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IPSE (The Association of Independent Professionals and the Self Employed) represents the interests of the self-employed, consultants, contractors and freelancers. Starling Bank partners with IPSE to provide the freelance and contractor community with support on their business banking needs.

Here, IPSE’s Ella Creamer outlines marketing tips for the self-employed.


Marketing should be a key feature of any freelance business. While it may sound daunting if you don’t have experience, in many ways selling your brand is really simple. At its core, marketing is all about relationship building. Seen in this light, you could say all humans are marketeers.

Here are five tips on how to market yourself effectively when starting out.

1. Establish a marketing plan

Nailing down a focused marketing strategy is a crucial first step. There are many frameworks out there on which you can base your business marketing plan. One classic model is SOSTAC which was developed by PR Smith in the 1990s. It’s an acronym for: situation, objectives, strategy, tactics, action, and control. Here’s what that means:

  • Situation: Where are you now? Who are your customers? Engage in competitor analysis and take stock of where you stand in the market.
  • Objectives: Where do you want to be? Lay out your goals: you want to sell to X many people, at Y price, in Z amount of time.
  • Strategy (the Big Picture): How will you get there? Consider the four Ps of marketing here – price (how much you will sell for), product (what you will sell), place (where you will sell), promotion (how people will hear about you).
  • Tactics (the Detail): What is the detail of your strategy? Think about the tools you have at hand that you can leverage to achieve each step of your strategy.
  • Action: What will you do and when will you do it to ensure your goals are achieved?
  • Control: What will you monitor to assess your progress? Establish a mechanism for tracking where you are on your brand-boosting journey.

Keep this plan succinct: no more than one or two pages of bullet points is ideal. You want this document to be manageable and actionable so that you actually use it to inform what you do on a daily basis.

2. Use Search Engine Optimisation (SEO)

Search engine optimisation, or SEO, is the process of improving how your business performs on search engines, including Google. It’s about helping people to find you easily.

Make your website Google-friendly

Google My Business will allow you to create a listing for your services so that when people search for you, useful information on what you’re offering pops up.

Connect your freelance business to Google Search and Google Maps with a Google My Business account.

Sign up for free and add key points about your business: where customers can access your services, opening and closing times (if applicable), contact details, relevant images and any special offers currently running. If you don’t have a specific physical location for your business, input your service area to help local people find your business.

Listings on Google add credibility to what you’re offering. The more information on your profile the better, as it allows potential clients to understand what you offer. This also means they’re more likely to see and click on your website.

Your legitimacy can be boosted by positive reviews from customers. If a client says they’re happy with your work after a project is completed, suggest that they leave a review via Google. This will help improve your search ranking and in turn encourage other potential clients to choose your services over competitors.

Use SEO to attract more potential customers

SEO aims to grow the quantity and quality of your website traffic, through unpaid (organic) search results. It sounds complicated but it can be very simple. There are all kinds of free online learning resources available and one good place to start is with the Moz beginner’s guide to SEO.

You can try things like improving the titles and subheadings in your articles to include keywords for your business. Here’s an example: If you run a fish and chip shop in Sudbury, you may wish to use a title such as ‘where to buy the best fish and chips in Sudbury’, as it is likely your local potential customers may Google this.

There are countless elements of SEO to play with that can help bring your marketing to the next level. These one per cent changes can really make a difference to reaching larger audiences and more potential customers.

3. Create a social media strategy

Social media is a great way to connect directly with your potential customers for free, but it’s important to know which platforms to be on. Twitter is about news and it’s great for journalists, writers and consultants, whereas Instagram is about images and can be good for photographers, graphic designers, arts and crafts. You may want to focus on just two social media platforms for best results.

If you’re selling creative services, more personal platforms like Instagram or The Dots could be a good fit. Alternatively, if your services are more corporate-focused, such as IT consulting, LinkedIn could allow you to reach a more appropriate audience.

When deciding on the content you will share, the first decision to be made is whether you are going to be selling yourself or your business. Don’t take a scattergun approach.

Decide early on who you’re trying to target and what you’re trying to achieve with your social. Do you wish to promote awareness of your business or drive sales, or both?

Your social strategy should have a laser focus and should be included in your business strategy. It’s important to remember that social media marketing looks different across industries and individual freelancers. Taking time to consider what fits your business can really pay off when it comes to attracting customers.

There are all kinds of free resources out there, one good place to start is HubSpot.

4. Get talking

Marketing is first and foremost about starting conversations and getting people talking. The best forms of marketing are often referrals and word-of-mouth, especially when you’re just getting off the ground with your freelance business. Get out there and start trying to build those crucial initial relationships. Don’t be afraid of reaching out to old bosses or clients.

Chat to other self-employed workers too, as there are often plenty of opportunities to share work. IPSE members regularly recommend each other for roles, too. Last year, IPSE launched Freelance Corner, where you can network with fellow freelancers, attend virtual events and get support for your freelance business. IPSE also has other online forums for members to network, plus groups on LinkedIn and Facebook.

5. Keep learning

There are myriad online learning opportunities you can engage with to kickstart your journey to becoming a better marketeer. Here are just a few:

Courses

For digital marketing skills, Google has a range of training resources on their Digital Garage site. Alternatively, check out Coursera for all kinds of in-depth programmes, such as Wharton’s Introduction to Marketing.

Blogs

There are a number of trusted blogs out there packed with expertise. You could take a look at the Content Marketing Institute, Smart Insights or Neil Patel. Across these popular sites, you’ll find detailed guides, explainers and updates on all things marketing.

Webinars

IPSE offers the self-employed a range of webinars to help with their businesses.

Harvard Business Review has a broad offering of informative sales-focused webinars, with topics ranging from ‘How to Nudge Your Customers Without Pushing Them Away’ to ‘Driving Sales Success’.

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