Honest Marketing For Creatives 101

Marketing is the business way of saying make people like you enough to buy your product/hire you/give you money.

When you’re a freelance creative, talent doesn’t sell itself. To have clients, your clients have to know you exist — so you have to do a bit of marketing.

The highest-paid freelancers figured this out a long time ago: Clients don’t come to you because you’re good. Clients come to you because they feel like they know, like, and trust you.

The know-like-trust theory is as old as time, or at least retail shops. The basic theory is that customers become loyal, repeat customers when they feel like they know, like, and trust your brand as they would a close friend.

It’s true for cereal, clothing, and freelancers: People buy on emotion. They spend money to feel good. Your advantage over your competition isn’t just your rates or skills; it’s your smile, energy, and quick response times that make you pleasant to work with and be around.

And you know what I like about it? It ain’t no sleazy marketing – it’s Honest Marketing.

Your advantage over your competition isn’t just your rates or skills; it’s your smile, energy, and quick response times that make you pleasant to work with and be around. And you know what I like about it? It ain’t no sleazy marketing – it’s Honest Marketing.

Developing feels with potential clients isn’t easy, but it’s possible. I’ve broken it down into steps, tips, and tricks.


Would your clients and potential clients recognize you if they saw you walking down the street?

Do your potential clients know who you are when they hear your name?

For people to like you, they have to know you. Duh.

Create content. Whether you’re a writer, a talker, an illustrator, or some other kind of communicator, create some content and get it on the Internet.

I have a blog and a vlog where I can write and talk about design-related topics that excite me. These channels not only give me a space to interact with clients/potential clients and other designers in a less formal context, but they also give me street cred in the industry.

Create a product. Instead of saying to yourself, ugh I wish XYZ existed and made my life simpler, make the thing! In 2013, I was looking for a side project, and I love biographies/inspiring quotes — so I made a daily inspiration app, Muz.


Creating Muz not only gave me experience building an app, but it also exposed me to designers, developers, and other app-minded people who could expand my network and one day be my clients.

It’s been two years, and I’m still getting invited to talk about my Muz experience — and the app is still getting downloaded.

Network. Get to know other people. Whether you’re doing this virtually or IRL, the more people who know you on a personal level, the more people will trust you to work with them — and their whole network.


Getting your clients to like/love you is like the fun part of dating, the first few dates when you’re at your funniest, wittiest, and kindest. Making relationships is the same, whether you’re online or IRL: Be loveable and the people will love you.

Be your best you. Be the you that your parents think you are; that means, wear clean clothes and don’t curse (much), but don’t be afraid to be a little bit weird. We’re all into weird.

Be personal. Share something with your audience! Help your clients relate to you. The law of reciprocity plays out big time here: If you give your clients information about yourself, they’ll want to share back with you. That’s how friendships are born.

Be nice. Ask people how they’re doing, remember details, make jokes, smile, don’t badmouth people, don’t be annoying. Basically, be a considerate human that people like being around.

Be generous. In Hebrew there’s a concept called firgun, which means to make someone feel good without an ulterior motive. Compliment, share, reach out, and make introductions just because it’s a nice thing to do. Making someone’s day is a really quick way to win their heart.


Earn trust. Duh. If you say you’re going to post a blog post every day, do it. Don’t make promises you can’t keep; be consistent in producing high-quality work on-schedule and your clients will adore you.

Apologize when you have to. We all make mistakes; taking responsibility for them is what makes people willing to move on. If you make a mistake, don’t run away — say you’re sorry, fix the mistake, and learn from it. Move forward.

Be visible (literally and figuratively). People like people better than eggs. Anywhere you have a profile, have a profile picture — preferably you, preferably smiling, preferably well-lit and happy vibes.

Then you can put those profiles to work and start participating in conversations!

For people to trust you, you have to give them proof of trustworthiness. Show the world that you have opinions and they’re not-totally-whacko by participating in forums and groups, going to (and speaking at, if possible) conferences and events, and creating/sharing content.

Share testimonials. Do other people trust you? Awesome, that’s a good start. When people already trust you, it’s easier to get others to trust you. That’s how the world works. Call the people who have already worked with you and ask them to tell the world about it.

Then your potential clients can say to themselves and each other, Look! Ryan Smith says Freelancer X is a pleasure to work with! Let’s sign!


When you’ve done all of these things, when you’ve smiled and participated and chewed with your mouth closed, the clients you have and the clients you want should be able to close their eyes and picture you, smiling, doing great work.

And that will make them smile. And then they will give you all of the money.

You can’t control your competition; you can only guarantee that you’re always the best you can be. That means not only do you provide the best work that you can create, but you’re a pleasure to work with, and people want to know you better. That’s what keeps them coming back.

The Next Step (Shameless plug)

For some freelancers, marketing is the hard part of freelancing.

I’m not talking about creating a Facebook page – anyone can do that. That’s easy. I’m talking about the things you haven’t thought of, or you’re scared to try, or you want to but don’t know how.

I’ve just launched a new class – Marketing For Honest Freelancers. Here’s the gist:

More details + a special launch-discount here: – Marketing For Honest Freelancers.

Post by Ran Segall

Ran is head of product, designer and co-founder at the nuSchool. He's also a freelance designer working with Startups, the a mentor at The Designer's Pricing Class. He's now working on a new class - Marketing For Honest Freelancers.

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