When you’re starting out as a freelancer, your skills at self promotion will determine your success to a large degree. Once you’re established, the quality of your work will speak for itself and you’ll get business from referrals — but when you start out, it’s all about selling yourself.
As a sales copywriter, helping people sell themselves is my area of expertise. So here are my three big tips for aspiring freelancers trying to get established.
#1: Make Contact
Send emails, make phone calls, do whatever it takes to let potential clients know you exist. Many successful commerical freelancers, like Peter Bowerman, recommend cold calling — I know it can work, although I’ve never done it myself. I have, however, contacted many potential clients on forums and through their websites.
When you’re contacting someone, it’s crucially important that you aren’t just sending a form letter — that’s spam.
Many potential clients don’t mind getting an email through their website as long as they can see you’ve taken the time to understand what they need and demonstrate that in your message. Long story short, make it personal and tell them what you can do for them, specifically.
#2: Spread the Word
Tell everyone you’re a writer. Start getting the word out through your network of friends. Make use of social networking sites like Facebook and Twitter. You can even get some cheap business cards made up if you like — there are plenty of sites that let you make cards using a template and get a couple hundred sent to you for a few bucks.
Don’t be shy with handing these out. The more cards you have floating around out there, the more people who know that you exist and that you’re a commercial writer, the more calls you’ll get enquiring about your services.
#3: Advertise Selectively
Advertising is a tricky one. Lots of writers never do it and are wildly successful — others swear by it as a necessity. Still others waste a lot of money on it and never see a return. So the moral of the story with advertising is to be very careful where you spend money and always start small, see what the returns are, and then only scale up if it’s worthwhile. Don’t go blowing $1000 on a full-page magazine ad just because you “think” it will work. Start small, track returns, scale up.
Always pay attention to your returns in various promotional streams and do more of what works. If an hour of cold calling gets you more leads than an hour contacting prospects on forums, scrap the forums and focus on cold calling. Figure out what works best and do more of it.