Category: social media

Help, I’ve no time! 4 productivity must-haves for freelancers

freelance productivity tips

Let’s face it, as a freelancer you’re Chief Executive, Marketing Manager and Office Cleaner. Having to do it all can make it difficult to stay focused. There are ways though to become a freelance ninja and really rock your business (and life) as a result.

 

Get Organized

Before you even start with any aspect of your work – be it work for a client, your own promotion or getting paid – the first step that you need to take is to get organized. And now that you work for yourself, the only person responsible for ensuring each day is a streamlined success machine (or something like that anyway) is you.

Top Tool to Get More Organized: Use Trello to plan and organise projects. I use it for every aspect of my planning. From marketing and promotions, to product launches, such as my ebooks, and to help me to plan out future blog posts for my own sites as well as for clients. And it’s not just good for freelancers working alone. In fact, Trello really comes into its own if you’re working as part of a team, as you can use it to assign tasks to others, assigning specific roles or tasks to individuals in the team. It’s a great tool for project planning, creating checklists, and scheduling deadlines.

 

Get Paid

I’ve said it before but cash is king, but if you’re an introverted freelancer (and there’s a lot of us out there who choose the freelance life) then asking clients for payment in return for your services is often a freelancer’s idea of hell. So what to do if you hate asking clients to pay you?

Top Tool for Getting Paid: One way around this is to use an online accounting package like FreeAgent, Freshbooks or Wave. Not only do they help you to manage your accounts, you can also use them to send out invoices, keep track of payments, and fill out your tax returns. But the real beauty of these packages for the shy freelancers among us is that they can be used to set up invoices to go out automatically on specific dates, as well as reminders. Set up when you’re due to be paid along with how long after your payment due date a reminder should go out and never have to chase an unpaid invoice again. You will have to make sure that you regularly upload your business bank statements to your online account (otherwise how will the system know your invoice has gone unpaid?) but other than that, you can set it up and let it do its thing.

None of these packages are free – but they’re certainly cheaper than an accountant. And when it comes to chasing payment, you could say they’re priceless.

 

Promote Your Brand (Consistently)

Marketing and promotion is one aspect of your freelance business you perhaps hadn’t considered would take up all that much time – but you’d be wrong! You need to spend around 20 hours per week on your marketing to make sure that you’re continuing to get your brand out there and make new connections with potential new clients – or indeed, to make connections with former clients who may be missing your fabulous skills!

20 hours! I hear you cry (and as a fellow freelancer, I feel your pain). While social media is only one way to promote your business, it’s an effective one (read this to find out how I won a $22k client on Twitter) and one of the easiest promotional channels to simplify as there is an element of automation that can help you out (although for goodness sake DON’T over automate. Read my tips on improving your social media presence here if you’re a newbie).

Top Tool for Brand Promotion (and social media maven type behaviour): Hootsuite is a one-stop shop for scheduling all of your social media messages in advance. While you’ll still need to check in with social media on a daily basis to make sure you’re answering queries and responding to requests, scheduling upfront can create a backbone for your social media activity, freeing up more of your time for client work – which can only be a good thing.

 

Stay Focused

I love the variety that freelancing brings. Different clients. Different types of work. No two days being the same. However, the flip side of that can be jumping from one thing to another and finding it hard to focus on one task at a time.

Top Tool for Staying Focused: If you’re really struggling to stay productive, Focus Booster is designed to help you stay on track. Based on the Pomodoro technique, where activities are broken down into 25 minute intervals, Focus Booster shows you how long you’re spending on activities, when you should take a break, and helps you to manage distractions. Why not try it out for free and see how much more productive you become?

 

So, there you go, a few quick tips – and 4 of my favorite tools – for staying productive. Any recommendations you have – or tools that you love to use? Or do you have any tips that I’ve helped keep your own productivity on track?

 

 

 

The Ultimate Cheat Sheet: Managing Social Media in a Small Business

social media for small business

 

Now that you have your marketing and social media plans (and if you don’t or have missed the links, pop on over now for a catch up) I thought it might be good if I made your life slightly simpler by showing you how to manage your social media for your freelance business.

If you’re running a small business then it’s possible that you’re the only person in the business and you haven’t gotten around to – or can’t afford – employing a VA.

If the thought of having to manage social media on top of everything else has you in a panic, here are a few tried and tested tips to make it as easy as possible.

