It can be hard to prioritise marketing a freelance business while working with clients. Guest blogger Michelle Bowes has some tips and tricks to optimise your marketing efforts.
Marketing. It’s a word that can strike panic into even the stoutest freelance heart, which is quite ironic given many of us provide some form of marketing service for others, be it as a writer, videographer, photographer, content planner or … the list goes on.
It’s one of those things we all know we should be doing to ensure the well of work never runs dry, but can be difficult to prioritise when there’s client work to do instead.
Last year, when COVID 19 hit, I had a few clients drop away. I decided to get real about marketing my freelance business. Up until that point I’d pretty much relied on word of mouth to find new clients.
Having tried many things in the first year of marketing my business I learned – the hard way, in some cases – that there were some definite dos and don’ts when it comes to starting out on your marketing journey.
Six dos to remember when marketing a freelance business
Do some research
There’s a lot of information on the internet about business-to-business marketing. So much, in fact, it would lay waste to several forests if printed in hard copy. I read articles, listened to podcasts, did some free and paid courses on blogging, social media, search engine optimisation (SEO), search engine marketing (SEM) and email newsletters. It was all useful, and helped me frame my approach going forward.
Know your brand and target audience
This is a biggie. If you don’t know what your unique selling point (USP) is, it can be hard to figure out who your marketing should be aimed at. If you’re having trouble identifying your USP it could be that you’re too close to your business, so ask a colleague or contact to describe your business and you’ll probably get your answer.
Choose the highest impact outlets and formats for your audience
There is no right answer as to where you should be showing up with your marketing, it all depends on your target market. For example, as a business and finance writer, the kind of clients I’m after hang out on LinkedIn and Twitter so that’s where I target my marketing. And writing social posts, newsletter content and a regular blog is a no-brainer for me as it showcases my ability to provide my core service, which is content writing.
Commit to a regular marketing schedule
To stay front of mind with potential clients, you need to be marketing regularly. What that means will be different for each freelancer, depending on the time and effort you’re willing to invest. In my case, it’s a monthly email newsletter to my client and prospect list, with each newsletter featuring a new SEO-ed blog article, and two social posts a week, every week. Don’t be discouraged if your marketing doesn’t pay dividends immediately, while the estimates vary wildly, many marketing gurus ascribe to the ‘rule of 7’ – that it takes an average of seven ‘touches’ to convert a prospect into a client.
Market to your network
Aside from your target market there’s one other group you should market to – your freelance network. I’ve picked up several jobs after a photographer has been asked to recommend a writer, or a fellow freelance writer has been approached about a job outside their niche and recommended me instead. It’s another reason why freelance groups, Iike the Freelance Jungle, are so important.
Have a great website
For a long time I didn’t think I needed a website, but I was wrong. In an online world, your website is your shopfront. Even if it doesn’t say a whole lot, it plays a role in legitimising your businesses and reassuring potential clients that you’re a professional. Additionally, all your marketing should drive prospects back to your website, where they can explore your business offering and, most importantly, find your contact details.
And six don’ts to avoid when marketing a freelance business
Do too much research
I was guilty of this. I thought that by learning everything I could about marketing I’d eventually hit upon the gold-standard marketing strategy. But all the while I was wasting time that could have been better spent actually creating marketing assets. It actually left me feeling slightly panicked about marketing and very overwhelmed. One of my favorite sayings is “doing is better than perfect” so eventually I just started and have refined my approach along the way.
Try to be too general and target everyone
If you think your audience is everyone – and you try to market to the whole world -I’d suggest your conversion rate will be pretty low. Targeted marketing is most effective, and it’s ok to market specifically to one group of clients and potential clients. If you have more than one niche – say you’re a food and automotive photographer – you’ll probably have more success creating different marketing for each group than trying to capture both with the same marketing assets.
Try to do everything and be everywhere
Don’t waste time showing up places that your clients and prospects don’t hang out, or creating marketing assets that won’t resonate with them. For example, in my business it would be pretty pointless marketing on Facebook and Instagram. And likewise, my marketing focuses on words rather than images, as that’s what I’m selling, but if I was a photographer my marketing should include images, and likewise, videos if I was a videographer.
Overcommit to marketing
My initial marketing plan was to post daily social media, and write a fortnightly blog. I soon realised this schedule was unrealistic. I just didn’t have the time to market that often and do my client work. I’d suggest starting small and building once you grow in confidence, rather than going in all guns blazing and having to pare your marketing back. And, ensure you build in some flexibility to try new things every now and then – or ‘test and learn’ in marketing lingo.
The only thing worse than doing no marketing at all is ad-hoc marketing. A social post once, then nothing for weeks, then a random email to clients. Not only does it look unprofessional, but it takes valuable time and delivers no value.
Feel like you have to reinvent the wheel
If there’s another freelancer whose marketing you admire, I’m a wholehearted advocate of borrowing from the strategies and experiences of others. If there’s another freelancer whose marketing you admire, by all means learn from it. Of course, I’m not suggesting plagiarism – you’ll need to adapt it and make it your own, but if you see someone else doing something that works it would be silly to ignore it.
Find more resources
If you’re ready to tackle the marketing beast, or just refresh your approach for 2021, I hope these tips provide some inspiration.