Freelancing Advice: How to Market Yourself Online & Get More Clients

how to market yourself online and get clients

How do you intend to stand out from the crowd? 

The question is existential, but it’s an important one.

Half of all small businesses fail in five years, and solopreneurs’ success rate is even lower. I don’t say that to scare you. On the contrary, it should motivate you.

As a small business working your way out of the reeds, you can’t take anything for granted, including the splash you can make via digital marketing.

Are you still learning how to market yourself effectively? Keep reading to learn How to Market Yourself Online & Get More Clients.

1. Establish an Online Presence

If you’re not online yet, you can’t really grow your business and improve how you’re marketing yourself without investing in advertising and printing.

If you don’t exist online, then not many new people can find you. So you need to establish an online presence.

At a bare minimum, you need:

  • A website
  • A LinkedIn profile
  • Any industry-relevant professional profiles

All these pieces need to be live and filled with relevant information, including your current work, contact information, and references.

I personally used this setup to get my online presence started:

  • A website with regular blogs being published and portfolio galleries.
  • Profiles on all major social media channels – and only content on the channels I wanted to focus on (Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest).
  • Industry-relevant professional profiles.
  • Free business listings on business directories.
  • Profiles in places like Behance, Growth Hackers and Medium who have a solid audience and exposure already where I could share portfolio works, expertise, network with other businesses, and share content where it is more likely to be found via google search.
  • A google business listing and sharing images and posts to the profile.

If you don’t have an online presence, you’re not ready to start marketing yourself. So go! Get building.

2. Send Cold Outreach & Follow Up Emails Regularly

Cold calling and cold emailing are a tough gig to crack, especially when you’re just starting out and are looking to get your first clients to your name. But it doesn’t mean you need to dial for dollars. On the contrary, you should only cold email clients who can clearly benefit from your services. If their website is slow, graphics are outdated, or their blog is non-existent, and your services fit their needs, reach out.

To make your cold emailing more likely to be opened and read, include the following:

  • Try to source the decision-makers direct email not admin or info.
  • Use their personal name in your email.
  • Reference something you like about their business, approach, offerings, online presence.
  • Share the gap you noticed and your offering on how you can fix it for them (keep it all about benefiting them, not about what you do, and keep it short and sweet.)
  • Invite a response, either reply or call you.
  • Include an email signature with your photo and contact details.
  • Schedule a follow-up for 3-7 days later.

Use Social Media for cold outreach

Sliding into someone’s DMs isn’t just done after 5PM. You can use this technique to reach out to new clients on social media.

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However, it’s very obvious when the same DMs are copied and pasted to everyone. So, make your DMs personal and purposeful.

Your conversion rate will reflect the time you spend actually investing in human relationship building before selling. Even the littlest touch of addressing the owner by name when you drop into their DM inbox gets more people reading on rather than deleting your message.

Follow people who would benefit from your services and start by engaging with them in public. Like and comment on their photos, re-share their content, or even offer to connect them with someone who isn’t you.

Then, when you do end up in their inbox, they already recognise your name and know that you’re a great contributor to their social channel already. It adds credibility to your pitch and positions you as a helping hand rather than just freelancer hoping for work.

The best conversions and increase brand impressions come from follow-up.

Why? Because it shows you care.

If you did a one-time project for a company and haven’t heard from them again in 6 months, let them know you’re still alive and available for more work. Perhaps even share your latest offer with them.

Schedule time in your calendar every week or every month to send a quick follow-up email to past clients.

Back when I was starting out as a freelancer I’d send cold outreach emails early in the week, and then lead follow-up emails later in the week. I would also schedule in past-client check-ins at the start of the month.

Pick a schedule that works for you, take action, and stick to it for a while so that the momentum starts rolling for you.

3. Keep Your Marketing Efforts Consistent All Year

The biggest mistake freelancers in all niches make is only marketing when they need more work.

Taking a sporadic approach to marketing is what contributes to the feast-and-famine freelance cycle. It’s also a great contributor to burn-out and overwhelm.

We (and I say we because I was just the same!) go hard at marketing, get a bunch of new clients, stop marketing to focus on working real hard to finish all the work, finish off all the projects and realise we dont have new work coming in, so go hard at marketing again, and the cycle repeats.

There is no flow to this cycle. It’s go hard at marketing, go hard at working, repeat.

With this approach you will find that taking a holiday is near impossible because it’s eating into work time which impacts your delivery schedules, or eats into marketing time which can drag out when new money comes in.

