How to Get Your Marketing Done (Even if You Hate Marketing)

Carol Tice

Ed Gandia, co-author of The Wealthy Freelancer

by Ed Gandia

When fellow freelance writers tell me how much they hate to market and sell their services, I know exactly what they’re talking about.

I used to feel the same way. In fact, I once swore I’d never market or sell anything for a living.

Yet my first job out of college was in sales. So was my second. And my third. And today I have to market and sell my freelance services every week.

Yes, I eventually moved past this anti-marketing kick. (I had no choice if I wanted to put food on the table!) But looking back at what happened, I now realize why so many freelance professionals avoid this critical activity. They either:

  • Fear rejection
  • Have too little time to get it done
  • Feel overwhelmed by all the marketing advice out there

(And in many cases, they avoid it for all three reasons!)

Let’s look at each of these in more detail, because truly understanding these obstacles is the first step to finding better solutions to the marketing dilemma.

The Fear of Rejection

The first reason so many freelancers avoid prospecting for clients is the fear of rejection.

We don’t want to feel like we’re bothering our prospects. We don’t want to get hung up on, or told that we’re not a good fit. And we certainly don’t want to send out a bunch of queries or prospecting letters only to get zero response.

That would be devastating to many of us!

At the same time, we also don’t want to feel like we’re “selling” something. Selling in general has a negative connotation in our society. Most of us associate it with annoying telemarketers, used car salespeople or timeshare con artists.

So we avoid it. And we tell ourselves that our work, skills, experience and track record should be enough to attract good clients.

No Time to Market

The second reason we procrastinate when it comes to self-promotion is the time-intensive nature of the process. I mean, it just never ends! You have to promote your business constantly. Yet finding time to do it on a weekly basis is hard, especially if you’re up to your neck in work at the moment.

Then again, if you prospect for clients only when the work dries up, you’ll constantly be in feast-or-famine hell, working for progressively lower rates. That’s because it may take several weeks to land the next gig. And by the time you come across that opportunity, you’re so desperate, you’ll take itβ€”even if the rates are less than ideal.

And so the cycle continues.

“Tool du Jour” Confusion

Finally, many of us avoid marketing because we’re simply overwhelmed with all the different strategies we’re supposed to implement! It’s the “tool du jour” hype, aka “the shiny metal object” syndrome.

Every time you turn around, someone’s preaching about the latest and greatest social media tool. Or a new, must-have plug-in for your website. Or some “ninja” YouTube strategy you have to implement immediately.

But really, who can keep up with all that stuff? And even if you did keep up with all the latest tactics and gadgets, by the time you implement them… they’re already outdated!

All this “noise” creates an incredible amount of confusion and fear among freelancers who are simply trying to figure out how to land more and better clients on a limited budget and with a limited amount of time.

I’m not saying these tools and techniques have no value. I’m suggesting that too many of us get caught up in the tools themselves and lose sight of the end goal: landing great clients and good-paying work.

What’s Standing In Your Way?

How can this information help you market your services better and more consistently?

First, be honest with yourself. What’s keeping you from marketing better and more consistently? Is it a fear issue, a time issue, or are you simply overwhelmed with all the options out there? Take some time to really think about this.

From there, look back at the last five clients you’ve brought on board and ask yourself: “How did I land these clients? What prospecting strategy attracted (or helped me land) each of these clients?”

Did most of them come via word of mouth? Query letters? Active local networking? See if there’s a pattern. And if you find a pattern, ask yourself what’s keeping you from doing more of what’s already working.

Better yet, if you’ve been freelancing for a while, take this one step further:

  • List your last 10 –15 clients
  • Rank them based on how much you enjoyed working with them and how profitable they were for you
  • For your top 5 clients on this list, what marketing strategy was responsible for bringing each of them on board?

Again, look for patterns. This list can be particularly helpful because it may pinpoint one or more marketing strategies that are enabling you to attract profitable and enjoyable clients. Once you know what these strategies are, you can start to see the value of doing more of them.

Focus on the Reward

Finally, focus on the reward you’ll get from doing the kind of prospecting you know you have to do.

My friend and colleague, Nick Usborne, recently wrote about this in his blog. He pointed out that as freelancers, we all have our own moments of fear and terror. We all procrastinate from time to time.

To get past these fears, doubts and insecurities, we need to keep our eye on the reward we’ll get if we plow ahead and do the thing we fear anyway.

My reward is getting that signed contract (I love the feeling of seeing it in my inbox!). Or being able to treat my wife to a nice dinner at our favorite restaurant. Or knowing that I’ll have great cash flow for the next couple of months.

What About You?

What stops you from doing the kind of marketing you know you should be doing? Is it one of the problems I mentioned, or is it something else?

Better yet, what motivates you to forge ahead despite your fears, lack of time or marketing overwhelm? Leave a comment and tell us about it.


