Last April, Sarah Grey gave a highly engaging and informative presentation on social media and marketing tools for freelancers, sharing insights from her time as project manager and her early days as a freelancer. This year, she expanded her presentation to include more marketing and professional networking strategies and advice on building client relationships and handling dry spells. She took several breaks for Q&A sessions, which gave the meeting a nice pace.
Sarah emphasized creating a specific brand that answered the questions “Who are you,” “What do you offer” and “Who are your target clients,” which have to be front-and-center on your business card and website. This is the elevator speech a freelancer tells everyone they meet because they never knew where their next job will come from.
With regard to the debate on specializing versus not specializing, Sarah said that doing as much as possible for as many people as possible may not pay well. Freelancers have to consider what non-obvious skills they could transfer to their business. For example, Sarah received the most referrals for political science-related books. Sometimes, the work finds you and all you had to do was take it.
Every freelancer has a client portfolio. According to The Freelancer’s Bible by Sara Horowitz, the blue chips are the clients that cover your bills – the ones you need to keep happy. Then, there are the jobs you enjoy the most, but don’t pay as well. The Hailey’s clients, as Sarah called them, come around once every 80 years and are not a dependable source of income. The one-offs (a résumé, a website) aren’t worth a lot of your time and energy because they aren’t likely to come back. The cattle calls are low-paying jobs advertised on Craigslist and freelancing sites. Its fine to take them when you’re starting out and have a hole in your schedule, but you can’t count on them. The new ventures are jobs you try just to see what would happen. When deciding to take one, consider where you want to be in five years and if you still want to be doing what you’re doing.
Freelancers can grow their business by obtaining testimonials and referrals and expanding their client relationships. All you have to do is ask people in your network if they know someone who has a need for the kind of work you do. If your client comes back to you with words of appreciation, ask them for a few sentences to put on your website or LinkedIn profile. To expand your business, tell your client about the range of services you offer. We assume that clients know these things about us, but they’re not giving us that much thought if they’re happy. You have to make sure our clients like you and be pleasant, prompt and easy to deal with. To build a relationship, you can go visit them in person. Sarah advised not talking about work too much and letting it come up naturally. You can ask things like “How did you end up in the language industry?” and look for points of connection.
Some print marketing tools you can use to find new clients are business cards (which are expected these days), a résumé, brochures and gifts. Your résumé must be well-formatted and free of grammatical errors. It should focus on what you’ve achieved rather than your duties. Freelancers should target their résumés and have separate ones organized around skill sets and client needs.
Brochures are going out of fashion. They’re useful to those who market their services at conventions, book fairs and language fairs, but you have to weigh their utility against their cost. As for gifts, pens are particularly great for getting your name out.
Every freelancer must decide how much of a website they need. Even if you work with agencies, having one means you’re a professional. Having a separate page for each service you offer (translation, editing, etc.) means you’ll come up in Google searches. The kinds of clients you’re trying to reach will determine your level of formality. It’s easy for someone to sell you an expensive website you don’t need. You can limit yourself to basic information. You may not be able to publish the names of your clients and projects due to signed Non-Disclosure Agreements, but you should if you can.
When posting on social media, you have to consider the value you offer readers. Reading about your latest project or product doesn’t do anything for them. Your post should hold their attention. If you post things that are interesting in your field, the client will think: When I have a job, I’ll go to that person. Helping people who ask questions on listservs and forums builds your reputation in the long run. Networking is all about the long run. Freelancers should understand their social media platforms (Twitter, YouTube, Facebook, LinkedIn, and Pinterest), list their services in business directories and post local ads. Sarah uses Facebook to drive traffic to her website. She recommended going to neighborhood meetings and having your elevator speech ready. A lot of people would prefer to work with someone local.
Sarah also cited Marketing Your Editing & Proofreading Business by Louise Harnby as a great resource.
In conclusion, she shared her networking tenets: giving, not getting, building a reputation, offering expertise, creating community and forging professional connections.