A simpler approach is scheduling at least 1 hour a day for marketing (which is only about 10-20% of your weekly “working hours”). When starting out I was probably investing 60-80% of my working time on marketing activities to setup the presence and systems I required to acquire the clients I needed.

This keeps your client flow steady, income steady (or steadier anyway!), and your sanity in-check.

It may be a chore now, but it will prevent you from scrambling later.

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To keep my digital marketing consistent in early freelancing days I used to:

  • Create a special offer for each month and share it with past clients, social media, prominently on the website.
  • Blog once a week and share to social media and email list.
  • Share testimonials and feedback on social media and on the website.
  • Share completed projects to Google Business profile, Pinterest and other social media channels.
  • Spend time daily engaging with existing and potential clients on social media.

4. Blogging and Interviews

Blogging (or vlogging if you aren’t into writing) is the solopreneur’s secret weapon, and it can easily win you more business than you can handle.

Your blog establishes you as someone who knows what they’re doing. It’s a nice way for potential clients to learn about you and determine whether they are aligned with your approach or not.

Blogs are also essential for SEO. It gives you a chance to rank with more keywords and gives Google more pages to crawl.

I’ve found blogging to be an easy way:

  • for people to learn about what I do.
  • for new clients to find me online without me having to constantly market myself with paid advertising.
  • to quickly take leads from cold to hot by demonstrating knowledge and expertise.
  • to share answers to those FAQs you get ALL the time.
  • to generate smaller chunks of content for social media.
  • to get people on my mailing list.

Other avenues for wider reach and exposure (that usually don’t cost you anything) include:

  • Guest blogging on other sites where your target market read/frequent
  • Guest blogging or opinion references on industry sites for profile building and juicy backlinks
  • Being an interview guest on video series, group programs or podcasts is a great way to be featured in front of other people’s audiences. (Super handy if you have a small audience)
  • Featured contributor to digital magazines and blog-zines.

Getting your content on other people’s sites opens up a new, established audience and provides you with all-powerful backlinks.

5. Have A Strategy

So all of the things I’ve mentioned in this article are great, but can also become an overwhelming and under-performing nightmare for you if you don’t have a strategy.

Your strategy is essentially your purpose behind the creation and sharing of each piece of content, and your purpose behind why you’re active in certain places online.

This purpose will include details such as:

  • who you want to see your content;
  • the way in which you want to show up online; and
  • the type of action/response you’re looking for.

And further to this, your purpose may vary for each space in which you are building your online presence.

For example, on Facebook you may be sharing portfolio work to showcase your skills and services to potential clients. Whereas on an industry site, you might be sharing your portfolio to build your industry profile among peers or generate backlinks to your website.

You may also be guest blogging to establish yourself as an industry leader, or you may be guest blogging to attract new clients.

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To market yourself effectively you need to the purpose behind what you’re sharing and where.

So in short, while you are mapping out where you will be building your online presence and your consistency plan, take note of WHY you using those selected platforms and WHY you are sharing those specific types of content on those platforms.

6. Track, Analyse, Optimise and Grow

As with anything in business, if it’s not working, improve or pivot to get better results.

To know if your approach isn’t working, you will require methods of tracking. Either manual or via apps.

For example:

If your strategy is cold-emailing, manually track in a spreadsheet who you are emailing, when, response time, conversions.

If your strategy is SEO Blogging, track website visitors coming from Organic Search using Google Analytics, and conversions to leads from blogs.

If you are tracking how you are marketing yourself you can easily see what’s working so that you can do more of that, and you can easily see what’s not working. From this data you can make informed decisions to drop strategies that aren’t working at all, optimise strategies that could be performing better, or pivot and trial a new approach to marketing your business.

Do You Need Help Marketing Yourself & Improving Your Online Presence?

Learning how to market yourself online can be a steep learning curve for many freelancers and small businesses. But it’s quite honestly the difference between the feast and famine cycle and consistent cash flow.

Marketing your business should be an enjoyable exercise – not a chore – because all marketing is is sharing your expertise, your passions, your journey, and how you like to serve people.

And marketing can be enjoyable if you keep it connection focused instead of spammy, show up with purpose, chip away at it a little at a time but regularly, and delegate what you can when you can.

If you’re a stuck in the feast and famine cycle and want a clear path to consistent cash flow, book in for a marketing ideas session to mastermind with me on how you can effectively market yourself online to get more clients.

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