If you’re a freelancer, you’re in good company. After all:
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!
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.
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:
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.
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:
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.
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.
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.).”
You can also run ads on social media platforms that can get your name in front of thousands of people without breaking your budget.
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.
Don’t forget to add a contact form to give potential leads an easy way to get in touch with you!
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.
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. That said, 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.
Consider joining a professional organization for freelancers or for professionals in your industry. Attend seminars, join social media groups, and try to connect with other freelancers you meet along the way.
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.
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.
If you don't have a strong portfolio of past work, there are steps you can take to improve your chances of acquiring clients. A freelance voiceover artist, for instance, might also include a page on their website that features corporate-friendly stock music they have produced on their own.
Consider creating mockup work for your portfolio if you don’t have enough pieces to show your potential clients. For those who are unfamiliar with this process, it involves doing projects for different brands or clients on your own as if you had been hired by them.
It’s important to denote in your portfolio whether or not you have actually worked with these clients, though. This is to help you avoid misleading people by making them think you have worked with high-profile brands.
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.
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.
Encouraging your previous clients to refer others is a great way to get additional business in the future. This often involves discounts or other incentives.
For instance, a client who was referred by someone you have worked with in the past may get a discount on your services for their first project. You could also extend this benefit to your previous client by offering them a discount on a future project, as well.
But referrals aren’t the only way your network can help support your business. When you do wrap up a successful project, ask your client if they would be willing to write you a short review. Post these reviews on your website, and invite these clients to leave reviews on your social media pages. A healthy collection of five-star reviews is a powerful incentive for your referrals to hire you.
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.
Keep your message as brief as possible. Introduce yourself, highlight your key skills and what you can offer, and provide a way for them to get in touch with you in the future. Afterward, all you need to do is wait for a response.
Managing your leads is an essential obligation in order to maximize your productivity. We offer a business development tool that can help you consolidate your leads and ensure that they are handled appropriately.
You can check it out here.
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.
If you’re a freelance writer, start a blog on your website and cross-post those articles to your social media page. If you’re an artist, create a beautiful website, complete with a stunning logo and a gallery of samples leads can peruse. Whatever your skill is, use it to grow and promote your own business, as well as those of your clients.
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.
Log in 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.
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.
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.
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.
If you have clients you’ve worked with in the past, you can also ask them to send potential clients to you.
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.
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?