7 Tips For Marketing Your Freelance Business Offline
Photo by Thomas Beck Photo.
I walked into Wholefoods this past week with a list of things to buy. I walked out of the store with more than my groceries. I had three new business cards in my pocket. Each with hastily-scrawled notes on the back. I grinned as I packed my groceries into the car and headed home.
I had just generated three great leads. The first one I found in front of the Kombucha display. She’s helping her sister develop an online presence for her retail store. The third was behind me in a surprisingly slow checkout lane. We both expressed our satisfaction with the wait as it gave us time to connect. We’re meeting for lunch next week to discuss a social media strategy for his restaurant.
How was I able to do that? The mechanics of my behavior can be broken down into some basic principles you can use to promote your freelance business. Of course, you’ll have to infuse them with our own spicy blend of personality and expertise. I’ll try to keep the tips brief and answer any specific questions in the comments.
1. Be Friendly
I was able to connect with professionals in a grocery store because I stepped out of my comfort zone and started conversations with strangers. A few reminders as you bump up your friendliness quotient:
- Remember that most people prefer not to initiate conversations. If they’re not in a bad mood they’ll appreciate your effort and respond pleasantly. If they’ve had a bad day, they’ll probably shrug you off. Don’t take it personally. They might have loved you 4 hours earlier.
- Focus on trying to understand this new person, not sell to them. Yes, the end game is about finding new clients but having that as your only focus will cloud your judgement and make you seem, well, creepy.
- If you’re not at all naturally outgoing, that’s okay. You can still be pleasant and do your best to respond with more than one-word answers when someone else initiates a conversation with you!
2. Present Your Value
For most adults, the question, “what do you do for work?” comes up pretty early in a conversation. You’ll be tempted to respond with a short answer. “I’m a copywriter” or “I’m a graphic designer.” Don’t sell yourself short by passing up an opportunity to present your value to a potential client.
Instead of saying, “I’m a copywriter” you could respond by saying, “I help small businesses increase sales online.” Instead of saying, “I’m a graphic designer” you could say, “I help people remember their favorite brands more easily.”
Those are just rough taglines. The point is for you to move toward presenting your value in an attractive way. Doing so will help continue the conversation as your lead clarifies what you do and, hopefully, what you can do for them.
3. Have A Business Card
Internet natives hate business cards because they feel stodgy and backward. You, savvy freelancer, will not fall into the trap of thinking you’re above traditional communication techniques. You need business cards and you need to carry a few of them with you wherever you go. Feel free to call your business cards something else. Call them, contact forms, calling cards (super old skool!), engagement reminders, or whatever you like.
If you’re serious about promoting your business, you’ll make your contact information available in a simple format that is easily shared. For now, that happens with the lowly business card.
If we’re all separated by just six steps then it follows that every person you come in contact with is only a conversation or two away from somebody who needs to hire you. I’m not saying you should try to talk to everybody, but it sure would be interesting if you did!
5. Be Helpful
Take advantage of every opportunity you have to help others. That woman with a broken-down car on the side of the highway might be a small business owner who, after fixing her car, will need your help developing an online presence for her business. That neighbor struggling to carry a new couch inside his house alone might have a buddy looking for a web developer.
I should note that being helpful just because you’re trying to generate leads will never end well. Doing anything for the wrong reason leads to early burnout and a calloused soul.
6. Be A Resource
Present yourself as a resource. “I’m a member of a few different small business networks and I’d be happy to introduce you” is more attractive than the typical, “If you’re not buying, I’m not interested in you” conversation.
I highly recommend building a personal list of resources you can share with people you meet. I’m constantly adding to a list of online resources that I can share with new contacts. Having a list at the ready makes easy work of compiling a few links for a new contact. In many cases, being the conduit for the resources is just as valuable as being the resource yourself. You don’t have to be made of gold. Just know where to find it.
7. Follow Up
If you can get some sort of contact information, do so. Most people are comfortable with giving a phone number or email address after less than a minute of conversation. If you’re short on time and have made it through introductions and your value proposition, go ahead and ask for contact info.
Important: Once you get home, follow through on whatever promises you made during your conversation.
A simple trick is to write down whatever you promised your contact right next to the contact information so you don’t forget it. I like to make notes on the backs of business cards.
Generating leads for your freelance business isn’t easy but it doesn’t need to be like pulling teeth. Get out there, have confidence in your ability to provide good things to the world, and meet some people. The rest will become easier with practice.
Have a question? Hit me up in the comments and I’ll answer as many as I can. Thanks for your time!
Wondering about that second lead? That one was a vegan chef with an amazing sense of humor. I’m following up with her for non-business-related reasons.