The freelance life is really catching on these days. From workplace-weary professionals to recent college graduates, many are excited by the prospect of setting their own schedule and working from the comfort of home.
In the past, the best ways for freelancers to get their names in front of potential clients were non-digital. Cold calls, query letters, and in-person networking were all ways the would-be freelancer could try and land a gig. Those methods worked, and they still can – sometimes.
But social media is shaking things up. Freelancers like me are now finding new business without making nerve-wracking phone calls or even leaving the house. Whether you are looking to freelance full-time or just want a few projects you can tackle on the side, the following tips will help you market yourself through social networks, build connections, and get new clients.
1. Make time for social networking.
If there’s one thing all freelancers know, it’s that they can spend just as much time marketing their services as they can practicing their craft, especially when they’re starting out. Work social networking into your regular marketing regimen. For every query letter you write, for example, you might reach out to two new contacts on Twitter. This alone can get you hundreds of contacts every year, and it takes very little effort.
For those worried about the time investment needed to utilize social media, consider how much time is spent attending face-to-face networking events and banking phone numbers for cold call lists. Setting a goal of just one new contact per day via Twitter or LinkedIn takes much less time and energy than either of those traditional marketing methods, and it’s a much less intrusive way to reach your audience.
2. Know your audience.
Who are you trying to reach? Answering that question should tell you who you need to target on the social networks. It’s certainly possible to start following as many people as possible on Twitter, get several to follow back, and breathe a sigh of relief at all the “social proof” provided by your new arsenal of Twitter followers.
But lots of connections might not a happy freelancer make. It’s important to focus your efforts on those people and industries that are likely to generate new leads for you. Following the tweets of 200 professionals in your niche is much more valuable than following just anybody.
Freelancers who know their audience are able to forge relevant business relationships through social media, and one high-quality contact is worth far more than a million who will never bring you any business.
3. Build your brand.
If you’re a full-time or part-time freelancer, you’re also a small business owner. While creating and maintaining a personal brand is necessary for every professional, remember that freelancers who market through social media also have a professional brand – their business – which is inseparable from their personal brand.
When you freelance, you are your business and your business is you.
Does that mean you’re not free to “be yourself” when using social media? Of course not! On the contrary, you will have the opportunity to display your business to the world with every digital interaction – no matter how “personal” that interaction is. Just be sure the message you send to friends, family, and professional contacts on the social web is one you’re not afraid to associate with your freelance efforts.
4. Utilize multiple channels.
If your results from Twitter are so-so at best, add another network to your social media repertoire. You might be the type of freelancer whose audience is less active on Twitter than LinkedIn, Facebook, or another network. What’s more, you may find your style is more suited to one network than it is to another. The only way to know which ones are best is to try several.
But before you decide one network isn’t best for your business, make sure you’re using it to its fullest potential. Don’t discount LinkedIn, for instance, if you haven’t asked for recommendations and haven’t mingled in several group discussions over an extended period of time. If you’re not taking advantage of what each network offers, you’re unlikely to see results.
Whether it’s full-time or part-time, freelancing has always held professional advantages. Doing great work on behalf of a variety of organizations allows you to connect with scores of contacts who could be helpful down the line. Social media, when properly utilized, lets us freelancers turn our networking up a notch.
Adam Green is a freelance copywriter and language devotee. When he isn’t exploring uncharted corners of the world or performing deviant acts of goodwill like James Bond, you will find him taking it easy on his front porch in Atlanta, Georgia. You can follow him on Twitter @AdamGreenMedia.