Marketing for freelancers seems like a bridge too far a lot of the time. We rely on networks to get us leads. We cheerfully ignore the aspects of sustainable self-promotion when we’re busy.

But we’re always reminded somewhere, somehow, that some other freelancer is kicking their marketing up a notch when we’re…well, we’re sitting there feeling awkward because we can’t be yet another freelance personal brand, too.

Don’t get me wrong, I am all for the personal brand when it works for someone. But there is a high percentage of us (myself included) where we don’t feel so hot with that extra level of scrutiny. I see that this approach often leads to freelancers feeling stuck with their marketing. The last thing you want to do is talk about yourself when you are more interested in your clients. It’s the reason why I invented Marketing for Introverts. And why it goes so well, too.

Well, there’s great news for you. Here are two gems I live my life by that will make you feel a whole lot better about marketing for freelancers (and for your clients, too):

  1. If it’s always about you, you leave no room for the customer. (Steven Pressfield)
  2. Don’t think of your website as a self-promotion machine. Think of it as a self-invention machine. (Austin Kleon)

And yes, the second quote is about websites. But honestly, it can apply to anything and everything related to your freelance career related to marketing and self-promotion. The main aim of the game is recognising that you don’t have to have the spotlight on you if you don’t want to. In fact, beyond a wee bit of interwoven proof, most of it shouldn’t be about you (see point 1).

There’s power in not making the story about you in two ways- it invites other people in AND it frees your mind of that crushing scrutiny called comparison.

Ok, so let’s get you into a fresh set of questions and thoughts that are going to help you talk to your clients and help them in the process. Here’s the beginning part of a big fat customer-centric tip series on marketing for freelancers. 

Marketing for freelancers 101: Definition matters

I’m an ex-product manager. So, I don’t do anything that doesn’t fit neatly into how you can define, design, deploy and maintain a product or service. Why? Well, you need to define what you offer, design a roadmap to your audience and place in the market, develop a product or service, and maintain it post launch to be successful.

The odd thing to me is that a lot of freelancers lack definition. If you don’t define what you want out of your business, let alone define the clients you want in any great measure, it becomes pretty difficult once you get past the fluke and novelty stage. Defining what you want from any relationship matters a whole heck of a lot. So too does defining growth. Or in this case, defining your customer and how you service them.

A couple of questions for you to consider in defining your customers are:

  1. What are your client’s interests?

I don’t mean their love of rollerskating and fishing. I mean in the context of marketing yourself and marketing for freelancers as a viable, trustworthy choice. If you can speak to a client’s interests related to your goods and services, it’s better than talking about you any day.

For example, are they interested in the DIY approach of what you do? Then you might find it handy to give tips on the subjects you offer. Or that are a part of what you do.

A classic example of this approach is Mitre 10 New Zealand having the best video library for projects that can help tiny house builders or keen renovators with the quirkier projects around the home. Like this how to build a bench seat video (that is so NZ in flavour, it’s simply wonderful…easy as, bro).

They know the client will try it themselves, so they give the tips, manage the expectations, present the advice, train the staff and sell the tools and supplies. Even if the prices are higher than other hardware chains, the add-ons make up for it.

So, when looking at their interests think about what you save them. On the high level, you can save them time, money or brain space.

But what’s underneath that?

Are you educating them like the example above or are you taking it off their hands entirely, so they no longer need to think about it? Are you saving them time by making it easier for a customer to do a sale by themselves or are you saving them time by reducing how many times they have to answer the same questions over and over again? Are you saving them time by automating their processes or being the person who does it on their behalf?

Once you define the interest they have in your services, it’s much easier to speak to that interest and pivot that marketing for freelancers torch light firmly onto the client.

  1. What do your client’s care about?

There are a few ways to answer this one, so make sure you do your homework.

For example, a basic step is do they care about cost or time? (knowing both is often asked for but one ultimately must give in to the other).

They may have other cares such as their reputation. This might span across work quality, branding or even into their values being on display. Maybe their work is meant to make a difference, such as with a charity, cause or NFP. Or maybe they are on a mission to solve something important. You can see this evidenced in the existence of mission and values statements, industry codes, voluntary codes and the like. Or by affiliation through structures like B Corp or similar. You get the drift.

Marketing for freelancers looking to speak to those cares becomes easier when you realise most of the information you need is a short web search away.

Clients leave clues about their aspirational values all over their websites, social media impressums, annual reports and other large scale “this is us” style documents all the time. You can literally define what clients you want, read their existing marketing, and then write your marketing to match their values.

Check them out and see what patterns you can find. Because once you find the patterns, you can speak to them as a guardian of that care and concern.

  1. What do your clients want the marketing to do?

Yes, I know. Get sign ups, build audience, convert, get them coming back. It feels like the same party. But there is always different twist on the party theme to go to.

There are distinct channels: Business to Business Versus Business to Consumer being the most well-known.

You have two distinct ways in which customers are viewed: Acquisition Versus Retention.

Or if you really want to get it right, it’s Acquisition versus Retention versus Reconversion (where you win them back after a trial or because they’ve forgotten who the heck you are).

Nailing the particulars of one of those (over both) can make your choice of client much easier. It can also make their life much easier, too.

But you can also define via intent as well. Clients do not always share the same intentions. That’s where definition helps that, too.

Some client intents to consider are:

  1. Attracting views or impressions – catching the all-important eye
  2. Aiding in research and/or decision making – helping customers feel as though they’ve discovered the goods or services on their terms
  3. Building leads – racking them up to continue the conditioning process on the way to the sale
  4. Converting leads – the final frontier where they hand over the cash
  5. Upselling existing customers – after trust comes greater commitment
  6. Visibility and recognition – remembering you in the sea of information is an important part of standing out
  7. Garnering loyalty – It’s a shift from “a service/product” to “my service/product”. E.g., some people drink red wine. Others only drink shiraz. Others still will only drink shiraz from McLaren Valley. And jerks like me won’t drink unless it’s a d’Arenberg Dead Arm shiraz where the joy of wrapping my lips around that bad boy is worth breaking the current no drinking policy for. It’s how loyal you make them that matters
  8. Introducing a new industry or idea – e.g., a start-up that has a new way to fix an old problem
  9. Generating word of mouth – giving the words for the customers to repeat to their friends is a lot different to creating an impression
  10. Educating customers – everyone wants to know the behind the scenes these days
  11. Reducing customer service labour – some of the best ways to secure sales is to answer questions far more effectively and efficiently
  12. Motivating particular actions – this is usually tied to trials, promotions and temporary experiments with product lines and so forth
  13. Re-engaging with a product or service – bringing people back to the fold
  14. Overcoming objections – whether it’s at sale time or because things haven’t turned out how things were planned, this is incredibly important. Incidentally, overcoming a client objection makes a LOT of sense if you value loyalty or chase brand champions.

You can speak to any and all of this cycle in rounds. But you can’t be all things to all people at the same time. That’s usually where our clients go wrong – and we follow them down into that wrongness because apparently, the customer is always right.

You’re better off defining the target and holding your line than you are giving in because your results will be stronger. Kate Toon sums it up in her local SEO Q and A with me for the Freelance Jungle. You take over your suburb, then your local area, then your town, then your region, then your state and so on. You don’t aim to be top of the pops for the whole of Australia because it’s too lofty to begin with.

Marketing for freelancers gets a whole lot easier once we start switching the focus to the clients instead of ourselves. Next, we will dig into developing our freelance story.


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