For many freelancers the Dec/Jan/Feb months can get a bit quieter than the rest of the year and it’s a good idea to use this time productively. One great use of your free time is working on your marketing and promotions. You might either do some right away or get it all ready so that later when you’re a lot busier you can easily fit them into your schedule.
Today I found a list of 120 Free (or Almost Free) Self Promotion Ideas for Freelancers over at AllGraphicDesign.com which is a great complement to one of our own posts on a similar topic: 101 ideas to get more freelance work and generate new client leads.
Some of the ideas in both lists are easy, some are pretty hard, but with that many options, there’s bound to be something to fill up your quiet months. Of course you could spend that time with your family or conquering that new playstation instead…
Skimming through the comments on the recent FSW poll about freelance job bidding sites, there’s not a lot of love out there for the freelance bidding sites like Elance, Get-A-Freelancer, Guru, Rent-A-Coder and the like – and it’s no wonder when you see projects offering to pay you $1 per custom designed t-shirt image!
The general consensus seems to be that in the following circumstances they can be of some value…
- If you’re a student looking to get some extra cash and experience
- If you’re a freelancer living somewhere with a lower cost of living that allows you to take advantage of being paid lower rates for jobs
- If you’re just getting started and your main focus is on building up your portfolio
- If you want to hone your skills in a new area
- If you’re looking for quick turn-around jobs
Everywhere you go, people tell you the secret to packing your client list is networking. Schmooze like there’s no tomorrow, befriend everyone, hand out your cards, trade e-mails, IMs, IDs and CVs. Go to conferences, buy everyone within a 100-foot radius a beer (or non-alcoholic organic vegan hemp-nut smoothie).
For sure, the fastest way to grow your business is cultivating relationships. Problem is…there’s only one of you and infinite opportunities for you to spend time, energy and money connecting with a whole lot of people, only a few of whom will ever really throw any significant business your way. Which leaves us which a question. How do you choose who to be-friend?
What do you hate most about freelancing? I expect right up there will be either sales or not having enough work. Cold-calling, pitching, struggling to pay bills, worrying if you are doing the right sort of promotion, freelancers have enough stress without all this sales stuff.
You can tell when you are doing well with your freelance business, instead of chasing new work, clients come to you. The most successful have to reject work, it seems they are beating customers off with a stick.
How do you achieve that dream scenario?
- Potential clients need to know you
- You need a hook
- Leads are only half the equation; you need to close
When you start out you have the greatest challenge. Getting your name known and building a profile should be high on your agenda but this needs to be combined with creating a compelling hook.
One option for finding freelance work these days are job bidding sites. In our Monster List of Freelancing Job Sites we listed 18 such sites, some of the more well known being sites like eLance, Get-a-Freelancer and Rent-a-Coder.
These sites work by allowing job posters to post up their job and details of the job and freelancers bid for the job. They vary in that some of them actually bid (like at an auction) whereas others are closer to the a regular job board (like we have on FreelanceSwitch).
I must confess I have never used job bidding sites and I know there are arguments both ways about whether they undermine freelancing prices or generate more work and leads. So I thought I’d put it to you, the community. Continue Reading
In case you’ve never seen it before, Linkedin is the web 2.0 equivalent of networking. Where other social networks like Facebook are focused around your personal life, Linkedin is all about your professional life. It’s a great concept and one that has attracted more than 16 million users.
Back in January Guy Kawasaki took a poll of 10,000 people and 70% reported finding Linkedin “Useful”. For freelancers and for job seekers, the service is a great way to find work.
As with any type of networking it’s all about having a wide circle of contacts, people recommending you and then making sure your network knows your available. Let’s take a look at some things you can do to help you find work through Linkedin.
This week’s column is the second installment in my Ask Jonathan marketing series. Please send questions for future columns to me at jonathan AT jonathanfields DOT com
This week’s column takes us squarely into “nobody takes me seriously” land. Our letter comes from Chris Ryman, a principal in the two year-old IT consultancy, Engineerity LLC.:
I am a partner in a small IT/computer consulting business. My business partner and I have been building the business for about two years, and I just quit my full time job to work full time for myself.
…our marketing strategy is different, mostly word of mouth with a touch of sales. Here’s where our problem comes in. Although my business partner and I have 15 years combine experience, and have worked on numerous projects together, etc, most people ignore, or otherwise don’t care about us when we try and speak with them about their IT and how we may be able to supplement or help their current IT situation. We believe this is because we are so young, I am 22, and my business partner is 24. If a company does give us a chance, they are almost immediately sold on our services.
My question is how can I market myself/my company in such a way that people will take me seriously and even more so, just give us the one chance we need to impress them?
Okay, we’re going to drill down a few levels, here. But, for those looking for the short and sweet answer, it’s not about age, it’s about credibility and value and, Chris, somewhere in your materials, your conversations, your pitch and your service, there’s a need that is not being filled.
Is age really a factor?
In some professions, age is definitely a major factor in the sales process. I don’t want a 25 year-old whiz-kid neurosurgeon operating on me any more than I want the barista at my local Starbucks doing my taxes (no offense to any CPA baristas). And, at the older end of the spectrum, as much as corporate-culture denies it, ageism is very much alive and well. In fact, it even tends of be tied to certain specific industries and career-paths.
But, of all the industries I know of, IT has got to be amongst the most youth-friendly cultures around.
In fact, youth is largely a badge of honor in IT.
From entrepreneurship to yoga to writing, I teach a lot of people a lot of different things. But, inevitably, when any part of the process comes around to using a certain basket of skills to make a living, we land on one major question—what makes you different than anyone else who’s doing the exact same thing you’re doing?
