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 it—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.