Marketing 101 For Independent Professionals, Free Agents, and Freelancers
by Chris King


Those of us who enjoy the flexibility, variety, and excitement of freelance living still have to be concerned with marketing our services. Even when we have a big job, or several jobs with regular clients, we still need to work on letting potential clients know what we can do to help them with their needs and problems.

No matter how excellent we are at the services we perform, unless others know about us and hire us, we may find that our freelance living loses some of the luster as our finances dwindle. I will be sharing other articles on marketing in the future - this one is just the beginning.

Define your niche market. If you don't decide who the ideal client will be for you, you can get caught up in spending a great deal of time spreading yourself out too thinly. This way you will never become well versed and an expert in particular areas. Ask yourself about those you have worked for in the past and for whom you have enjoyed working the most. For example, when I decided to become a full time freelancer I had already worked for ten years as an editor and marketing manager for a non-profit community development corporation.

Ever since I left that career, all the projects I have tackled have come to me through contacts I made in the non-profit and community development field. I am familiar with their organizational structure, their aspirations, needs, and problems. They know me and I know them, and they know that they can trust me to do the best job possible for them because I understand.

Tell the people in your niche market how you can help them. The three keywords here are "tell" and "help them." First and foremost, the people we want as clients have to know who we are, so we need to get out and tell them. I am not suggesting the dreaded, random cold calling, which will not only be discouraging, it can also eat up a lot of valuable time. Making calls to people you already know or following up on people you have talked with at events, luncheons, meetings, and other gathering places, like the gym, can be fruitful, if you keep the words "help them" at the forefront. People and businesses are not interested in what we do. Their focus is their problem or their need. In other words, if they hire us, they want to know WIIFM (what's in it for me).

So, our first step with a potential client is to discover their problem(s) by asking questions and listening attentively to the answers. If we can solve the problem, we can move on with our marketing by describing the solution along with its outcome - not the process at this point. The person who helped me with this incredible, yet sensible and successful, marketing strategy is Robert Middleton, who calls himself the InfoGuru. You can find his Action Plan Marketing ideas and helpful online marketing manual HERE. If you don’t purchase the manual, at least sign up for his thoughtful, weekly newsletter, "More Clients." It is loaded with ideas.

Be visible. Even though it takes time and effort, I suggest establishing visibility in the region where you work. I am involved with several groups and organizations in my field of website design. Just like Woody Allen said, "Showing up is half the battle." By attending meetings and networking events, volunteering to give informational talks and workshops, and sending meaningful e-mails and articles of interest to those I meet, I form relationships with a lot of people who may become clients or refer clients to me. I also write quick notes or post cards to keep in touch. These are really appreciated because snail mail notes are so unique today.

If you can write articles for local papers, magazines, and web sites, even if you are not paid in cash, ask to have your by-line, address, phone number, and e-mail included along with a photo, if at all possible. In other words, you want to have you face and name visible enough that you are remembered by a lot of people. One additional note that expresses my own personal preference for appearance. I feel it is important to have a particular style that is sharp and unique. I don't mean that we should spend a huge amount of money on clothes, but I do feel that even though it isn't always fair, people do judge a book by its cover. Remember that this is my bias, but I pay attention to how I look when I walk out my door to meet the public.

Be a professional in all of your dealings with others. Again, I am sharing the qualities that I personally feel distinguish us as professionals. These are also the qualities that I like to find exhibited by the people I do business with. Be on time - even a few minutes early never hurts. It does hurt to be late - it indicates we don't care enough to make the effort to be on time. Return phone calls and e-mails promptly. I set aside certain times of the day to check and answer my mail and phone calls. If someone does something nice for you, like recommending you to a potential client, be sure to thank him or her in person or in a handwritten note.

If you have a deadline for a project, always try to complete it ahead of time, unless it is absolutely impossible. If you are going to be late, be sure to let the client know. I also feel that if I am involved with a long project, it is a good policy to keep in touch with my client, so they are aware of the progress I am making. At this point, you may be asking what does all this have to do with marketing. Even in a large region, the word gets passed around a niche market about whom it is good to work with, who is a professional, and who always over-performs, never under-performs. Word of mouth is still going to be your most valuable marketing tool, as long as it is complimentary. Written testimonials can also add credence to your marketing materials.

Be patient. If you keep on marketing with verve, the business will abound! And do watch for more marketing articles. We have just begun to scratch the surface. Please send me any questions, tips, and/or comments. I would love to hear your FEEDBACK.


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