There are so many aspects to consider when starting a business that it’s easy to dive straight in with no real plan of where you’re headed. Developing a freelance marketing plan will help you to win – and keep on winning – business.
Marketing is a contest for people’s attention Seth Godin
When I started out, I decided to focus on word of mouth business. That was great to begin with (and it still remains my main source of income) but when the work started to dry up, I was hit with the harsh reality that I had no plan B.
If you’ve been through the first 6 parts of 15 Days to Running a Successful Freelance Business (#15DaystoFreelance) then you already have a lovely shiny business plan, along with some concrete ideas about saving money, getting organized and setting up your website.
Today, we’re going to plunge straight into marketing – because without it, you’re unlikely to have much of a business a few months down the line.
The 4 Ps
Looking at the nuts and bolts of marketing (and trawling the very distant memory of my Economics degree!) there are 4 pillars to a marketing plan.
The first is Product – which also includes services (confusingly). So, what is the main offer that you have? Focus on the top 3 or 4. So, if you have a consultancy style business, for example, perhaps your top 3 or 4 products and services are:
Leadership Training for Managers
An ebook you’ve developed on the 5 Aspects of all Great Business Strategies (or something along those lines)
If you’re a graphic designer, you might offer:
Business Logos, cards and letterheads
Promotional literature, brochures etc.
Now, I’m not going to delve too deeply into your niche market but, as part of the business planning exercise we did a couple of weeks ago (I say ‘we’, I mean ‘you’) you will already have an idea of how you will target each of your services or products to your specific market. So you might offer Leadership Training for Financial Services Managers or Strategic Planning for Non-Profits.
Next, you want to consider the price that you will charge for each of these products or services. This is where you need to arm yourself with a calculator and figure out your pricing strategy for each of your products and services (if you haven’t already done this).
Take into consideration aspects like:
How long it will take for you to deliver each product/service
Any additional resources required – will you charge for travel separately for example, if you deliver client training in their premises, or will it be an integral part of your price?
What quantities you think you will sell. If you have an ebook, you might be hoping to sell 100s if not 1000s of copies – although you only have to write it once – so that means you can charge less than you would for a face to face consultancy session.
How much will it cost to market? You might run Facebook promotions, or take out expensive adverts depending on what you’re offering. Or you might join a networking group. Take into account all of your marketing spend to determine the price.
Don’t forget to consider your hourly rate – check out the calculator again if you missed it. How many hours of you will each service need? That might be all you need to know to determine your price.
How and where will you sell your product or service? Will it be online or offline – or a combination of the two? You might set up a shop – although that’s not a very freelance model – but you could sell your cupcakes at a pop-up shop or a market stall – or even in your current workplace – as long as it’s not a bakery 😉
OK, this is the fun part. What strategies will you use to get your products and services to market? There are a few to choose from:
Word of Mouth & Referrals
As I said above, this was initially my main focus to promote my consultancy – and it still remains one of my most successful ways of finding new business. Spread the word among your friends, family and colleagues (or former colleagues) about your new venture. Don’t forget that even people who don’t seem to be related to your business could refer you on to others. I might have mentioned it before, but I won a $8,000 contract thanks to a chat with a Mum in the playground who turned out to be looking for exactly what I do!
I covered how to set up your website in my previous post. Your website is a good starting point to promote your freelance business. If you add a blog, not only will this help the search engines to find you, but you’ll also be able to showcase your expertise by writing about the very products and services that your freelance business provides.
So, when someone searches for a de-cluttering expert and finds your blog packed full of tips and advice on how to make your home or office more streamlined, along with a competitor who has nothing more than a brochure style website, who do you think they would be more likely to choose?
A blog is also your chance to write in your own voice and it can help you to build some of that ‘know, like and trust’ between you and your potential customers that makes it even more likely they will buy from you.
As well as a blog, you can also use your About page to showcase your talents and even put up a Hire Me page to tell potential clients why they should work with you. Check out mine for some ideas – and take a look around the web for inspiration.
