When you’re just getting your freelance business off the ground it can seem impossible to build a client base. You’re new in the biz and your experience may not be impressive, so potential customers are often scarce. You know you have the skills to do great work, but the work just doesn’t seem eager to come your way. So what’s there to do? Quit before you even get started? Of course not. You just need to up your marketing game.
Many freelancers roll their eyes when they hear the word marketing. I have to admit, I used to be one of them. When I first started out, I thought it was enough to apply to gigs and deliver my best work to build a successful business. But as time went by, I realized this strategy isn’t sustainable in the long run. While chasing jobs may be OK in the beginning, the goal should be to let the jobs come to you, to save precious time and endless frustration. And that’s exactly where marketing comes in. The more people know your name, the bigger the chance of establishing a solid and quality client base.
The first step to finding clients you love working with is defining your target market. How does your ideal customer look like? Would you prefer to work for big companies or small non-profits? Once you figure this out, it’s easier to target your promotion to those individuals and/or businesses you’d most lie to collaborate with. If you only have a vague idea about who should be in your target market, then work on a more general scale. Start by trying to find work in your area of expertise and narrow your focus down once you gain some experience under your belt.
It all comes down to the type of work you most like to do. If you’re a writer, are there any specific publications you’d love to contribute to? If you’re a designer, are there any companies you would die to work for? All of us have goals and aspirations – just think of now as the time to set the foundation for making all those professional dreams come true. Here are a few marketing tips that will help.
Launch a Website
This may seem like a no-brainer, but you’d be surprised by how many freelancer newbies skip this step. A website is like a business card and online resume all rolled into one. It allows you to present the world with the best version of yourself, summarize your services, showcase our portfolio, and encourage potential customers to ask for a quote. If your website also hosts a blog, even better. You can grow an audience, write freely about your interests, and brainstorm blog post ideas that would appeal to potential customers. Here are a few resources that will help you get started:
- 10 Writer Websites That Kick Butt and Get Clients
- The Essential Elements for a Freelance Writer’s Website
- How to Create a Website for Your Freelance Writing Business
- A Freelance Writer’s Basic Guide to SEO
Boost Your Social Media Presence
You’ve heard success stories about freelancers getting clients via social media? They’re true. Building a solid social media presence, keeping you accounts up to date, and interacting with others on a regular basis is key to getting your name out there. Social media makes it easier than ever to interact with potential clients or brands you’d like to work with. It’s time to take maximum advantage of that. Twitter and LinkedIn are your best options when it comes to landing professional opportunities, but you can always get creative on other platforms as well. Come up with a social media strategy and stick to it.
Work for Free
Yes, I know that your goal is to make money, but sometimes working for free pays off; especially when it allows you to make important connections or add meaningful work to your portfolio. Keep these pro bono assignments small and make sure you only offer your free services to reputable clients. Ideally, the customer should be in a niche where you want to find paying clients and they must agree to refer and recommend you if they’re happy with your work. These freebie gigs are meant to help you build a fruitful career, so never sign non-disclosure agreements under these circumstances. Remember: you’re doing it for the promotion. Both you and your client should get something out of the transaction, even if no money exchanges hands.
Write Marketing Emails and Pitch
Writers, there’s no way around this: you will have to learn how to pitch if you want your work to get out there. Contact your favorite publications and start sending article ideas immediately. You never know which one will say yes. If you’re any other kind of freelance professional, you’re going to have to do some writing as well. Marketing emails are a great way to introduce yourself to a potential customer and inquire about any professional opportunities they may have for you.
Research your targets and keep these emails short and sweet. Start by saying who you are and describing any services you provide that are specific to their needs. Then, get right to the point — tell them how you think you can help and inquire about open freelance positions. Then, share links to your website or portfolio. Voila!
Meet Actual Humans Face-to-Face
While online marketing can go a long way, good word out mouth in the community may help you land some appealing local gigs. Attend industry events, go to conferences and meetups, ask people you admire to coffee and lunch. You can make so many connections by only floating around a room filled with like-minded individuals and introducing yourself. Perfect your elevator pitch and you’ll be unstoppable.
Learning how to market yourself can be a challenge, especially when you’re just setting up your freelance business. But you’re your own boss now, so no one else will do this for you. Devote a few hours each week to promoting and growing your small company. Clients will be chasing you in no time. That’s a promise.