Freelance marketers have one of the best jobs on the planet.There’s a never-ending stream of exciting new projects to work on and clients to work with, and at the end of the day, your work is about helping business grow, which means a better livelihood for everyone involved. Not to mention that if you’re doing well, the money is really good, too!
In short, it’s rewarding, fulfilling, and very lucrative... a great gig if you can get it. So... how do you get it?
Having that successful freelance marketing business is one thing, but getting started is quite another!
When you’re just starting out, it can feel pretty close to impossible, and it’s very easy to get discouraged or overwhelmed.
• Choosing your niche (because you have to be more specific than just “freelance marketer”)
• Creating a brand (that will get your audience excited about working with you)
• Generating business (because that’s what it’s really all about, right?) and
• Keeping your freelance marketing practice on a constant path of growth and improvement!
All right, no more waiting. Let’s get to it!
Have you chosen a niche? Is it something like: Small businesses? Mid-Sized corporations? New-Yorkers? Anyone who will hire you?
You need to be honest with yourself here, and if your niche is like one of the ones above, you need to narrow it down.
You should be marketing your marketing services to exactly one person. That’s right. Just one.
When you tailor your products and services to the specific needs of your one person, you’ll: do a better job, be seen as an expert, and end up attracting more people.
This is done by putting numbers and names to your target market:
• How big is the company? (measured in dollars of revenues, or number of employees)
• Which industry they work in (healthcare, personal development, technology, etc.)
• The region/area they operate in (New York, Eastern Ontario, the Bay Area, etc.)
So, for example, a reasonable target niche might be:
• Tech companies in Des Moines with fewer than 10 employees.
• Solopreneurs making less than $80,000 a year in Downtown Atlanta.
• Medical Professionals with 2-3 person partnerships in New Jersey.
Now that you’re targeting a specific, profitable niche, you need to create a brand identity that will effectively communicate your skills, attitude and specialization.
If you can align your messaging and how you deliver it with what your customers need to hear to make the best, most informed decision, they’ll be beating down your door.
Your business brand may not ever have quite the reach that hockey teams or news channels do, but that doesn’t mean that your brand can’t have a similar effect on your consumers.
You develop a brand by having a clear vision and value statement, and then making sure that they are reflected in every piece of your marketing – from advertisements straight through to customer service.
You should also keep in mind the qualities that you expect your target niche to respond to best to. Is it important to your ideal clients that they do business with someone hip and technologically savvy? Maybe it’s more important to them that you be trustworthy and reliable? Or maybe you’ll do best if you are an ultra-exclusive company, catering only to those with the highest of standards?
Once you’ve attracted the notice of a potential client, you need to really grab their attention and keep their interest. You can do this by having them “raise their hand” to say that they like what you are doing, and that they’re interested in learning more.
You see, it’s one thing to know that you have the skills and abilities to help someone, and quite another to make them see it! This step will establish a strong foundation for building a future relationship.
So how do you get them to actually do it? What makes a great hand-raising offer? Well, the offer itself should:
• Contain information the target is interested in.
• Provide real, useable value to the recipient.
• Pre-qualify the prospect, by appealing most to those who are best suited and most ready for your service.
• Not give away a system or process (that will make the customer feel as if they don’t need you).
Once you have the attention of some interested leads, you’ve got to close the sale and keep them happy. There are two main aspects to doing this:
Figuring out what to charge is one of the biggest problems that new freelancers run into. It’s often tempting to try competing on price, but that almost always leaves you underpaid for your work.
So what’s appropriate? The first step is to charge for outcome, not for budget. In other words, when you are designing your packages and services, figure out how much it’s really worth to the target customer to have their problem solved by your offer – and set your prices accordingly. Do NOT set your prices to attract as many customers as possible, because then you’ll end up with the wrong customers, and terrible margins.
Sealing the Deal
Once you’ve determined how and what you’ll be charging for your services, you have to communicate the value of what you’re offering to your lead. It’s also up to you to protect that sale, and nurture the relationship that you’ve created so that it will lead to more sales in the future.
This really comes down to determining whether or not there is a good fit between the customer’s needs and expectations, and the value that you’re offering. No trickery, no hard tactics, and no bullying... just an earnest exploration of fit.
Put everything that you’ve heard about high-pressure sales tactics out of your mind – just be sincere, honest and helpful, and the rest will take care of itself.
Growing a successful business isn’t about getting everything right the first time, but rather about getting some things right, fixing what’s wrong, and iterating towards success. So how do you do it?
The first step is to pay careful attention to what elements of your plan worked, and which ones didn’t. Make a point of keeping records of how different techniques work for you – that information will allow you to adjust your techniques, and refine your style every time.
You can also short-cut ahead of a lot of the trial and error involved in any new business by taking (to heart!) the advice of an experienced, trusted mentor. Having someone to turn to when you need advice, and to consult with on different issues you’ll be facing, can be a critical contributor to your long-term success.
So what can you expect from a good mentor relationship?
• A sounding board for your ideas.
• Honest criticism and feedback.
• Advice on different aspects of running a business.
• Reminders that you are capable of this, and no, you’re not crazy for trying.
• An objective viewpoint on your goals and priorities
• And lots more (every relationship is different, after all)
What’s most important at this stage is to decide what you want and need from a mentor, and then try to find someone who fits that profile. You may not find someone who has every quality on your wish list, but you’ll likely find someone who has the skills, abilities and attitude that will help compliment yours.
Now that you know what you’re looking for, here are some places that you can go looking for a mentor:
• Reach out to your personal network and ask if they know someone appropriate, and can make an introduction.
• Look to professionals that you respect in your industry. You probably don’t want to ask a direct competitor to mentor you, but someone who is familiar with the unique challenges posed by your industry will be very helpful.
• Hire a mentor. There are many coaches and consultants who have made their life’s work about helping others meet their business (and sometimes personal) goals.
• Ask around at community business organizations or your local chamber of commerce.
Unless you’re hiring one, never come right out and say “be my mentor!” You’ll scare off professionals like the boogeyman scares toddlers. Instead, start with a phone call or email with a simple question, and then ask for an opportunity to speak with them. If they seem receptive after a few of these, ask if they would be interested in a more formal ongoing relationship.
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