As a freelancer (or potential freelancer), you live and die by your ability to sell your services. And unless you’ve got some kind of agent or marketing firm doing your marketing for you, you’ve got to be your own marketer. If you’re like me, that doesn’t come naturally.
But by focusing, learning and practicing these 10 essential freelancing marketing skills, you can be a natural self-promoter and get more work than you actually need.
Let me first say that when I say “marketing” I don’t mean you should be one of those pushy, spammy, overhyping marketers that you see so often on infomercials and on spam websites and knocking door-to-door. Don’t be a huckster or a con artist.
The real way to market yourself is in a natural, professional, honest manner — show that you’re good, interact in a positive way, find ways to let people know about your services and talents without coming on too strong, and let your talents sell themselves. This gets easier as you’re more established and better known, but it can be done by anyone.
Here are the essential marketing skills for any freelancer:
To make it as a freelancer, you need to be able to sell your work. That’s why making a great pitch to a prospective client is one of the key skills you can develop to be more successful.
However, many freelancers screw up the pitch in a number of common ways, from talking too much about yourself and what you want, from not knowing what the client wants, to rambling on, to not saying who you are and why you’re perfect.
Don’t make these mistakes. Follow the steps below to make the perfect pitch.
1. Know the client. If you know the client well, you’re in a great position to make a great pitch. If not, you need to take the time to do a little research. Get to know their product, company, or publication. Google them, find out more via LinkedIn, contact others in your network who know the client. The more you know, the better your pitch.
2. Know their goals. Specifically, you want to know what the client hopes to achieve. Sure, they hope to sell a product or service. But how? What message are they trying to sell to the public? Who are they reaching out to? This is key. Talk to others, read their website, learn their message from promotions and marketing and advertising.
For years now, I’ve done freelance writing for newspapers and magazines as a way to make side income, supplementing my full-time job. But this year, I’ve made the conscious move to freelancing for blogs instead of print publications, to the point where I now make about $2,000 a month as a blog writer (not including my own blog’s income or my full-time salary).
Becoming a freelance blog writer isn’t always easy in the beginning, but I’ve found that it’s vastly more fun and rewarding. It’s worth the effort.
First, let’s talk about what it’s like to be a freelance blog writer. To write a good post, you’ve got to do some research first, and add to that the writing time, and it can take between 90 minutes to 3 hours to write your best stuff. I can generally research and write a good post in 90 minutes if I’ve given it a little thought first (I do my thinking while exercising, driving, showering, etc.). So if you plan to do some freelancing, be sure you’ve got the extra time. I write between 6-7 free-lance posts a week (in addition to the 7-10 I do for my own blog), so that’s about 9-10 hours of work on top of your regular job.
But the cool thing about freelance blog writing is that you can do it from any place, any time of day. So you can write late at night, during your lunch hour, or in the early morning hours. You can do it while traveling, or while sitting through a boring conference. There’s a freedom to it that’s very appealing.
So how do you go about becoming a freelance blog writer? Here are some of my best tips:
Your reputation as a freelancer is pretty much the only thing you have to go on — your bread and butter.
And your reputation is generally based on two things: the quality of your work, and how well you meet deadlines.
Today, we’ll focus on meeting deadlines, as that’s the area that many freelancers have problems with. Sure, you can do great work, but if you don’t turn your projects in on time, you won’t get many repeat customers.
1. Care about deadlines. This is the first step, as many people are very lax about deadlines. You have to be very serious about meeting them, and make them a priority. And make breaking a deadline a cardinal sin in your freelance book. Once you’ve done this step, the rest is just logistics.
2. Keep a list of projects & deadlines. If you care about deadlines, you’ll write them down, and have one place that you check often to make sure you know what’s due and when. I use a simple online list, but you could use paper. Which tool you use doesn’t matter, as long as you use it. Continue Reading
One of the fundamental principles of productivity is that in order to get things done, you gotta focus. And that necessary focus requires that you eliminate as many distractions as possible — not always an easy task with the Internet, coworkers and busy phones calling to you from every direction.
Here’s how to block out the Siren’s call of distractions, in 10 steps.
First, let me say that there should be room in your life for distractions. Work should be fun, and without a few distractions, things can get boring. That being said, when it’s time to do a task, there’s no reason to do it while handling a million other things. You’ll never get things done that way. When you’re ready to work on a task, block out all else, and really focus on it. Do your best on that task, and get it done as quickly as possible. Then reward yourself with distractions.
That’s all easier said than done, I know. So here are 10 of the best ways I’ve found to eliminate distractions and really focus on a task.
What do you do if you have one main client and for some reason the work from that client dries up? Perhaps the client goes out of business or goes in a different direction or just has a lull in business?
Your main source of income is then gone. Which is why it’s crucial for anyone who relies on their freelance revenues to have multiple streams of income.
That’s easier said than done, of course, as many freelancers have two or three main clients and are happy to focus on those alone. But as many experienced freelancers will tell you, that’s a mistake.
Today we’ll look at a few different ways to set up multiple streams of income to make your freelancing business more stable and ensure that you’re living the freelancing good life for years to come. Please note that the following are just different options you can choose — I’m not recommending you do all of them. Continue Reading
Have you ever spent an hour in your email program and still had a full inbox? Have you ever sat in a meeting and left without knowing exactly what was accomplished?
I think most of us can answer in the affirmative. Much of our time is often spent in ways that can be charitably categorized as “unproductive”.
However, one simple change can turn unproductive time into very productive time: put all your focus on actions.
