The gig economy has been steadily rising over the last decade, giving freelancers the ability to engage in a wide range of roles. It’s a career abundant with independence and growing global client prospects.
That said, it’s certainly not without its challenges. The inherent lack of stability requires you to constantly be on the hunt for new clients. Alongside this is the fact that while the field is growing, so too is the number of professionals pitching for work. There are now 6 million more freelance workers in the U.S. than there were in 2010. One of the primary ways you can address both of these challenges is with a solid approach to marketing your services.
Let’s explore some strategies and tools you can utilize to make yourself stand out from the crowd.
Know Your Demographic
Marketing isn’t a comfortable area for everyone. Indeed, a lot of freelancers have difficulty knowing where to start. With any campaign, it’s important to remember you’re trying to capture the attention of your audience, which means you need to know more about them. Conducting market research helps you to understand where you can best shift your marketing and pitches to reflect this.
Pain points can be a good focus here. Think of these as the problems your consumers are hoping to solve with your services. This isn’t just as simple as them wanting a writer to make blog posts or a designer to create a logo. Do some market research to look at what recurring challenges exist in your target sector’s businesses. Identify the areas they have trouble addressing internally. This gives you some focus for your marketing efforts.
You don’t just have to rely on external research. Your online platforms can provide useful insights, too. Many content management systems (CMS) provide data including your conversion rate, where your visitors are located, and even what pages they tend to click away from. Seeking assistance from a data specialist is wise in this regard. Data scientists and business analysts are both trained to review relevant raw data assets and translate their meaning to make them more practical to use in business. Plus, a business analyst's skill set in understanding a business’s needs and goals concerning the data can be relevant in shaping your freelance marketing campaign.
It can feel like a hackneyed phrase, but success in freelancing is not just about what you know, but who you know. Recommendations are often spread by word of mouth. Therefore, one of the best ways to market yourself in the gig economy is by getting to know more people.
This doesn’t mean to say you can’t get moving until you’ve built relationships with industry influencers. Getting your name out there can start with your immediate circle, like friends, family members, acquaintances, and even former colleagues or employers. Let them know you’re available for freelance work and make sure they have access to your portfolio.
It’s often more convenient if this last is provided as a link to an online space. Some of these people might be able to offer you work directly. Others will do some of the marketing leg work for you by both passing on your portfolio to their extended professional circles and giving you a boost with a personal recommendation.
Beyond your circle, it’s important to find opportunities to meet people. Take the time to visit industry-relevant conferences and events. This is not only a great chance to network, but it’s also an important self-care activity in getting you out of the confines of your home office. Make sure you bring some marketing materials along with you. This might be samples, a portfolio, or just a business card with a link or QR code that leads to your website. Don’t just distribute materials, though. You’ll find you are more successful if you treat this as an opportunity to start mutually meaningful relationships rather than transactional access to work leads.
Promote Your Expertise
It is not enough to pitch yourself as a professional in your marketing. There’s no shortage of freelance professionals in the world, and this approach is unlikely to get you noticed. Rather, you have to promote your expertise. Make it clear that your skills, insights, and experience make a tangible difference for your clients’ projects.
This should begin with either setting up a new website or refreshing your current one. Too many freelancers use this powerful marketing tool as just another online portfolio. Dedicate a section of your website to highlight not just the content of projects you’ve been on, but also the outcomes. Highlight which of your skills were used and how this directly translated into quantifiable results where possible. If your field is visual, give visitors insights into your ideation process as well as the final result — show them how you translate a basic client brief into something that goes beyond expectations.
Incorporating a blog onto your website also gives you opportunities to go in-depth on industry-relevant subjects that demonstrate your expertise. Don’t forget that search engine optimization techniques (SEO) on this and throughout your web content can boost your rankings too. Setting up a podcast or video series can be an entertaining tool to capture engagement with the added benefit that these are shareable via social media channels.
The fact that the gig economy is growing means there’s a lot more competition for jobs. Marketing is essential to boost visibility. Research your target clientele, network frequently, and find ways to promote yourself as an expert in your field. With consistent efforts, you can gain a solid client base.