Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Everyone’s Marketing Fingerprint is Different

Over at Words on the Page, Lori Widmer brings up something I’ve been meaning to write about ever since I had a conversation with a friend about getting into freelancing—the marketing routine, and why it’s tough to tell someone else how to market their business. He asked me the best way to get started, but really, what he wanted to know was where and how to find work (which is a whole different question). I always have such a hard time answering that question. There are so many ways to market yourself, but what will ultimately work for you is a very individual thing. Marketing is a marathon, and you have to choose the route that works best for you.

As for me, I keep it simple. Believe it or not, I get a significant amount of business just by cold-emailing businesses I want to work with. I’ve landed several long-term clients that way. Others include in-person networking (but never at networking events; this only seems to happen at parties and places where I’m hanging out, relaxing, and chatting with someone who it turns out has some work for me); referrals from existing clients and writing colleagues; the random postcard mailer every so often; and website traffic. I’ve also gotten decent, well-paid work from online job boards and Craigslist, although the prevailing wisdom is that isn’t likely.

Here are my thoughts to people who want advice on where to find work and how to market themselves.

Marketing is an individual thing. Like Lori says, what works for me might not necessarily work for you. I got started with Peter Bowerman’s The Well-Fed Writer, which advocates—among a host of other marketing options—cold calling. I will never be good at cold calling. In fact, I probably hurt my business by doing it. You, however, might rock at it. It doesn’t hurt to try.

You don’t have to spend a lot of time at it. Like Lori, I’ve heard self-proclaimed experts in the field say that you have to spend several hours a day marketing. Personally, I haven’t found that to be true. I market pretty much when I’m hurting for work, and rarely when I’m busy, which is the majority of the time (knock on wood). So every few months I might market for an hour or so a day until things pick up again. You don’t have to do it all the time. Although, it might fit your routine, lifestyle, earnings goals, and so on better if you do. There’s no reason not to, except that it cuts into work time.

Try a lot of stuff. I can’t tell you what marketing tactics will increase your business. That’s an individual thing—and I have no magic bullet of advice that will replace just getting out there, trying a lot of different stuff, and keeping track of your failures and successes. That’s how I learned to do it.

There is no advice that will replace trying lots of different things—and failing at lots of different things—before you hit on a method that works for you. To anyone looking for marketing advice, I’d suggest picking up some books on the subject—Peter Bowerman is a great place to start—and try one marketing tactic per month, or every two weeks, or however long you feel it will take to start seeing results…until you hit on something that works.

1 comment:

Unknown said...

Wow, I'm flattered! Thanks, Jen. :)

I'm a bit tired of the absolutes in the world - you MUST do it this way, you HAVE to do it that way, you CAN'T survive unless you do things my way.... blah blah.

What works for you is what works for you. In my book, the only thing that's a given is consistency will always net something.