If you want to be a successful freelancer, you have to learn how to market yourself — which can seem daunting.
If you are stuck, unsure where to start, or overwhelmed by all the options, this post is for you.
We spoke to eight successful freelancers to find out what advice they would give new freelancers — and which freelance marketing strategies are most effective for them.
What is the Most Important First Step for Marketing Yourself as a Freelancer?
When it comes to marketing, getting started is the hardest part. Below, several successful freelancers share their tips for taking the first steps towards building a successful marketing strategy.
Tap Your Network
As a freelancer, your network can be the most valuable resource you have. But how do you actually build a network?
Diana Kelly Levey, a 15-year veteran freelancer in the health and pet field, suggests tapping your own inbox:
"Look at your inbox. I believe that freelancers need to look to their networks first when they are getting started with freelance writing or when they need to drum up new business during slow times.
Send emails out to former colleagues and employers to let them know you're freelancing and the services you offer. (For example, they might know you write articles but didn't know you can do content strategy or write white papers.)
Glance back at the clients you worked with in the past five years and reconnect. Some clients may have moved on to a different company, and the new business would be a great fit for you. Since you already had a working relationship, this is a warmer lead to reach out to than a cold email pitch."
You may have a larger network than you realize. Reach out to old colleagues who have moved on, family, friends, and anyone you know in your field or a related field.
Maintain those relationships by reaching out to people you enjoy and touching base every few weeks to chat about work, life, or other topics of interest.
Treat Yourself Like a Client
It can be easy to forgo growing your business to focus on paid work. However, your business needs to be nurtured to grow.
Amy Ragland, a financial services industry freelancer since 2003, shares this advice about making time for marketing:
"Treat yourself like a client! From the beginning, I have blocked out time for marketing on my calendar. It’s easy to put your own marketing behind client work because it’s natural to focus on the things that bring in money now. I keep a project list for marketing ideas and tasks just like I would for any business I’m working with."
Francesca Baker, a copywriter, marketer, and journalist, suggests the first step towards marketing yourself as a freelancer is to be seen. Francesca shares,
"Comment on posts, take part in Twitter chats, offer advice. The more you are part of a community, the more you will get your name out there as not only being engaged and interested in your craft and subject, but also a decent person to do business with. "
Update your social media profiles to let people know you are taking on new clients, interact with other freelancers, and join Facebook groups of freelancers. You'll learn a ton and be more visible to both other freelancers (who might pass on work) and prospective clients.
Adriana Stein, a freelance writer in tech, SaaS, pharma, and lifestyle, suggests the very first step is to create a portfolio, then join Facebook and LinkedIn Groups. Adriana suggests starting by:
"Creating a website with your portfolio and joining Facebook groups and LinkedIn to find work."
Use a free website building tool like WordPress or Squarespace to create your website — you can have a site up and running in just a few hours.
Focus On One Channel at a Time
There are dozens of platforms — which can quickly get overwhelming. Should you focus on LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, or somewhere else? What about email, a website, lead magnets?
Don't let yourself get overwhelmed.
Alex Sheehan, freelance content optimization and B2B content writer, suggests focusing on one channel at a time, rather than trying to do it all at once.
"Don't expect immediate results. Like most things in marketing, promoting yourself takes time to catch on. Go all-in on one channel or tactic at a time. Get that down pat, and then move onto the next.
Over time, you'll have a multichannel approach, and the pieces will come together. It took me years to get my first referral on Twitter, but now it's one of my top sources for leads and networking."
What Freelance Marketing Strategy is Most Effective?
Here's the thing — there is no one perfect marketing strategy for all freelancers. What works for a technology writer might not work for a designer or a social media marketer.
So, where do you start? Below, several freelancers share what marketing strategy has been most effective for growing their business.
Adriana Stein, a tech and SaaS freelancer with five years of experience, has found LinkedIn is the most effective platform for attracting clients.
"LinkedIn, just posting about my knowledge and growing followers. I now operate fully on the inbound leads I get from that."
Danielle Antosz, a tech, SaaS, and digital marketing writer, find Facebook to be a solid source of leads.
" I hang out in Facebook groups and share my expertise and respond to job listings in groups. That and networking — by keeping in touch with past clients and coworkers — are where most of my work comes from."
Jen Philips April, a freelancer in the pet, hospitality tech, and fundraising tech niches, says networking has been the most effective strategy for growing her freelance business.
"Getting to know people, aka: networking. I have web designers who refer me to their clients and other writers too when they have an overflow or something lands in their lap that’s not in their wheelhouse.
Of course, when you’re just starting out, you might feel as though you don’t know anyone, but you do. My very first client hired me because we met due to our shared love of dogs (and interest in digital marketing.) I told her I was going to be a freelance writer, and she said, “I’ll be your first customer!” So, let your friends and family know what you’re doing."
Amy Ragland, a financial services freelancer, also found networking to be an incredibly effective marketing strategy. She shared:
"I think cold outreach gets a lot of attention from freelancers, but you can’t overlook the power of an existing connection.
When I was first getting started in 2017, I sent an email to an old friend who was in a position to potentially get me some work. That one email has led to more than $100,000 in revenue for me in three years."
Diana Kelly Levey, a health, weight loss, sleep, and pet health writer, shared her most effective marketing strategy is being consistent:
I'd say marketing consistently -- even when I'm extremely busy -- has been key to running a six-figure freelance business. I'd add "follow up" to that as well because most of my new business from cold emails come from a follow-up email, not necessarily the first one!
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