A lot of would-be freelancers never get their business ideas off the ground for one reason: marketing.
Marketing comes with all kinds of connotations, misconceptions, and strong feelings. It might feel sleazy or phony to think about. Maybe it’s confusing and really complicated. But most of all, many freelancers are put off by marketing because they’re afraid of rejection.
The only way to overcome your fear of rejection is to put yourself out there, over and over again, until you get to the point that you’re ok with someone saying no to your offer. But if you aren’t ready to push through the fears just yet, you’re in luck: with the help of the Internet, you’ve got a ton of options to help you get more clients when you’re afraid of rejection. And they all come down to one magic word: Inbound.
What’s Inbound Marketing?
Taken very broadly, there are two types of marketing you can do: Outbound and inbound. Outbound marketing is when you are actively trying to get someone to hire you or buy something from you. It’s sending pitches and letters of inquiry to try to land new gigs. It’s setting up a booth at a show or coordinating a live event. It’s press releases, cold calls, email marketing and even Facebook ads.
Inbound marketing, on the other hand, is something that “puts you out there” in a sense, but then your potential clients and customers come to you on their own instead of you going out and asking for them to come to you. Inbound marketing, once you’ve got the engine revving, is a fantastic way to market your freelance business, especially if you aren’t ready to hear someone turn you down. Let’s talk about some of the best ways you can start making inbound marketing work for you!
1. Focus on SEO
Search Engine Optimization is a pretty complex operation with constantly shifting goalposts. It’s never a once-and-done kind of thing, either. But there’s a LOT of SEO you can do without being an expert and without having to have a degree in programming. By doing some basic keyword research (including long-tail keywords), building content on your site to play to those keywords, and optimizing all of the bits and pieces of your blog, you can strengthen your SEO to draw in search traffic organically.
This is great if you don’t want to keep putting yourself out there with a “hard ask,” because you’re basically just making your website easy to be found by people who need and want what you do. It can be a bit of a project if you’ve got a robust website and you’re starting your SEO from scratch, but I’ve seen people start getting results within a couple of months after doing a big SEO push.
2. Strengthen Your Social Profiles
Whether the right place for you is LinkedIn, Etsy, Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest, Instagram, or a niche directory… make sure your profile is rich in the right keywords for your market. Most if not all social platforms have their own search engines, and you want to be found easily in those searches. There’s a ton of information available about how to optimize your profiles — take a look and then spend the hour it takes to get everything right.
3. Maximize Pinterest
It might seem like a fad at the moment, but I’m calling it: Pinterest is going to be a game-changer for a long time. Huge numbers of people go to Pinterest every day and use it to browse and search for interesting content. Being noticeable on Pinterest could turn into great leads for your business. If you want to focus on inbound marketing, you need to build a Pinterest strategy and execute, execute, execute.
4. Connect with Peers
One of the very best things you can do for your business is build a solid network of peers — your freelancing “colleagues” — who offer services similar to yours. Find a watering hole or two where people who do what you do are hanging out (Facebook is a great way to find some).
Once you’re known in a couple of awesome circles, you can let people know that you’re looking for work. I’ve picked up several opportunities just by mentioning my extra bandwidth to a colleague who had too much on her plate.
5. Make Strategic Partnerships
In addition to folks who offer the same freelance services, you need to find people whose services are tangentially related to yours. So if you’re a website designer, you not only need to be plugged in with other web designers but also copywriters, bloggers, developers, social media managers, and the like. Look for opportunities to partner up and refer work to each other.
Once you’re known and trusted, you could become the go-to person in your circles… and that’s always good for business.
Further Thoughts on Inbound Marketing
This should give you a good idea why inbound marketing is great for avoiding hard sells and facing rejection. There are some freelancers who base their entire marketing strategy on just one or two of the tips I’ve laid out above. If you’re interested in any of these methods, pick one and do some initial research. You may find that they’re easier to make happen than you even realized.
What are your biggest questions about inbound marketing?