By Troy Lambert
Common Solopreneur Marketing Mistakes
Freelancers face the same issues as other small businesses, but those issues are often magnified. Instead of just being an entrepreneur, a freelancer is often a solopreneur, doing all of the work themselves.
This often includes day-to day-accounting in preparation for taxes, invoicing and paying bills, and keeping business records up to date. At the same time, freelancers must also do their own marketing, create proposals, respond to requests, maintain their own website and social media, and still find time to do the actual work they were hired to do.
Essentially, a freelancer must perform all of the functions a normal company does. When it comes to marketing, this often means time is limited, so it often does not get the attention it deserves. Freelancers must be efficient in how they market and what marketing channels they use. Here are some common mistakes and how to avoid them.
Freelancers and other creatives often treat branding like it is a four-letter word. However, branding is essential to success. Customers must know who you are and what you do, and the way they do that is through your branding strategy.
This starts with something as simple as selecting your domain name. As a freelancer, you can either own your name, or you can own what you do. The choice is not always clear, but here are some tips to help you decide.
Do you have a common name? Google your name first. If you share it with a celebrity or have a common name, you may want to try a variation or choose a different type of website name.
Is the name you chose available? You can use some simple online domain name search tools to determine if the site name you want is available. If it is not, you might want to choose a variation. If a site that already has the name is popular, choose something else entirely.
Can the name be easily turned into a joke? “Today’s Apathy, Tomorrow’s Agony” seems like a good name for a site about climate change issues — until you see that the abbreviation and the site name spells “tataclimate.” This results in some obvious and horrible junior high type references.
Choosing a domain name is just one aspect of your branding, but an important one. It is the first impression you make, and can tell a client if you are internet savvy from the start.
You also must develop a mission statement. Mine goes something like this: “My goal is to make the internet a better place by telling better stories. My goal is not only to tell better stories myself, but to help individuals and companies tell their stories better through creating compelling content and implementing a well-developed content strategy.” It says what I do: I tell stories. It also tells what I do for other companies: I help them develop content and content strategy.
Your mission statement should describe why you do what you do: What is your goal? This is not why a customer should choose you over your competitor, or why you do things better. It is deeper. Why do you do what you do in the first place? What is your passion and vision for what you do?
Lastly, your identity and what you do must align with your mission statement. If you say your mission is one thing, and you do another, the message will not resonate with your clients. Your “why” is not a sales tool — it needs to genuinely represent who you are.
Taking Your Own Advice
What does your site look like? How much writing is there? How well does it both state and embody your brand?
If you are trying to get a client to hire you to create content and you have none of your own, your chances are much lower if they even cursorily check you out. What does your social media look like? If you are encouraging clients to do better, you need to be doing well yourself. You should be using LinkedIn and Medium along with other platforms to their full potential.
This is true no matter what kind of freelancing you do: a photographer needs sample photos, a videographer needs sample videos and clips, and so on.
As part of marketing and branding you need referrals and reviews, and when you advise company clients to do the same thing, you need to prove to them that you have taken your own advice to heart.
Not Using All Marketing Methods
There was a time when certain marketing methods seemed out of reach for freelancers and solopreneurs. Some content and marketing materials were seen as too expensive to create or simply too much trouble.
Video: Cameras used to be expensive, and production even more so. Now with YouTube, Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram live video options, creating video is pretty simple. For non-live video, there are a number of inexpensive or free video editors and other software both on and offline that can reasonably clean up your video.
You should use video for a number of reasons: it is easier to digest and gets the point across quicker than some other methods. The biggest perk may be that it connects with our emotions better than other marketing methods. It shows your humanity, and makes it easy for clients to connect with you.
Infographics and Other Visuals: Software has made these easy to create and share. Simple programs like Pablo by the social sharing app Buffer create compelling visuals you can add your own logo or branding to and easily share on social media.
Webinars and Podcasts: Webinars are much easier to create than they used to be, and are not as expensive as they once were. A good camera, a decent computer, and a solid internet connection are all you need, besides some simple screen sharing software. Podcasts are even easier, with a good mic and some simple software all that is needed.
They key to all of these marketing methods is time. Most do not require a great deal of financial investment. In some cases you can barter freelance work for what you need: barter some blog posts in exchange for studio time to do a webinar or podcast for instance.
When you initially get started as a freelancer, you will have to dedicate a large portion of your time to marketing — somewhere around 30 to 40 percent. Even once you have a steady stable of clients, you can’t stop marketing altogether. You never know when you might lose a big contract or even need more side business to get past a slow period.
You need to be clear about your branding, be sure you are taking your own advice, and use all of the marketing means at your disposal in order to be successful.