The Ultimate Guide for Freelancers to Market their Businesses

18.05.2017

In March 2017, we hosted a new Blog Carnival at freelancermap.com and asked our users: “how do you market your freelance services?”. We wanted to know the marketing strategies that you use frequently for your freelance business to get the best results. But we didn’t just stop there, we also reached out to brand and marketing specialists and asked for their best tips too.

Here are the awesome tips that our freelance experts and marketing specialists shared with us:
 
Matheus De Souza

“Personal branding is a must for freelancers. That said, publishing your work is the basic step. You need to have a good portfolio and allow clients to see it. If you are just starting out and don’t have a consistent portfolio, write articles about your field and work. Have a blog or use LinkedIn Pulse to start with. Furthermore, have your own channel. Social media channels are owned by third parties and you can’t control them. For instance, even if you have 6 Thousand followers on Facebook, only a small part of your public will see your publications without paying for ads. The solution is to build your own website and have a newsletter to create an email list. I can reach now many more readers through the newsletter than through my publications on Facebook, for example.
Don’t sell yourself too cheap. Research what other freelancers are charging for the service, have a clear picture of how much you want to earn in a year to set your price and include room for negotiation, as many clients will ask for a discount.
Have a lifestyle as a personal brand. This tip is a polemic one, but there is a reason why MacBook is associated with creative professionals, and that’s not because it is a good notebook. Confidence for freelancers is everything. Branding yourself is building confidence through a lifestyle and printing your personality on your services and products.”


Matheus de Souza, Freelance Writer & Digital Marketer

 
 
Joanna Kay
Start a blog. Create valuable blog posts that help your readers learn more about your niche and they’ll keep coming back for more. They’ll also be more likely to book paid work with you because they know what you say and suggest works! Blogging also drives traffic back to your website which strengthen your SEO and helps you rank higher in search engines.
Share your work on Pinterest. Pinterest brings in over 75% of my website traffic and helps me target people that are interested in my niche. Here are my top tips: Have a clear description in your ‘about you’ section and include a link to your website. For your profile photo, use a friendly photo of yourself as people can relate to you better! The first board on your profile should be solely for things related to your business and freelance work. Here you can pin your work, portfolio, images, designs and blog posts etc. Your Pinterest graphics should be quality images that match your branding and are recognisable. Make your Pinterest profile cohesive and only create boards that are relevant to your target market.
Build an email list. Sending a newsletter to your subscribers, gives you the opportunity to advertise your services to people that actually care. Your marketing will be much more effective because you’re targeting people that are really interested in what you offer. 
Use Facebook Groups where your ideal clients hang out. Sharing your knowledge and advice will position you as an expert in your niche. Another advantage is that you get to know your potential customers on a friendly and more personal level.”


Joanna Kay, Online Business Consultant

 
Jason Scott Montoya
Actively engage with people: Three months before I began freelancing I was in the tail-end of a year-long process to close down our marketing company. At this point, I knew I was completing a seven-year marathon, and I needed my community to rally behind me. I began meeting with 10-12 people per week. It was a powerful exercise to help me not only connect with my network but also to help me discover what my options were once our marketing company officially ended. This relational foundation set the stage for a busy and active freelancing career to start.
Regularly blog online: Blogging allowed me the opportunity to think through different topics on my mind as well as share insights that have helped me, with others. Over time blogging activity establishes authority, credibility and simply reminds people we exist and we're active in our work. Another idea is to 
guest blog write for other websites. Branching out increases our credibility within our network as well as exposing us to people who would likely not discover us.
Engage on social media: This is a great starting point to establish a distribution network - during the first three months of blogging, social media led to one-third of my overall traffic. Many times these posts would act as triggers for talking with me about communication problems they were having.
Bonus tip: Sustain activity when you're loaded with paying work: While my online presence has slowed down with the time, I realize it is important to maintain a level of activity so when I do need to find new paying projects, the machine is easily available to accelerate the process. If I can meet with a few people per week, post at least quarterly on my blog and stay active on my social media weekly, I should be able to maintain a steady amount of awareness to reap the benefits when I need them”.


