Marketing your freelance business is a tough wicket, I know. It feels all kind of cringeworthy. But when I say, ‘make room for your customer’, I don’t mean squiggle over on the couch and invite them to sit down. I mean make room for them in your marketing.

You may be looking at me as though I have suggested you start riding pelicans to your meetings. I can almost hear the crease in your brow forming as I type.

What I mean is we’ve moved into an unprecedented age of “be a brand” self-promotion. You can’t walk through Instagram or LinkedIn without seeing relatable “this is me, doing it wildly” position of authority style posts. And that’s great. It works for self-confidence and it does work for some kind of businesses and offerings.

However, there are a couple of limitations with this style of marketing.

  • It’s self-centric
  • It invites direct competition
  • It starts to look conceited if your audience gets over-exposed

Self-centric marketing pitfalls

When you are the product or the brand, the pressure can be enormous. It means you always need to find another way to talk about yourself. It also means that you are often over-exposed, which can lead to a lack of privacy. It can also feed social media addiction and prime you to start believing your value is tied to how people respond to you online.

It’s also not the most introvert friendly way to market something. Some of us sincerely don’t want to be the amazing answer the world seeks. We want that light shined on our skills and our attitude instead.

Beyond it creating this persona to wear online, it leaves little to no room for your customer.

Customers want to feel looked after. They want to know what you can offer and how you do it. The story should really be about them and meeting their needs. Marketing your freelance business therefore needs to be about making your customers feel as though they have good reason to believe in you without you feeling like you’re over the top.

The simplest way to balance that out?

Be authentic. If you are a complete goof, show it. If you are a lovable pedant, show that too. Let people see your humour if you have it. Or get them excited by your rants.

But also make sure you include information that is useful to the client. Part of marketing your freelance business is basically laying all your skills on the table for examination. Tell people how you do things. Reveal your secrets.

Most of the time, people are still too time pressed and overloaded to take on what you do. If they are going to cobble it together from your blog or social media, they probably didn’t have the inclination to hire you anyway.

Treat those moments as though you’re laying the bricks of the proof of concept. In marketing your freelance business, you’re actually showing you are worth working with.

I know, it sounds so simple when you put it that way. But it’s true.

Increased competition

Reality TV created the “I am a brand” way of promotion. It moved away from the skills to focus on the personality of the person. Yes, there are skills within the mix (well, maybe not…Trump for example), but the aim is more about personal stories and journeys and opinion.

And don’t get me wrong, these things are great. But it lacks the tangible comparisons of facts and abilities and ways to assess things like we would usually.

It’s about taking the everyday person and promoting them. And generally, it attracts the people who think “I could do that”. So, they do.

You end up with everyone telling their latest story with their photo and if you look at the audience, it’s more about people saying “I want to be you, too” than it is about “I am a customer here.”

We train our competitors to come up through the fold. If you are smart, you’ll turn to learning and coaching. That way, it pays off. But in terms of Joe’s plumbing wanting to hire you to write their website based on your latest “tell all” Facebook post? I’m not that convinced they care that much, TBH.

There’s something fundamentally flawed with marketing your freelance business with the attitude of “you could do this too”. The girl next door relatability is sweet when you see Joey in Dawson’s Creek. It doesn’t really wash with mid 30 and 40 something grown ass business women and men.

Instead of looking at ways to be yet another chattering head, consider how you can stand out. Be the leader they’re looking for instead of yet another person to imitate and follow.

You need balance

There’s a big difference between going behind the scenes of a business and someone making themselves a brand. We need to remember that. We also need to remember that a client is choosing a freelancer because they want a problem of their own solved. They want to get more sales, rank better on Google, manage their inventory better, retain their staff, have a better looking brand, make more profit and feel proud of what they do.

Be brave telling your story as the best option and how you create the solution for your clients. It’s your skills and your attitude and your level of commitment that helps them do what they need to do. It’s you that initially attracts them.

When it comes time to market your freelance business, ask yourself the following questions:

  • What problem do you solve for your customers?
  • Are you talking about that (directly or indirectly) in your social media?
  • Are you letting your clients know you are more than simply approachable?
  • Is your marketing for your clients or your peers?

Want more help marketing your freelance business? The seminars and classes via Patreon return in September. Sign up now for Pains and Gains or the Anti-problem sessions.

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