As a freelancer, you probably have a great deal of expertise in what you do. Whether it’s programming, web development, graphic design, freelance writing, or some other field–you’ve worked hard and honed your skills. Now, you may be starting to see some of the benefits of all that hard work.
With a few exceptions (those of you whose field actually is marketing), your knowledge of marketing is probably not as strong as your knowledge of your chosen profession. As a freelancer, you know that you have to market your business in order to survive. So, you’ve done what it takes. But, there are still a few nagging problems about marketing your freelance business that bug you.
It’s normal for a freelancer who doesn’t specifically specialize in marketing to struggle in this area. Here are four common marketing problems that bug freelancers (and their solutions):
Problem 1. Inconsistent Branding
It’s very common for freelancers to develop a weak or mixed online identity. This problem often happens naturally as a freelancer starts to develop an online presence. In this Internet age, it is likely that some of a freelancer’s social media presence began before he or she ever considered starting a freelance business. The freelancer may have a Facebook account or MySpace page left over from school days that just doesn’t reflect the freelancer’s new professional identity. Or, they may have been a big fan of Twitter or Digg before they started their business. Now that the freelancer needs to market their services, they may be still trying to leverage these very different online presences.
Solution: Choose an image and stick with it. This may mean having a professional photographer take a head and shoulders shot for use online, or it may mean having a graphic designer come up with a good logo that you can use consistently everywhere that you have an online presence. You should also take a good honest look at your online networking accounts. If your current Facebook or MySpace account reflects a less professional you, then you may wish to create a new, more professional, account specifically for your freelancing business.
Problem 2. Finding Work When a Large Project Ends
If we’re totally honest with ourselves most of us will admit that we don’t really market our business as heavily as we should when we are busy. If you have a large or long-term project it’s easy to become complacent and even lazy in our marketing efforts. If a freelance project has lasted for a significant amount of time, the freelancer may have even forgotten some good sources of job leads. Unfortunately, this can cause a freelancer to panic when the big project does finally end and possibly even suffer through a famine cycle unnecessarily.
Solution: Develop a job hunting routine. Start by examining all of the projects you’ve had in the past year. Determine where you found each job. Make a list of these places to check for future work. Next, check on forums where colleagues discuss your field. Pay attention to where your colleagues are finding work and add those sources to your list. Finally, you can use a job search tool. Make it a point to check with at least one of these sources for leads at least once a week even when you are busy.
Problem 3. Knowing What to Say to Friends & Family
Have you ever felt awkward when asked by a friend or family where you work? If so, you’re not alone. Many a freelancer has stumbled over this innocent question. It happens because most people are still conditioned to think of work as a place where people go. Yet, many leads come from word of mouth and those we know. It’s important to handle your personal networking opportunities well.
Solution: Develop your elevator pitch. First of all, it’s important to remember that people aren’t really trying to trip you up with this question. Most likely, they are just trying to make conversation. The best way to deal with this question is to plan ahead for what you are going to say. Having a good elevator pitch can help–this doesn’t mean that you will have a preset speech that you woodenly deliver every time someone asks you about your business. It does mean that you are comfortable using certain information as a guideline for a meaningful conversation about your work.
Problem 4. Deciding If You Should Have a Niche
One of the biggest decisions new freelancers make is whether or not they should specialize (and what that specialization should be). There’s a lot of debate in freelancing circles about whether specialization or generalization is better for a freelancer. We won’t repeat that discussion here. Instead, we’ll provide a few guidelines to help you decide how to specialize.
Solution: Take a skillset inventory. Examine what you do best. Also, make a list of projects that you’ve done well at in the past. Look over the information carefully. Do you see any trends emerging as to a particular type of project? If you do, it could be that you should consider specializing in that type of project. It’s also important to remember that a chosen specialty need not be forever. If a particular niche doesn’t work out for you, you can always change it later.
What Bugs You?
We’ve shared some common marketing problems that freelancers face, and some possible solutions. Now, it is your turn. Let us know what marketing problems bug you.
Do you have a freelance marketing question that you haven’t been able to solve yet? Or, have you already solved a particularly difficult marketing challenge?
Share your questions and experiences in the comments.
Image by freemind