The one rule all freelancers need to know

The one rule all freelancers need to know

It seems so fun to be a freelancer, because it’s a way for you to avoid all the annoying parts of office life and focus on the work you really like to do. The other great thing about freelancing is you can do it with pretty much any set of strengths and any personality type. There are freelance clergy, freelance controllers, freelance caterers and freelance creatives.

But there is one, single trait that is a constant among freelancers who are successful: solid marketing skills. There are three ways to market yourself, and you have to be good at one of those three ways. But also, you need to follow the 80/20 rule. The majority of your time, for a long time, will be spent marketing.

woman giving presentation to group
  1. In person

If you like talking to other people, then that’s the best way to market yourself. You can go to conferences and talk to a room full of new and interesting people. Get on a panel or if you are not well-known enough to get on a panel, then interview someone at a conference. When you show up at a conference full of potential clients, you create opportunities to get your name out to people even if they are not ready to buy your services right now.

If you are better one-on-one than in a group, try smaller networking events. Figure out the profile of your ideal client, and go to the type of events that person attends. It’s common to hire a freelancer simply because you know them. So making connections, even if they are short, will pay off over time if you are good at meeting new people face-to-face.

woman at desk biting pencil
  1. Online

Many people freelance because they don’t want to have to leave their house or they don’t want to have a lot of social interaction. For those people, online marketing is the best strategy. You can build awareness of yourself and your services by providing free information your target market would want to read.

If you have your own blog, you have to really love producing content—because you’ll need a lot. In order to get noticed online, Google has to see that you’re posting regularly, and that you have a lot of posts. You need to write about topics that your target customer would want to read about, and you need to write headline that Google will identify as information that matches the search terms of your ideal client.

If you get great at this first step, your ideal client is searching online and landing on your blog. Then you need to have a way to get your audience to purchase your services. Typically this happens by developing a relationship, either through a carefully built sales funnel or though regularly publishing of engaging content. And when you decide to go for the sale, you’ll need to be great at converting a non-paying client to a paying client.

If you don’t want to spend all the time to build your own blog to attract an audience, you can guest post on other peoples’ sites and use that article as a way to direct people to your sales funnel. If you’re great at community building, go the blogging route. If you’re great at email marketing, guest post and focus all your energy on your sales funnel.

man using tablet working with woman
  1. Partnerships

If you can charge enough for your services, you can hand over the majority of your marketing to someone else—for a price. That is, you can give a percentage of your fee to the person who markets your services. Usually, the fee is high—maybe 50 percent—because the person who is getting the business can hand the business to anyone they want. Which means you have very little negotiating power in this scenario.

But you’ll still have some marketing you have to do. For one thing, you have to market yourself to get a partner. Someone has to think you are really good at your job and really special if they are going to market you. Also, you have to make sure your client base starts to know you and people start working with you directly, rather than through the person marketing you. Otherwise you will not really be a freelancer but rather someone who is working for a marketer.

The truth of freelancing is that there is no job that is 100 percent a dream job. All jobs have their indignities; even the President of the United States has to show up to pardon a turkey every year. So when you are forming your vision for your life as a freelancer, think about which is most terrible—working in an office and being beholden to one company, or working on your own terms and having to work on marketing every day.

Nothing in life is perfect. We each pick the problems we can deal with best.

What tactics do you use to market yourself?

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