Freelancing has now become a key way to increase your earnings. But whilst the attraction to earn more money is there, so too is the difficulty in competing against other freelancers to create a healthy pipeline of leads.
According to an Upwork study in 2017, 46% of Generation Zs are now freelance, and as a result the sheer volume of people that are competing for leads has never been so challenging. With this in mind, here are eighteen ways that you can improve your marketing as a freelancer:
Your potential freelance clients will tend to check your background out for at least three key elements; a summary of your skills and interests usually via a website of your own, any reviews or testimonials on say Google maps, and some trust signals that make you stand out as a reliable vender e.g. an overall feeling of professionalism and experiences.
Perspective clients will initially only glance over your profile. So they will tend to want immediate assurances that you are worthy of any consideration, and as such you should be sympathetic to those who merely scan information and are time poor.
Tip: Try to benchmark yourself against the best freelancers in your niche or industry. Pick the best bits from the way others describe themselves, and lay their profiles out.
You are of course not awake 24 hours a day, but your freelancer profiles are and they should therefore offer a variety of ways to contact you. This allows any potential customer to get in touch with you in the way they like, at a time and medium that suits them.
You should never make your customers work for your information. Long copy that hides what you do, or hard to reach contact information can easily withhold a lead and a new business opportunity, all within the vital final seconds.
If you’ve been a freelancer or a customer to a freelancer before then you would have likely seen their face online. Profile pictures in freelancing are more important than you might think. Most people will want to e-meet you, and the easiest way of doing this is by looking at your profile picture first.
Profile pictures are one of the best ways to demonstrate and show that you have a level of professionalism, care and attention.
Stay wary of the WoM
It is normally a great start promoting your freelance services via your friends or old colleagues, and in truth this does serve you with some great initial awareness, and follows on your social media accounts. But although this can be a great way to start your freelancing journey, it may be that many friends might not have the budget to enable your survival as a freelancer.
When dealing with new business leads from friends - always ask for a small sum of money. This is to protect you from anyone that might take advantage of your services. Layout your service deliverables clearly to them too. This protects you from any future arguments or disputes that might otherwise put a dampener on your work.
Everyone has their use
In freelancing - everyone has their use. For instance, if you’re working with another contractor then you will find other hidden benefits that come with this relationship. For example, you can exchange reviews on profiles to boost both of your trust signals to prospective new business leads that view your profile.
Be a jack of key niches
Being a jack-of-all-trades can often be a good trait, and in most cases – this is true. With freelancing however, you should try to pick your disciplines wisely. If you have too many service offerings then it can be overwhelming for many to choose between yourself and an agency juggernaut. In most cases it also makes it easier for you marketing wise if you perfect your service around a key desirable niche of service. Notoriety in the marketplace tends to occur when you can excel in a niche, and that often comes with a lot of effort needed.
Ideally, you should have a few niches that you focus on – which ideally also follow typical trends or shifts to ensure that you are always ahead of the industry curves.
Invest in your brand
If you are a freelancer then you may opt to create and work under a characterful brand, or merely just trade under your name. Whichever you choose, investing in the time to enhance your branding is vital to improving your new business trust signals.
Making sure that you look good online, are memorable, and represent who and what you stand for. Branding is a huge touchpoint for your freelancing service, it helps people to align to your values, and can therefore be used to attract the kind of customers that will share your values.
Using your branding on letterheads, website portfolios, invoices, email signatures and the likes will help you to gain vital trust e.g. it is more formal to include your brand on invoices and may help to speed up payment checks.
You never know what a new relationship or contact may lead to, and as such you should always show warmth and professionalism to everyone you are dealing with. Leave out the ego.
Keeping a friendly tone when the worst scenario hits is leadership, and that’s what people need and look for in any sector. Addressing people directly, being prompt, and communicating with your customers are all traits that will help you to excel as a freelancer.
