One of the things I absolutely hate is when you're googling for advice on how to do something in the freelancing world and you get lists of things to do that say things like:
Like oh ok, those things are so easy, and that advice is so helpful. That sounds totally actionable and everyone knows it's no big deal to write an entire eBook, edit it, format it professionally with all that free software that works just as well as InDesign, host it, find an easy way to deliver it to your audience, and then get people's eyes on it. It's so easy. Why didn't I think of that? Thank god I read this list!!!
Seriously, I hate crap like that. It's not helpful to anyone, it's unclear, and advice like that can actually make people who are struggling with marketing their business feel worse. Like "not only do I not have clients, but I have to somehow figure out how to write a book to get them?"
No. You don't. There are a ton of small things you can do TODAY to help spread the word and advertise your growing business, and they are all things that I have done myself and that worked for me as part of a collective strategy and marketing plan. Plus, I actually give explanations. Whoa. Crazy.
Also, if you want to write an eBook, that's AWESOME. And I can help you do that too - I actually am writing a whole course on digital products and passive income for freelancers. But don't think those big undertakings are necessary for you to have a successful, profitable, and badass client based business.
Instead, here are some real, actionable, steps you can take:
Write a friendly sounding tweet that talks about what you do and mentions that you're currently taking on new projects, and pin in to the top of your twitter profile. Now, anytime someone visits your twitter profile, that's what they will see.
In your twitter profile/blurb, write another, slightly different description of yourself and what you're doing, and throw in a link to your portfolio site. Now, anyone scrolling through Twitter lists or searching for anything will see this description. Make sure that you use a hashtag or two in there as well.
Now that you've optimized your Twitter account a bit, it's time to find your ideal clients and your target audience on Twitter and follow them. Look for businesses, brands, and individuals who are in your niche or seem like they might need your services. By following them, you are putting your name and your business directly in front of them. You might be just the person they are looking for, but even if they don't follow you back or engage with you in anyway, you've created the foundation for a pattern of recognition.
I've talked time and time again about how trust is the single most important factor in a client's decision to hire you. Trust builds upon familiarity. By following your ideal clients on Twitter you go from completely unfamiliar to very slightly familiar.
When your name consistently falls in front of other people, you start to become more relevant to them. This is your first step toward genuine familiarity and name recognition.
I don't think freelance sites are a great way to find jobs and I don't think freelancers should waste much time on them. They do have a place in a holistic marketing strategy, though, and part of that is using freelance sites as a directory to host your profile and portfolio.
One of my best sources of income came from a marketing agency that stumbled upon my profile on Elance, contacted me outside of Elance and offered me a long term gig. That's pretty much as good as it gets.
To optimize your profile:
If you're interested in learning more about how to maximize freelance sites to automate or grow your business, I urge you to check out my free email course 3K in 30 Days. I talk a lot about the best ways to use freelance sites and my students have said the details are really helpful. You can sign up here >>
Use wufoo or another survey tool to create a simple form asking your clients to provide feedback. Email your former clients today with this survey, and then make it routine to send this email at the close of all future projects.
At the end of the survey, you should do a few things. First, include a question that asks your client if they know of any other businesses or individuals that might need your services. Secondly, provide a link to the section of your portfolio that highlights the project you did in addition to social sharing links to your portfolio. Ask them if they'd be willing to share you work with their network. You could even craft an email message they could use, and make the whole process automatic for them.
Include the best of your positive feedback from these surveys as testimonials or social proof on your website.
I talk a lot about weak ties, but I think it's a really important concept to understand. Weak ties are the people outside of your social circle that you are acquainted with (even barely so), but don't know very well.
In 3K in 30 Days, the free email course I mentioned earlier, one of my suggestions is that you make a list of all your weak ties - your older, distant relatives, your friends parents, former colleagues, etc. and give them your elevator speech.
They they themselves might need work, or might know someone who does. If they share your portfolio site, you could reach a significant amount of people this way. If you want to try this, get the scripts to help you out in 3K in 30 Days.
Contacting weak ties should become part of your daily routine. Try and reach out to one person per day. LinkedIn is a great way to do this, along with Facebook and Twitter. I, personally, thinked LinkedIn is the best for former colleagues or more removed weak ties, and I use Facebook chat for distant relatives and family friends.
Your personal Facebook page is a treasure trove of people who really want to help see you succeed, and are happy to passively assist you. When you're ready to do something big with your business like launch for the first time, or sell a new product, or reinvent your brand, (or if you're really in a slump!) put out a post on your personal page letting everyone know what you're doing (with a link, of course!), and ask your friends to help share your message.
If you use this tactic only sparingly, you will be pleasantly surprised at the number of people who will gladly participate in spreading the word. I've gotten a lot of leads from doing this. It's a great way to remind people or let them know what you do, and you never know who might need your work right now.
This one is self explanatory. Links are great for both SEO and for drawing eyes back to your portfolio.
One of the first things a business does before building a new website is scope their competition for ideas. Make it easy for clients to find you during this research page by including a small link in the footer of your projects.
If you've neglected to do this in the past, email these clients and ask if you can do it. Most won't have a problem!
This is another great way to get more eyes on your brand and increase your name recognition. Locally focused coffee shops and stores are usually really great about letting you leave a stack of small postcards or fliers behind for their customers.
Not to mention, clients are eager to work with locally based consultants that can meet in person.
If you've done a really cool project in the past, do a write up about it discussing the technologies you used, your process, and your successes and failures with the project. Include some great screenshots and post it to your blog and share it on social media.
Your personal Facebook page and Pinterest are great sites for this type of things. This will help jog people's memories about what you do, and also show off your expertise.
If you liked this article, my free course 3K in 30 Days will be right up your alley. The lessons are delivered daily to your inbox and they cover everything I've learned about starting and optimizing a freelance business. Register right over here >>