Its likely that as a freelancer you dread the marketing part of your job. Convincing people to buy your design products, resources or services isn’t your cup of tea. If you’re just starting out, it may feel downright imposing to be telling people in an enthusiastic tone „Hey! This is me! You’ll want to give me your money once you get to know what I do!” And you’d be right. We all have an underlying belief regarding loud, flashy advertising of any kind.
Quality work speaks for itself, has dignity and most definitely doesn’t force itself on people. But hey, things have changed more and more over time and now , even if you know you have the skills to pull off a complex design job, so do many other people. And while some may be wrong in their over-confidence, they may get themselves hired simply because they were there, in the prospective clients’faces.
So, you need to stop thinking in outdated terms. You are trying to get ahed in a very loud world and while no one is telling to change yourself, what we are suggesting is tweaking some of your methods.
Here’s a short checklist of what the marketing part of freelancing should consist of, in terms of business attitudes and tactics.
1. Make Yourself Heard
One of the first and most important things is realizing that putting yourself out there shouldn’t necessarily reflect on who you are. It’s not personal, it’s business, and it’s common sense to realize that clients can’t hire you if they don’t know of you. So what you’re really doing is placing yourself among the alternatives they research when in need of someone handling a certain project.
If you were to work in a company, wouldn’t you be paid to be available, to answer phone calls and to speak your mind regarding whatever job you might have? This shouldn’t change when you’re working on your own terms.
Professionalism gets good reputation. So don’t hesitate to call back immediately when discussing your involvement in a job, however many times that means. When you’re contacted, you should be there. When you’re giving someone a pitch, make sure you let them know you want this job.
2. Be Selective In Taking Jobs
While you may be in need of extra income, you should think of what you’re putting out there in terms of work results. You should definitely find your niche and still be flexible around that, but a big part of being believable is knowing what you want to do.
By taking on challenging jobs that you enjoy, you’d be working on your skills and your brand at the same time. It’s a win-win situation, for you and the client both. Maybe you feel passionate about green living. Specialize by working with organic small business in your area (or beyond) or take jobs somewhat related to that niche.
On the other hand, taking on everything that comes your way might keep you busy, but it may be damaging in the long-run. Try different things that you find useful, but make sure you’re always be satisfied with each and every design you produce, enough to show it to a potential client and to get him to use you.
3. Don’t Refuse Challenges
It’s happened many times, the client turns out to be interested in you as a problem-solver. So he asks of you to fulfill some other of his requests, still related to the project, but diving into other areas of expertize. If you don’t feel confident, you can refuse – but it won’t be your best move. Marketing is all about getting yourself known in a positive light. There is such a thing as bad publicity when freelancing.
Knowing your trade is knowing what comes with it. For example, maybe you’ve been working in product design, but the client also needs an awesomely illustrated banner and your graphic design background – or interest – may come in handy.
Of course, your extra tasks also mean getting a little bit more money, as well as building yourself the reputation of a dedicated worker who isn’t afraid of trying new things.
4. What’s Your Fee?
We can’t really vouch for this strategy in good conscience, except if you already have enough business to fill your days. It’s related to the feeling you get when you’re suspicious of a product that looks otherwise appealing because of its low price. Why isn’t it worth more? Apparently, worth and price tend to go together in people’s minds, and this as true for design services as it is for supermarket products.
You don’t really want to attract a lot of low-paying jobs (and more than likely, not that challenging), your goal needs to be not overexerting yourself while still making a decent income. The quality concepts and size of your projects should go hand in hand with your revenue. If that’s not readily accessible, it’s okay. But be sure to keep that in mind.
5. Use Risk-Reversal
Sure, we just told you to raise your fees, but one way to ensure your client’s trust is suggesting that you get paid up front and if they aren’t satisfied with the outcome, they will get their money back while you get to keep all rights to said product. Word-of-mouth marketing is sure to be generated from this attitude and you have only to gain. You can guarantee satisfaction, either with a great project or with their money back. It’s not really a risky situation, keep in touch with your client and be sure to ask for feedback in order to avoid the unlikely, but very unpleasant situation that he’d want his money back.
6. Networking – From Friends To Big Reach
As you start marketing yourself, who are the first few people to hear about you? Of course, your family and friends. And from that point on your network grows, through people they might know and need your services. This doesn’t need much effort from you, just be sure not to be too secretive about your endeavors when talking to people you already know.
However, you don’t need to sit by and wait for referrals. Do your homework and find out who your potential clients are. If you’re the typical freelancer, not really bothered by working from home and such, you wouldn’t like to go throwing yourself in people’s faces. But as, we’ve said before, stop your assumptions. Unless someone tells you ‘Thanks, we don’t need your services’, you should feel optimistic about every opportunity to let a company/ a publication/ anyone else in a face-to-face environment about who you are and what you do.
With the referrals and your own research results might even overlap if you don’t live in a big city, or if your niche isn’t that well-catered for in your area.
7. Beyond Borders: Cross-Cultural Awareness
A little something for our more advanced freelancer readers – alright, so you’ve made it locally. You’ve made yourself known and now you realize that your product could well serve people in other countries and cultures. Why shouldn’t you go international with your campaign? After you’ve gained some reach nationally, usually by advertising in the right places where your crowd hangs out, you can do the same internationally.
But mistakes have been made by top players while advertising their services or products in other countries where cultural and language barriers sometimes arise.
Pay attention to details. If you get a design job for a Japanese website for example, be sure to learn a bit about what the elements you’re using in your project might symbolize for the Japanese target-public. This is only corollary to the idea of "Knowing your audience".
If you’re working in packaging, you’ll have to design your packages for a market very different from your own, so make sure you know the ins and outs first. Why does your client think that product will succeed on a foreign market and what are their own strategies for selling the product, are a few things you should know before you get to start working.
A good example of this oversight would be a Toyota company trying to sell a car model called Nova on the Spanish market. Well, "nova" means "it doesn’t go" in Spanish. So, there you go.
These are some of the best practices we’ve managed to put together here. The general idea is to know what you want to do and why you want to do it. Determination in doing the creative pat of your job should directly influence your desire to put yourself forward.
How do you go about your marketing strategy? Do you dread it or are you getting the hang of it. And by all mans tell us has anyone ever slammed the door in your face after letting them know of your design portfolio and offer?
Written by Andra Postolache: Andra Postolache is the PR and Editor of Pixel77 and Designious. She’s passionate about writing, Marketing and animal prints. Get in touch with her on Twitter and Google+.