A Regency Courtesan’s Tips for Self-Promotion
In the lead up to my major career change (more on that at a later date) I’ve been struggling to find some sort of guide, step-by-step instruction booklet, or map that leads the shy girl to the land of super-mega-outgoing-hustler type person. But so far, not so good. Self promotion seems to be at once a basic concept, but also quite bewildering. The world of social networking has resulted in information on this topic being all Trees when I’d rather it be Forest. Don’t tell me how to use Twitter and Facebook effectively, I just want to know the secrets of those people who get out there and find people to help them or create projects. I want to be a Real Hustler. I found the insight I needed in the last place I expected, the memoirs of a Regency courtesan named Harriette Wilson.
Know what you want to gain from the promotion-a one night stand or long-term couple status
For courtesans like Harriette the main aim of the game was to find a protector- a long term lover and patron. But that didn’t preclude them from seeking out one-off liaisons with grateful and generous gentlemen who may not have the means for an ongoing relationship, but were willing to shower the courtesan with money and present for a short time only. These two sources of business hang out in different circles necessitating different tactics for sourcing.
Before you begin spamming the Twitter feeds of all and sundry, you first have to decide what you want to achieve out of your efforts. Do you want one-off sales/visits/clients/johns, or do you want to build on-going relationships? Is your goal notoriety, or building a great and long-lasting reputation? Knowing what you want to achieve will shape the way you go about your self promoting, and narrow the field in which you expend your efforts when you move on to tip #2.
Find your audience and then parade shamelessly while looking over your fan in a coy manner
The courtesans marketing tactics? Parties, promenading and presentation. This is all about being seen by the right people and in the right light. The sort of relationship they were looking to form (a cheap and quick roll in the hay or long-term couple-dom) informed how they approached the three Ps. The majority of a courtesan’s self promotion involved beautiful dresses,the appearance of propriety, carriages-rides and walks in parks, all in the aim of being seen by the right people. So go and get yourself a carriage and a footman… um…
Ultimately self-promotion is about being seen and drawing attention to yourself in the right way, and for the right people- potential clients/customers/mentors etc. That can be done is a variety of ways, not all of them appropriate. Now that you know what you want to achieve, you can tailor your attention-seeking to that purpose. Do you want high paying clients? Then tailor your brand and products towards that market, and get yourself/your name/your brand some attention.
Offer value in some form even if it’s a witty turn-of-phrase and a sassy attitude
I supped once in her society. . . She was far from beautiful, but a smart, saucy girl, with good eyes and dark hair, and the manners of a wild schoolboy.
Sir Walter Scott in 1825, on Harriette Wilson credit
A courtesan could parade about, dress as finely as any society lady and go to all the right parties and still wouldn’t make a living if she had nothing to offer. Brains, sexual skills and beauty being the three requirements, though as the quote above suggests, beauty was negotiable.
Just like our Harriette you need something to offer in order to successfully promote. Otherwise, what the hell are you doing?
Figure out what you want to achieve, what your goals for your business are. This will help you to know who you need to be seen by. Find out who they are (market research can come in to play here) where you can contact or connect with them in some way. Scheme ways to get your name noticed, or be seen by them (in real life, professionally, and online), get involved in projects that connect with this group or demographic, flash an ankle, and demonstrate your value. Repeat.
One final lesson from Harriette- blackmail your lovers when all else fails.
Don’t do that.
Get her memoirs here