All freelancers are small business owners, but not all small business owners are freelancers. That’s why a one-size-fits-all approach to marketing can’t be applied to the gift shop owner with a downtown storefront and the freelance designer who works out of his home office.
Freelancers are unique in that they alone bear the burden for a business’s successes and failures. No one else can be held accountable. With all of the other hats a freelancer must wear, no one will blame you if marketing efforts get pushed aside while you get that rush project out the door for your biggest client. But you probably won’t have a new client lined up when that project ends either.
So how can freelancers market better?
1. Start with your brand.
What do people think of your company? How do they feel when they see your logo or hear your name? By shaping how people will answer these questions, you can move beyond just logos and taglines to developing a solid brand identity. A strong brand will actually make your marketing easier, whether you’re sending out postcards, posting to Facebook, or printing your business cards.
2. Make marketing part of your routine.
Marketing yourself, whether through social media or more traditional forms, is essential, and it should be done daily. Relax! You don’t need to put in 8 hours every day for marketing. Start with 20 or 30 minutes, if that’s all you’ve got. The key is to consistently reach out to potential clients who may not know how badly they need your services. Then, once a month or so, you can dedicate a full day to larger marketing goals. Maybe focusing on the website overhaul you’ve been putting off for months.
3. Pitch to big clients.
When you get one or two big clients under your belt, doors will start to open up more quickly for you. So pitching to bigger companies isn’t just a way to bring in immediate money; it’s a way to market your freelance business as a legitimate, stable business venture. Sure, smaller companies are easier to land because the competition’s not as steep, but working for larger clients can really help your business take off. Don’t be afraid to try to sell to the big guns.
4. Track your success.
Keep track of your pitches and make note of the ones that work. Your system doesn’t have to be overly sophisticated; a simple sheet of paper with columns and tally marks will do the trick. Learn what marketing channels are bringing in clients, and develop a plan of action for continued growth. Maybe it’s time to give up e-newsletters and focus on social media marketing? You won’t know until you start analyzing those numbers.
The Small Business Bonfire blog has more marketing resources for freelancers. Here are a few more you should read:
- Bonfire Buzz: Building an Effective Email Marketing Platform
- Ditch Shotgun Marketing and Dilution for Niche Marketing
- Bonfire Buzz: SEO Marketing
Remember: your marketing plan can be as simple or as complex as you want it to be. What it can’t be is nonexistent.