I am in the phase now where all I can think about is marketing my freelance business in order to attract new clients. That’s probably the biggest hurdle for any new entrepreneur ─ finding new clients. Every marketing blog or business coaching website I’ve come across promises to offer me their best kept secret that will double my revenue and earn me substantial passive income. All I have to do is sign up for their webinar, e-course, mailing list or workshop. I suppose the secret is how easily they can sucker people in.
I do not believe a potential client – without knowing me – will arrive at my website, love it based on some winning marketing rule, and then sign over a big fat cheque my way. It doesn’t work like that. Plus, even “passive” income takes some work.
There are many marketing tactics for your freelance business. I’ve been attending various events, engaging in social media, advertising, blogging and freelancing. A few things have worked. A few things have not worked at all and were a complete waste of my time and effort. But marketing is a process and not an overnight quick fix.
Below I’ve highlighted only a few of the marketing tactics that I’ve been focusing on as they relate to my marketing strategy.
CREATING A BRAND IDENTITY
Whether you’re a freelancer, a part-time side hustler or a small business owner, having a website and a blog are marketing must-haves. This is the first stop that any potential client will arrive at in order to get to know your company. Your website should be well designed, with simple to read, well written text that is optimized with your keywords for being found online. Having a blog has also become an important part of keeping your website optimized for search. If you are in a creative field maintaining a blog can act as your living portfolio. Through my blog alone, I’ve been able to meet many awesome people – some of whom have converted into clients. I use my blog to showcase my writing skills and marketing expertise. Even if you are not in a creative industry, you should still consider incorporating a blog as part of your online presence.
Update your email signature to include your name, title, business name, and website. I’ve bought a 1-year subscription to WiseStamp as I find it makes my emails look professional and it’s a further extension of the See Girl Work brand.
BUILDING AN OFFLINE COMMUNITY
Another extension of your brand is your business cards. Don’t go for the typical template approach either. I designed my cards myself because I’m a bit of a control freak. But also because I have access to Photoshop and have spent my career working with various designers. I love working with colour, typefaces and patterns. I even like working with printers — like StationeryHQ where I get my business cards and print collateral printed. I can completely geek out on this stuff. But unless you’re a designer or have access to design software, hire a graphic designer to ensure your business cards are creative and unique. Give your potential clients a reason to NOT throw that card away. I can’t tell you the amount of times people have commented on my business cards. It’s either the paper stock or the name of the company that fascinates them. Either way – it never fails to be a conversation starter.
Once your site is live and your cards are in hand, it’s time to start attending networking events. Going to different events has been the most terrifying part of my journey as a new entrepreneur. It’s one thing to sit there in front of my computer hoping someone sends me an email. But going to various fashion shows, cocktail minglers, coffee chats and after-parties means you have to actually interact with people in person. Not only that, but you also have to talk about your business and charmingly explain what value it offers. Yikes! Small talk might not be your favourite thing either. But attending networking events has probably been the most valuable marketing method for me. With the exception of the blog, networking has gained me my first few clients. But be sure you are networking strategically. Make sure you make actual connections during these events and are not just shoving your business cards down people’s throats and walking away. Send a follow up email, connect with potential leads via LinkedIn, comment or engage with their posts. Building your offline community takes time, interest and effort.
BUILDING AN ONLINE COMMUNITY
I created the Facebook Page for See Girl Work last fall but I didn’t really get serious about it until earlier this year. In an effort to create more engaging and share-worthy content, I spent some time on Canva and created a few graphics to roll out on a weekly basis. Plus I also started scheduling posts during the evening when people seem to be more tuned into Facebook. Posting valuable engaging content can generate traffic back to your website, creates brand awareness, and get people excited about your topic of focus. But don’t just constantly post links back to your blog. Upload pictures, graphics, and short business video clips to keep your stream a mix of content-focused and promo-focused posts.
I started our Instagram profile on Christmas. It’s been really fun and I’ve gained more followers on Instagram than I have on Facebook. I’ve found that the trick has been maintaining a really great looking feed. I scrutinized every image, graphic and photo before posting to Instagram. It all has to align with the See Girl Work brand – light, pretty, feminine-skewed and chic. Almost like my business is fashion. I typically post twice a day. When posting to Instagram, remember that hashtags are a big deal. Without using hashtags as part of your Instagram strategy, you won’t gain very many followers. To-date, Instagram is proving more valuable to me than Facebook. I’ve received more engagement and community interaction.
Building an email newsletter list should be an essential part of your marketing mix. Email has an ROI of 4,300% and is one of the most cost-effective AND revenue-driving online channels out there. In the beginning, I fumbled with my email content. I started out by including a bunch of graphics and hyperlinks. But along the way I made the decision to just be myself and speak on my journey as an entrepreneur. Finding my authentic voice and infusing that into my email content has really been paying off. Not in dollars but in open rates, clicks and engagement. I am using a free account on Mailchimp right now. Eventually I’d like to hire a professional developer to make my emails look wicked.
It was mostly curiosity that led me to do some Facebook advertising late last year. For $25 I did three campaigns spanned across three days. I need a post boost ad, a page like ad and a call-to-action ad for website clicks. It was fun to create and execute the ads. They didn’t drive much website traffic but I did gain a few new Facebook followers. Facebook advertising is cheap, you can target them almost right down to the individual user, and it’s easier to navigate than Google AdWords. Plus I think people are more likely to engage in a fun, creative post in their feed, even if it is an ad.
I’ve also tried Kijiji posts in order to attract some new clients. It didn’t cost me anything and I did get one new client from this method. At one point I did spend an extra $3 to have it as a featured ad. But it didn’t gain anymore eyeballs than if it were just a regular ad.
“Behind every marketing overnight success story are months or even years of strategic planning, brand management and ingenuity,”
Behind every marketing overnight success story are months or even years of strategic planning, brand management and ingenuity ─ especially if you’re on a budget (like me). Marketing your business in order to get the attention of potential new clients is a process that may take more than a few Facebook ads or even a few thousand social media followers. Be patient and keeping moving forward with new ideas. If you remain committed to the process – it’ll all come together.