Being warm and friendly doesn’t necessarily mean you have to go out of your way to grovel, but customers will always appreciate someone who can treat them as a priority, show an interest in them and their needs.
Gentle thought leadership
Being a successful thought leader can get you more leads than you might imagine, but it isn’t necessarily an easy route for you as a freelancer to tackle. You should try to show an interest in your sector however, and involve yourself in the debates that interest you and your peers.
Focus on where your passions are outside of work. Find the intersections between these passions and your freelancing. This can make thought leadership more exciting, and more natural to you.
Large advertising budgets can be hard to allocate when freelancing, and a return on investment can be a job in itself to ensure. But In most cases, spending a small amount on advertising where your customers will likely be online can be beneficial.
To save budgets - you should pay attention to any early results of your advertising, ensure that you are advertising to the right audiences and at the right times of the week and day, using different ad creative call to actions helps you to test communication angles.
Cold common ground
Although no one likes random emails from strangers – sometimes this can help you as a freelancer. Contacting people based on your experiences can be very fruitful, especially when you see alignments between your experiences, passions and potential client needs.
Even though a business or person might not be outwardly seeking your help, if you feel you can help them then it is well worth introducing yourself for both parties. The worst case scenario is that the potential customer won’t respond, but your name will still be in front of a seriously cool option, and this kind of strategy should pay off if you were to continue pursuing this with the opinion that marketing is a numbers game, and the higher number always wins.
Respond to ads
When starting as a freelancer, you will likely need a customer base as quickly as possible, and the best way to do this is by responding to existing ads or posts from potential customers on job boards, social media comments, and freelancing platforms. By speaking to potential customers who are looking for a specific task or part time job candidate, you are ensuring that you answer your most short-term likely need, and that is to provide cash flow that otherwise enables you to survive as a freelancer in those vital early months when a job feels tempting once more.
This is usually the best way to get clients and start your freelancing journey. Why? Because it helps you to write proposals around your work far more, and in doing so you begin to better know what you offer and for what price e.t.c.
Form a key message
Every freelancer should have a key message around what they offer. For example, if you are a freelance cartoon illustrator then this should be a priority feature of your materials, no matter where.
This key message helps to sell your service to many more people, much more quickly. It helps potential clients to know instantly what your speciality is. This prevents potential clients from being in the dark as to what your service offering is. It also improves your search engine optimisation, and increases the chance of being organically found more rapidly online.
Could you possibly train and improve at what you do? Can you consult? Are you able to offer a part-time two day working relationship with a client? Research your niche using Google search suggestions around your major keywords, and question your product offerings.
Freelancing is a tough market to be in, and when you start out - it is all about survival. Be flexible with what opportunities are out there.
Refer work to others
At some stage, you will come across clients that will request other skills outside of your skillset. There are usually three ways you can deal with this; you can either decline the work, try to take it on and potentially fail due to a lack of skill, or you can recommend the work to another freelancer.
Making connections as a freelancer to other freelancers in your sector can be a massive boost for you as a freelancer. If you’re able to recommend someone for another skill then they may in time recommend you too.
Work within your skillset
Unfortunately, there will be times when a piece of work will hit your desk that may be out of your skillset. This is completely normal, and it is not something to worry about. You should only work within your comfortable skillset, even if you think you can give it your best shot - it might cost you a lot more stress and time than you may have.
Another implication is that it is easier to get business from existing clients than new clients, and as such - should a client feel that you let them down, you may likely lose unbeknown future business.
Networking yourself, and getting your name out there can be a massive way to grow your potential client pipeline without spending a penny. It is wise to follow and interact with others online to do so.
Spend some time finding and connecting with people, then interacting with their posts on social media. This can be a great way to grow your leads in the long term, and make yourself the go-to expert.
Marketing yourself as a freelancer can be a daunting task, and it can be incredibly frustrating. But once you have the basics in place, you can often start to see early results, so long as you chip away at things in manageable chunks, and go with your gut feeling when it comes to where the effort should be spent most.