How to market yourself as a freelancer

Every freelancer will have a different way of marketing themselves. Depending on your industry, you may be torn between different marketing channels. 

The easiest way to start off in marketing your freelance business is to see what other successful freelancers are doing in your industry. How are they getting clients and converting them? 

Once you get a good idea of what they do, you can start developing similar processes and adapting them to fit your business. You should add your personal touches to the way you market and position yourself to the clients. 

If there are similarities between you and someone else’s marketing strategies, don’t stress it - this is normal. It goes without saying that you shouldn’t copy someone else’s work, but this article will help you understand those overlapping principles of marketing for all freelancers, so you can start marketing your business today.

What is the point of marketing?

First, you need to understand the goal of marketing. The first answer would be to build awareness for what you’re doing, right? But you also need to consider if what you’re doing is getting you the traction that you want. 

Blogging and social media are a great example.. Blogging and social media can show off what you can do for the client, but doesn’t alwayslead to client acquisition in the end. The reason for that is the disconnect between what you do with your marketing and what purpose your marketing serves. 

So yes - the main purpose of marketing is to create awareness for the services you offer,  and with that, the awareness should turn into opportunities. For example, promoting on Instagram and getting a lot of engagement isn’t favorable if you aren’t getting any conversions through that. This might indicate that the type of marketing that you are doing isn’t serving its purpose. 

The main point of freelance marketing is focusing on channels that create the most opportunities for you. Consider a return of effort basis. If you write 2 blog articles and get 5 clients in return, then it is a great return on your effort and you should keep using this channel . If instead, you get 2 likes and a couple of comments, it’s not worth your effort because it’s not creating opportunities. 

The purpose of marketing is to build awareness that then converts into opportunities. If the channel you’re using for marketing isn’t bringing you opportunities, you should change the channel. 

Understanding marketing channels

What is the right marketing channel for you? To answer that, you need to understand who your customers are and how they consume content.

If you are marketing to lawyers, using Instagram may not be ideal because lawyers don't have much time to scroll through their Insta feeds. So the engagement that you get on Instagram will be misleading, because people who are engaging with you will never become your customers.

It is to understand who you’re trying to replicate and which part of their freelancing journey the person is at. For example, people who have been in the industry for a while might opt for newsletters because that’s what converts the most clients for them. But the reason it works for them is that they have already built up the mailing list of a few thousand potential clients over the years.

Doing YouTube is another example of a marketing channel that takes time and effort to build up. Just because you see someone in your niche successfully converting clients through YouTube doesn’t mean that you can easily replicate what they do and get clients instantly.

Understanding where the freelancer is in their journey and what has led them up to this point is key to knowing why what they are doing is effective. 

Beginner freelancer: what should you focus on?

The best strategy for beginner freelancers is cold outreach, even if it is a big turn-off for a lot of people.

Why do most people turn away from cold outreach? Because people hate being bombarded with irrelevant and impersonal marketing in their inbox, which is understandable.

The trick is to make your emails personal to the business you are reaching out to. You can research a list of 30 customers you would like to work with and get the emails off their websites. Then you can write them personalized emails, saying why you reached out to them and how you think you can help them out.

The main point of the email is to get on a call with the companies. Then you can explain in detail what you do and how you see an opportunity to help the business. The call's purpose is to find out if the business has a problem that you can solve for them and if you can prove that you will convert a new client.

You most will likely receive one response from five companies that you reach out to. With that in mind, you can calculate your return on investment: let’s say you write 10 emails, 5 minutes per email. You will get 2 clients out of it, each of whom you charge $500 per month. That means you will receive $1000 per 10 emails and that is not a bad deal at all!

The same principles with cold outreach work if you want to do cold calls instead. Some freelancers also make short videos about the problem or area for improvement that they see in the business. That’s also a great way to stand out as a freelancer.

For a freelance beginner, it is better to find your clients before writing blogs or making videos on a social media account where a lot of the followers are your friends.

Notes about popular marketing channels

Each social media channel has its own benefits, so we will cover the most popular marketing channels in brief.

Blogging

If you enjoy writing, you can definitely blog. If you are a copywriter, it is a great way to  showcase the type of writing that you do. 

