My freelancing career started way back in 2006 when I was studying Graphic Design in college.
I knew some people that were starting their own businesses, so I began designing business cards for them. Over the next few years, my design services expanded to include logos, letterheads, report covers, flyers, and event invitations.
I wasn’t making much, but it was a few extra bucks to enjoy on the side of full-time work.
I eventually turned my design skills into products for my Etsy shop, and started freelancing a lot more by designing wedding stationery. This worked out great for a few years… until I grew tired of the wedding stationery business.
So instead, I decided to start designing travel-related products, and freelance my other skills as well. Over the past few years, I’ve managed to make money by freelancing as a travel writer, content manager, social media manager, and photographer.
It’s taken a while to build up my freelancing career to its current level, but it’s actually not as hard as you might think to score freelance work. Here are 11 clever ways I’ve found to market yourself as a freelancer!
1. Word of mouth
Do a shout out on your personal social media accounts, and ask your friends and family whether they know anyone that would be interested in hiring you. You’d be surprised at how many people might need something done and just didn’t know that you offered those services.
When I started out doing freelance graphic design work, I got most of my first clients purely through word of mouth. Most of my initial business card designs were for people I knew personally, and my Mum got me a few gigs designing report covers for someone at her workplace.
Make sure that everyone around you knows what you’re doing and what you can offer if they need it.
2. Advertise your services on your blog/website
If you don’t have a blog or website yet, I highly recommend you set one up. It doesn’t have to be a blog (though a blog is a great tool for being found through Google search!) – it could be a website entirely dedicated to your services with a portfolio of your work.
If you already have a blog, you could create a Services or Hire Me page (like mine!) and link to it in your navbar. Your services page should include a description of what you offer, prices, testimonials, and instructions for contacting you. You could also create promo images to advertise your services page in your sidebar or footer.
This all might sound like a lot of effort, but if you want to offer your services online, then it’s essential to have your own blog or website. Having an online space is how people will gain trust in your services.
3. Create blog posts + work on SEO
The primary focus of most blogs is for a business to get clients or make sales. The reason that blogs work so well for businesses is because people often search for information online, so if they discover your helpful blog post, they’ll be directed to your website and become a potential client.
To take full advantage of getting freelance gigs through blog posts, you need to have your services page or portfolio website set up, and then you need to write some blog posts (related to your services) with SEO in mind.
For example, if I wanted to get photography gigs in NYC, I’d think about what my potential clients would be searching for online, and write a blog post about that subject.
My posts might be titled ’10 romantic photo locations in New York City’ or ‘The best spots for fashion photography in NYC’. I could then add a sales pitch at the end of the post, directing people to my services as a photographer.
4. Use Pinterest
I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again – Pinterest is a highly undervalued marketing tool for bloggers and freelancers.
If you create an interesting graphic for those nifty SEO-friendly blog posts that you just wrote and post it on Pinterest, it can drive traffic to your website for months after you Pin it. And the best thing about Pinterest is that you don’t need loads of followers or have to spend a crazy amount of time on the platform to see results.
5. Use email marketing
If you haven’t started an email list for your blog or website already, start now! An email list is the best way to get your services in front of people on a regular basis.
Social media posts can easily be ignored or unseen, but emails get delivered directly to everyone’s inbox. There’s no missing it. You can use email to share relevant content and spread the word about your services.
6. Network at events
When you work online, networking in person might not seem all that important, but actually, it’s one of the best things you can do for spreading the word about your services.
Think about it – whenever you meet someone new, one of the first questions you’ll get asked is ‘What do you do?’. You can immediately answer this with an elevator pitch about your freelance services!
7. Network online
I know I just said that networking in person is super important, but networking online also has potential for spreading the word, especially if you’re offering online services. This has probably been the most successful way that I’ve gotten clients in the past year.
A great place to start is by joining a few Facebook groups for people in your field. You can search for groups on Facebook by entering a search term like ‘Bloggers New York City’ into the search box in the top bar, then filter your results by groups.
You’ll have to check the rules of each group in regards to self-promotion, but your might be able to post an offer for your services in there, or keep an eye out for people who might need your services. I got a great photography gig in NYC by doing this!
8. Use Facebook ads
For this one you might need to spend a little money, but don’t write it off – Facebook ads can be very successful for spreading the word about your services. I learnt about Facebook ads in a Digital Marketing course, and I’m planning on using them for some upcoming projects later this year.
The best thing about Facebook ads is that they can be targeted to very specific people, like people who are subscribed to your email list, or people who have visited your website before.
9. Give away your services for free
This might sound counterintuitive, but it’s actually one of the best ways to spread the message. For example, I gave away my design services when I offered a free personally designed trip map to one lucky person who took my annual survey.
By offering my services as a prize, I then made everyone who took my survey aware that I offered personally designed trip maps in my Etsy store. This resulted in a few sales of the trip map in the months following the giveaway!
You could also trade your services to an online influencer in exchange for exposure. If you’re a photographer, you could give them a free photo shoot in exchange for a review of your services on their blog. Just make sure your services have the same value as what you’re receiving in return.
10. Create a free resource
It’s a fact of life – people love free shit. You can use free resources as a tool to get clients. People won’t mind if they receive a sales pitch for your services somewhere in the resource, because they’re just happy that they got a bunch of free stuff.
Your free resource could be a download, a webinar, or a workshop. I’ve used free downloads and e-courses as free resources on AGWT.
11. Create how-to guides
You might think that creating a how-to guide in your field will deem your freelance services invalid, but actually that’s not the case – this makes you come across as an expert in your field, and the fact of the matter is that most people just don’t have the time or patience to figure out how to do these things.
If they can see that you know your shit, then they might just decide to hire you instead of doing it themselves.
How-to guides could be in the form of blog posts, videos, or downloads. Just make sure that your services are clearly offered somewhere within your how-to guide.