If you’re self-employed or work full-time as a freelancer, then the time you spend on paid work is probably only eclipsed by the time spent acquiring more clients. When business is good, there’s a constant stream of people looking to hire you. But when times get tough and your workload lightens, it’s easy to panic. Instead of panicking, take time to get the word out about how great your business is. In other words, don’t forget about marketing.
Below are eight marketing strategies specifically for self-employed professionals that you can start using today to increase your reach and attract more work.
1. Ask Current Clients for Referrals
This is probably the easiest thing you can do to get more business. Some consider referrals as “networking” as opposed to marketing, but a referral is really the first step in the process of securing work. The next steps are where the heavy lifting and “real marketing” begins once you start reaching out to the referred parties.
Depending on the type of referral, a casual phone call may not do the trick. Consider also sending a formal letter or email that outlines why you’re contacting them, who referred you and what you’d like to speak with him or her about. Make sure to use language that illustrates why the referral should contact you back.
While you may get lucky with an email or phone call, the best way to get referred is to have your client formally introduce you. It doesn’t matter if it’s by email or in person, the fact that a client is willing to put his stamp of approval on you and your work will speak loudly enough.
2. Develop a Newsletter
If you have a significant number of client contacts, newsletters are a great way to keep you and your services top of mind. If you don’t have a lot of contacts, then adding a newsletter sign-up to your blog or website is a quick and easy way to gather contact information for potential clients while giving them something of value in return. Newsletters also have the potential to be shared, which can increase your reach as well.
3. Maintain a Current and Relevant Blog
This may not be an option for everyone, but blogging is a great way to attract attention and build brand value. If you choose to do this, make sure that its content is of interest to potential clients. It’s easy to fall into the trap of blogging about things that interest you. Don’t do that. This blog is for telling potential clients what you’re capable of.
So instead of writing a post titled “How to Get More Freelance Clients,” change it to “How to Hire a Freelancer.” The content will be very similar, but the second headline suggests utility to small businesses that might be looking to outsource some work—to someone like you!
Use our guide to starting a business to see your options for simple website builders.
4. Use Your Content as a Public Relations Tool
Limiting good content to your blog or website will only take you so far. Many large sites now use syndicated content providers, such as Outbrain and Taboola, to distribute their own content. Some of the larger networks might also compensate you, but in many cases, getting your name out there is most important.
Another way to get your work syndicated is to reach out to a few sites directly. Contact the contributions editor or equivalent, and let him or her know about your content. Suggest how it might fit on their site and why it might be of interest to them, and ask for explicit permission for the site to republish the content.
This strategy may not always work. Some editors may work with you; others might never reply. But if you believe that your work is good and relevant to the site’s visitors, it’s certainly worth the effort to get it published outside of your network.
5. Yes, Search Engine Optimization Still Works
As old as the practice of search engine optimization (SEO) seems to be, it’s actually constantly changing, mostly due to Google’s updates of its search algorithm. The first rule is to focus on good content about a specific subject. In simple terms, this means that you should focus on one keyword or keyword term for each piece of content you publish.
Next, make your website mobile-friendly so it’s easy to navigate on mobile phones. And lastly, build in links throughout your content. Link to other websites that you trust, and try to get them to link to back to you. If you’re reading this article, you can see all the links that have been inserted.
6. Network on LinkedIn
While Facebook and Twitter are useful, LinkedIn’s professional focus makes it the one social media site where you might be able to generate some quality leads. Make sure your profile looks great, and promote your blog content on LinkedIn as often as possible. If you read an article or some other content and find it helpful or insightful, look for the author on LinkedIn and let him or her know. This is another way to build relationships.
This type of networking, however, can suck a lot of time out of your day, so try and limit it or set aside specific days/times to do it. Obviously, if you receive an email that says “I want to hire you right now,” consider responding to it even if it doesn’t fall within your designated schedule.
7. Book Guest Speaking Engagements
Look for opportunities in your area to speak as an expert on whatever your business does. For example, is there a group of small business owners that get together once a month to discuss trends, challenges or opportunities? In truth, it doesn’t even need to be a formal association meeting, but anywhere a significant number of your potential clients gather.
Reach out to your local Chamber of Commerce and see if they put on any events throughout the year that need speakers. You can also reach out to larger regional, state or national trade associations, but this level might be hard to break into without some experience and/or having established a name for yourself.
Should you consider speaking, make sure you have a solid idea for your speech, an outline of what specifically you’ll talk about, and the takeaways for the attendees before reaching out. If possible, try to have the speech finished or nearly finished and a copy of your audio-visual aids completed as well. The organizers of the event may ask for these materials or something similar when making their decision.
8. Pitch Original Story Ideas to Sites You Respect
If you have a good original story idea (i.e. one that hasn’t been written for your website/blog) that you feel is relevant to the site’s audience, don’t hesitate to pitch it to the site editor or contributions editor. Pitches are generally emails that outline your qualifications, your idea and why you think it would be valuable to the site’s readership.
You may even be able to get some type of compensation. But if you’re starting out or simply looking to widen your client base, then having a byline on a respected blog or news site is payment enough.
Before you pitch an idea, however, remember that writing it will take time to research and edit. If you believe the time spent doing that won’t be worth your compensation—especially if you’re writing solely for a byline—then this marketing strategy might not be for you.
Marketing yourself as a freelancer is key to building a consistent flow of work and keeping yourself in business. When using these strategies, remember to identify your target audience and establish metrics for success so that you’re not wasting time and money. By using the strategies above, you can start to build your freelance brand and generate interest in your offerings for years to come.