I promise you. I don’t have a VA. I am Apricot Ginger. Murdo may be ‘the Apricot one’ – and  he’s cute but not very helpful when it comes to admin.

So, the starting point to make your social media life as easy as possible is….

Drum roll please…

 

AUTOMATION

 

Yes, it’s true that the golden rule for social media is to ‘be present’ (well, it’s possibly not THE golden rule – that’s probably ‘be interesting and relevant’) but for the purposes of this post, please be clear. I am NOT advocating that you just set up everything to run automatically without ever checking in.

You MUST check in with your social media accounts at least once a day.

(As a rule of thumb, I generally check in around 2 or 3 times a day for around 10 minutes at a time).

However, the key to helping you to manage social media when you ARE the business – is to set up some automation to help you to generate a continual buzz around your social media activity.

I am literally going to go through this step by step, so if you’re a social media whizz you might just want to hop on over here to pick up and download my free Tweet Planner & Scheduler printable.

If not, just follow the steps below and you will be up and running and raring to go on your social media channels of choice in no time.

Now, you have probably figured out that I am something of a Twitter fan (here’s one reason why).

Trust me when I say that people who know me in real life are astounded that I can keep anything to 140 characters but my ability to talk at length aside, I love Twitter. So I will focus mainly on that today – although I’ll cover a bit about Pinterest and Facebook too.

In case you missed it, I recently created Free Printables page on Apricot Ginger. It’s just the start but I will be adding to it over the coming weeks. But it includes a handy Tweet Scheduler.

So, the first thing you need to do to get your Twitter on track is hop on over there now, and download your free printable (no email sign in required. Just click on the image).

Done that? OK, welcome back.

Now, the next thing you want to do is subscribe to an RSS service like Feedly or bloglovin’

If you have already – terrific. If not, I’ll wait here.

Fill up your subscriptions lists with related businesses, interesting news articles – and any other blogs that are either similar to or complimentary to, your own freelance business.

Don’t worry. You don’t need to sign up for all of your blogs in one go. Start with 10 or so and keep building on the list from there.

I use Feedly the most – although I do have a bloglovin’ account – and I have all of my subs listed under different headings like Blogging (for blogs about – you guessed it, blogging); DIY (I do love a spot of home decorating): Entrepreneurship… you get the picture.

how to manage your social media
Snapshot of my Feedly homepage

 

So, now that you have your Feedly or bloglovin’ account set up, you want to sign up to Hootsuite. All of these are free by the way, or at least have a free entry level version (and I only use the free stuff myself – it’s all good).

Sign up to Hootsuite and make sure that you add in all of the social media channels that you are on. I have Twitter, Google+ and LinkedIn on mine. I post direct onto Pinterest, Instagram and Facebook.

how to manage your social media
My Hootsuite dashboard

 

You can automate Facebook via Hootsuite, but to be honest, you’re better doing it through Facebook’s own scheduler as it (FB) prefers that. I suspect it’s all a way of making sure we all use Facebook but, whatever the reason, if you’re posting to Facebook, I suggest that you schedule those messages direct.

OK, so you’ve now signed up to Feedly and Hootsuite and you have your trusty Tweet Scheduler in hand.

Now, you want to go through your own posts and your Feedly subscriptions and find interesting content to share.

Obviously, the Tweet Scheduler has been created with Twitter in mind, but you can also send some messages to other channels. Just make sure you’re not using Twitter handles or hashtags in those messages as it will be obvious you’re just bulk scheduling the same messages.

Set up all of your messages for the week ahead this way – or you can do more if you want – and then you have the backbone of your social media messaging for the week ahead.

Simples.

The whole thing will probably take you a while the first time that you do it. I’d give yourself a couple of hours while you fiddle about with it, but once you get in the swing of it all, this shouldn’t take more than an hour. I usually do mine at the weekend.

Now, the key to making this work is to make sure that you still check in EVERY DAY.

You will have to respond to comments or thank people for retweeting your messages. You should also be checking your new followers and deciding whether or not to follow back. (Remember, followers are about quality not quantity so don’t feel you have to follow everyone who follows you – if they’re spammy, don’t bother. And so what if they then unfollow you? They were unlikely to be clients anyway).