Distributing your blog through channels like Twitter or LinkedIn will help grow the reach of your blog. To get maximum return on effort, make sure to capture people’s email so that whenever you write your next blog you can just email your customer list telling them about it.

YouTube

YouTube can be a great way of marketing if you are ready to invest a lot of your time and effort into it. YouTube will produce a good return on investment if you are able to position yourself as an expert in your field. You should, however, expect that for roughly the first 50 videos, there you won’t get much traction. 

But after you are able to get to the 1000 subscriber mark things will start to snowball. You will be able to get subscribers faster and people will start reaching out to you. 

To be successful with YouTube marketing, you have to choose a niche that you can cater to. Big marketing agencies normally don’t have a niche because they can cater to any type of business. But for freelancers, you should really focus on a niche in which you can position yourself as an expert in.

Social Media

  • Facebook is not a platform where businesses can market organically anymore. Facebook or Meta used to be great for building awareness but unfortunately the algorithm changed in the last couple of years and it keeps changing, which makes organic outreach unfavorable for businesses. Unless you are using Facebook to simply repurpose content, Facebook will be a hard channel to succeed in.
  • LinkedIn. A lot of freelancers cater to businesses that have a presence and are on LinkedIn. So if you evaluate your audience and come to the conclusion that they are on LinkedIn a lot, then this marketing channel can definitely work for you.
  • Twitter. A lot of people in the freelance space have built their businesses around Twitter. But then again, you have to find a way to capture value, engage with customers and be able to convert them. It will take time to establish yourself in this space.

Newsletters

Newsletters are more effective than you might think! If you want to share value with the customer on the regular, it is a  marketing channel that can work for you. It creates an association with you and positions you an expert in your field. Reiterating this point, like any other channel, it will take time to build it up to the point where you start seeing meaningful results.

Paid Ads

With paid ads, you really only want to start investing in the channels that are already working for you for free. Basically, paid ads for you in this sense will just accelerate your process of getting clients on one of the social media platforms that works the best for you.

For example, if you are having a lot of success with Facebook Marketing organically, it makes sense for you to invest in Facebook Ads. If your YouTube content is fire and gaining attention, you should invest in YouTube Ads and so on.

If we take Unicorn Factory as an example, it had a huge success with SEO and therefore the marketing investments were put into the Google Search Ads, which turned out to bring amazing results.

Freelancing websites

Freelancing websites are a great way of marketing your freelance business especially if you are just getting started. In the beginning, when you want to establish yourself and get the ball rolling it’s the perfect platform for you.

Another advantage of freelancing websites is that the buying intent of potential customers is a lot higher because they are actively searching for freelancers. The downfall is the competition that you will face, both in expertise and prices of fellow freelancers.

As long as you have your pricing, client outreach process and processes for engaging with your customer, then these sites are good for you. You can also jump on and off them depending on how much work you want.

If you are a beginner, signing up for multiple platforms is a good idea. If you are looking for higher-value work, TopTal is a great place. That platform has the top 1% of freelancers from all over the world. If you just want to test the waters, Upwork and Fiverr will do the trick for you, as long as you keep in mind the chance of you getting underpaid since the prices are low compared to average freelance salaries. Unicorn Factory stands out from the competition by catering to local Kiwi businesses and encouraging them to hire local Kiwi freelancers. 

Freelancing sites can be great for you, so you should test them out and see what works best for you.

Conclusion

The best way to build a long-term marking strategy for your freelance business could include the following:

  • Outreach. Make a list of your dream clients and reach out to them. Aim to have a variety of them, small to medium to big. Be clear on what you can offer to them so that when you have that conversation with them you can outline the work that you do and how you can help them. 
  • YouTube. If you are a complete beginner and want to build a long-term marketing strategy, YouTube is a great place to start. It is the second biggest search engine nowadays, because people solve their problems by jumping onto YouTube to get answers. As opposed to Google it has a lot less of a competition and you don’t have to have SEO experience to stand out. YouTube on the other hand is great if you are creating content for a specific niche, and getting clients from YouTube will also lead to bigger opportunities like creating courses.