Jason Scott Montoya, Communication Specialist & Author of the Path of the Freelancer

 
Stefan Lindblad
“I always carry my business cards with me, and like to talk with people. That alone has helped me quite a bit in marketing and branding myself. Meetings in person have often shown to be one of the best and quick ways to land a gig! I also believe in stickers and flyers and t-shirts. People instantly get a feel of who I am and what I can do.
I try to be aware of what is new, and what might work for me as a professional freelance illustrator and designer. If an image, video and text isn’t reaching the right people, and you don’t convince them to sign up for your Newsletter or to your blog, money can be lost with no real gain.
Marketing is also networking. Therefore, if you have the possibility to interact in Facebook and Linkedin local business groups, then do. I like to let possible clients know they can trust my abilities, that they get great service and above all great illustration and design. My blogs are great, because writing a blog lets me connect in a different way. I can write about issues and ideas in a way that feels, frankly, more serious than let’s say Facebook. I have blog articles that are many years old, and still reach readers, in a way Facebook wouldn’t do today in the same way. And blogging has shown to be a great attractor that keeps on giving”.


Stefan Lindblad, Freelance Illustrator & Graphic Designer

You can know more about Stefan and his tips in our Freelance Insides session
 
Thamires Moura
“Good examples of self-marketing are entrepreneurs and self-employed people who create a unique profile to talk about their services and personal life at the same time. They use the network that they create as a chance to grow their businesses and find new clients, especially through recommendations of people who follow them and their work.
How to do that? Build an online identity: organize your social media, email accounts, and other online platforms to have a unique nickname, so you can be easily found. After building your identity, you need to choose which tone are you going to use to present yourself to your social network, prospects, and clients. If you want to be recommended, you have to show yourself as dedicated to your work, eager for knowledge and professional enhancement.
Are you conscious of what you publish online? When you are a freelancer and self-employed, you need to be careful with what you publish and share. That means, you have to plan what you are going to post in each channel and produce clever and inspiring content that shows your knowledge and your values. Know who your public are and how to reach them and develop the right content. In my case, I focus on my website as my main communication channel to do my self-marketing through showcasing projects and old clients and sharing stories, tips, and ideas that endorses the kind of professional that I am”.


Thamires Moura, Freelance Graphic Designer & Digital Marketer

 
Jenny Shih
“The #1 tip I want to give freelancers is to stop thinking of themselves as freelancers. I know that sounds funny, but by setting yourself up as a freelancer, you're unintentionally saying, "I work at the whims of people who might want to hire me, maybe, sometimes, but not predictably." Instead, call yourself a business owner, and start running your freelance gig as a real business. First, call yourself what you are. Instead of a "freelance copywriter," call yourself a copywriter. Instead of a "freelance developer," just call yourself a developer.
Second, create a website for your business. Your website should represent you and the services you provide in the best way possible. This doesn't mean you need expensive design or a complicated site. You need only to create a simple, clear site that talks about the distinct, results-focused packages that solve the problems your clients most need help solving.
Finally, take charge of marketing your business. Create and build connections actively. Start an email list. Build a reputation as someone who creates incredible results for your clients. If you start taking your business seriously, you'll be surprised at how much further you can go than you can as a freelancer.”


Jenny Shih, Business Coach & Strategist

 
 
Gustavo Sapienza
Be fair with your pricing. Don’t be too expensive to scare the client, but don’t sell yourself too cheap. To know how to explain your price to the client is fundamental to sell your services. I set a price per hour, calculate how many hours I’m going to need to finish a project and I stick to it. If there are any changes that were not previously agreed, even a small one, I recalculate my price. That said, be good at your work and with the delivery. This is the best way to make your client loyal to you. Be fair and transparent. Know how to say yes or no. The worse thing is to promise something that you fail to deliver.
Make partnerships. So did you make the client happy and does he has always project demands? Close a partnership! This can include payment installments, discounts and also a fixed monthly payment. Last but not least, keep networking with other freelancers. Not only clients can be partners, but also other freelancers. Did you get a last minute job, but don’t have the time? Have a list of other freelancers to help you deliver the work.”