Repeat the same exercise for your Facebook messages for the week and you’re all set up and ready to go.

how to manage social media for a small business

TIPS:

Tell people when you share their content – so + them in Google+ shares, use their Twitter handle in tweets, let them know in blog comments that you’re sharing. It means that they will know when their content is being shared and, while it might not result in any shares of your own stuff to begin with, it will get you on their radar (so it’s a good strategy for potential clients or partners).

Check in with social media EVERY DAY. Don’t just trust to automation. I have been guilty of not practising what I preach – especially when I’ve been really busy – but if you don’t respond to people, if you never thank anyone for retweeting your content, or worse, if you are sending out messages that are now irrelevant because of real world events that have happened since you set them up to run, people will soon get fed up with you and will stop engaging. After all, how can you have a conversation with someone who is never there?

Make sure your branding is consistent across all of your platforms. The trick here is to become easily recognizable wherever you are on social media. Start off by using the same profile picture across all of your social media. While your messages can (and should) be different for each platform they should still be ‘on brand’.

Use apps to make your life easier:

Hootsuite is great for automation across a range of social media platforms

Tailwind is a fantastic app that schedules your pins on Pinterest (it’s paid but starts at a low $9.99 per month). You can also share these scheduled pins on Facebook and Twitter – although they will obviously have come from Pinterest.

Pocket is a new app (new for me at least) that you can use to save content that you come across on line to read later. I haven’t tried it out yet, but have had it recommended to me twice this week so I will be checking it out. It is one to add to the arsenal and, while not an RSS feed, sounds as though there’s potential there to gather more information to help you to add even more interesting content into your messages.

Feedly & bloglovin’ – sign up for one or both and collate all of your favorite blog RSS feeds in the one place for easy reading.

 

So those are just a few tips to help you manage your social media more easily with the limited time that you have available. What are your favorite time saving social media apps? Let me know in the comments and I’ll add them to the list!

 

 

How to Make Social Media Work for Your Business

how to make social media work for your business

 

Do you know how to make social media work for your business? I mean, really work?

You know by now that social media is one of the ways to bring people to your website or to promote your business, or to connect with your ‘tribe’.

But are you really sure that you’re using social media as well as you could?

Maybe you’ve tried out a few channels but they’re not working – or at least they’re not working as well as you’d hoped. What now?
Well, as with everything else related to your freelance business, it’s best to have a plan.

Start with a social media strategy

Have you already prepared a social media strategy? Here are a few tips about what to include, along with a couple of templates that will really help you to get the most out of your efforts. (We like results, right?)

Start with Objectives

What exactly do you want to achieve with social media? Maybe you want to win business (check out my post about landing a $22k client on Twitter for some inspiration)

Do you want to drive traffic to your blog or website?

how to make social media work for your freelance business
OK, not this sort of traffic…

Do you want to reach out to potential clients and show that you’re an authority in your field?

Do you want to sell products direct via social media or advertise?

Consider all of the aspects that you want to achieve with social media – from the ambitious to the downright mundane and every day.
Next up think about how your social media objectives fit in with your overall marketing objectives.

Social media ISN’T your marketing strategy, but used well, it can be a useful promotional tool for your business – so you should start to see how your social media activity fits with your overall marketing and promotions.

And make sure those objectives are SMART.

 

Carry Out an Audit

If you’re already using social media for your business, now is the time to have an audit to find out what you’re doing, where and how well (or not!).

What social media channels do you already use?

Do you know what it is that you want to achieve from each? If not, now is the time to start thinking about it.

You’ve listed out your overall objectives – use these to figure out what you want from each channel.

What is already working for you?

List out information like number of followers, likes and so on but also take a proper look at the analytics behind each.

It’s all very well having 3,000 followers on Twitter but if they’re all tweeting spammy messages, then it’s not really working for you.

So, as well as figuring out the numbers, you should be finding out whether the social media channels that you are using are driving traffic to your website. Are they generating customer enquiries and new business?

Don’t get obsessed by numbers. Large numbers do not indicate success. Engagement indicates success.
Quality over quantity on social media. It's not about how many followers you have! Click To Tweet

So, for example, if people are regularly repinning and commenting on your pins – and if you can see that they drive traffic to your website or that you are starting to sell direct from Pinterest as a result, then that would indicate that it’s working for you.

Try to be objective.

Just because you love Twitter, if it’s not where your customers are – or if it’s not working for some other reason, then accept that it’s not working.

If it’s fixable – like you’re posting at the wrong times or your being too self promotional – then fix it.

But if it’s a case of your customers or clients not using it, then you’re wasting your time and you need to move on.

Mistakes are the portals of discovery: James Joyce Click To Tweet

Which channels do you regularly update and which do you tend to ignore? Start to have a think about why that is. Perhaps it’s down to personal rather than business reasons.

I don’t have a particular affinity for LinkedIn – which is crazy, as one of the main aspects of my business is freelance writing and there are lots of jobs in this field advertising there.

Oh yes, and I’m a consultant too, and LinkedIn is a fabulous place to find work, partners and share information with peers.

So I have to motivate myself to get on there – and I certainly don’t love it – but I am becoming more adept at using it. I’m still at the ‘forcing myself’ stage but I’m looking forward to it becoming the ‘second nature’ stage soon!

This is a classic example of personal reasons dictating my lack of use rather than business reasons. So be objective about what you’re using and why – and make decisions according to what’s best for your business.

 

Create & Improve

Now that you’ve decided what your objectives are, you will have a much better idea of where you should be.

For example, if you decided that you want to run a video series or a series of podcasts, then maybe you’ve decided to focus on YouTube or iTunes. Or your business model might lend itself well to Pinterest or Instagram.

(Not sure? Here are a few tips from Social Media Examiner to determine whether or not Pinterest is a good platform for your business).

No matter where you’ve decided to focus, now is the time to start to either create or improve upon existing social media profiles.

What to Consider

Make sure all of your profile information is all filled out. Pinterest profiles with the pin are a big no no.

how to use social mediaMake sure your profile images are ‘on brand’ and that you are consistent across all the channels that you are using.
how to use social media
how to use social media
… look familiar?

If you need more inspiration, check out Simply Zesty’s 50 best brand Twitter profiles.

Put yourself in your users shoes. If you’re focusing on 2 or 3 different channels (and I’d recommend when you’re starting out just to stick to a maximum of 3) then ask yourself:

Is it obvious that this is the same brand across all 3 channels?

Are you instantly recognizable to my potential customers and clients?

There are people that I follow on Pinterest and Twitter – and I always know that it’s their images or tweets thanks to their branding which is consistent. Same font, certain image style…

Ask yourself whether or not all of your messages ‘on brand’ while still being consistent with what works on each different social media channel?

So, for example, are you posting LinkedIn updates that are full of Twitter handles and hashtags? If you are, then you need to consider making your LinkedIn posts more in line with what you’d expect to see on that platform, while still echoing the main messages of your brand.

 

Develop a Content Strategy

So, you’ve chosen your ideal platforms, you have some beautiful looking profiles – yes, you are looking very swanky – AND you know what you want to get from each of them.

You’re ready to go!

Well, not quite. First of all, you need to figure out what you’re going to say on each of them.

Looking at your marketing strategy, do you have any particular products or projects that you want to promote at specific times of the year? Or are there key themes that you want to cover at specific times?

Link your content – be that images, videos, posts, tweets or status updates – to these themes or specific promotions and start to consider what content you will be producing. And when.

I mainly focus on my blog – and then Twitter and Pinterest from there.

Consider the different types of content that you will be creation e.g. videos for YouTube or on Facebook; photos; blog posts; links to authority pieces by other writers and bloggers etc.

Determine which type of content you will be posting on each platform.

Figure out the timing and regularity of your content.

If you’re running a business and you want to have a blog on your website, then you should blog around once a week. Unless of course, your blog IS your business, in which case you should be posting more frequently.

How often are you going to promote your content – and where are you going to promote your content?

Depending on how much time you are going to spend on this, you might want to create editorial and social media calendars for all of this.

I use Trello to plan out all of this – otherwise, I’ll be honest, it ends up on pieces of paper which go missing!

I have blog posts planned out for key times of the year – such as Christmas or tax year end – as well as specific promotions (such as this post, which is part 8 of my Twitter #15DaystoFreelance series).

It doesn’t have to be massively complicated. You can literally write out a month’s worth of blog post titles – and that can be your editorial calendar.

However, if you’re the sort of person who likes to have all of this written down, check out this free blog planner and these free social media planning templates.

 

What Are You Measuring?

Now that you are ahead of the game and have all of your platforms, profiles and content sorted out, you need to figure out what success will look like for you – and start to measure it.

HINT: your SMART objectives will help you to figure out what success will look like – now you just need to know how to measure it.

Use analytics to determine how successful each platform has been.

I don’t profess to being a social media expert – I have learned by trial and error as well as a few YouTube videos and Googling when I get stuck!

Make sure your website has Google Analytics installed – and that you know what you’re looking to measure (check out this great post which literally changed my life by making Google Analytics SOOO much easier to understand).

Pinterest has it’s own analytics too – and if you sign up to schedulers like Hootsuite or Tailwind they have inbuilt analytics that help you to discover which of your content is shared, what your popular posts are, where your customers/potential customers are – and so on.

(I will be doing an entire post on automating to organize your social media so look out for that too).
So that’s it. How to make social media work for your freelance business. It sounds daunting but it really doesn’t have to be and, by starting with just a couple of different social media platforms, and doing the initial research on the best ones for you upfront, you will make life MUCH easier in the long run.

Please share this with anyone starting or running their own freelance business. And if you have any tips or questions about creating a social media strategy then please leave them in the comments.

And please follow me on social media too – see the buttons on the right under the About info. Click on them and follow me…

 

How I landed a $22,000 client on Twitter

twitter marketing

twitter marketing

In my last post as part of the 15 Days to Running a Successful Freelance Business series, I mentioned the fact that I’d landed a five-figure client on Twitter and promised I’d write about it.

So here it is.

I won’t go into details about who the client is (names have been changed to protect the innocent and all that) but I thought that writing about it here might:

a) show that PLANNED social media can give your freelance business effective results;

b) provide you with some inspiration if you feel like your efforts are going nowhere and

c) give you some tips on engaging with potential clients on Twitter

 

To begin with, I had very little clue about social media. Although I activated my Twitter account 5 years ago, I certainly wasn’t using it to any great effect initially.

In fact, I was only using it because I’d taken a course about setting up a business blog, which was run by Erica Douglas of LittleMummy and Antonia Chitty of Family Friendly Working (the course doesn’t run anymore but it kick started me into the online world in the first place).

After the course, I spent about 18 months of quite literally faffing around with no clue whatsoever of what I was doing on Twitter and had an underwhelming 300 followers by June 2012. Pathetic.

So much so, that I decided to invest in a little bit of social media training.

use twitter to win clients

Finding People to Follow

The first part of my strategy on Twitter was to think about my idea client and start to connect with people who I wanted to work with.

Obviously, this will vary depending on what your freelance business is, so if you’re a writer you might want to connect with editors of publications that you want to write for.

If you’re a consultant, you’ll want to hook up with companies that fit your ideal client profile. And if you sell cupcakes… OK, OK, enough of the cupcakes (I’m doing 5:2 and starting to obsess about food!) but you get the picture…

I used TweetAdder to help me to research and build my Twitter followers by searching on particular types of tweet content and geographical location. So, for example, I was looking for tweets mentioning ‘fundraising’ from charities in the UK.

TweetAdder is no longer available – thanks to an update in the Twitter algorithm that made parts of it pretty much defunct. It had an autofollow facility and that helped me to grow the numbers of people that I was following relatively quickly.

However, it is still possible to find people to follow – and who will hopefully follow you back if your tweets are interesting to them – on Twitter itself. As long as you’re consistent about what you’re looking for and commit some time to it. Decide what you want to search on in terms of key words, location and have a look.

I also used (and still use) ManageFlitter to see who actually uses Twitter. (It has many other functions but I primarily use it to determine if I’m following people who are engaging on Twitter).

So, for example, when I used TweetAdder, as it was automated, a lot of the people I was following within the chosen criteria hadn’t tweeted anything for months – if at all – so ManageFlitter was good for weeding them out. I still use it now to check whether any previous accounts that I’ve followed are now defunct or have stopped using Twitter regularly, and to sort out my Twitter following in general. It’s useful to get an overview of your followers and who you are following.

Using this strategy consistently for a couple of months saw my Twitter followers increase from 300 to 1,500. And they were, in the main, strategic follows rather than ‘I will follow anyone who follows me and who is probably selling me something I don’t want to buy’.

 

Strategy for Engagement

Finding people to follow – and getting them to follow you – are two different things. If you want people to follow you then you really need to have something engaging and relevant to say.

“Look what we’re having for breakfast” is only going to be of interest if you’re business is all about making muffins, or feeding kids nutritious meals. If you’re a writer specializing in personal finance, it’s only going to be relevant if you have some amazing money/cost saving idea related to breakfast.

So have a think about what value you can add to clients and the sort of problems that they face that you can help with.

Give really good insight into their problems. Link to blog posts that have solutions that they can implement and show them your expertise in this area.

And ASK QUESTIONS.

If you’re not sure what your potential clients are struggling with, just ask them. Try to be specific. So rather than asking ‘what are your main difficulties in your business?’ for example, ask ‘if there was one aspect of your marketing you could ask for help with, what would it be?’ Or ‘do you know what social media platform is best for your company?’.

As a charity consultant, I asked questions like ‘who does your fundraising in your charity?’ ‘do your board help with fundraising. If not, why not?’

Very specific questions. You only have 140 characters. Use them well.

You only have 140 characters. Use them well & you might win $22000 client like I did! Click To Tweet

 

Don’t Broadcast

You know that person who you meet at parties or networking events. Oh you do. You know the one. The one that you get stuck with when no-one else wants to talk to them because all they ever do is talk about themselves. All. The. Time.

Well, when you go on Twitter and send out constant messages like ‘Follow me and find out about my business’ or ‘Want more followers? I can help’ or even if you just constantly direct people to your blog then you have become that person.

This is NOT what you want to be doing on Twitter if you want to have anything approaching success. And I very much doubt that these strategies result in engaged followers who are likely to give you any work.

The whole point of this is that you want to start to build a reputation as an expert in your field – and you do that by pointing your followers to helpful content. This can be your content or useful articles and advice from other people too – in fact, mixing it up is the best way to be as useful as possible.

Sign up to feedly or bloglovin’ and start following other blogs in your field – or in related fields – that you are interested in and who are also writing excellent content that might appeal to your followers (just make sure they’re not direct competitors!)

Don’t constantly talk about how brilliant you are or about your skills and why your followers should work with you.

Focus on their needs and provide solutions to their problems – and that is how you will become recognized as the ‘go to’ person.

 

Increase Engagement

The Survey Method

Let’s assume that you’ve been on Twitter for a few weeks or months, and that you’re regularly posting helpful hints and tips and linking to really useful content that will help your potential clients solve their business problems and meet their specific needs.

What I did next was put together a really short survey – 3 questions in total – and asked my followers if they would answer the survey. The purpose of the survey was to find out what specific issues people were having so that I had the information to shape my consultancy services for my ideal client.

If you are going to do this, you will need to prepare a survey that is going to meet your needs best.

If you want to develop an e-product, for example, you might want to use a survey as an initial market tester to get some early feedback on your idea. 3 questions are unlikely to give you much in the way of depth but they might start to give you an idea of the subject of your e-product.

Or, if you’re honing your services like I was, you might want to ask for the 3 main areas (again, be as specific as possible) that they are struggling with.

To make sure you get as much engagement with your survey (mention that it is VERY short) AND offer them something in return for filling it out.

Offer entry into a prize draw where they will win something FREE from your business services.

This shouldn’t cost you too much but should still be valuable to the winner. I offered a free 15 minute Skype consultation.

Make sure this offer is in the main body of your Tweet (use bit.ly to shorten the link to the survey so you can fit it all in to 140 characters).

The Easier Method

The other method you could use is simply to ask potential clients to RT your latest blog post by a certain time and you will then enter them into a ‘free prize draw’. The prize is still the same – a free 15 minute Skype consultation with you – and, if you don’t need to or want to survey your potential clients, then this could be an easier way to get engagement.

Either way, the end result is the same, you have a list of people that you are offering a free 15 minute consultation to.

Remember – the idea of this is NOT to win a $22,000 client. You are using Twitter strategically to build engagement with your audience, and you need to determine how best you want to do that. Perhaps, now that you’re recognized as an expert you want to hone your services, or offer a new service, or diversify your offer or simply increase the number of visitors to your blog.

TIPS:

Make sure that you the fact that they will be entered in a free prize draw to win a consultancy session (or whatever your business model is) in the main body of the Tweet.

Remember to include a ‘sell by’ date. They need to fill the survey in by xx in order to be entered for the free prize draw or they need to RT your blog post by xx. You get the drift.

Another way to increase engagement is to offer the free session in return for a comment on your latest blog post. I haven’t tried this but, as I know people are always looking for comments on their blogs (and please feel free – I would greatly appreciate it. Thanks for asking…) this might be something you are interested in too.

 

Surprise!

Now at this stage, I should say that all I was aiming to do was increase my engagement with my audience on Twitter and hone my consultancy services via the survey that I sent out.

What happened next was a total surprise.

The winner of the prize draw was duly noted (I used the very simple method of choosing a number between 1 and whatever the total number of surveys completed was. It wasn’t huge, but I think it was around 98, which wasn’t too shabby at the time either as I was relatively new).

Anyway, they were survey number 45 (I can’t actually remember the exact number I picked) and I sent them a DM to let them know they’d won asking for their email to arrange their Skype consult.

Once I had the email address, I then sent a more detailed email advising that, as we only had 15 minutes, we should concentrate on one aspect (I knew at this point the main issues they were facing thanks to their survey results) and suggested a few possible areas, asking for them to either choose one or suggest another for our call.

The call itself went particularly well. We dealt with a key issue for his organization and, obviously, he was pleased with the way our conversation went and the strategies that I proposed.

I DID NOT try to sell anything on at this point. I know some people would do this and if you’re comfortable with that approach, that is entirely up to you. Personally, I felt it would be a bit dishonest given that in everything else I’d been clear it was a free draw and a free consultancy – but whatever you are happy with is up to you. It just isn’t me.

However, during the call itself, he asked if I would train a couple of members of his staff in a few techniques. Training wasn’t part of my offer – but it is an aspect I can offer – and so I submitted a proposal to offer coaching over 4 sessions and agreed a price.

 

Building the Relationship

As most people will tell you, word of mouth can help you to uncover a lot of clients. Working with clients can also help you to uncover more work.

From the initial training work, it transpired that they were looking for an entire strategy, additional staff development, board training and initial implementation.

What started as a free 15 minute Skype consultation, designed to help me to provide clients with a consultancy service tailored to the needs of the market, resulted in over $22,000 of work over 18 months.

 

Takeaway

Are you going to win the same level of work from Twitter? Truthfully, I have no idea.

Obviously, I was in the right place at the right time and my offer resonated with this particular client.

My main strategy at the beginning was to use Twitter as a tool to promote my business, get me in front of new clients, and show that I was an expert to this group.

My aim was to increase the numbers of visitors to my website, to increase engagement on the blog via comments and RTs, and, as a result, to be easier to find online.

I hadn’t for a minute considered that it would actually get me any direct work.

Of course, I’ve since read about people like me who have won work via Twitter by putting themselves in front of the right clients at the right time.

I’ve also read about freelance writers connecting with editors on Twitter – in a useful and not an ‘in your face’ self promotion type of way – who have then successfully sent these editors queries for their magazine.

My success lay in 3 key areas:

Having a plan

Being consistent

Engaging in conversations

So that’s it. How I landed $22,000 work via Twitter. Nothing complicated. Nothing requiring a social media expert. Just a plan to engage people. Consistent strategies to increase followers and to follow my ideal clients, and engagement with people by solving their problems and not just bleating on about myself and what I could offer. I’d love to hear of any times that you’ve won work via social media or from unexpected sources. Pop them in the comments below. And please share this with anyone who you think might feel inspired.

 

how to win clients on twitter

 

5 tips for improving your online presence

5 ways to improve your online presence for freelancers and small businesses

Running a business from home has never been easier since the invention of the Internet, social media, and tools like GoToWebinar, Skype and Google + hangouts that make remote and flexible working easier than they’ve ever been before. That said, there are still the same number of hours in the day, so how do you improve your online presence while you’re still trying to run your small business (on your own) and juggle the rest of your life too?

When I first started out I had no website, no LinkedIn profile and no Twitter account. Fast forward 6 and a half years, and I’ve 3 WordPress sites (which seems a bit greedy, I know), 2 Twitter profiles, a Facebook page for my main consultancy business, a LinkedIn profile, a Google+ profile, 2 Pinterest accounts, and an Instagram account – you get the picture.

I’ve learnt a lot along the way – mostly about taking on too much too soon – and have tried and tested a few methods for improving my social media presence – so here are a few of my top tips for getting started on social media without it taking up all of the time that you’re supposed to be building the business and delivering services or products to clients.


If you’re looking for general tips to help you get organised, read Top 10 organisation tips for self employed parents and freelancers


1. To blog or not to blog. That is the question. If you haven’t actually started working for yourself yet, you might be wondering whether to have a website or a blog or both. Personally, while it can be time-consuming (although with a bit of planning, it gets easier) I would recommend starting a blog.

