Have you decided that this will be the year in which your freelance business will take off like a bored billionaire’s space rocket? Good for you!
But while goals and dreams are great—it’s not about manifesting—it’s about marketing. If you’re going to make a vision board, don’t forget to also fill your calendar.
And that’s where freelancers often get stuck. They’re either not busy enough—which is anxiety-inducing—or they’re busy with clients that underpay or still want them to use Comic Sans and need help opening PDFs.
If you want things to be different, you need to revamp your marketing. All of it. And I know, as a freelancer, your own marketing typically comes last. You’re just happy to remember to post on Instagram every week without having a mental breakdown.
While that’s certainly better than simply wishful thinking, you can do a lot better! And let’s face it, you deserve better, too. Let’s look at some ways to crush your marketing this year, shall we?
The way you market yourself can influence so much more than just how busy you are. Before you write one more LinkedIn post hoping to get someone’s attention, sit down and determine what your real goal is here.
For instance, you could actually want:
Only by defining your goal, you can start to define how to market yourself. Have this goal in mind with every interaction you have with a possible client, throughout the entire conversation—from the first comment you leave on their article, to contract negotiations.
This will make your life so much easier. Here are some tried-and-tested tactics that work well for different types of goals.
Perfect for: getting more (new) clients.
Be honest here: do you check in with past clients after they’ve paid your last invoice? Often, freelancers have an ‘out of sight, out of mind’ attitude. They’re busy with current clients, and hunting for the next one. But why wouldn’t that be a previous client?
If you’re still following this Back to the Future storyline, here’s how keeping in touch with past clients helps you. You stay top of mind, so next time they need another developer/writer/designer/alligator catcher, they’ll think of you. Not only that, they might refer you to other people too. Referrals are one of the cheapest ways to market yourself: nobody’s as good at marketing you as a happy client.
So, set reminders to ask if they’re still satisfied with the work you delivered, and how it’s contributing to their goals. Ask how that project is going, send them links to articles you think they’d like, and even comment something nice on that dreadfully long LinkedIn post about them walking their dog during meetings. It’s simple, yet effective.
Perfect for getting more income, not necessarily more work. Raise your rates, get higher-value projects and clients. Also works for getting different (new) clients.
Here’s some basic positioning 101: sell an outcome, not a service. Don’t over-explain to interested clients what you do. They’re already talking to you, so they know you deliver the right service. They typed it into Google themselves. Instead, focus on the result.
If you’re a copywriter, don’t talk about how you write websites. Talk about how you use little psychology tricks to raise conversion rates. If you’re a designer, explain how you turn app users into fans of a brand, by getting the UX exactly right.
If you get people excited to work with you based on results, you can not only ask more money for the work you do, but will also attract clients that fit your style.
Perfect for getting different, better clients.
I know you don’t want to hear this, again. But I’m saying it. Update. Your. Portfolio.
I know this isn’t an otherworldly shocking piece of advice, but apparently, a lot of freelancers still need to hear this, so I’m just throwing it out there. Free up time and budget for your own branding as you would for a client. No, that’s not a waste of anything. Think of what you’d say to clients that want to cut budget constantly: it won’t work, will it?
Besides, it’ll pay itself back in the long run, and that’s what you’re in for, right?
Look at your portfolio or website and be critical: is this what you really want to represent? Ask feedback from others, too. Then, start building portfolios. Yes, that’s plural.
Why multiple portfolios? Because you can market yourself with laser focus to specific clients. Divide it by style, by scope of work, by anything—and send over the portfolio that’s most relevant to that specific company you dream of working for. They’ll be grateful to see you’re not another one-size-fit-all kinda freelancer.
Perfect for getting better clients.
Turn the conversations in your content around. Start a conversation that doesn’t revolve around what you do, but try to understand what is keeping your clients up at night.
Don’t push your services and ideas on them right off the bat. Start by asking what their goals are, what they’re hoping someone will deliver, and how they measure success.
Then pitch how you help them with that. Explain how you help them make more money, get people to like them more, or how you help them save time. Basically, repeat their goals back to them, but make yourself a crucial element in reaching them.
Being a freelancer doesn’t mean you are all alone—even though it sometimes might feel like that.
Have a network of other freelancers around you who offer services that complement yours. Communicate to clients that you know someone who can help with the work that’s being done before and after you step in. You can either subcontract work to fellow freelancers, or work with a little commission.
This will also eliminate a few other excuses freelancers love to use to not market themselves properly: lacking time or skill. Even as a freelancer, you can hire other freelancers to help you. I know, I was also shocked to find this out!
It can be scary to hand over parts of your business like this, but it will free your hands and allows you to scale up, without getting burned out.
Look at that goal you set for this year again and redefine it by adding in the type of work, clients or pay you’re looking for, and go get ‘em.
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