Are you noticing a sudden drop in the number of business inquiries you receive every day/week? As a freelancer your income depends in part on:
- Pitching your services in front of prospective clients
- Direct business inquiries from your website or print advertisements
The referrals depend on the good relationships you have with your previous clients. Since you provide an exceptional service at a great price, they are obviously going to recommend your services to their colleagues, friends and other acquaintances, word-of-mouth at its best.
In the whirlwind world of freelancing where, either the deadlines are chasing you, or you are chasing the deadlines, you sometimes don’t realize that you’ve been neglecting the most important aspect of your freelance life: promotion.
Unless you are a celebrity or you have a fanatical following amongst your clients, you need to constantly promote your services. People who don’t know you, should be made aware of the great things you can do for them, and people who already know this, should be reminded at constant intervals in case they forget, and start looking for someone else for the same service you offer.
Your promotion becomes more critical if your business depends on the Internet because your competitor’s website is just a click away. If you don’t have enough online presence, there are thousands of others who do, and they are constantly putting a lot of efforts into getting as much business as they can. Your business promotion should never take a backseat.
And promotion doesn’t have to be expensive at all; in fact on the Internet there are numerous ways you promote your services for free. Of course you have to invest some time. Here’s how you can keep your promotion efforts in high gear for free or at a very little expense:
Publish a blog
If you are a freelancer and if you don’t already have a blog dedicated to your services then you are definitely missing a big business promotion opportunity.
Your blog helps you establish yourself as an authority and even if it doesn’t establish you as an authority it certainly helps you develop a community around your business. Blogging lets you share your knowledge and opinion regarding your profession. Your blog shows to your prospective clients that you take an active interest in your profession and are in a constant process of learning and evolving.
Even if your readers don’t directly bring you business, since they know you provide a certain service , whenever they come across a person who may need your services, chances are they’ll recommend you.
Since a blog, by its very nature, is highly interactive, people remember bloggers better than they remember some unknown person trying to promote his or her services through his or her website. Blogs also get linked to a lot. This not only gets you direct traffic it also improves your search engine rankings and hence fetch you lots of traffic and consequently lots of business from search engines. And anyway the search engines index and rank blog posts faster than they index and rank the usual web pages.
Interact in online forums
Discussion forums are great for getting in front of thousands of people in a very short period of time. Actively participate in the ongoing conversations and add value to the overall quality of the forum you are participating in.
Most forums let you display your link only when you have posted a certain number of messages but even when your link, or rather your signature, becomes visible, people only visit your website if they’re impressed with what you are saying or how your reply to questions and how informative your posts are. I know it might have been a fluke but recently I posted a reply in one forum and by the virtue of just one reply I got three business inquiries from that forum. Again, the search engines rank the online forum pages higher than they rank the usual web pages.
Generate Free, useful content and disseminate it
Websites and blogs are perpetually looking for great-quality content to publish. That is why these days guest blogging is such a great hit. Even If you don’t publish a blog, writing guest posts (write for us) on other blogs can get you highly targeted traffic and the much needed exposure.
Similarly there are many websites looking for articles. There are many active mailing lists that can help you send your articles to thousands of interested publishers; for instance if you go to Yahoo Groups and search for “free articles” or something similar you will come across scores of mailing lists.
Subscribe to the ones with very high number of subscribers and then write some short and crisp articles and submit them to the mailing lists and see your traffic increasing in just a few weeks. You can also independently approach webmasters if you know they accept content from other writers.
A few years ago when I used to design websites. To generate traffic for my web designing website I used to write and distribute free web designing articles on a regular basis. Although my web designing website no longer exists, I recently noticed that the URL I used for the website still generates the maximum clicks among all the URLs I have. Sadly I could never replicate the effort.
Leverage the power of social media
Although personally I’m not very crazy about the various social media and social bookmarking websites some people really generate huge amounts of traffic through them; especially Digg and StumbleUpon. I haven’t gotten data on how much real business these websites can really generate but they are certainly very good at generating some buzz for your business.
Some have claimed great success with MySpace, Facebook, and even Twitter (as weird as it may sound), the microblogging tool. Getting exposure through the social media and social bookmarking websites takes lots of effort and time so you can focus on them as an activity, rather than as a statistically measurable project. For instance allocate 30 or so minutes to one such website every day and gradually build up your network of friends and associates who will eventually promote your URLs.
Spread the word around using the free press release websites
Press release websites are a great way of letting the interested parties know about your latest offerings, and the changes you are making to your website or your business process. Recently Mashable published a list of 20+ free press release websites that you can use to publish your own press releases.
Keep in touch with your previous clients
Right now most of my work comes from my previous clients, but in my case I’m not promoting my work to new clients because I want to focus on some of my personal projects. You can actually get lots of business from those clients who already know you and who are comfortable with the way you do business.
Don’t spam them by sending emails too often, but do keep in touch with them. I use the trial copy of the http://www.group-mail.com/asp/common/default.asp GroupMail software to maintain a list of my previous clients (hundred) and every two months, I try to send them a short e-mail.
Most of them respond favorably. Some even thank me for reminding them of my services because either they, or someone they know, needs my services but they had lost my contact details. Consider your older clients as a highly valuable business percent; don’t ever lose their contact details.
Some other quick ways of promoting your business for free are:
- Developing and giving away some useful tool or software for free.
- Publishing a newsletter. Personally I would prefer letting people subscribe to an RSS feed (if you run a blog).
- Using a nice signature in your emails.
- Turning a section of your website into an information resource hub.
- Managing an online forum under your own domain.
- Publishing your URL on all your stationery.
- Actively participating in socially relevant events such as the recently held Blog Action Day, or conferences and seminars.
What more would you add to the list? ;)