Why do I need to market and actively promote myself?

Although many newly qualified freelancers practice their skills as part of their salaried position, a significant number will also be entering the freelance market for the first time. Being a freelancer is, by definition, self-employment, which means that you are solely responsible for your visibility with potential clients. However, the idea of self-promotion can range from being effortless for some people to feeling outright unnatural or slightly distasteful for others. Nevertheless, backing yourself and being aware of the importance of marketing is a business necessity. The first step in creating a sustainable business and income is making yourself discoverable by letting people know what you can do, and especially what you can deliver.

What are my key messages going to be?

Now that you’ve completed the necessary training and acquired the essential skills, you are ready to take on some real jobs! If you have a pre-existing professional network that provides some entry opportunities, that’s great. If you’re starting out or you’ve made a recent career change, this is where things can be a bit more challenging. Regardless, this is when you need to forge ahead and define who you are and what your proposition is for future clients.

Knowing the business you are in is a good starting point, and at its core, the services you will offer will be unique and customised. This means that you can’t go ahead and assume that a standard marketing strategy that works for any product or service will work for you. For instance, just listing the features of your services is unlikely to engage people’s interest. Instead, you’ll likely have to provide a coherent value proposition that shows you understand your client’s needs and wants. Understanding the main challenges for a business and making your case as a problem-solver is as critical as highlighting what value you can add to their operations. A one-sentence value proposition is a powerful communication tool. It needs to contain the benefits of your services, describe the positive impact they will have on the public’s perception of your client’s business, and how your services will help them meet their operational or commercial needs.

Where do I start with marketing?

Once you have a general vision of the value you can deliver, the next step is to introduce yourself and communicate with future customers. This may cover a wide range of potential clientele, so it’s vital to spend some time matching your skillsets with ideal client groups to make this a more manageable task. For example, you may focus on a particular writing genre that you are familiar with, then consider the authors’ specific needs and how you will address them. Offering some free jobs can usually be traded for a helpful testimonial or two. Putting all these ideas in writing is good practice for getting key messages across in conventional print advertising, online and verbally in person.

Once you’ve clarified what you want to communicate, you may plan and implement some outreach activities:

  • Making personal contact with clients via ‘cold-calling’ means you can leave some tangible information about yourself even if your services aren’t required immediately. This is where preparing a business card, flyer, brochure, and CV may be helpful.
  • Sending your print advertising material to publishers, authors, and agencies that deal with a range of written content, as well as registering with freelancing agencies and directories, maybe a helpful way to get your name out there locally or globally.
  • Networking at professional writing festivals, trade shows, workshops, and conferences is a great way to make face-to-face contact with writers, academics, business people and students. These are prime opportunities to build rapport, practice your ‘elevator pitch’ skills and develop a profile with the client groups you want to work with. Again your business card is a vital tool for providing key contact details and a quick overview of your services.
  • Preparing follow-up online content to maximise your initial contacts is also an excellent way to cement early relationships once your ideal clients know you. Other types of material you may develop are:
    • Blog posts
    • Website and social media content
    • eBooks
    • Email newsletters
    • Guest blog posts (preferably on blogs that target your ideal clients)

In summary, using a range of marketing strategies will be a necessity to communicate with relevant clientele. Through trial and error, it will become clear what methods work best to enhance your brand and build your business.  Further details of preparing for freelance business are covered in a range of courses offered by NZIBS. that may be suitable. 

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