Part of succeeding at freelancing is mastering the art of the hustle. Freelancing means you are your own boss, which also means you have to find your own work. While the dream may be to have a full and flowing pipeline of plummy, inbound assignments, the reality is that landing clients and projects is a central part of the freelance lifestyle. Marketing is something full-time employees don’t really have to think about, and it can be a tough transition for people who are just starting out.
Here are 4 ways to effectively market yourself as a freelancer.
1. Make it [seem] official
As a freelancer, you are running a business. Even if it’s usually just you at home in your pajamas typing away at a computer, it’s important to behave, and represent yourself, professionally. A well-put together website is essential today. When putting yours together be sure to include details about your background, work experience, and portfolio. Potential clients should be able to tell pretty quickly whether you have the qualifications and vibe they are looking for. Including a personal photo and/or testimonials are also worth considering. The goodnews is an effective professional looking website doesn't have to break the bank or take months to build. Services like Squarespace and Wix make it pretty easy to whip up a website that looks good, quickly and cheaply. And don’t forget about SEO. Following a few basic SEO principles, like picking keywords, content marketing, and link building, can go a long way. Don't let SEO overwhelm you - with user friendly tools like Moz and Yoast you can easily identify your most important keywords and search terms and follow their directions to improve your ranking.
Business cards are also useful. They may seem antiquated, but they are still handed around at networking events (more on this below) and an easy way to exchange information following brief and serendipitous encounters. Thanks to services like Moo and Vista Print you can customize business cards, again, quickly and cheaply.
2. Mine your network
Word-of-mouth remains a powerful driver of new business. Even with all the freelance marketplaces out there, clients still “ask around” when looking for freelancers or funnel work to people they already have relationships with. Don’t be shy about mining your personal network and taking the time to expand it, because you never know which interactions will bear fruit. Leverage social media to mention you are available for freelance projects, post on online forums, and attend in-person events where people may be interested in hiring you. The bigger the net you cast, the more fish you’ll catch. Another opportunity is to let existing clients know you are available for additional work. If they loved your work but don’t have another project lined up, they may know someone who does. Referrals can fill a pipeline.
Don't forget about in-person events. Get connected with professional networks in your field and keep an eye out for upcoming events you can attend. Use networking events as a way to not find new business but make connections in person . You never know, Maybe that interesting graphic designer you connect with will end up having a client that needs content and pass them along.
3. Think creatively about how to get your name out there
One great way to market yourself as a freelancer is to establish yourself as an authority or voice in a particular space. Consider writing a blog, contributing to someone else’s blog or publication, or creating online tutorials. Depending on your expertise or field it can seem like everything's already been said and there is too much great content out there already for you to compete with. Don't be discouraged again find your niche, find something you have deep experience in or can lend a unique perspective on. Also, most freelancers are in industries that are always changing. Use that to your advantage by jumping on topical trends such as big announcements, product updates by industry leaders, or shifts in the landscape.
Putting content out there that people find interesting can ultimately lead them back to you. Marketing yourself as a freelancer requires investing in your online persona. Again, a social media presence can go a long way. If you don’t want to flood your personal feeds with business-related material, it may be a good idea to create a separate business account. Just don’t be too promotional. No-one is interested in anything that seems to sales-y, so be subtle about building your brand. Another great way to get noticed using social media is to find communities and events that are related to your industry and start participating, this can be a hashtag on instagram, weekly twitter chat or an active LinkedIn group.
4. Carve out a niche
It may seem counterintuitive, but sometimes the more you limit the scope of what you do, the easier it becomes to find work. Carving out a niche will distinguish you from all the other, anonymous freelancers on the market with similar skills and make you more findable, and appealing, to clients who are looking for that service. For example, if you are a copywriter looking for content marketing gigs, positioning yourself as a “food copywriter” could make your name stand out to any brand in the food space, whether it’s a grocery store, food product, or restaurant chain. Make your unique value proposition clear.
A little upfront investment in marketing yourself as a freelancer can reap dividends down the road. Don’t be shy about promoting yourself and your business—it can go a long way.