Gustavo Sapienza, Full-Stack Web Developer

 
 
Krystel Leal
Know your typical client and who your public are: Every freelancer needs a marketing strategy, but it depends on the kind of professional you are, and on your target group. For example, a graphic designer specializing in cover books for children will certainly not apply the same strategies of an industrial designer.
Branding: As a professional, you sell your service to clients. So as a brand, you need to create an image and show it in every communication channel and in every work you do. Which tone of voice do you use? Which colors are associated with your brand? How do you approach a client? Having consistency in your online presence is important. Clients will be confident in hiring you because everything they see and read seems professional.
Be really present on social media channels: it is not enough to have a profile on Facebook or LinkedIn. Search for groups related to your field, follow the postings, answer questions and help people. Especially the last one: it will help showcase your knowledge and people will remember you as a reference in your field. Furthermore, people will usually search for an answer in the Google search before consulting a professional. So one of the best marketing strategies for you is to answer questions people ask on sites such as Quora, Yahoo Answers, and forums.”


Krystel Leal, Freelance Digital Marketer

 
Matt Press
Create your own brand:. Ask yourself: What sort of services will you offer? Have in mind that great businesses all have strong brands. They know that it’s important to have USPs that differentiates them from their competition. Just because you’re a freelancer, it doesn’t mean that it’s not the same for you.
Understand your audience: What kind of clients are you trying to attract? What type of content do they like to consume and why? Your answers to these questions will dictate how good you are at reaching exactly the type of people you need to, in order to flourish.
Join communities: Be open-minded and connect with other freelancers in your field. Embrace all the different groups out there on social media and you could end up with more support than you’d ever thought possible.
Learn SEO: Of all the different marketing strategies out there, SEO is perhaps the most reliable. The better we are at SEO and the higher we rank, the more attention we’ll get. The great thing about SEO is, if you do it yourself, it’s free.
Create case studies and social proof: If you are starting out and still don’t have lots of client experience or testimonials to shout about, it might be an idea to perform some work for free. This’ll give you the case studies, testimonials and social proof that you need to convince other clients to trust you”.


Matt Press, Freelance Copywriter

 
 
Jo Harrison
“My top advice would be to get yourself on social media. In particular, the channels you think your target audience is on. Then, you need to spend time interacting with them, getting to know them and providing immense value in everything you share with them. Share personal successes, images and videos. Show them who you are and what you are all about – do not try and sell to them directly! Then, and only then, will you have gained their trust and attention. When people like you and see that you know what you’re doing, they will come to you!”


Jo Harrison, Freelance Virtual Assistant

 
Iwona Gruszka
“To stand out as a freelancer you have to build a strong and cohesive personal brand offline and online. Define a clear message on what it is that you do and polish your elevator pitch. Your pitch should be centred around your potential client. Show them what pains you can alleviate for them. People will pay for your services when they feel that you can solve a problem they have or fulfill their need. Decide on your visuals. Decide on the visual side of your branding. Human perception responds better to images than written words thus finding something that distinguishes you from others may really work for you.
Build your online presence. Create your presence online to become discoverable. Because you are a service-based solopreneur it may be beneficial to have a yourname.com domain and build your website. Your website has to be consistent and most importantly, has to be centered, similarly to your elevator pitch, around your customer. You can also build your presence on social media. Find out where your potential clients hang out and make use of that channel. Be active, engage and provide a lot of value. Value, value and value once again. Start a blog and create social media posts that respond to your potential clients' needs and wants. If you don't know what they struggle with, simply ask and provide help.
Remember my favorite saying ABH: Always Be Helping. Help people with things that are within your zone of genius. People whom you have helped will be recommending you and that network of recommendations will work wonders for your business. Be yourself and don't be scared to be visible. In today's world people want to work with real people. Don't be afraid to show who you are and "advertise" the value you can provide. Your talents are unique. There is no other person out there who is exactly like you. Work smart and let your talents speak for you.”