The problem is that we read stuff, and we talk to people, but then no actions come out as a result of that. By ruthlessly focusing on actions, you can do more without wasting time.
Something you hear as common advice for new freelancers is “Don’t work for free.”
That’s true, for the most part, but there’s an exception. And it’s a big one. Give away your advice for free, and you can grow your business and make much more money in the long run.
I don’t recommend that you take on jobs for no money – that’s just devaluing your services and your profession. Your work is worth money, and you need to be sure to get paid. Giving away services is a bad idea in general.
But if you can give away your advice … which is really a service … and not charge a dime, that’s a great strategy. If your advice is good, giving it away can result in amazing growth and lots of new business. Continue Reading
One of the keys to freelance happiness is working with great clients — people you can trust, who you enjoy working with, who are encouraging and motivating and brilliant. Excellence inspires excellence.
On the other hand, having horrible clients is a sure way to make you miserable. They’ll lower your job satisfaction, lower the quality of your work, and in general do very little to improve your career (and more likely, will actually hurt it). None of that is good news for a freelancer.
Our problem, however, is that we tend to stick with a client if we’ve been working with them for awhile, simply because it’s safer, and it’s more difficult (not to mention a little scary) to find new clients. So we stay with bad clients for longer than we should.
Break out of that rut. If you’re staying with clients just because they’re long-time clients, take a look at the following list and consider whether it’s time to look for new pastures. Quick note: I’d recommend that you look for new clients before dropping the old ones, just so that you’ll have enough income coming in.
1. Too critical. While honest feedback can be very valuable, some clients go beyond honesty and just complain too much. They’re never happy, and they make you feel bad about your work. You don’t need that. Working for positive clients is much more satisfying and motivating.
2. Slow payers. Does it take a month or more for a client to pay after you send them your invoice? In this electronic age, payment is as simple as a few clicks in PayPal. It shouldn’t take more than a couple weeks to make a payment, at any rate.
A year ago, I wrote exclusively for print publications. I suspect that many freelance writers (and photographers and designers) are in the same boat — print is where the money is, and it’s what we’re used to doing.
However, today, I write exclusively for online publications. I’ve completely transitioned from print, and I couldn’t be happier.
Why did I make the transition? A number of reasons, actually:
- Writing for blogs and websites is less work per article. Doing research for a magazine article can take a week or two. Even a freelance newspaper feature takes a day or two of tracking down sources, getting interviews, etc. But writing a blog post? I mainly write from my own experiences — you can say that’s 17 years of freelancing research, but all of that’s already done. And if I do additional research, it’s online or through email — not a difficult proposition.
- It’s much more flexible. With print publications, you’ve got a set number of words (or inches). If you go over that amount, there’ll most likely be some cutting. In print, if you’re out of room, you’re out of room. There are also much stricter publishing deadlines in print. But on the web, if you go a few paragraphs over or under, no one cares. You generally have to stay within a certain range of course — they’re not going to pay you for one paragraph, and no one wants to read a novel-length article. But if you don’t hit extremes, you’re fine. And while blogs generally like to stick to certain publishing schedules, they don’t fold if they miss a post. So although I don’t recommend that you bust deadlines, if you have a good working relationship with an editor, there’s more wiggle room.
If you’re a freelancer, chances are you need to track your time in order to bill your clients. And that can be a major hassle.
You might also be a mobile freelancer, like me, who uses multiple computers and wants to be able to work from anywhere. In that case, a web-based time tracker might be the way to go. You want something easy to use, cheap, with a nice interface. Preferably even fun to use.
Whatever your needs, here are 6 of the coolest tools for tracking your time. Most of them aren’t free, but then the best tools often aren’t.
1. Toggl. Nice interface, simple to use, and there’s both a web version and now a downloadable version (Windows only). And it’s free. Nuff said.
2. Tick. Very slick interface. A simple web-based interface, easy to use (after configuration), and fast. Pretty much all you’re looking for.
3. Harvest. One of the nicest interfaces around, Harvest is definitely a professional package. It works well for teams, it has project estimates, some great reports, and as a web app it’s available from anywhere. Like most of these apps, it has a pricing plan from free to premium.
4. Cashboard. The interface isn’t as slick as the first three on this list, but it does have some very useful and detailed features that go beyond tracking time, including producing and tracking invoices, keeping track of accounts and clients, producing estimates, and more.
5. FreshBooks. A slightly older-looking interface, when compared to the first few items on this list, but it’s a basic product that definitely gets the job done. If integrates with invoicing software which is useful when you’re billing by the hour.
6. yaTimer. The only app on this list that’s not available for the web, yaTimer is a downloadable desktop app. It’s also probably the simplest of the apps on this list, doing simple time tracking and not much else. For those with basic needs, it’s perfect.
You may think you’re pretty good at what you do. And you may be right.
But you’re not the best you can be, by a long shot. None of us are, and we might never be. It’s important for your career as a freelancer and for you personally to take what skills you have and improve them, continually, and add new skills.
Why is it important? Professionally, it will take you to the top of your game, and keep you there. It will get you better assignments and clients, better rates, a better reputation. Sharpening your skills can bring nothing but good things for your freelance career.
Personally, improvement is important. Not because you aren’t valuable and worthy and a good person already. You are. But because improvement keeps you alive, keeps you challenged and interested and passionate for what you do. Once you have no further challenges in your work, things become static and boring and tedious. But if you continually look to improve what you do, there’s never a dull moment.
So how do you continually improve your skills? Here are some suggestions: