Whether you’ve already started your freelance journey or you’re still in the planning phase, one critical aspect to think about is how you’re going to increase your visibility and presence. No one will know about your services if you don’t get the word out.
Aside from doing quality work and gaining repeat business and referrals, promoting yourself can take you from somewhat successful to highly successful. There are several ways to do this. Experiment a little to find out what works best for you. I’ll be focusing on the basics of improving your online presence.
The Big Three Social Media Sites
Social media has taken the internet by storm and is here to stay. There are three main social media sites that can help you promote your business:
Twitter is a great way to promote your business. If you don’t have a twitter account, you should create one. You can follow your prospects on twitter and interact with their tweets. For example, if you are a freelance writer and you want to write for a marketing company you can follow their tweets and retweet them. You can also reply to them to let them know that you are interested in what they have to say.
When the time is right send them a direct message to offer your services or connect with the marketing manager.
I also like to reach out to the companies that follow me on Twitter. It is a great way to make a warm connection. They obviously like your profile so why not drop them a line?
Remember to stay focused on your business. You’re not here to tweet about last night’s baseball game unless your customers happen to be big baseball fans.
Creating your own Facebook page for your business can help you connect with millions of potential customers. You can connect with your current clients on there and reach out to new ones. Facebook differs from Twitter in that you’re not limited to 140 characters. In my opinion, you have a much better chance of forming genuine connections. You will also enjoy the benefits from testimonials and reviews. When someone sees how much their friend loves your business, they’re going to be curious. Real testimonials are incredibly powerful.
You can also pay for a Facebook ad for your business. Facebook ads are generally much cheaper than other forms of advertising and are highly targeted. Don’t go crazy with paid ads until you know what works. You can try out ads slowly and tweak them until you start seeing the desired result. You can get started with as little as $1 a day (don’t expect any sales with this amount, but you can get a sense for what works vs. what does not).
Learn more about Facebook ads.
LinkedIn is basically a social network for businesses. It is a great way to connect with prospects and let people know that you are available for hire. There are many ways to connect on LinkedIn such as joining groups, sending messages to potential clients to offer your services and sharing content online. LinkedIn offers far less distraction than other social networks – you won’t be competing with cats and Kardashians (you’ll never win that battle).
If you are a freelance writer, they have a section where you can post articles that you have written. It is a great way to get your writing skills out there in front of potential clients. LinkedIn has a cool feature that tells you who has viewed your profile. I usually try to contact the person that viewed my profile to see if they need any services. That is a great way to connect with potential prospects.
Depending on your business, these options can be very effective.
- Angie’s List
Create a Website
Having a business card is no longer the main source of proof that you are an official business. Setting up a website should be one of the first things you do when starting out as a freelancer. A polished website with concise information about your services can really take your personal brand to the next level. Even if you are not a web designer, you can put together a quality website.
What you need to get started:
- A domain name (e.g. worksucks.com – probably not an ideal choice for your business 😉 ). To find an available domain, try Instant Domain Search. NameBoy is another nifty service that will find available domains based on keywords you specify. Good domain names are scarce, but you’ll find one that suits your venture with a little effort.
- Web hosting. There are plenty of companies offering affordable hosting for small businesses and individuals. I have used HostGator, Bluehost, InMotion and SiteGround and would recommend any of these options. The only host I would avoid based on experience is GoDaddy. GoDaddy is a fine place to purchase a domain name, but not the most reputable host.
- Software to build your site. I highly recommend WordPress. All of the hosts mentioned above have a one-click WordPress installation. Install WordPress, pick a theme, and start building. If the idea of making your own site gives you the heebie-jeebies, you could try a website builder like Squarespace, Wix or Weebly. Website builders are a little more user friendly, but come with limitations (e.g. you are locked in to their platform, you do not have as much control over your site, and they are probably not the ideal starting point if you expect to scale heavily in the future).
- Recommended: An email address for your business. Pick a hosting plan includes an email address for free or cheap. You’ll look much more professional than your competitors who are using their personal email accounts.
Get to it!
It doesn’t take that much time to get your social media accounts set up. A website does take a little more time, but is a great investment. If you have no social media presence, get out there and create some accounts! You’ll be glad you did.