Iwona Gruszka, Online Business & Brand Strategist

 
 
Paulo Oliveira
“My best marketing tips for freelancers are: don't create lousy content on the Internet; make it easy for prospects to find you and attend to events on your work field; get testimonials and references from clients; continue marketing even while you're busy; join and provide value in discussions on LinkedIn groups, Google Plus communities and Quora; outsource work when needed; learn how to say no and always keep learning.
Besides that, I recommend that you don't wait until you quit your regular job to start freelancing: go out there to find your clients, tell all your contacts (friends, family, colleagues and former colleagues) that you are freelancing and team up with advertising agencies and other freelancers. That makes the transition easier”.


Paulo Oliveira, Freelance Web Strategist

You can know more about Paulo and his tips in our Freelance Insides session
 
 
Stefano Scarpanti
“My suggestions are for IT/software freelancers, but all freelancers can also benefit : It is important to build a small personal website listing your skills and work done. If you are a developer, it can be both a smart presentation of personal skills, and a real presentation of a website technology you are an expert in. Subscribe to some developer sites or technology forums to have a tech repository of answers and to be acknowledged of most recent issues in the IT world.
Participate in tech conferences, especially in the countries or sectors you want to enter, to improve your networking, find and meet new clients and partners. Conferences are also perfect places to get up-to-date to your field and getting new ideas.
It is crucial for freelancers to understand the importance to take care of their own virtual image and reputation. That said, I also think it is very important to try to have physical meetings in addition to virtual ones, when it is possible. Remote communication is much cheaper and less time consuming, but it is important to remember that physical meetings are able to convey much more information and trust, especially when you are starting difficult or extensive projects and dealing with big clients. Freelancers need to have confidence in the use of IT tools for communication but they also need to learn "best contact practices" to increase their trustability.”


Stefano Scarpanti, Freelance Software Engineer

You can know more about Stefano and his tips in our Freelance Insides session
 
 
Sam Landa
Talk about yourself and about your services. The key is to publicize what you’re doing without outright asking for someone’s business. Make a website. You might want to send prospects to a website where they can see your portfolio. A personal site reflects your personal brand, which is the experience you want clients to have whenever they interact with you or your work. Create your own USP (Unique Selling Proposition) in order to stand out in the market. Research competitors in your space and ask yourself: how do you distinguish yourself from the competition?
Go to meetups and events. Building relationships is a critical part of marketing. Grow your network by seeking out industry events or masterminds. Share what you know. Write content for a blog or LinkedIn, do public talks, don’t be afraid to share what you know. It’s more likely that a potential client will stumble upon you realize just how much you really know.
Create systems and templates. Proposal template, Agreement template, New client onboarding process, Feedback delivery process, etc - investing a few hours into creating systems can save you a lot more time later.
Follow up. You do want to follow up with anyone you’ve had contact with. A follow up message isn’t a lengthy pitch–it’s a genuine note to check in and keep you top of mind. Engage with prospects on social media. Identify dream clients and participate in discussions with them when you can. This is an opportunity for you to offer insights (and for them to see your name). 
Find your niche. Don’t be scared in specializing yourself. You’d be surprised at a) how much more you can earn, and b) how much you’ll learn.

Ask for referrals and references for clients and don't forget to ABM (Always Be Marketing). Consistency is key to long-term success, so keep marketing even at your busiest times.