I plan to write an entire post about networking as I know that you either love it or loathe it. Most seem to be in the loathe camp. But networking really doesn’t have to be ‘icky’. Just by following a few basic rules, you can network like a demon (in a good way) and make fantastic connections for your business:
Listen more than you talk (you have 1 mouth but 2 ears for a reason – use them in that proportion)
Ask questions – show that you’re interested in the people you’re talking to but balance your questions with chat too or they’ll feel like they’re being interrogated
Think about how you can add value NOT about selling yourself
Work for Free
If you’re just starting out and have no clients to refer you yet, you might consider doing work for free. One word of caution. Be very careful about how much of yourself you give away for nothing – but if it’s relatively small project that will showcase your work, or help you to get in front of the right people then go for it. Just know that there is a time for freebies and a time to start charging. Don’t go on offering free work for too long – and make sure any free work you do is small and easy to manage – because you never know when that paid work will roll in and you really don’t want to have all of your time accounted by pro bono work.
Yes, it can suck time like… a big thing that sucks time (sorry). But if you are focused, you can use social media to promote your freelance business effectively and cheaply (or indeed for free!).
My advice would be to choose 1 or 2 different social media platforms that you like and that you think would work best for you.
LinkedIn is good for putting you in touch with potential clients – particularly if you work B2B. One of the best ways to make connections is to join or start discussions in groups and then connect with people from the group. You can then send InMails (if you get the Pro version) as a ‘warmer’ type of email contact.
I’ve also had success on Twitter (I once won a $20,000 contract via Twitter – yes, I will write a post about it!). Try to connect with your ideal clients or people that you would really like to work with and post interesting messages and informative links to gain their attention.
Focus on getting really good at the 2 you are most comfortable with and make connections with people that will be the most likely clients and partners for your business.
If time is really tight, you only need to spend 10 – 20 minutes a day (although 30 would be better) on social media – and of course, you can automate to a certain degree – don’t go mad – to help you manage your time even better.
Sending email marketing emails can be another way of landing clients. Again, this doesn’t have to be ‘salesy’ – you should be thinking, ‘what are they looking for help with and how can I bring value to that?’
When emailing, it’s best if you can get an introduction from someone that they know and open your email with that – to keep them reading past the first line. If you really don’t have a contact at that company, one way around this that I heard recently was to phone the sales person, tell them what you do and then ask for the name of the best person to help with this.
Sales people generally help out with these types of calls as they are exactly the type of calls they make themselves every day. Then, you either use the sales person’s name in your email to the contact they’ve identified for you, or better still, ask them if they could put you in touch.
Make sure that you research the company first – so you know something about their needs AND so you can use the language and tone in your email that matches that of the company. It’s surprisingly effective, but it works.
If you also end your email on a call to action your potential client will know what to expect. At this state, you should try to make it an action for you rather than them.
Cold calling, like networking, is one of those things that you either like or you hate. I’ll be upfront on this and say that I definitely fall into the latter, so I’m not even going to pretend that I’m good at this.
However, cold calling can be surprisingly effective and if you decide to blitz 100s of potential clients with calls, then you are guaranteed to get some positive results.
If you really don’t fancy the idea of a completely cold approach, you can always try connecting with people on social media first to give you a nice opener to your conversation with them.
And of course, you could follow up with those people that you met at networking events with a call rather than an email. Again, you have a ready made opener for your call. ‘Good to meet you last week…’
I regularly work with other freelancers who offer complimentary services to my own: a marketing strategist, a researcher and a cultural business advisor. Together, we are able to work as a team offering the full range of services. It also has the added value that we refer work on to each other too.
Now choose up to 3 of the above promotional activities to sell your products and services. I’d recommend that you focus on the 3 that you’re most comfortable with, and concentrate on them for the next 3 months. Then, every quarter, assess what has worked, and what hasn’t, what you need to change and what you should spend more of your time doing.Choose 3 promotional activities & focus on them for 3 months to help build business Click To Tweet
So that’s it. Developing a freelance marketing plan 101. How do you find and win new business? What’s worked for you? Let me know in the comments below – and of course, share this with anyone who is starting or running their own freelance business.