It’s the freelancer’s conundrum.
You’ve got enough on your plate just keeping up with work for current clients. You probably don’t have a lot of time – or money – to devote to hunting down new prospects.
Yet if you want your business to grow, you can’t ignore the need to market your services – particularly at a time that’s seeing record numbers of self-described “freelancers” flood the marketplace.
That income stream you’ve dreamed of isn’t going to materialize if potential clients don’t know who, what, and where you are.
So prepare to connect.
Of course, you have a website (right?). Whether you are a freelance project manager handling agile web development, or a marketer, that’s the well you’ll consistently draw from, and without it, work opportunities will dry up.
Ensure that your website includes a solid portfolio of your best work. Potential clients will want to see what they’ll get for their money, so oblige them. Write up case studies, if appropriate, and ask current and former clients to provide testimonials. Include any news sites or publications you’ve been featured in. Share the information across the social media platforms you’re active on.
Be personal. There are literally millions of freelancer websites. What distinguishes yours won’t be colors or images, but your personal story. So focus on your “About” page and your blog to share your story.
Be sure that your site and blog are strong on visual content – because that’s what the human eye is naturally drawn to. Moving images (i.e. videos) are even better. Hire a freelancer to create an explainer or promotional video. It personalizes you and your business.
Establish Your Presence
It’s a no-brainer: as a freelancer, you need a strong social media presence.
Facebook, LinkedIn, Instagram, Twitter, YouTube: if you’re not visible on at least one of those, you’re not visible – period.
If you haven’t tested the waters yet, start with Facebook ads. Their Ad Manager interface is sufficiently user-friendly that you can set up a test campaign and get it running in literally minutes.
Social media should be at the top of your marketing strategy list: they’re your gateway to connect with others in your field – and ultimately, to landing new clients.
Leverage your Blog Content
Your blog, however good, probably isn’t going to drive masses of organic search traffic to you.
As a solopreneur, you don’t have a lot of time to commit to constant SEO refinements. Don’t obsess with finagling a #1 ranking on Google: focus on how you can best cultivate connections, and share information about yourself and your business. Your blog is a valuable marketing tool that will help you build credibility, establish yourself as an expert, and drive new business.
Keep your content fresh, promote it via personal or automated email, and stick the link to your blog on everything you can think of – including social media accounts, job site profiles, your email signature, business cards, proposals, etc. If you have an industry-targeted blog, make a sticky menu and include a message about your freelancing services here – so people coming to your blog from Google or social media platforms can simply click, connect, and purchase.
Make sure you have an emergency recovery script installed so that if and when things go wrong, you do not waste time fixing it – and be more productive servicing clients instead.
Offer to guest post on an authority site. This allows you to show off your expertise, and – since many sites continue to push out posts for months after publication – they can pay off in long-term marketing.
What’s Your Sign-Off?
If you don’t have an email signature, you’re missing out on a great marketing opportunity. Choose from a range of templates, customize the style and content to reflect who you are and what you do (“Jane Doe, Freelance Designer”), and add a quick link to your portfolio and your contact information.
What could be simpler? It’s an unobtrusive but effective way of opening the door to further conversation.
On the subject of emails: save time and stay connected to clients and prospects by automating your email lists and outreach. Tweak software templates for prospect emails, rather than starting from scratch each time. You can pull most of the content for your drip campaign from your blog, and include a “Read More” link to direct email recipients to your blog.
Consumer research consistently shows that most B2B buyers make purchases based on referrals – so these are hugely important in landing clients.
A freelancer’s reputation is among their most valuable assets, so highlighting it in widely shared online reviews is an important marketing tool.
Don’t be shy. Follow the lead of those eCommerce sites that send you an email to review their product a few days after delivery. Each time you work with a client, send them an email asking for a shoutout on Facebook, Twitter, or any other platforms they’re active on. If their experience with you has been positive, they’ll be happy to oblige.
Quid Pro Quo
Consumer research shows that up to 90% of all B2B purchase decisions are peer-influenced – so designated influencers can be powerful allies in deploying your marketing strategy.
You don’t have to be able to afford a Kylie Jenner. In fact, “micro influencers” – i.e. everyday consumers – are proving they carry considerable clout. Being “real people”, they’re more relatable.
Check out some popular bloggers who deal with topics that relate to your niche. Connect and sound them out on social media to determine if they’d make a good match in terms of both substance and style. If it’s a good fit, go ahead with your offer: invite them to spread the word about your business on their preferred platform. In exchange, offer them the benefits of your specialized skills. For example, offer to do their YouTube video thumbnail in exchange for a quick shoutout in their video.
No deep pockets required, and everybody wins.
Yes, you do need to invest in your freelance business if you want it to grow. But successful marketing doesn’t demand huge amounts of time, money, or effort. Do your research and identify the channels that work best for you and make sense for your business model. Then leverage those channels to establish your online presence and build your client base.
Understand that your freelance business will be a constant work in progress.
Good thing – because life is way too short to spend it staring at cubicle walls.