As a solopreneur, you probably prioritize your day with client work, admin tasks, and following up on potential assignments… but how many hours are you spending on marketing? Marketing yourself as a freelancer or consultant can pay dividends in securing client accounts.
There’s a common misconception among new freelancers that once they have a few assignments under their belt, more work will just keep rolling in. That’s true to an extent, if you’re very lucky.
The majority of successful solopreneurs or freelancers lead second lives as marketers – for themselves. Setting up shop and establishing a good marketing rhythm early can help build a sustainable freelancing business.
Let’s get acquainted with some best practices for marketing yourself as a freelancer or consultant.
Building Your Personal Brand
The basics of marketing in the digital age.
Building your personal or professional brand is very important when starting your freelance business and marketing your freelance services. Gone are the days where an email address, a CV, and word of mouth were the only requirements to stand out to potential business partners.
These days, freelancers aren’t just competing with other solo workers and agencies in their city – they’re vying for attention in a global economy.
In short, if you don’t make a good first impression, it’s easy to find someone else who will. These days, first impressions are often formed online, so investing in your personal brand can make a difference.
So how do you stand out from the crowd? It’s all about consistency, highlighting the right information, and being memorable with your freelance brand.
Brand your work
Some solopreneurs or freelancers prefer to work under their given name, while others choose a moniker that adds some context to the service they provide.
If your name is Jane Jones, for example, you might choose something like “Jane Jones Creative” or “Jane Jones Studios” to describe your graphic design business. Either way is fine; just choose something memorable and remember to be consistent.
Claim your name
What’s the very first thing you do when you want to know more about a topic? It’s 2020 – you head to Google, of course. It’s the same story for your clients, and that’s why it’s crucial to make it easy to find you online.
You’ll need to cover your bases by setting up each of these channels online and claim your business name (or your personal name!).
- Domain name
If possible, snag firstnamelastname.com as the domain you’ll use for your website. It’s straightforward, easy to remember, and helps boost your name’s presence in search rankings.
If your name is unavailable, here are some other ways you can still include your name in your address:
- First initial, last name: jjones.com
- First initial, last name, city: jjonesnyc.com
- First name, last name, city: janejonesnyc.com
- First name, last name, industry verb: janejoneswrites.com
- First name, last name, alternate extension: janejones.design or janejones.co
- First initial, last name: jjones.com
- Email address
It’s true that you can use a personal email account for your freelance communications, but when it’s so easy to set up a business account, why would you? Setting up a custom email address for freelancing is a level-up in terms of professionalism and will stand out to clients.
If you’re a devoted Google Apps user, like us, you can have an email address featuring your new domain name (like email@example.com) for only $6/month. And that includes storage through Google Drive, video meetings, chat, and the entire Google office suite (Docs, Sheets, Slides, etc.)!
- Social media
The age-old question: would you want your employer seeing your social media accounts? Even if you’re your own boss, it’s helpful to see the digital world through this lens – after all, your clients are the ones deciding whether or not you’re a good fit.
If the answer to the earlier question is no, and you want to keep your personal and professional life separate (highly recommended), then it’s worth signing up for a second set of handles on the main platforms (Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram) with your business name.
Your Website, Your 24/7 Salesman
A quality website will bring you clients even when you’re not working.
In this day and age, having a website is table stakes for most business professionals. But there’s a difference between just having a website and having a good website.
The latter works as a 24/7 salesman, convincing potential clients that you’re worth their investment and that they shouldn’t consider anyone else for the job. Here are some tips to take your website to the next level.
What pages should I include on my website?
Not only is your homepage the first page your potential clients will see, but it’s also your opportunity to establish your value – i.e. What are you going to do to make their lives and businesses better?
Think of your homepage as the thesis statement in an argument. Your About, Services, Contact, and Portfolio pages should support the claims you make on your homepage.
Your About page should show a little personality and tell the story of why you do what you do. A common misconception about About pages is that they should tell your whole life story with a lot of personal detail.
Think about what your clients want to know about you. It’s probably not important where you went to elementary school and the name of every single one of your pets, but it does add some color to your professional image to understand why you got into your industry, or why you began working for yourself.
If you have any emotional tie to the particular niche you serve, this is a great place to highlight that, too – maybe you specialize in working with nonprofits because you’re drawn to charitable causes. Remember: your About page is still about you as a vendor.
This is where strategic choices can make a world of difference in generating leads. How many times have you been browsing on a site, and you realize after some time that you still have no idea what exactly they’re selling or what it costs?
Your Services page should define what you do, how you work (your method, how you communicate with clients), and some pricing information.
Unless you’re extremely flexible with your rates, there’s likely a range of clients who can’t afford your freelance or consulting services. This page should give potential clients enough information that they can understand if you offer what they need and whether you’re in their budget.
- Work or Portfolio
Time to show off! Your portfolio should include samples of work you’re extremely proud of, some context on the project (How did you contribute?), and if possible, a testimonial from the client.
Quantity is no substitute for quality here. It’s better to have 3-4 airtight case studies of your work than to have 8-10 examples with less detail.
For fields like photography, graphic design, or digital marketing, consider including process sketches, moodboards, campaign planning notes, and mocks to help your clients picture what it might be like to work with you.
A contact page is simple: include a link to email you directly. Forms are quite common but it’s best to provide your actual email address – even if it’s in addition to a contact form.
Make it easy for potential clients to contact you. You’ll build trust and get more inquiries if you make it easy for clients to get in touch.
If there’s one thing you should do for your website on an ongoing basis, it’s blogging. Creating content and blogging is a great way to build thought-leadership.
Not only does consistent content help your site build strength in search engines, writing articles about industry-related topics builds trust in your expertise and gives you a library of content to cross-promote on social media.
Be Generous: Create, Educate, and Share
There’s one thing in common from some of the most trusted names in creative industries: they make a lot of helpful, interesting content for other people in their industry. And it’s all free.
Content creation is an incredible tool to gain brand awareness, show people that you know what you’re doing, and build your web traffic, which is vital for boosting search rankings.
Most importantly: the more people who value your content, the more they’ll talk and share it organically. And that’s the real holy grail for every freelancer: organic word of mouth.
Every solopreneur will have a different marketing strategy composed of the tools we discussed above, but here are a few ideas to get you started:
- Weekly or monthly newsletter
- Cross-promoting content by industry icons and brands
- Video series on hacks or tips for your industry
- Downloadable PDFs for project planning or creative exercises
- Interview series with other industry contacts
- Writing guest posts on popular industry sites
- Giving a talk at a local event
- Starting a weekly or monthly networking meet-up
- Hosting a webinar or “ask me anything” (AMA) over Zoom
- Building a course for your clients or fellow freelancers in your industry