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!