And, more often than not the answer is some variation of “duhhhhhh…what?!” Then comes a laundry list of skills, jobs, clients, references, portfolio pieces and more. All of which leaves me with 30-minutes less of life and still asking the same question. What makes you so different than the 100 other people who also have big, fat, snazzy resumes, skills, experiences and blah, blah, blah?
Why did I say blah blah blah? Because, in addition to training people to land business, I’ve been on the hiring side both for companies I’ve launched and built and for other organizations. And, after the first 15 or so interviewees pass through your door, blah blah blah is pretty much all you hear. Everyone starts to sound like the teacher in Charlie brown, unless you can…
Show how you can do what nobody else can do.
Question is how? How do you demonstrate a level of differentiation that is so strong it immediately sets you apart from the field? Hmmm. For some people, it’s an easy challenge, but for 99% of us, it’s brutally hard. But, here’s the problem. If you can’t differentiate yourself from all the other people who are slinging the very same claims of rock-star talent and magic results, how do you expect a client to?
Here’s an example.
Earlier this year, I was contacted by someone to write some hard-hitting marketing copy for a fitness infomerical product on extremely short notice. I did my usual shtick on the phone and, then, asked that magical question that always guides how I choose to differentiate myself. “What’s important about the person you choose to do this job?”
By simply asking that question, I’d already begun to differentiate myself. Nobody else asked. Then, I sat back and listened. And, within the first sixty seconds, I knew what I had to do. Here’s what I said…
A few weeks back, I posted a roundtable article on my blog that shared some marketing advice from 15 top-bloggers. In it, I asked each person:
If you had 2-hours a day to devote to no-cost, off-blog (even off-line) marketing for your blog, what would you do?
The article was extremely well received, vaulting to the front page on Digg, del.icio.us and Sphinn at the same time, generating a ton of feedback, over 750 diggs and crashing my servers big-time (that’s a story for a different article).
I felt great not only about the attention the article was getting, but the fact that something I helped create might help so many others get closer to their goals. The feedback, both through e-mail and in the comments was overwhelmingly positive. And, then it happened…
I got blasted, royally slammed by another blogger. I believe the term he used to describe the collective advice of me and these bloggers was “starfu*king.” And, his community piled on from there, picking away at the bastardization of networking and blogging as a tool for marketing, rather than unadultered community-building and the downfall of society through the transformation of conversation into dollar-driven corporate-speak.
All pretty funny, considering the content being attacked came largely from a guy who wears pajamas most of the day, teaches yoga, does more anonymous favors than you could shake a stick at and uses the word “dude” as a comma. So, I took it in stride and, in the comments, replied:
The other day, I took a break from teaching yoga and writing copy and stopped into the local pizza place to grab a slice (yes, even yoga-guys eat pizza). While I still own a studio just a few blocks away, I moved out of the neighborhood more than two years earlier and it had been nearly that long since my last visit.
So, I poked my head in and, from behind the counter, the owner looks at me and says, “one slice, not too hot, right?” Blown away. This guy remembers my pizza preferences two years after my last visit!
Instantly, I remembered why this place was my thrice a week haunt. Sure, they made great pizza. But, they also invested in learning and remembering my order preferences. And, that not only made me feel good about them, it made my life just the slightest bit easier. What does this have to do with freelancing and marketing? Everything.
I didn’t just buy the pizza.
For more than a decade, Seth Godin has been preaching the marriage of marketing and product development, because they are really just two points along the same continuum. Hopelessly intertwined. The best marketers are the ones who build the product around the marketing and the marketing right into the product, so they become one.
When I dropped into Sacco’s Pizza, I wasn’t just buying the pizza, I was buying the entire experience. And that included the slice, the ego boost of knowing these guys had committed what I liked to memory and ease of not having to say what I wanted. Then, the topper was when one of the guys asked how my daughter was. Man, these pizza-pushers are really good.
Starbucks is built largely on the same realization. People who buy Starbucks coffee aren’t just buying the drink, they could do that anywhere else for half the price. They’re buying the entire experience.
The drink, the overly-courteous sales-associate, the barista who remembers to put just right amount of foam on top, the quick turn-around, the jazz vocals in the background. They’re all part of the equation. They help draw people in and sell them, but rather than being add-on marketing, they are woven into the fabric of the very product being delivered. Starbucks does not sell coffee, they sell the Starbucks coffee experience.
So, how can the pizza guy’s wicked memory get you more clients faster, make them happier with your deliverables and giddy to recommend you to others?
Pumpkin-Patch Marketing: How To Attract A Blizzard Of Clients With No Budget, No Advertising And No Connections
You can’t imagine how surprised I was to discover an incredible freelance marketing lesson while picking pumpkins with my daughter at a family farm in Pennsylvania last weekend. And, the story behind it is the key to building a giant client-base for your business in no time at all, without spending any money, placing any ads, hard-selling any people or working any connections.
So, for those without kids, here’s the deal…pumpkin picking season is big news for families in the Northeastern U.S. For four weekends in October, hordes of families with young kids swarm down upon farms for a day of pumpkin-picking, pony-rides, hay-rides, apple-cinnamon donuts, hot-cider and more.
Last weekend, we’re walking into the patch to search for the perfect pumpkin when I realize this experience is just made to be captured on film (yeah, I said film, and I still call my mp3s albums). But the only camera I have on me is the one on my friend’s cell-phone. So, I start shooting lame, washed out shots, when, over my shoulder, I hear, “hey, why don’t you go over with your daughter and I’ll take a picture and just e-mail it to you.”
It’s no secret that lots of us FreelanceSwitchers love Moo MiniCards. I think Moo may love us right back, because they gave us the first scoop on their new product. Later this week Moo is adding Postcards to their product range, and to celebrate they’re offering two sets to FreelanceSwitch readers!
With that in mind I thought I’d cover an old-school but effective tool for new leads – the postcard promotion. Continue Reading