Self-marketing may not be easy, but it is essential for success. And it’s not something that you do when you have little to no work, it should be a part of your daily routine. It’s all about showing people what you can do, what your skills are and what you bring to the table. Read on to find tips on how best to promote yourself as a freelancer!
- What is self-marketing?
- Why freelancers need self-marketing
- Best self-marketing channels for freelancers
- 10 self-marketing tips for freelancers
- How to self-market your freelance brand when you hate talking about yourself
What is self-marketing?
Self-marketing is the process of using a set of strategies and tools to enhance yourself and your image and to show people what you’re capable of.
This process is also called self-promotion or personal branding because it is essentially you trying to market yourself rather than a particular product.
When done successfully, self-marketing attracts clients and gets you more leads because it separates you from other freelancers and faceless brands that may be competing for the same job.
Why freelancers need to promote themselves
Freelancers are service providers. Their economic success largely depends on the extent to which they can convince their target customers of their professional and personal competence.
In addition to usual marketing principles – for example, a lower marketing budget or personalised advertising messages – other factors must be taken into account.
In order to get a complete overview of their own position in the market, freelancers should therefore create a marketing plan.
A marketing plan is an element of corporate planning and is used by the self-employed for orientation and for strategy, budget and action planning. It builds on analyses of the current situation and market conditions and is an important guide for future, market-oriented action.
For example, the marketing plan provides information about:
- Goals and target group
- Market positioning
- Strengths and weaknesses
- Development potential
Best self-marketing channels for freelancers
When asked about how they self-market themselves, the majority of freelancers (76%) in our survey of 2022 chose ‘Professional Networks’ as the number one way of promoting themselves online.
Let’s take a look at what this (and other channels mentioned) means down below:
#1 Professional networks
Professional networking sites like LinkedIn, Xing, and the like allow you, as a freelancer, to create a profile that’s centred around you and what you can do.
You have the opportunity to show off examples of your work, highlight your experience, and expand your network.
Linkedin recommendations can also do wonders to convince potential employers and clients that you’re the best freelancer for them.
#2 Freelancing platforms
Freelancing platforms like freelancermap are also a good option for those looking to self-promote.
Being active in a freelancing community and gaining access to thousands of clients who are actively looking for a freelancer can make the process of finding a job or a project much easier. It will also help keep you up to date on what is happening in the freelancing world and, ideally, in your field of business.
Furthermore, you will be able to directly contact other freelancers and be able to talk about your experiences and also exchange tips. Seeing how others market themselves with their freelancer profile and approach their work can help you figure out what marketing strategy fits you best.
#3 Personal website or blog
If you want to successfully market yourself online, the channels mentioned above might not necessarily be enough. You can step it up though.
Your personal website or blog is your chance to showcase your personality and experience as a freelancer, and will often be one of the first ports of call potential clients will make when ascertaining whether you are suitable for the job in question.
Alternatively, making a blog or publishing guest posts on popular sites can also help you put your name out there. Again, frequent updates are a must!
With all the advantages a personal website can bring to a freelancer, there really is no excuse to not have one in this day and age.
The good news is that there are countless possibilities to build websites. Whether you want to go completely free with WordPress or choose something like Squarespace, which costs a bit, the process of building a website is simple and can be done by anyone.
#4 Social media
Like it or not, social media has wormed its way into our business lives as much as it has done so privately. And it’s not hard to see why.
For freelancers, who tend to rely on word-of-mouth and build up relationships with clients and colleagues, social media is a blessing.
Sites like LinkedIn, Facebook and Twitter are great marketing tools and can help you get in touch with a wide range of people (Check our tips on how to use Twitter to find clients). Try focusing on a couple that suit your business and not spreading yourself too thin.
Six inactive profiles are worth less than a single well-maintained channel!
Use them wisely though – show your clients what you are made of, but be respectful and professional. Make updates about projects you are working on or clients you have worked with – seeing that you are active on your profile will make you look trustworthy in the eyes of potential clients.
#5 Guest posts
Guest posts have the ability to attract high-quality traffic to your website as well as build personal brand awareness. It also helps you build new relationships with like-minded industry experts and helps you meet contacts – both in the online and offline world!
Would you like to contribute to the freelancermap blog? Check our guidelines!
Having a strong online presence is great, but even today, personal contact is a must. Getting a business card and participating in different events or doing charity work in your region can be very useful, particularly when starting out.
Alternatively, you can go to different freelancer meetings, events or workshops. Get to know new people and build up your network. The saying “It’s not what you know, it’s who you know” is true – make sure people know who you are and what you can do for them.
10 self-marketing tips for freelancers
Here are ten tips to help you convince future clients that you are the right for the job:
#1 Know your USP
In order not to get lost in the crowd of competitors, it is essential that you know your USP.
What is an USP in business? USP is your unique selling point. For freelancers, this is everything that makes them unique compared to other freelancers.
To simplify the process, your freelance USP could simply contain:
- Relevant background experience
- Unique things about you
- Special facts about your services
- Writing experience
- Your price
- Where you live
Trying to find every possible truthful case for an edge over our competition keeps our businesses fresh and exciting.
Developing your USP (unique selling point) is a strategy which is often found to be very effective in creating the required levels of separation from the competition.
With a USP you can advertise your services appropriately and address exactly the right customers.
It is therefore important to take enough time to think about your offer, the market and the positioning. An awesome USP is going to be an integral part of your marketing strategy.
Since the personality of the freelancer is also part of the offer in addition to the professional qualifications, arguments should also be collected in this regard that set you apart from others.
For example, Matthew Parris‘s USP: “Beautifully Crafted Content By an Online Marketer, For Online Marketers.”
Don’t be afraid to get creative and add fun facts about yourself. Being relatable is the common theme and coming over as a welcoming person can be even more important than sounding serious and stiff – but with a heavy dependence on the area of your expertise.
For instance, you wouldn’t want to try to be too funny if your speciality is an area like finance or 3rd world suffering. But you do still want to be relatable to those who will be seeking your services.
#2 Choose the right niche
As a freelancer, define your business area – i.e. the subject area in which you specialise – very precisely and find your niche. For example, freelancers who work as coaches should not just call themselves “coaches”.
Keep asking: Who am I coaching? Am I solving conflicts? What kind of conflicts do I specialise in? Conflicts in the private or business area?
And if you specialise in conflicts in the business area, then ask again – are they the typical conflicts between the employees of a company? Or the conflicts that managers have with their employees?
Perhaps also the conflicts that often exist between the different areas of a company or between a company and its suppliers?
The more precisely you have defined your business area, the clearer it becomes to you who your target clients are and the more precisely you can address them.
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#3 Define your target and ideal clients
Define your target customers – as multidimensionally as possible.
This means: As a business coach, for example, do not settle for a target customer definition such as “owners of small and medium-sized enterprises”, but add further (determining) characteristics – such as “in the service sector” and/or in a specific geographic area.
Or as a sales trainer who specialises in medium-sized companies, as a further feature “from mechanical and plant engineering”.
Because the more precisely you have defined your ideal clients, the more precisely you can tailor your advertising messages to the target customers and use your limited marketing resources in a targeted manner.
#4 Come up with good sales arguments
No matter how sharply you define your business field and your target clients, you always have a more or less large number of competitors when it comes to customer acquisition.
Therefore, derive solid sales arguments from your professional biography – i.e. comprehensible arguments as to why potential customers who belong to your target group should engage you and none of your competitors (although the latter may even be cheaper).
Keep these sales arguments in mind so that you can incorporate them into your advertising messages.
#5 Be present on the right channels
Since the core competence of freelancers is often not in marketing, it is important to plan and implement the defined measures efficiently and in a time-saving manner. In order for this to succeed, a targeted channel selection is important.
So think carefully about where and how you address potential customers and what they are looking for (see USP). To do this, put yourself in the position of your customers and research where they are looking for the offers they need – via Google on the Internet, on social media, in a shop, etc. – these are your channels.
#6 Let actions speak
In the business industry, your contacts are usually not the sole decision-makers for your potential clients. Therefore, make sure that you have convincing, self-explanatory instruments that underline your competence that you can either send to your contacts so that they can use them to sell you to their colleagues or superiors.
Some examples could be:
- Specialist articles that you have written and published.
- Detailed reports of successfully completed projects that you have carried out in other companies.
- Letters of recommendation, client testimonials or fully completed profiles with confirmed skills on career platforms.
- White papers with use cases of how you could help.
#7 Choose the right name
This is one of the most asked questions when someone decides to start their own business. Should I brand my business under my name or come up with a corporate name?
There are pros and cons for naming your freelancer business after yourself or picking a corporate name.
If you’re just at the beginning of your freelance career, we’d recommend naming your business after yourself. For example “John Doe Sales Consulting”. Or “Jane Brown Conflict Coaching”.
As your business grows, you’ll have the option to integrate your personal brand into a more creative company name such as “ABC Consulting” or “Speed Conflict Coaching”.
#8 Choose a descriptive domain name
Choose the domain name of your website in such a way that it already contains a descriptive, central term under which you would like to be found when searching the web.
You could choose a domain name that includes only your name: www.john-doe.com or you could instead go for www.john-doe-developer.com
This makes it easier for you to optimise your website so that it can be found in searches for the term “john doe developer”. The same applies to other IT job profiles.
#9 Build a strong website
The Internet is the most important information medium for customers today. You should therefore optimise your website so that it ranks well in search queries that relate to the services you provide.
SEO is not always easy, especially as more and more companies and websites are created every day.
However this is what you could do:
Analyse which search terms and search word combinations give you a realistic chance of landing on page 1 or 2 in search queries. It is also worthwhile to take a close look at what the competition is already ranking for and how these websites are structured.
With general terms as “coaching” or “personnel selection”, a good ranking as a newcomer is very difficult due to strong competition. Therefore, optimise your website for keyword combinations such as “Coaching Hamburg” or even “Conflict Coaching Hamburg”; the more aptly you describe your USP as a search term, the better.
If all this sounds like Greek to you, do not hesitate to contact an SEO specialist who can help you to position your brand and site.
#10 Keep on going
In your marketing activities, be aware that building awareness and image is a long-term, recurring process.
In other words, you won’t achieve anything with one-off quick hits. You have to work your market with certain perseverance and tenacity in order to reap the desired fruits.
With good planning, clean implementation and a little persistence, you too will be able to successfully market yourself.
How to self-market your freelance brand when you hate talking about yourself
If self-marketing is something that doesn’t come naturally to you, don’t worry! You can still promote yourself. Consider the following tips:
#1 Go for a concept not a name
Just because you are on your own does not mean your company has to be called www.namesurname.com and your website doesn’t need to have a lot of sepia-tone photos of you looking soulfully at your computer screen or looking important on a TV broadcast or TED-style talk.
It doesn’t have to be all corporate stock shots and no personality. Instead, try centring your business around a concept that’s unique to you.
#2 Get known as an expert, not a player
Being boutique is often advantageous as it allows freelancers to excel at a few things and to profile themselves accordingly. If you do a bit of this and a bit of that, it can dilute your brand. Plus, no individual or organisation excels at millions of different things.
Having a niche also makes it easier to market yourself through content i.e. blogs, media articles, conference speaking slots etc because you can start to get ‘known’ as the owner of a particular topic or issue.
#3 Show, don’t tell
Social media may have plunged us into an era of SEO headline chasing and rampant click narcissism but these kinds of emails get automatically deleted by most people.
Listening to a client’s actual needs, talking about your past experience where relevant, and not trying to sell them stuff they don’t need, are generally much better tactics for developing long-term relationships.
#4 Let others do the talking
If not you, then who? Your clients, of course. Start collecting testimonials from pleased clients as soon as you have a good enough relationship to ask them for one. As with a good LinkedIn recommendation, a testimonial looks professional and credible on a website and in proposals.
Plus, it’s evidence that someone is willing to hire you more than once. If the client can’t or won’t go on the record, then you should at least try to have attribution e.g. Managing Director, Organic Food Company, France. Otherwise, who will believe that you didn’t write your testimonials yourself?
What’s worked for you when it comes to marketing yourself? Tell us below!