  1. Ali

    I hate “most forms” of marketing because they are boring + “too little time to get it done” πŸ™

    • Ed Gandia

      I know what you mean, Ali! The fact that most forms of self-promotion are not very exciting to many freelancers is a big reason many don’t do it as consistently as they should. Thanks for your comment! πŸ˜‰

  2. Ruth Zive

    I do less marketing, much more cold calling and direct prospecting. I find the former to be very overwhelming and confusing – I rarely know which strategy to embrace. But picking up a phone, or sending out a slew of emails to targeted prospects – THAT I am able to do. THAT is my bread and butter and it yields tangible, identifiable results. ‘Marketing’ seems much more vague and not quite as measurable. But I’m trying to learn how to market myself more effectively. Great post – I am going to check out the training series for sure!

    • Ed Gandia

      Thanks for the feedback, Ruth! Good stuff. I used the word “marketing” here in a general sense. A better word would probably be “prospecting,” which I define as being more proactive than general marketing (which can have more of a “branding” connotation for many).

      Glad to hear this resonated with you. And, yes, check out the training series. I think you’ll find some good ideas you can start putting into practice right away.

    • Carol Tice

      Well, cold calling and prospecting ARE marketing by me! That’s your marketing plan. And kudos for doing the analysis and knowing what’s working.

  3. Kevin K Lau

    OUTSOURCE–if you are too busy to do the marketing yourself.

    • Carol Tice

      I’ve always sort of fantasized about doing that, Kevin, but never really seen how it would work, especially when it comes to finding really quality clients. The marketing is all about building relationships with my network and helping more people see what I’m doing.

      I think maybe if you have a mass query you’re sending — you have an idea that every major newspaper in America maybe would use — perhaps a secretary could crank them all out. But I’d love to hear what sort of marketing you are outsourcing and how. And what it costs.

      Think I have trouble delegating generally — as everyone in Freelance Writers Den who is watching me hand-edit every live event myself can tell you! I want it all done RIGHT…so I find it hard to offload things.

  4. jim syyap

    What keeps me from running an effective marketing campaign for myself is time. There’s family, clients and a whole lot of ‘others’ eating up my time. I only go on marketing-mode is when a contract or writing assignment ends. Great post–thanks for sharing!

    • Carol Tice

      I used to be like that…but then I learned to sneak a little marketing into every day. It’s really worth it — then you never have that anxiety when a project ends and you don’t know where the next client is hiding yet.

    • Ed Gandia

      Thanks for the feedback, Jim! I know exactly what you mean. Check out the training series on email prospecting if you get a chance. I think this may be a good way for you to sneak in some prospecting every week without having to carve out a lot of time.

  5. Suzanne Wesley

    I find another obstacle that I battle in self-promotion is that it can feel like bragging? I am proud of my work and that it allows me to help other people, but it’s so hard to promote myself without feeling a little … I don’t know what it is – maybe guilt? I don’t want people to think I’m not humble or forever thankful for the talents that I have – and that I don’t think I’m the absolute best out there – but I don’t want to sell myself short either.

    I am able to do it effectively, but it doesn’t come easily at times to feel like I’m ‘tooting my own horn’.

    • Ed Gandia

      That’s a legitimate concern, Suzanne. Most of us struggle with that at times (I know I have!). The thing to keep in mind is that clients want to work with a self-confident pro. So your expertise and confidence need to come through in all your communications. It’s best to err on the side of confidence.

      Not sure if this would help, but put yourself in their shoes. Imagine that you’re starting a side business and you need to hire someone to set up key parts of your back office (say, your shopping cart, merchant account, CRM system, etc.). Two potential service providers contact you. One is very confident and makes it a point to show you how she’ll help you and why she’s a perfect fit. The other waffles a bit (“…Well, I can probably help you. I don’t know. I normally charge $1,000 for this, but maybe can do it for $500. How does that sound? Is that OK? I understand if it’s not or if you find someone else.”

      I’m exaggerating here, but do you see what I mean? Who would you call back? πŸ˜‰

  6. Susan B. Bentley

    Great article, Ed. New to freelancing, a lot of my time is currently spent facing my fears and promoting myself. Your National Freelancers’ Day webinar on emailing prospects has also really informed the way I contact prospects.

    • Ed Gandia

      Fantastic! Glad this post and the Freelancers Day presentation were helpful. Thanks for letting me know!

  7. J. Christopher Dunn


    This is an amazing article and feel it can be applied to freelancers in general.

    I’m a voice-artist and spend a good deal of my day “prospecting” for new clients. I find out of the three reasons you bullet as to why folks don’t market, fear is the biggest for me. Every week, I do an amount of cold calling to introduce myself and my services to prospective clients. I’ve never had a bad experience but I’m always anticipating one to happen. I know how annoyed I get at times when I receive sales calls. Maybe it’s fear of the unknown.

    Thanks for your words of guidance!

  8. garrett

    The main type of marketing that i do not enjoy doing id cold calling. It is difficult in every sense of the word. When people do it to me, i do not enjoy getting the calls. So, for me, if someone actually gets my interest from their cold call, i really respect their abilities. Being good at cold calling is a tough thing to do. Also takes a thick skin.

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