Let’s be honest. Who has time to look after marketing when running a business? Freelancing is busy enough without having to worry about PR, blogging, social media and all the rest of it. It’s a job in itself.
But as you’ll want to keep attracting enquiries, and beat your competition; marketing should always be a priority. However, you don’t have to go crazy. You time-poor, self-employed professionals can instead focus on the following essential marketing techniques; ones that will give you the maximum return for the least amount of time and effort.
1. Find a niche and embrace it
Freelancing becomes so much easier when you find a specialism, grab it with every ounce of your soul, live and breathe it, and become an expert in that field. Is there a specific sector you enjoy working? Or a service you provide that makes you jump out of bed in the morning?
Because if you’re passionate about what you do, and whom you do it for, marketing will become a breeze. Your journey from attracting clients to winning them is so much clearer. You know who you're talking to, and how you might convince them to hire you. Even better, your love of your chosen field will shine through everything you communicate, and that's infectious.
During my days as a broadcast journalist, I got the chance to interview Will Smith during his promotion of the romantic comedy, Hitch. I asked him how you attract other people (since he was playing a dating doctor). His excellent reply was something like: "You have to be the person you want to attract." With Will's words of wisdom in mind, you too have to become the very thing that you want more business from.
A word of warning: by niching yourself, you may close a few doors. But marketing always has a better chance of working when you confidently target a specific area or promote a particular specialism. People want experts, after all.
2. Convey expertise and confidence through consistency
When clients are looking to hire you, they want to be immediately reassured that you’re reliable and professional, and know what you're doing. How do you convince them? If you have a website, blog and social media channels that are consistent with quality content, and back up your niche and speciality, you will exude confidence.
After all, you don’t want Mr Bean saving the world. You want a secure, confident and reliable superhero, one that you look at and think, yes – this person is going to live to fight another day.
You can share your focus through content, crafting blog posts that show off your expertise and attract potential customers through the search engines. You can add credibility by adding images and video on your Instagram feed that relate to your sector, and match what's on your website. You can follow relevant influencers on Twitter and retweet their updates.
To get started with your content, create an editorial calendar using a free tool like Trello and add task lists for each channel. For example, 'Blog', 'Twitter' and 'Instagram'. You should then add daily or weekly reminders to put your plan into action because there's nothing worse than being attracted to a website, only to find that the blog is outdated or it's been three months since you tweeted.
Remember, consistency conveys confidence, and people love doing business with those who are passionate about what they do, and clearly know what they're doing.
3. Make sure your website converts, and continuously refine it
What's the point in spending time on your marketing if people land on your website and bounce off? With affordable website building tools like Squarespace, there is no excuse to have a lousy website these days. (Obviously, I'm not trying to put web designers and developers out of a job. The freelancers I'm considering wouldn't be able to afford a bespoke website anyway.)
Tools like Squarespace are great because their template designs are top-notch, and the platform is SEO-friendly. They also offer greater control. For instance, if you feel as though something isn't working – if a piece of copy needs tweaking, or an image swapping – you can do so, quickly and easily. Check out Squarespace's video tutorials to build your site.
Once you're up and running, you can check web analytics to see if visitors are converting or abandoning individual pages. You can take another look at how you're presenting yourself and adjust accordingly. By having this agile, iterative approach, you can keep improving your website until something works. Your website should never stop evolving anyway. You should see it as a living, breathing part of your business, one that always needs attention.
4. Make an effort to get testimonials
Nothing beats a great review from a credible source. A testimonial from a happy customer will do wonders and attract more business, so fill your website with recommendations. Add them to your 'case studies' or 'portfolio' page. Splash a few on your home page. Write about successful projects on your blog, and throw in the odd client comment, if you can.
And if you can get at least eight reviews on Google Maps too, that only boosts your local SEO – helping you beat your competition for your chosen keywords.
5. Introduce a monthly newsletter
A regular newsletter is a great way to keep in touch with existing clients, as well as potential ones. You can share your latest projects, shout about recent achievements, and – more importantly – remind people that you exist.
Mailchimp is free to those who have less than 2,000 subscribers and is highly recommended. Its templates and functionality are fantastic. Get started using its Knowledge Base, and you'll soon pick up how it works.
6. Volunteer your expertise to other outlets
You've got your niche, and you're crafting great content to show off your expertise. You're active on social media, and your website looks impressive, and everything you're putting out there is consistent and exuding confidence. Now it's time to explore other channels to help you share your skills and knowledge with a broader audience.
Have you considered public speaking? There'll be loads of events on your doorstep. Take a look at Meetup.com as a starting point, and volunteer to talk at something. Or how about contacting a journalist at a relevant publication, and requesting an interview or offering yourself as an expert commentator?
You want to think about the kind of places where your potential clients might be active. The type of magazines they read. The social media they love to be part of. And you want to reach and impress them by becoming a 'thought leader', i.e. the go-to person in a field of expertise.
Don't be shy. Get yourself out there and extend your marketing to these wider channels, and you'll be picking up a wealth of new clients in no time.