There are lots of advantages to being a freelancer, but some drawbacks, too. Among them is that it’s not easy to learn how to market your freelance business. After all, you don’t have a corporate machine behind you that can power your marketing strategy. However, don’t worry—with a little bit of effort and creativity, you can market your freelance business effectively.
In this guide, we’ll go over strategies for how to market your freelance business. This will give you a range of options, and you’re sure to find at least one that can help your company raise its awareness and garner exposure.
The secret ingredient in marketing your freelance business? You.
As we mentioned before, larger businesses typically have dedicated staff and budgets to help put their wares and services in front of potential customers and clients. Since you’re likely playing CEO, CTO, and COO of your freelance company all at once, there’s not a lot of time to add CMO to that list, too. But effort is everything—remember that the time you’re taking and money you’re devoting to marketing your freelance business will be more than worth it.
No matter the service or product you provide, there are ways to market yourself effectively. Some require a small capital outlay, while others are completely free. Here are a few ideas to market your freelance business. Some can even be implemented today, so you don’t have to waste any time spreading the word about your new business.
Have you ever looked up a business’s website for information on them? Then you should expect that potential clients will do the same for you.
If you don’t have a professional presence online, then you’re doing yourself a disservice. A strong web presence will help convince future clients of your abilities, show them whom you’ve worked with previously, and give them information on your background. If you’re competing against other businesses, you want to put your best foot forward.
Luckily, making a professional-looking website isn’t hard—there are lots of small business website builders that are incredibly easy to use. These website builders have many different templates that you can use, some of which are geared toward showcasing portfolios and clients, and others to feature physical products. You should expect to pay a hosting fee—essentially, a monthly fee for server space, and possibly a domain name if you don’t have one yet.
Content marketing is a big piece of the acquisition puzzle for many businesses, both large corporations and solopreneurs alike. But writing a blog post isn’t necessarily going to get you exposure to the audiences that you desire or expose you to potential clients. You need a way to get eyeballs on your content.
There’s where search engine optimization, or SEO, comes in. Strong SEO—the practice of incorporating certain highly searched keywords and phrases into your content—can help surface your writing to the audiences who are looking for it. We’ll be candid: It takes work to learn SEO, and you shouldn’t expect to be a master without time and effort. But if you are interested in marketing through content, it’s an invaluable skill.
View our guide to SEO strategy for small business owners to get started.
Keeping in mind the importance of search engines to expose you to potential clients, you’ll want to look into setting up business profiles on popular platforms. Among these are Google My Business, Angie’s List, and Yelp. Even if people aren’t necessarily searching for you directly on these platforms, they all rank highly on search engines, which can surface your profile when people search for you or the services you provide.
For an extra boost, encourage your current and former clients to leave you a review. Many people make choices based on testimonials and reviews. Best of all, they don’t cost anything. Of course, you can’t expect only positive feedback. Learn how to handle negative reviews, as well, so you make sure all of your customers feel heard.
Social media is great for fun—but it’s great for marketing your small business, too. You can use platforms such as Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn to showcase the work you’ve done for clients or products you’ve created. Think of these platforms as an extension of your portfolio website.
As you’re using social media for your business, remember to keep your business and personal profiles separate—you want to put your most professional foot forward. And make sure you keep your branding—and business name—consistent across all of your channels, business profiles, website, and more.
Although you may serve clients across the country (or even world), there’s a lot of opportunity in staying local. As a small business owner in your community, you have an inherent connection to others near you. And small business owners often want to support other small business owners—especially if it’s good for their local economy, too.
Marketing in your town might be as simple as posting a flyer on a community board at a popular restaurant or leaving a stack of cards at a friendly establishment. And don’t forget that “local” can also mean your county or state—it’s up to you how far you want to extend your outreach.
Make an effort to join local small business coalitions, or, if you don’t know of any, inquire with your municipality to see if there’s anything you don’t know about. Relatedly, there may be women-, minority-, or LGBTQ-owned business organizations you can join, or industry-specific groups. There may be a strong opportunity to market yourself there, too, especially if there’s an opportunity to support a community of peers.
Cold emails might seem scary, or at least daunting, but they can work if you are thoughtful about your approach. You’ve probably identified a target market for your services, so develop a strong pitch email tailored to these potential clients directly marketing yourself to them.
A strong cold email will provide answers to these questions:
Make sure to keep it brief, since people have short attention spans for cold outreach. We recommend writing a few drafts addressing these questions, and run them by a peer before you send out your email.
Another thing that might seem daunting: small business networking. There are very few people who are comfortable being in a room with strangers, making conversation, and marketing themselves. But it’s very important to take advantage of networking opportunities to make connections. Even if you don’t meet new clients at the events that you attend, word-of-mouth referrals and contacts are hugely important in opening doors for new business. It’s worth taking the leap to go to some events, even if it’s uncomfortable at first.
In addition to industry events, consider some alternative approaches, such as posting on local sites such as Nextdoor to let people know about the kind of business you run. Additionally, don’t underestimate the power of marketing yourself on LinkedIn, both in newsfeed posts and groups.
If you still feel uncomfortable with networking, take a baby step by reaching out to an individual you’d like to connect with or have in your network. Feel out the interaction and adjust your approach from there—you can even ask them for networking tips to break the ice.
There’s a lot of power in advertising platforms such as Facebook Ads (which includes Instagram), Google Ads, Twitter Ads, LinkedIn Ads, and more. These platforms enable you to create ads—either just with copy or with visual assets, too—to market yourself to their audiences.
The biggest advantage of using these services is that you can drill down on audiences, creating a targeted reach to those whom you think will be most interested in your freelance business. For example, if you focus locally, you can “geotarget” local users, or choose to have ads only show up to people in certain industries.
Another approach: If there’s a specific platform that customers are likely to find you on, consider looking into a way to promote your business (often, this manifests as getting you to the top of the list of related businesses).
Yes, using an ad platform will cost money. It’s worth considering even putting a small amount into advertising, however, since good ads can be a very effective way to expose yourself to not only new audiences, but also to “high-intent” audiences that are likely to be actively looking for what you provide.
It’s important to know that it might take some trial and error to find the best way to market your freelance business. And it will take a little bit of money, too—so don’t be afraid to spend a little on building your website, advertising, or whatever it is you’re interested in trying.
Above all, remember that the most integral part of marketing is relationships. Remember to keep your relationships strong with both your past and existing clients as well as peers who could potentially refer you via word of mouth. A little bit of money, kindness, and effort in marketing can go a long way.
Meredith Turits is a contributing writer for Fundera.
Meredith has worked as a writer and editor for more than a decade. Drawing on her background in small business and startups, she writes on lending, business finance, and entrepreneurship for Fundera. Her writing has also appeared in the New Republic, BBC, Time Inc, The Paris Review Daily, JPMorgan Chase, and more.