Tag Archives: marketing yourself

Branding Yourself pt. 100…

By Amanda Smyth Connor

Make Mo' Money
Make Mo' Money

I’ve lost track of how many times I’ve discussed the importance of branding yourself and marketing yourself as a means to growing your freelance business, but I really can’t stress this concept enough.

As a freelancer, you are your own business. You are the CEO, the administrative assistant, the Senior VP of Marketing….janitor… Basically, you can’t just produce a great product without covering all aspects of running a business, and my favorite part of running a business is in branding and marketing myself.

With regard to making yourself into a “brand,” the more high-quality exposure you have, the more recognizable your name will become as an authority in your industry.

1. Do you have a professional blog? Are you maintaining it regularly (2-5 times per week)?

2. Do you optimize your blog with good keywords so that Google knows what kind information you’re offering, thus helping others find your site more easily?

3. Do you Tweet often (at least 4 times per day?) and do you maintain a professional Facebook page for yourself/your business that you also update regularly (once a day)? Do you use these social media sites responsibly to establish credibility for yourself?

4. Have you joined several networking groups within your industry (starting with those found on LinkedIn)?

In order to start your magical journey into the world of self-branding, your answers to the questions above need to be a resounding “yes.”

Amanda Smyth Connor is a social media manager for a major publishing company, owns her own wedding planning business and has managed online communities and content development for many start-up and Fortune 500 companies.  She has been a professional editor for more years than she can remember.

Freelance portfolio theory

ugly dogBy Jake Poinier

“Modern portfolio theory” is a Wall Street expression about maximizing your returns on stocks. A freelance graphic designer friend and I long ago came up with a freelance portfolio theory. It, too, is designed to maximize your returns (in attracting and finding new clients instead of winning stocks), and it runs something like this:

You reserve the right to *not* put crappy samples in your portfolio.

We came up with this concept out of frustration. You’ve written a knockout headline…which gets changed to something mundane. You’ve designed a clever ad layout…that the client thinks is a little too racy for their audience. You edited a whitepaper…and the author STETs their original gobbledegook. You’ve shot original photography…and the client decides they want to use a dopey stock image of two people shaking hands. It’s as bad as the irony Alanis Morissette famously whined about a few years back…don’t ya think?

But you can’t get mad, and you usually aren’t well served by trying to change a client’s mind once it’s set. So this theory allows you to take a step back, refocus, and say to yourself:

  • It’s a bummer that this didn’t come out as cool as I thought it would, but I’m still going to get my check.
  • If I don’t disclose the fact that I was involved in this project, no one will ever know.
  • Aw heck, it just doesn’t matter in the long run. What’s my next project?

Let’s be real: When you’re starting out, you’ll take what you can get. I know this will make me sound ancient, but my first portfolio for job hunting in the magazine industry was a hideous, baby-blue binder with yellowed clips from my hometown newspaper. (Mercifully, the internet has made portfolio presentation a lot slicker.)

Once you have a critical mass of good stuff, however, it’s time to start getting choosy rather than going for sheer volume. Five hundred samples shows that you’ve done a lot of work, but no one wants to slog through everything. If they want more samples in a given industry, they’ll ask.

In the end, prospective clients will judge you on your best work, but an ugly sample might also have them questioning your judgment — in an “Ugh, why is *she* dating *him*?” sort of way. Dump the dogs, and stick with your best in show.

Have you ever had a client that turned a sure-fire portfolio masterpiece into a disaster you’d never admit to? Share your horror stories in the comments!

Contributing writer Jake Poinier also dispenses freelancing advice at DoctorFreelance.com a few times a week, and you can follow him on Twitter: @DrFreelance…and he promises he’ll follow you back!

Your freelance elevator pitch

By Jake Poinier

Yesterday, while editing a book chapter for a professional speaker, I read something that stopped me in my tracks: My lifelong assumption about what makes a good freelance elevator pitch—you know, that 30-second summary of “what I do”—was totally wrong.

Getting asked, “So, what do you do?” can be stressful, but it doesn’t have to be that way. The author took 12 pages to explain his whole theory, but I’ll do it in under 500 words. For starters, a good elevator pitch isn’t 30 seconds or even 15 seconds long—you don’t just launch into a spiel, you need to initiate a conversation in order to teasingly reveal what you do.

It starts with a single 3-second hook that arrests someone’s attention and gets them nodding or even saying “Huh?” For a freelancer, that might be something along the lines of:

  • There’s a lot of empty space out there, and I fill it with words
  • I’m the Anthony Bordain of the magazine world
  • I’m a corporate wordsmith-slash-poet

The point is, you need to get permission (a nodding head, a “huh?”) to go on. Assuming you’ve received that permission, the next step is to give a one-sentence, conversational, non-jargony statement with a benefit that expands your initial teaser:

  • I run a freelance writing and editing business whose main goal is getting websites a ton of traffic
  • I’m a travel writer who basically does in glossy mags what Anthony Bordain does on TV—expose the good, the bad and the ugly
  • When companies are tired of their lousy copy, I zoom in and give them a fresh new look

Finally, and again, assuming someone gives you the go-ahead with an appropriate conversational cue (“Who do you write for?” or “What kind of stuff do you write?”), you’re ready to provide the kicker. It comes in the form of a story that shows what you do, starting with “Now, for example…” So, it could be something like:

  • Now, for example, I recently helped a startup healthcare company create a social media strategy—and they’ve now got 3,000 Fans, 2,000 Twitter followers and 1,000 hits a day.
  • Now, for example, I recently did a piece for (name drop big magazine) on the Spanish Virgin Islands, which are pretty much like the British and U.S. Virgin Islands were back in the ’50s.
  • Now, for example, I recently redid the entire brochure suite for (fill in a big-name client here) right before they hit the big annual trade show for their industry.

Of course, this is a super-abbreviated version of a very interesting and thought-provoking article by a skilled sales and marketing professional. But you get the idea: Don’t just try to blurt out a pre-programmed version of what you do in 30 seconds. Relax, make it a conversation, and you just might find your elevator speech presses the right buttons to get a business card or new project.

Jake blogs regularly on freelancing and business strategies at DearDrFreelance.com and Jake’s Take.