams, you can check out all of our work ops talks products at book being humbled.com. I always make the joke, nobody wants that URL. So I managed to secure that pretty easily. And also make sure you're following at f being humble LDN on Instagram and Twitter. If you type in fuck being humble, you'll be able to find it as well. But yeah, that's where I share all my regular tips and advice. And then finally, if you want to read a really useful book that you're gonna come back to every week, every year, you can grab my copy of my book in audio or print and it has been dubbed as the career Bible to help you through anything you're going through right now.

Sina Sadrzadeh 25:36 Thank you so much again, Stef, for coming on the podcast for part of our launch. And it's been a pleasure talking to you again. Thank you so much.

Stefanie Sword Williams 25:42 No worries. Thanks so much for having me.

Sina Sadrzadeh 25:45 Thank you so much for listening to the fourth episode of Inside the tech den. My name has been Sina His pleasure talking with Stef, I hope you enjoyed. If you did, please be sure to leave a five star review on Apple podcasts as a thank you will actually give a shout out to the best review in the next episode beginning in the intro. So that's a good incentive. Right. Thanks so much again for listening and I'll catch you in the next episode.

Transcribed by https://otter.ai


You can find out more about Stefanie Sword-Williams here: https://www.linkedin.com/in/stefanieswordwilliams/

You can find out more about F*ck Being Humble here: https://www.f*ckbeinghumble.com/

You can find out more about TeqDen here: https://teqden.com/

You can find out more about Scalar North Capital here: https://www.scalarnorthcapital.co.uk/

You can find out more about Sina Sadrzadeh here: https://www.linkedin.com/in/sinasadrzadeh/

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