Sam Landa, Social Media & Content Strategy Specialist

 
 
Thaís Dias
“Having a good SEO strategy to appear in Google searches is very important for freelancers. Discover which search terms are mostly searched in your field, their concurrence and define the keywords you want to rank. For example, it can be hard to rank “designer freelancer”, but it can be easier with “designer freelancer Rio de Janeiro”. Invest in a good website optimization, which goes into the code and loading speed (hire a web developer to help you) and content.
Paid Ads: SEO can take some time to work, so you may want to market your services in a faster way investing in Google AdWords and Facebook Ads. Knowing your focus keywords and target group can help you to achieve better results in both campaigns.
Social Media: don’t mix your personal profile with your professional one and try to keep it updated. Leaving posts from 2 years ago can give clients a bad impression. Social media is also part of a good SEO strategy, so create quality content on your blog to share.
Add an human touch. You can use many tools and techniques, but don't forget that you are dealing with people. Offer a good costumer service in every moment, from the prospection, work execution and to the delivery. Be patient. Explain every step of the work and the pricing. Freelancers are searched for every kind of clients, and some of them may not know exactly what they want or need”.


Thaís Dias, Freelance Graphic Designer

 
 
Mallie Rust
Establish a brand to differentiate yourself. It should connect you to clients and guide all efforts to your business. A cool logo or a website is not enough, you have to create a useful brand that shows potential clients the value you can add to their business. You should also give your clients something they find valuable before they’re even your client, e.g with quality blog posts.
Engage on Twitter to establish trust with your clients. Show off your knowledge and engage with potential clients. Be authentic. Real engagement will help you build incredible relationships. Start by taking part in Twitter chats.
Don’t neglect your website. Make sure your website is user friendly and potential clients can easily contact you. Also, keep track of your visitors with Google Analytics, not to miss very valuable information from your users (demographics, user flow, etc.). The most important tip is to know the message you want to get across, then make sure you're speaking to that message at every touchpoint.”


Mallie Rust, Freelance Editor & Copywriter

 
 
Cherise Henry
“Three words: word of mouth. When you're first starting out as a freelancer, your number one goal should be to get your name (or business name) and service offerings out there. Send an email, shoot a text, make a phone call or send smoke signals to everyone you know - think: colleagues, prior clients, friends and family - and let them know about your new freelance business venture. Most importantly, let them know what services you offer, how to contact you and express your eagerness (and excitement) to add clients and projects to your new business lineup”.


Cherise Henry, Freelance Writer, Editor & Journalist

 
 
Alejandra Muñoz
Be online. It starts with having a personal website where you show your portfolio, present the services that you offer and leave your details on how people can get in touch. There are even free alternatives where you don’t need any programming knowledge, so there are no excuses. Add social media to your online strategy. Identify where your clients are and engage with them (regularly). Write informative and valuable content on your blog. Share your knowledge and let everyone get to know you by reading you. It can give you the chance to collaborate in campaigns, receive invitations to local events or just extend your network (Make sure they can easily contact you!).
Create your profile on freelancing platforms and share links to your site and social media networks within the profile.
Develop an email marketing strategy once you have an audience on your blog. Share your best blog posts, inform them about your last discount or simply invite them to give you a call.
Social connections are really important. Don’t leave home without a business card! Your next client might come from a friend’s friend of your cashier. Rely on fellow freelancers to get the work done faster (and better). Find the perfect partner to work with on projects for which you could need a hand. My last tip is to focus on creating a solid personal brand.”


Alejandra Muñoz, Publicist, Graphic Designer & Copywriter

 
 
Nilton Vilhena
“The best way to start is to specialize yourself in a field. To place yourself as a specialist, you can create profiles in websites and platforms for freelancers. Remember to give complete and accurate information, create a portfolio with your best work and use related keywords in the description. That said, don’t waste your time trying to reach every client offering a project. Focus on your niche only and research a client’s reputation online.
Furthermore, treat every client individually, as they have different and specific needs. That means, you need to personalize every work proposal: answer directly to the client’s needs, explain what exactly you can do, and what differentiates your work.
Do every job thinking about your portfolio. A portfolio is the most important asset for a successful freelance career. Besides that, if a client is happy with your work, he will certainly hire you again and recommend you further. Last tip: focus on building your reputation. Ask clients to write recommendations and to leave positive evaluations on the freelance platforms.”


Nilton Vilhena, Freelance Digital Marketer

 
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