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How to do your online marketing as a freelancer – part 1Stijn Schutyser
Lots of freelancers hate having to call up people on the phone and asking if they’ve got any work for them. If only there was a way you could get work while sipping some coffee, taking the kids to school or even sleeping… You’re busy and the internet is a big place, so this blog post aims to help you do your online marketing well and strategic and find the online marketing methods that work for you. We’ll go over social media, websites and blogs, SEO (Search Engine Optimization) and email newsletters in 2 parts. In this first part, we’ll cover social media, social media optimization and online marketing through your own website.
Before we get started, a fair warning: online marketing isn’t something you do ‘on the side’. It should be at the core of your business strategy and you should therefore dedicate an appropriate amount of time to it. The more time and effort you put into it, the more likely you’ll get a better ROI (return on investment).
Social media and social media optimization
Lots of freelancers have had a go at social media and now think: “I thought this was supposed to help my business, but nothing’s happening!” or are hesitant: “I’m not sure it’s for me…” Likewise, some are totally into it and love social media, and others are just starting to learn about it. Where you fit on this spectrum might depend on where you are in your freelance career, your comfort level with technology or maybe even what day you’re asked.
That said, it is perhaps no surprise that social media is at the top of our online marketing blog post. And the numbers back this up: social media captures over 30% of online time, which equates to the average person spending about two hours on social media every day. So, no matter your opinion on social media, it’s clear they can play a major role in online marketing. But how do you actually start your social media marketing?
There’s three major social media platforms to consider as a professional: LinkedIn, Twitter, and Facebook. Below is a short comparison.
Try to be active on all three platforms, and don’t forget you can cross-reference them: put your Facebook and LinkedIn page in the bio of your Twitter account, tweet about a LinkedIn article you’ve written, …
To start your online marketing on social media, here are 5 tips that might help you.
1. Set measurable goals
Ask yourself what you want (get more clients, grow your network, drive traffic to your website or blog, …) and rank them so you can concentrate your efforts for best results, and build one goal atop another. For example, you might need to grow your network before you can get more clients. You might need to start a newsletter or microblog intensively before you can increase traffic to your website, and so on. Your goals will also influence your social media decisions. If you want more clients, find the social media spaces where they hang out. If you want more email newsletter subscribers, blog readers, or webinar students, your posts have to be interesting conversation-starters and direct people to other great info from you on your website, where they can sign up for your newsletter (the opt-in will be prominently displayed, right?). Measure your efforts and the results, and work out a strategy to reach your goals.
2. Find your space and build slowly.
If your peers/customers aren’t on Twitter, don’t put your effort there. However, if they’re commenting on blogs (preferably the ones on this website 😉 ), join in. Start in one social media space and build from there. And as mentioned above: if you’re in multiple social media spaces, integrate them so your posts in one show up in the others. You’ll save time and look like a social media party animal! That way, people can also respond and share in whatever space they’re most comfortable.
3. Share and give, don’t sell.
For example, when prospects click on a link that takes them to your website, offer them something of value for free for joining your mailing list. You could give them a short e-book full of advice or a discount towards a product or service you’re selling. Use your imagination, but be sure it’s something your peers or clients actually want from you. It’s bad form to hard-sell in social media, but once people decide to opt in, sign up, register, or buy, make that process fast and effortless.
4. Make a schedule and follow it.
First, set a kick-off date for your new online marketing venture: your first blog post, tweet or LinkedIn article. Work backward to schedule prelaunch to-dos: market research, tutorials, lurking, reading and commenting on other blogs, setting up your account, drafting your first post(s) and so on. Activity is essential for SEO (Search Engine Optimization, more on that in the next blog post), so to keep momentum once you’re rolling, break down tasks in your calendar: writing your blog posts, composing your email newsletter, updating online profiles, visiting discussion groups, commenting on industry blogs, … Choose a pace you know can maintain and gradually increase it. Shoot for several times a week on social media. Investigate tools (some are free, some paid) to integrate and manage your social media. Ask other freelancers who are active online how they get it done and learn from them.
5. Regularly review your efforts and goals.
Networking relationships aren’t built overnight, and online relationships are no exception. Give it six months or so of consistent effort. Then ask yourself how close you have come to meeting your goals, whether you need to revise them or change your strategy, try out other platforms and when you will check your progress again. You can answer questions like these by using analytic tools. A familiar, free resource for starters is Google Analytics. If your blog hosting service offers analytics, study them; the same goes for where you post your videos. Most social media platforms also have analytics of their own you can check.
Online marketing through your own website
A personal website is a great way for prospects to find out more about you. A good personal website has a couple of clear advantages:
- it reflects your style. Corporate websites have to be all things to all people, but you can give your website your own spin. Being yourself also helps you qualify prospects: you’re more likely to attract good matches when you’re not putting on a mask.
- it’s easier to find you online. Make it easy to contact you from any page on the site. Make it easy for visitors to provide their contact info so you can build a (GDPR-proof!) mailing list. Remember “share and give, don’t sell” from the social media tips and always offer something in exchange: A free article, a resource list, a recipe, an exercise, a song, … Quick extra tip: always include your website on your business card or printed marketing material!
- it shows you off and answers FAQs. You can share your background and training, a client list, work samples (get clients’ permission first!), video or audio clips, and client testimonials. You could also include your rates, if your clients value transparency.
Of course, these advantages only come to light if you upload the right content and choose a fitting design. How do you get started on that? The first step is to buy a domain name, which ideally consists of your business name and ends in .com. Next, choose a hosting service, depending on your needs and your website’s complexity and capability. You could also try a service like Wix to build and host your website. A prepackaged option like that may not be for you if have a more specific vision. Before you commit, read the terms of service and know exactly what the package will let you do for which price. Want to upload audio or video? Get the file size limits for uploading audio, video and pictures. Find out how orders are processed, including security and fulfillment.
If you want to step up your game, think how visitors to your site would want to use it. How would someone make an online appointment or purchase? Is it likely that they’ll be using a smartphone to access your site? Will your website look great and be fully usable on different-size screens and types of devices? Make sure your website is user-friendly and has a logical structure. You’ll want to hire a front-end developer to discuss the possibilities.
If you want a website that looks fierce, markets you like a rockstar and functions like a geek’s fever dream, these abilities don’t usually come rolled into one person. You may need to hire a website designer, website developer, and a marketing consultant. At ACA IT-Solutions, the skillful creative team (ACT) can help you with this (one of the front-end developers has made several blog posts as well). If you’re interested, shoot us an email at firstname.lastname@example.org!
Online marketing has become a staple of the marketing a freelancer needs to do. Social media is an excellent first step and can have a large impact, especially if you cross-reference several different ones. A website opens up a ton of possibilities for online marketing. It reflects who you are, makes it easy to find you online and can show off previous and current projects.
However, no marketing without analytics. Get out there, try new things and do what you think is best, but always check whether your efforts have the desirable effect.
In part 2 of this mini-series, we’ll talk about online marketing through Search Engine Optimization (SEO), blogging and email newsletters.
Stijn is a copywriter and content marketer for ACA IT-Solutions and manages the blog website. He's interested in writing persuasive content, web content and graphic design and likes to challenge himself with new insights.