15 Proven ways to market your freelance business

Just starting out or looking to grow your business? It's time to better market your number one asset -- yourself! Here's 15 proven ways to do it.

15 Proven ways to market your freelance business

How can I market myself as a freelancer? 

If you’re a freelancer, you’re in good company. After all: 

  • One in three American workers is a freelancer
  • The 57 million freelance workers in the U.S. make up 34% of the national workforce
  • Experts estimate by 2027, the majority of the United States workforce will be freelancers

That means that if you want to stay relevant and succeed in your career, you need to start thinking about how you can market yourself as a freelancer.

In today’s post, I'm going to share some tips that will help you market your freelance business more efficiently.

Let’s jump in!

Why marketing is way more important to your freelance business than you think

Whether you’re just starting out, or looking to grow your freelance business, you have to get the word out about your products or services.

Marketing is critical for the success of any business. But for freelancers it's even more important.

Why?

Finding work -- and, correspondingly, income stability -- is the top barrier for freelancers. And most freelancers want the security of knowing how to grow a business built around serving customers:

  • 63% of freelancers believe it’s more secure to have a diverse roster of clients than to rely on one employer for your income
  • 89% of freelancers  would have preferred for school to have better prepared them for the freelance life
  • 81% saying they could use more training in areas like networking and how to grow a freelance-based business

Because of COVID-19, some freelancers may be worried now isn’t the time to market their business. 

The fact of the matter is: Decades of research studies show investing in marketing during a recession will position you to recover more quickly when the recession ends.

The most important element in freelancing

If you want to earn a steady income,  you need to balance "doing the work" with "lining up the work."

In other words, to avoid cycles of “feast or famine” it pays to line up your next gig (or gigs) in advance.  

According to the Freelancing in America: 2019 survey commissioned by Upwork and Freelancers Union:

  • 59% of freelancers said they live paycheck-to-paycheck. 
  • Just 43% said they could go without two weeks of pay.

That’s why looking for work is the most important thing a freelancer does. Until you find a client to help, nothing happens.

Maybe that’s why freelancers spend so much time looking for work. 

Caitlin Pearce, former executive director of the Freelancer’s Union said, “Freelancers are spending literally 50% of their time doing the prospecting, marketing, and administrative work that they need to grow their solo businesses.”

That’s why finding a consistent, repeatable process to acquire clients is the most important element in freelancing. 

Once you get that set up, you can spend more of your time working and making money.

But, first things first, you need to have a plan for getting new (and repeat) business.

If they need to, a quarter of freelancers say they can find work within 24 hours. If you’re among the other ¾ of freelancers, keep reading to find out how you can do the same.

15 freelance marketing tips that work like a charm 

There's no magic pill or one sure-shot way to get all the clients you need, but here are 15 proven ways to market yourself that can help you get more work.

1. Connect on social media

Social media sites where potential clients hang out are a goldmine. I’ve found clients on Slack, in Facebook groups, and by participating in relevant Twitter chats. In addition to creating content to share on social media, find people you can help by searching for “looking for freelance X (with “X” being whatever it is you do: ie photographer, designer etc.).”

2. Build a website

When you look for advice on how to get clients as a freelancer, you’ll find all kinds of tips on how to beef up your online presence. A good place to start is getting your own self-hosted website up. This is where your clients will learn about you, the work you do, and how you can help them. Ideally, this is where you’ll host your blog, share information about your services, and contact information.

3. Boost your profile by blogging (or launching a podcast)

Write a blog. Having a body of writing behind you builds your authority and can attract people to your services with your expertise. If writing’s not your thing, make a podcast. The point is to regularly publish content that positions you as someone knowledgeable and helpful that your potential clients will want to work with.

4. Organize marketing partnerships

Partner with another freelancer who sells a different service to a similar audience. Of course, you want to make sure your partner isn’t your competitor.
Think: Taco Bell and Doritos. Both companies market their products to the 18-34 year old millennials market. Their audience is looking for convenient, easy options for food. So they created Doritos Locos Tacos, a new product. You don’t have to create a co-branded product to take advantage of marketing partnerships. You can collaborate on a piece of content or opt-in offer, and share the results of that promotion.

5. Organize your marketing efforts with a freelance business management platform

Once you've delivered your client’s work it's time to find your next project. That’s where a good freelance business management software -- like Hectic -- comes in handy. You can use it to easily see and track potential and past clients by popping into your CRM to see if you have upcoming work or leads to engage with. Using a tool to keep track of prospective and past clients so you can see who to re-engage allows you to stay focused on what they do best. You can also keep notes on work anniversaries, client birthdays, etc. so you can do timely outreach and stay in touch with your clients.

6. Display an online portfolio

Show off samples of your best work with an engaging, professional-looking portfolio. This is one of the easiest ways to show prospective clients you’re capable of doing a great job with their project.

7. Join forums & communities related to your niche

If you want to be visible where your audience is, join communities related to your niche. Don’t promote your services right away, instead engage with the community and provide value. After a while you’ll become known as an expert and you can start marketing your services.

8. Ask for referrals

Network with other freelancers and let them know what services you offer and the kind of clients that you're looking for. Find out the same about them so you can send them referrals as well. This is a common practice. According to data from Freelancers Union, 81% of freelancers refer work to each other. 

9. Pitch your services

Make a list of clients that you know you want to work with. Do some research on each one to make sure you understand their challenges and how you can help them. Personalize your message to each prospective client and write a cold email that shows how you can help with your services. You should also get comfortable pitching on the phone and in person. 

10. Boost your profile by working on personal projects

A great way to catch the eye of potential clients is to share your work in public. This includes working on open source projects, volunteer work, and side projects you’ve undertaken. Not only will sharing your work online for prospective clients to see show your skills but also your creativity and initiative. 

11. Show your expertise by creating tutorials or doing tear-downs

Plenty of freelancers use this technique to show their expertise to potential clients. If you’re a web designer, you can do critiques of existing websites. If you’re an email copywriter, tear-down the marketing emails you get in your inbox. This works with almost every profession. 

12. Explore question-answer and forum sites

Login to sites like Quora and answer people’s questions in your niche. Give your best advice and over time, more and more people will see your answers and that you know your stuff.

13. Attend industry events and talk to people

It’s important to build your own network both physically and digitally. If you feel it’s safe, network in-person at industry events, conferences, and conventions. Alternatively, you can attend online conferences or events. 

14. Search job boards for 'freelance' jobs

You can search for freelance jobs just like you'd search for a normal job. Companies have "Freelance" or "Remote" openings. Apply for them. You can search on Google, LinkedIn, AngelList, and even Craigslist. You can also create profiles on freelance marketplaces like Fiverr and Upwork. 

15. Update your personal network

Reach out to your friends, family, and former coworkers. Let them know that you're a freelancer and ask if they (or anyone they know) could use your services. You can contact them directly, on social media, or even using email. 

Ideally, you'll use a mix of tactics to make sure potential clients know that you’re available to help them with your freelance services.

Over to you...

Whether you’re freelancing to earn extra income, pay off debt, make ends meet, or full-time so you can live your dream life, one thing’s for sure: marketing your business is important.

Hopefully you’re inspired to set up a consistent, repeatable process to acquire clients. Which of these 15 tactics will you commit to? Don’t feel limited to what I’ve shared here. Get creative! How can you connect with the people you can help?

Want to hear more insider tips on growing your freelance business?

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