Why? Well, to start with, search engines love content that is refreshed, which makes you easier to find. It’s also a great way of showing visitors who come to your site your knowledge about your subject – which starts to help build a relationship with them where they know, like and trust you – and you can also encourage people to sign up to your email list by sending them new blog updates when they come out, thereby creating an online audience for your work.

If you’re worried that you won’t have the time to write a blog – and for a business site, I’d recommend that you blog once a week – you could create your website using WordPress, giving you the option to add a blog easily once you’re up and running.

2. Decide which social media platforms you want to use You’ll know this already but there are a multitude of social media platforms out there and my original mistake was to try to get to grips with all of them at the same time, while creating a client list from scratch and trying to drum up offline business.

Now, long term, chances are you want to have a presence on a few platforms, but when you’re starting out your brain is likely to go into meltdown if you try to get a handle on them all at the same time. (Admittedly, that could just be me though).

After initially giving myself far too much work to handle, effectively resulting in me not actually achieving anything, I whittled it down to 3 things:

  • blogging on my business site once a week,
  • sending out a fortnightly email newsletter to my list,
  • sending out daily updates on Twitter profile.

I’ve since added LinkedIn, Pinterest and Google+ to my list of profiles, but I spent the first 2 years concentrating purely on WordPress, Twitter and my email newsletter. My advice is to make it easy on yourself and pick 2 or 3 platforms that will work best for your business, and get started with them one at a time.  Start with one then build on it.

3. Write a Posting Plan Try to plan what you’re going to say online in advance. Obviously, this will all sit within your wider social media marketing strategy, which I won’t go into here, but start off by planning the messages that will go out on your main platform – your blog – and when they are going to go out.  So, if you’ve decided to blog once a week, decide what messages you want to go out from your business over the next 2 – 3 months – that’s roughly 12 post topics at most, which is completely achievable.  I use Trello to plan my blog posts – it’s a great planning tool, and you can add in ideas for your posts, as they come to you or as you come across new content that relates to your upcoming posts.

Next, you want to think about how you can use your preferred social media platform to both promote your posts and related content. I use Twitter, for example, to both promote new and old posts from my site, but also to link to relevant content from other blogs, and to send out industry stats and other related news. I have a daily Twitter plan where I post at least 6 or 7 updates a day, which I schedule in advance using Hootsuite (see below). I also build this up to include my Facebook posts (although I do these updates direct on Facebook as that works better), LinkedIn and Pinterest.

I put time aside on a Friday to plan out what needs to be done each week and load my social media messages for the week ahead on Hootsuite.

Take a look at 5 tips to improve your online presence for freelancers & small businesses Click To Tweet

WORDS OF CAUTION

Automate where Possible but NOT TOO MUCH!!! – Automation tools like Hootsuite (there are others too but I know this one best because I use it) are great for creating a backbone for your social media messages, but they should not be the start, middle and end – far from it. Check in with social media at least once a day. I check in twice a day for 15 minutes at a time just to stay on top of it all, and if I’m stuck on a train travelling to a meeting, guess what I use the time for? Yep, staying in touch on social media.

Share interesting content.  Don’t just broadcast messages about yourself. When you’re at a party, you can see people avoiding the person who just talks about themselves and never asks questions or shows an interest in anyone else. When you just broadcast messages about your brand, effectively, all you’re doing is talking about yourself. So share interesting news, ask questions, respond to other people’s tweets and blog comments and try to start a conversation.

Make sure you aren’t just repeating the same messages on each platform. You want to create awareness and increase an understanding about your company or the work that you do, but try to use each in the way that works best for that particular platform. For example, Twitter is a great way of creating conversations around your brand. It works well for sending out interesting stats, thought-provoking comments or injecting a bit of humour into your messages, but messages that work well on Twitter don’t necessarily work so well on LinkedIn, which is far more formal and business like. Instagram and Pinterest (my current social media ‘crush’) are perfect if you have great eye-catching images – and even if you don’t, you can create the with great tools like Picmonkey or Canva.

Whatever you decide to do, improving your social media presence will help you to build your brand, communicate with your audience and reach a new audience, but if it all seems too much, start by keeping it as simple as possible and building your social media presence slowly.

 

Do you have any other tips or advice about what’s worked for you?  Or do you have a favourite social media platform – and why? Please let me know in the comments below.