Why is the business card in the picture above blank? Believe it or not, that’s how a lot of freelancers treat themselves. Instead of running their freelance careers like a business, they squander their energies with little or no direction.
To survive in business you must do three things:
1. Offer good products or services at a competitive price.
2. Be active in the community where you want to do business.
3. Advertise and promote your brand.
A lot of freelancers get the first two right but fall down on the job when it comes to #3, promoting your brand. I can hear some now saying, “But I already have a Twitter account and a Facebook page!”
Twitter and Facebook are inded critical parts of the puzzle. But take a look at any successful business today and you’ll see how they approach social media is more of a means to an end when it comes to PR and self-promotion–not the end itself.
Your self-promotion efforts should include Twitter and Facebook, but consider them to be communication channels instead of billboard advertising. What’s the difference?
Twitter and Facebook are seldom used (successfully) to actually SELL things. They’re most effective when used to make connections, network, and inform. People are leery of the hard sell on social media. But when was the last time you heard anyone complaining that a billboard or radio ad sales pitch was too self-serving?
Advertise your services in the places where its expected to get a sales pitch. Compete in the marketplace by using job boards, job networking sites like LinkedIn, even Craigslist to a certain degree can be of use when you’re actively promoting your freelance business.
When your freelance business reaches the right stage, you should think about using traditional advertising, too. Consider the writer who specializes in business-to-business content who takes out an inexpensive ad in a locally published paper or magazine aimed at the business community. Or the travel writer who has a book to sell who runs an ad in the local alternative news weekly.
Are you a freelance photographer? Ever thought of buying space in the local high school’s sports program to advertise your portrait services?
These are highly targeted, limited exposure ads to be sure. You won’t get anywhere running a broad, “all comers” advertisement in a local publication. But the fact that you’re putting your name and services out there for a specific audience to see could get that phone ringing in no time.
On the web, consider taking out an inexpensive ad–again, highly targeted–on a well-read niche website that caters to people who might want to buy your services. Freelance SEO writers, if you read an SEO blog aimed at businesses (rather than writers), you might just want to invest in an ad there.
The advertising possibilities are endless, limited only by your imagination. Paying for an ad isn’t for everyone. Chances are if you don’t know who your business audience is at this stage in the game, you’re too unfocused and need to narrow down your freelance specialties first. But if you know who pays your bills, you can go after that sector more aggressively, even if you just start out running “Hire Me” ads on your local Craigslist pages.