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...
How to do your online marketing as a freelancer – part 2Stijn Schutyser
We already established online marketing is a must for freelancers in part 1 of this miniseries, where we discussed marketing yourself through social media and your own website. Now it’s time to look at the role of Search Engine Optimization (SEO), blogging and email newsletters in marketing yourself online as a freelancer.
Search Engine Optimization (SEO)
A considerable amount of effort when building your website should go to Search Engine Optimization (SEO). SEO means the content on your website is optimized for prospects looking for your services or products through a search engine like Google. In other words: use words and phrases in your online content that people use to search for products and services like yours. Search engines know those keywords in excruciating statistical detail. So can you, using analytic tools such as the Keyword Tool in Google Adwords. Ask your peers how they’d look up someone like you. Better yet is to ask customers what they were looking for when they found you.
The more you use your prospects’ language, the more relevant search engines deem you on those topics, and the higher you show in search listings. It’s like being at eye-level on a store shelf, in an optimized position to be noticed. Of course, it’s not really that simple. Search engines also notice your content’s relevance to the keywords searchers use, links to your content found elsewhere on the internet, and other factors.
These many different variables also mean that there’s lots of room for optimization of your content. Here’s a couple of easy ways you can optimize your content: update your content regularly, refine your keywords and create new relevant content, make friends online by linking to others and having them link back to you, and most importantly: be an active, informative presence.
Of course, just finding a product at eye level on the store shelf is no guarantee for anyone buying it. That explains why a slick SEO strategy is no substitute for having a product or service people really want. True relevance to your customers, coupled with knowing how to express that relevance in ways search engines understand, is smart SEO. Because SEO is so complicated, once you’re involved in a real marketing campaign, you might want to hire someone who can do all the stuff that needs doing to help you show up higher in a search. It’s kind of like hiring an accountant: sometimes it pays to hire an expert. Our marketing team is happy to help!
By now, blogging is well-known as a great SEO and marketing tool. There are a couple of reasons as to why they’re so great:
- you can update them anytime with fresh, relevant, keyword-rich content.
- they’re a platform for linking to others’ content, and vice versa.
- they let you cultivate relationships online: readers can comment on your posts and you can respond.
- A good blog post can compel readers to do something, such as subscribing to your newsletter or downloading a whitepaper.
- Blog posts are an excellent way to show your knowledge and expertise in a certain field, building the trust that can pave the way to new business.
A good blog is a significant time investment. Committed bloggers post every day. Be prepared to do weekly posts or several per month minimum. Consistency is key, and this is something we ourselves have learned as well. Since we’ve started consistently uploading a new blog post every week, our reading audience more than tripled.
Okay, so blogging is a great marketing tool, but what are you actually supposed to write about? That’s entirely up to you, as long as you think it would strike up a great conversation amongst your peers in real life as well. Here are a couple of examples:
- what you’ve always wanted people to know about your industry: why it’s cool, frustrating, freaky, weird, wonderful, or wildly unpredictable.
- new developments in your field and what they mean for you or your customers.
- a list of really good resources.
- inside tips, tactics, strategies, warnings, or updates.
- examples of how you work and why.
- what you learned from attending a workshop, seminar, show, or speech.
- interviews with pros in your field (a great excuse to call prospects and cross-link to other websites or blogs).
- what to ask or look for when hiring professionals like you.
- regular features: a weekly summary, recipe, or project; a monthly digest; a ‘best of’ list; an annual roundup.
- a demonstration of how something is done or of how something works (or what to do when it doesn’t)
- themed posts tied to holidays or seasons.
- ways to save time, energy, money, or all three.
Blogging is also a good way to interact with people. At the end of a blog post, ask your readers what they thought of it, what their opinion on the matter is, whether they have any additional tips, and so on. After a while a reader might even start guest blogging for you!
Before launching your blog, it’s a good idea to stockpile several weeks’ worth of posts and to build in links between them. Doing so invites readers to check out content they otherwise might not have.
You should also vary the type of content on your blog. Once in a while, include a video, a podcast, a downloadable article, … This keeps things fresh.
Email newsletters are a digital goldmine: an instant, low-cost, direct line to tons of people. While websites and blogs wait to be visited, an email newsletter goes visiting, ideally bearing enticing links to your website or blog. If you don’t have a website or blog (yet), it’s still a super-fast, supercheap way to remind people about your products and services and launch new ones. Here are a couple of tips for email newsletters:
- Have a consistent sender line, such as your business name or personal name.
- Use a strong title that entices people to click on your email, but avoid click-bait titles.
- Keep it short and powerful. Your newsletter is not the place to put lengthy articles. Rather, explain your article in 2-3 sentences and include a button that takes people to the full article on your website or blog.
- Just like with blogging, consistency is key. Schedule your newsletters and work on them a little each day. You risk losing momentum and credibility if you send out a couple issues, followed by silence.
- Don’t be shy about it, let everybody know you send out a newsletter. Put opt-in language in your email signature file, on your website, and on your blog. Ask prospects if they’d like to receive your email newsletter. If you give talks, pass a signup sheet or ask people to give you their business card if they’d like to be added to your mailing list.
Note: people trusting you with their email address does not mean they’ve opted in for mailings, so be careful! Only email the people in your contacts list that actually want to get your emails, for 2 reasons:
- GDPR and privacy are a thing. You need people’s consent for emailing them.
- People don’t like it when you drop into their inbox uninvited. Drop in on your email contacts this way and you’ll end up in the trash or they’ll unsubscribe.
SEO is a key part of your online marketing. Optimize your content for SEO with the right keywords and use your prospect’s language. Blogging is great way to do this while increasing traffic and engagement.
If blogging isn’t your thing, you really should try email newsletters. They’re cheap, easy and effective. Just be careful you’re only emailing the people that want to get your messages.
Alternatively, you can mix and match and see what works best for you or what you’re willing to spend in terms of time and money. Aren’t you sure or do you have some questions? Reach out to us and we’ll be happy to listen and help.
When you market yourself online, you never really know where the results will come from. But that’s business. You plan, strategize, analyze and prepare for opportunity. But in the end, like any interaction between people, you have to let go of strategy and go in there and be real, in order to get something real in return. Fortunately, being real is something that freelancers, bold individualists, know how to do.