Self-Promotion For The Introverted Freelancer
Once upon a time, in a magical kingdom, introverted creative freelancers lived and worked in peace.
Clients communicated their projects by email once a month, with a mid-month review, and otherwise the kingdom was silent (save for the sound of keyboards and mouse clicks).
The citizens were happy and well-fed. Everything was coming up Sketch. And then…
Snapchat invaded. And LinkedIn! And Instagram! And Behance! And Dribbble! And personal websites! And blogs! And vlogs!
The period of peace was over. The Internet had begun to wage its war.
No matter what you do, marketing is as integral to your business as whatever your skill is. But it doesn’t have to be sleazy.
What we’re talking about when we talk about self-promotion
If we’re talking marketing for freelancers, we’re talking the Know-Like-Trust theory.
For an in-depth explanation of KLT, click here.
Brief rundown: In order for clients to hire you for their projects, they have to know, like, and trust you. In order to make that happen, you have to cultivate a relationship with them that is friendly, giving, valuable, and human.
So, when it comes to self-promotion, we’re talking about creating an image that is all of those things: friendly, giving, valuable, and human. You are an expert, but also a fun person to be around.
It’s why people actually care about whether or not they’d want to have a beer with POTUS. Marketing.
The way it works
The way you know your marketing is working is if more people are able to find you and pay you to do things.
Some will say the way to do that is to be everywhere. Have your face on every network. Make a lot of Internet friends. Use social media less for social, more as a PR tool.
There’s another option, though.
Back off from all of those tools and re-think your goals.
You want people to 1. know, 2. like, 3. trust you. But who are those people?
Once you know exactly who they are, you can start working on a marketing strategy addressing them that doesn’t put weird animal filters on your face (wtf Snapchat, what’s the deal?)
The part that feels weird
“To feel right at the end, you have to feel a little weird at the beginning.” – Me
Marketing isn’t guessing. It’s based on strategy and analysis.
Once you’ve identified your target market, you can begin to develop a strategy for reaching them. Where do they hang out? Do they have meetups? Do they have Facebook/LinkedIn/Twitter/social in general groups?
Where do they hang out? Do they have meetups? What blogs do they read? Do they have Facebook/LinkedIn/Twitter/social in general groups?
Put yourself in the position of one of your clients. What is a need they have that’s been unaddressed?
Learn everything you can about them. Who are the active players, and what do they talk about? What are they missing?
PS. Don’t be afraid to actually ask one of them about this.
The part that feels right
The reason you did this research is because, to quietly self-promote, you want to help.
A great way to do this is by facilitating communities.
By giving your clients a space to learn, talk, vent, and share, you’ll not only be the first one to hear their news and grievances, but you’ll also be seen as an expert — without needing to spend a second in front of the camera.
You know your people best, but I have some suggestions. They all take effort, but it’s worthwhile.
Open a Facebook/LinkedIn group
If you have enough people in mind to facilitate real conversations (50+ at least), open a group.
By posting articles/job openings, asking questions, opening discussion boards, and sharing content, you’ll be engaging your people without talking about yourself.
Eventually, the goal is for discussion in the group to be self-sustaining without your facilitation, so you can participate without always having to make the first move.
Start an email digest
By starting to work with curation, not only will you be in daily/weekly contact with people in your community, but you’ll also be HQ for your industry’s hottest news.
Depending on how popping your industry is, sending out a daily/weekly/as frequent as you want digest of the most resourceful/controversial/helpful articles in your community.
Not only are you helping your clients identify trends and stay up-to-date, you’re also helping reporters find and target communities.
Get active on Reddit
This has the least immediate payoff, but is also the most anonymous.
By being active within your industry’s communities on Reddit, you’ll be growing your knowledge base and underground network.
The only problem is, it’s super frowned upon to give out your identity on Reddit. It’s ground zero for self-promotion-haters.
Solution: Private messaging. Start to make friendships with posters, and once you’re comfortable with them, you can swap identities.
Marketing is about getting people to come to you before you have to come to them.
Having communities of people who rely on me is an amazing way to have potential clients rely on you for knowledge without talking about yourself all the time.
Once you provide a helpful resource, clients will trust you — and you’ll be fully booked all the time.
So, bottom line: Is it possible to promote your work while staying in your comfort zone?
With a bit of flexibility, yes.
I hope this guide has inspired you to put your work out there.
If you need help learning how to do it, we’re here to help with our Marketing Class. This class will not only teach you – step-by-step – how to find clients and help them find you; it will also give you the confidence to do just that.
Hundreds of designers have already taken it. We’re on a mission to make the designers of the world earn more.
Don’t stay behind:
(Oh, and taking our class is risk-free because we have a 100% money-back guarantee policy.)
Shayna is the Head of Friendship at The nuSchool, because Community/Content/Biz Dev is a big mouthful. She's a freelance copywriter working in art and design, and has two dogs named Chuck and Alma.
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