It’s the perennial problem for freelancers; how do you market yourself when every penny you earn needs to go towards paying the bills and putting food on the table? As freelancers, we don’t have the benefit of marketing departments or budgets; we have to get creative when it comes to finding new business. Basically, how to do marketing on zero budget?
Thankfully, we’re a creative bunch, but if you’re stuck in a rut and don’t know how to market yourself without a budget, here are some great tips. And these aren’t your average, flatpack ‘hacks’ you’ll find anywhere else on the web; they’re based on experience and have worked brilliantly for me.
Remember that people buy from people
Thus far, I’ve not spent a penny on advertising of any kind. As my business grows, that will probably change, but during these formative years, I vowed that I would do everything possible to avoid pay-per-click advertising (until ready for it).
Instead, I’ve done something incredibly simple which only costs me my time (and the odd gallon of petrol); I get out there and talk to people.
I’ve spent many years in sales and, due to having no formal sales training, quickly realised that the adage ‘people buy from people’ is absolutely true. Providing you’re willing to be proactive and find people who could become customers or partners for your business, you’ll discover that simply being a nice person is one of the strongest marketing tools you have at your disposal.
Invest in your website
It’s an absolute given that you need a website as a freelancer, but it’s all too easy to inadvertently rush its creation and end up with something that becomes nothing more than an elaborate business card.
Take time to create a website that showcases your best work (the ‘portfolio’ page should be nice and prominent) and represents who you are. Throw your personality into the copy and make sure you have a testimonials page on which to place happy customer comments.
Start blogging and podcasting
Part of my service offering is blogging, but just as a professional decorator rarely finds time to spruce up her own home, publishing posts regularly for myself has always been a challenge.
Despite this, I’ve worked hard to rectify that, because I know how powerful content marketing can be. It’s one of the most cost-effective forms of brand promotion, because it doesn’t require anything but your time.
Start a blog and publish a post at least once per week. If you have the time, combine it with a regular podcast; getting up and running with the latter can be done incredibly easily and any money you will need to spend won’t break the bank.
Become a social butterfly
I won’t dwell on this, because if you search Google for ‘how to market myself without spending money’, you’ll almost certainly be told to invest lots of your time in social media.
That’s true, but it’s how you invest your time in this medium that matters. After all, it’s all too easy to post away with no real strategy, and if you do that, you’ll only be wasting your time.
The trick lies in spending more time observing what’s happening within your niche on social media. Follow industry thought leaders, add yourself to discussion groups and dip in when you have a strong opinion on something.
When you do post, start establishing a tone of voice for your freelancing business. That might simply be your own, or it might be a new persona which you want the business to be known for. This is your chance to make your mark and stand out as being unique and approachable.
Try traditional networking
I know what you’re thinking – why waste your time stood in a room full of people when you can do the exact same thing online, albeit without the awkward icebreaking and endless handshakes?
The reason is simple: traditional networking, when undertaken correctly, is highly effective. If you enter the room with the mindset that you’re not there to sell yourself, you’ll immediately make an impression on people.
Ask questions, provide your thoughts on hot industry topics and make sure you have a few business cards handy – I guarantee you’ll come back with some very useful contacts.
Whatever you do, don’t neglect the follow-up, post-event. Whatever your productivity tool of choice (be it digital or analogue – you can still do an awful lot with pen and paper), make sure you schedule in some calls and emails to the people who excited you the most. Relationships take a while to build, but if you met the person in question face-to-face, you stand a far better chance of remaining in their thoughts.
And finally: do your best work – always
This last tip is a simple one. Most of my work comes from recommendations, and I’m fairly confident that’s because I take great pride in my work.
Always strive to do the best possible job, and the effects will be domino-like. Delight one client, and you’ll probably find they mention you over coffee with one of their partners.
Enjoy building your freelancing business. You don’t need oodles of cash to do so, and without a budget, I’m confident you’ll find the challenge highly addictive!
About the author:
Mark Ellis is a freelance writer who specialises in copywriting, blogging and content marketing for businesses of all sizes. Mark’s considerable experience at a director level and deep interest in personal and business success mean he’s ready to comment on anything from freelance writing to workplace dynamics, technology and personal improvement.
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