July 24, 2016

5 Low-Cost Ways to Market Your Freelance Business

These days marketing is more important than ever. Even freelancers who’ve relied on a steady stable of clients for the past several years are feeling the need to diversify. The work is still out there, but it takes a more work to find it. Here are some strategies to help you reach new clients.

1. Answer questions on LinkedIn. This is an easy and inexpensive way to establish yourself as an authority. In fact, I answered a question about writers and PR people last summer and the author of a book on that topic contacted me for an interview. (For those of you who don’t know, I used to work in PR, so I’ve been on both sides.) I always look for questions that have been posted recently so I can be one of the first people to weigh in. No point in being the twentieth person to say essentially the same thing about the future of publishing.

2. Post an ad in the services section of Craig’s List. Yes, you’ll probably hear from a few cheapskates who want you to pen their memoir for a share of royalties or write an e-book for pennies (good luck with that), but there are legit clients who search for freelancers this way. It’s easier for them than posting an ad and sorting through a million emails, and I’ve found several steady clients this way. Experiment with a couple different ads, be sure to include keywords, and feel free to post in other geographic areas to spread a wider net.

3. Start an online newsletter. Services like MailChimp and ConstantContact give you a low-cost way to stay in touch with clients, potential clients, readers, and the like. My enewsletter goes out once a month and includes links to blog posts and articles, announcements about classes and book releases, and (my personal fave) the “Rockin’ Freelance Resource” of the month. Two important caveats about newsletters: you MUST allow people to opt in and opt out (so you’re not spamming them) and newsletters are most effective when there’s an informational, rather than a purely promotional, component. It’s fine to toot your own horn from time to time, but think about what you can offer readers, too.

4. Spread the word on Twitter. A few weeks ago, things were getting a little stale. I had a few ongoing projects, but not much on the horizon. I even considered getting a part time job. Then I woke up on Monday morning and decided “I’m going to turn things around by the end of the month.” I made this pronouncement on Twitter and Facebook and people were really supportive of my attitude shift. In fact, within a few hours I got a phone call from a prospective client and we signed the contract two days later. The client was a referral from an existing client, but I do think there’s some karmic truth to putting yourself out there and making your goals public. I also heard from a web designer on Twitter who may have a client with copywriting needs.

5. Always carry a business card. I recently blogged about business cards becoming passe, but I’m starting to rethink that post. Last weekend I visited a friend in DC and we went to a St. Patty’s Day party. One of her friends mentioned that he’s coauthoring a book, and that led to a discussion of the publishing industry. Later, when he asked if I brought along my business cards, I was able to dig one out of my wallet. Who knows if this will lead to anything, but it pays to be prepared.

How about you? What marketing strategies have you tried? Any luck with direct mail campaigns or custom t-shirts? I’m considering both of those, so I’d love to hear your thoughts!


  1. Irreverent Freelancer says:

    Thanks, Susan. I’ve never tried posting a Craigslist ad. I think I might give it a whirl.

  2. Susan,
    I think a lot of these ideas are spot on. Another method (and it seems I’m putting it into practice here) is to frequently comment on blog posts widely read by your intended audience.

    When appropriate, you can link to your own work to either support or refute the original argument and thus generate some curious, almost-prequalified leads to browse your work.

    Furthermore, you can probably check the referrer stats on your web site or blog to confirm where traffic comes from, and thus you can tune exactly what to say and to whom.

    @erova | http://www.erova.com

  3. Alisia Leavitt says:


    Craigslist is a resource that a lot of people forget about. I just posted there last week, and while I did get a couple of spam emails (emails that appeared like they were legit prospects interested in my services, but turned out to be spams for websites), I actually got an email from a man who runs a communications company and was inquiring about my copywriting expertise. Who knows if it will lead to work, but the important thing is that it’s one more person who’s become aware of what I do.

  4. Good advice Susan…especially for a newbie like myself! That was a very interesting bit about Craigslist. Would you recommend it for a beginner?

    Also, how do you come up with content for your newsletter? I think I should have asked this in the last post!

  5. Susan Johnston says:

    Thanks, all!

    @Chris: you’re dead on that blog comments walk that line between self-promotion and conversation. IMO, It’s better to err on the side of conversing rather than promoting.

    @KMN: I think it’s worth a shot for a newbie to post on Craig’s List. Try a few different ads and don’t get discouraged. After all, it’s free. I will do separate post on newsletters. Thanks for the suggestion!

  6. I saw that some people in my “Linked In” network had answered questions but where do you find these questions to begin with?

  7. Thanks for this post! I’ve been thinking about a Craig’s List ad, but haven’t done it. I think I just may give it a whirl.

    I’ve also been finding that just letting more people know that I’m looking for freelance writing work has suddenly provided a few more opportunities. It’s been quite encouraging!

  8. These are excellent tips, Susan. Like you, I was recently out and had the opportunity to hand out my business cards (yeah, I have different ones). 😉 You just never know!!


  9. Susan Johnston says:

    @Dioanna: Writing and editing questions are a sub-category of marketing and sales. Or you can click the “answers” link at the top of the LinkedIn homepage, then click “answer questions.”

  10. What a useful post, Susan!

    I’ve been thinking about ordering business cards … For example, I translate, and a good place to leave your info (cards, flyers) is at bookstores that sell literature in different languages. Old school still works. And business cards are more professional than flyers, IMO.

  11. SUPER post, Susan!

    I think it’s a great idea to have a newsletter, but aimed at the right clientele. For me, it would probably be aimed at the insurance market and their PR firms as those are the people I write for. One for writers would be great, but I don’t get any work from my writing blog. I get a community of friends and colleagues and an established authoritative tone that potential clients can see. I do that blog for those two reasons.

  12. Susan Johnston says:

    @Lori: You’re right about choosing your audience carefully. I’m a generalist with a couple of different specialties, so it makes sense for me to update newsletter readers on my writing exploirs, plus it gives me an additional avenue for promoting my writing courses and my blog.

    The hope is that someday when I write a book, I’ll have a built-in email list to promote it. Or that another writer who gets a project that’s outside their areas of interest might refer the project to me.

    A few of my clients have subscribed, and they like seeing the range of other projects I’m working on. Susan B. Weiner specializes in investment writing, and she has a newsletter tailored to this type of client. She’s a great example of the type of niche marketing you describe.

  13. Great post! Many useful tips. I am relatively new at this, but I always open to suggestions and ideas from experienced writers. Thank you. Have you checked into CafePress? You can market your logo or whatever on different items like tee shirts, notebooks, clocks, etc.

  14. Susan Johnston says:

    @AVR: If I do t-shirts, I’m planning to use CafePress, but it’s a little pricey, so I’m still deciding if it’s worth it. Any thoughts?

  15. You’re smart, Susan! Perfect plan. :))