Cost-Effective Marketing For Creative Freelancers – 10 Steps For Growing A Business
“Creativity is the root of entrepreneurship.” — Karndee Leopairote, Thammasat University
Venturing out on your own to become a freelancer is a nerve-wracking endeavour.
You're on your own, and it's your job to secure clients, boost your business, and sell yourself as a serious professional.
Marketing is one of the biggest gambles when you're starting your business.
It takes funds when they're at their tightest, and you never know what's going to work, especially when you're inexperienced.
However, marketing doesn't have to cost you your last dime.
In a world of social media and online businesses, it's not as expensive as it used to be to build a cost-effective marketing plan.
One that grows as your business grows, so it doesn't hurt your bottom line.
Just follow these 10 steps, consistently en regularly, and you'll create a lead generating machine:
1 – Have a Plan
If you're starting your own business, you know the importance of having a plan in place.
Before diving into your work, make a plan.
Think about where you want to be in two years. Five. What about ten years from now?
Think about what you want to be working on, where you want to take your business, and apply it to your marketing strategy.
The last thing you want to do is get bogged down with details while you're in a growth spurt.
If possible, reverse engineer your goals towards the daily actions you need to take, starting today.
Tailor your marketing plan to the clients you want, and the work you want to be doing on your timeline.
2 – Get A Great Logo and Tagline
When you're first starting out, this might seem a little premature.
However, trust me, investing some time and money towards this will save you tons in the future.
You want a clear, simple logo, that can be reprinted on business cards and the web. Then, use it everywhere!
Carry business cards wherever you go with your contact info and tagline.
Think of a tagline like a more practical slogan: It should tell your clients what you're about, what you do, and the level of quality they can expect from you.
The idea is to make you a recognisable brand, from day one!
3 – Specialise
It's a fact that freelance creatives, whether digital design, artists, or writing, need to specialise.
Specialising gives you a variety of benefits that allow you to be an expert in your field and earn more money.
It also cuts down on your research and allows you more space to be creative within the parameters.
Best of all, it's easier and faster to amass professional resources and contacts you can use at every stage of building your business.
To discover what your specialisation is, think about your interests and education.
What topics, ideas, and styles can you see working for years?
You may already have in roads and connections within specific industries.
Specialising can also lead to marketing opportunities.
If you're a trade writer, get to know your local unions, and offer to work on contract with them.
The more well-known or recognisable you are in specific spaces, the more success you'll have early on.
Instead of trying to appeal to everyone and competing with a herd of other creatives, you can brand yourself as THE go-to expert for a select group.
This in no way means you can't switch gears at some point, or have several portfolio's that target different niches. However, start with one.
4 – Get Familiar With Social Media
These days, every successful business needs a social media strategy.
For creatives and freelancers, your social media should become even more important.
You're selling yourself, after all. Keep it friendly, positive, and professional.
Promote yourself, but don't overdo it.
Social media is a great way to get personal with prospective clients and build your readership.
Remember, it's not all about you. Support your fellow freelancers. Talk about what's important to you.
An important point about social media: Different platforms have different goals, and require different strategies.
Think about what your goals are, and which social media platforms work best for you.
That said, you should try to integrate the significant three: Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram.
Social media strategy would take an entire article on its own, but there are simple tricks that are universal.
Keep your bios brief, but fill out your profile completely.
Remember to offer plenty of signup opportunities, and try not to cross-post too much.
By tailoring your social media, you can reach a wider audience!
5 – Contact Local Media
Even if the bulk of your work is done online, don't be afraid to contact your local media to tell them about your business.
Local papers, and even radio and TV news love the story of independent business owners. Especially by creatives!
You'd be surprised at how much exposure you can get just by asking for it.
Make some cold calls to your local paper, or check in with the radio station.
It may not lead to ad space, but you could secure an interview, which gives you more exposure!
6 – Build A Portfolio
This one's obvious for most freelancers: Start a blog.
An online portfolio is also a great idea.
Do some research to find the space that fits your needs best.
Giving clients and readers regular information they can count on from a reliable source is an excellent resource for you to show off your best work.
It's also an excellent opportunity for your clients and readers to get to know you.
Create an About page that offers a look into your education, background, and interests.
Don't forget to add links everywhere you can to your social media. Later, you may even want a newsletter.
Offer incentives for subscribers by tracking the analytics in your portfolio and social media spaces.
If you're a visual artist, not a writer, this is a good time to connect with some fellow creatives, to trade ideas and favours.
7 – Ask For Referrals
It can be nerve-wracking to ask for referrals, but it's essential to growing your business.
Add these to your online portfolio, or write them as reviews on your blog or social media spaces.
It's a lot easier than you think it is to get a good referral list — Check-In with family and friends.
Make some calls or send some emails promoting your business to close friends in similar industries (or with connections to your speciality, as mentioned above.)
8 – Be professional
Even when you're contacting friends, you need to prove your legitimacy.
Contact old employers.
Finally, check around businesses or places you frequent.
It sounds cliché, but I have a favourite café I write in and a stationary store down the street.
I've put feelers out with the baristas who know me, and the woman who sets aside my favourite notebooks for me.
Both of them have referred me to clients in the past!
You never know what can happen just by approaching someone.
9 – Get to Guest Blogging
As a freelance writer, the best way to grow your readership is to get familiar with someone else's!
Chances are, no matter what your creative industry, you've got something to say.
Get in touch with the people you know who've been doing this a while.
Guest blogging is a perfect way for a new freelance writer to promote their business while accessing a wider audience.
However, it's also good if you're a graphic designer, or just interested in creative development.
You can access entirely new audiences, which means more clients and more work.
Remember when you pitch, to focus on what you can offer the writer of the blog.
Don't be dishonest, but don't focus on the newness of your business.
Mention referrals and contacts you may have in common, interests you may share.
Finally, be clear about what you're offering and keep it short!
Guest blogging is a great cost-effective marketing way to get your name around and expose your work to plenty of new readers.
10 – Branch Out!
Writing or design as a cost-effective marketing strategy makes sense as a freelancer: It's what you do, and you want to show it off.
However, research shows that video and image-heavy articles get a lot more engagement.
Short, fast, vlog-style videos, like tutorials, and image-driven pieces on your social media or portfolio can help you gain a broader readership.
It shows you can be concise in your writing, you're versatile, and that you can provide valuable information.
If you're not confident in your video skills, connect with other creators.
Craft an About Me video, to create something that sticks in a client's mind.
Don't forget to add your logo, and contact info, including social media links and newsletter.
Remember, you want your cost-effective marketing plan to grow as you do, so keep moving forward, and branching out.
As a freelancer, you're probably used to plenty of out-of-the-box thinking.
Creatives have some unique skills that can help you in business, with your marketing strategy and beyond.
However, you do need much planning in place, especially when it comes to budgeting for your marketing plan.
These steps can help you grow your business with cost-effective marketing, without risking failure, and expand, when you're ready, into bigger, bolder, and better!