Saturday, October 1, 2011

Marketing Strategies for Freelancers

I'm going to wander a little more than usual in this post, into an area that one may not think of as creative: marketing. I recently attended the Northwest Independent Editors Guild's third Red Pencil conference. If you're a freelance editor hibernating in her cozy Pacific Northwest den, you don't want to miss this event; it's unerringly inspiring and a great way to meet other grammatically hip lone wolves.

This year, we were treated to such saucy sessions as "Twitter for Word Lovers" with business consultant Catherine Carr, "Just Enough Marketing for Freelancers" with digital technology consultant Frank Catalano, and "Subversive Copyediting" with The Chicago Manual of Style's very own Carol Fisher Saller.

Here are my notes from the marketing session (although I have to admit that I couldn't keep up with Frank's generous and brilliant flow of advice).

A. Start with a strategy. This is not a to-do list; it's an approach. A key message. Ask yourself what you do best that no one else can do. Then create the following (the more specific you are, the more successful you'll be):

1. Customers. Who are your ideal customers? Where do they work? What are their job titles? What is their motivation for hiring you? For whom are you considered an expert?

2. Competition. Who do your customers see as your competitor? This may be different from who you see as your competitor. In the case of freelance editors, for example, this could be editing software, online editing mills, bad writing, and so on.

3. Core Competencies. What are you really good at? What are your skills? What is your area of expertise? What approach do you bring? What kinds of clients do you work with?

4. Course. Triangulate points 1, 2, and 3 to chart your course.

B. Once you're charted your course and know who your potential clients are you, can get busy applying the following marketing tactics. Of the 9 key modern marketing tactics, Frank picked out the 5 that will give freelance editors the most bang for their buck. Keep in mind that if it doesn't reach your core clients, you shouldn't do it.

1. PR and Social Media. (Your Publicist.) Use social media to establish your area of expertise and put you in front of potential clients. Twitter is your broadcaster. LinkedIn is your digital CV. Remember: You're not trying to reach everybody--just 2 or 3 good responses that will bring you work and keep you busy.

2. Direct Marketing. Always follow up after you make a connection with someone, preferably by pointing them to a resource. Include your contact info. Handwritten notes always stand out.

3. Website. (Your Front Door.) Your website is the landing place for all of your marketing efforts. You can use it to link to your presence everywhere else (social media, blogs, other websites for other projects, and so on). It only needs to be a few pages and should include the following:

     - a succinct, specific description of what you do, for whom you do it, and how to reach you
     - high-profile resources (articles you've written, content, notes from conferences [voila!])
     - your physical location (at least the city or time zone)
     - a phone number or Google voice number
     - your photo
     - links to social media (Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, etc.)

You could also include:

     - testimonials from 3 or 4 clients     
     - a list of clients

Don't include:

     - a list of fees
     - dated references (check and update every 2 to 3 months)

Frank also recommends owning a domain and using that domain name for your e-mail.

4. Events. Take advantage of public speaking opportunities--especially in front of your target audience. This gets your name out there as an expert.

5. Packaging. This is you.

You can learn more in Frank's blog posts "Myths and realities of marketing" and "Build a web presence ecosystem" and by visiting his website

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