I consider myself a cautious adventurer. I’m a research-before-you-leap kind of person. So before I launched myself into the life of a full-time freelancer, I dug into some of my biggest fears. How could I earn enough to sustain myself? How should I market my services? And would I ever change out of pyjamas?
Googling “marketing a freelance business” was my first step, and it was a mistake. I was shadowed online for months by ads for aggressive internet marketers trying to sell me the one true secret to their dubious success. My Facebook feed has only just begun to revert to a stream of ads for cheap dresses, miracle face creams and hotels for trips I’ve already taken.
I had feared I wouldn’t know how to brand myself to potential clients, but I came to what should have been the obvious conclusion: my authentic “brand” can’t be found in a Google search. My brand is me.
Also? The headline to this post is spoofing inauthentic clickbait, sorry. But here are three actual tips I will keep in mind, in case you were waiting for the list. I think they’re transferable to bigger organizations, too.
- Always be listening. I want to have my elevator pitch ready so I don’t stumble when asked what I do, but I will ignore the ABCs of Glengarry Glen Ross: Always Be Closing. Online and in person, I vow to engage like a human being to another human being, the way I’ve tried to do all my life (unless I’m talking to my cat).
- Use automation sparingly, if at all. Tools to automate interactions with clients and potential clients, and to post to social media, can be valuable depending on the scale and type of business. But they are also transparently unhuman, and scheduling posts when no one’s around to monitor context and reaction can be disastrous.
- Be me. It’s easy to seem authentic when you are authentic. I’ve had a few experiences lately with companies whose websites sold me on their services before I ever picked up the phone … and then the phone call chased me away because the humans at the other end didn’t live up to the brand promise. Companies sometimes forget their people are their brand. As a sole practitioner, I can’t. And that’s a good thing.
I wanted to turn this site into a professional blog, but part of being me is that I can’t pretend I’m the world’s greatest living expert on, well, anything. But I can write about my perspective on ideas that might help people work through their communications challenges, or point them to resources that have helped me, or give insight into my world as a freelancer who totally changes out of pyjamas regularly. Because I am the world’s’ greatest living expert on me.
So to that end, here’s a great resource if you’re also a fan of being a human being online. Scott and Alison Stratton’s Unmarketing is a brand built out of the idea that even giant companies can be authentic (“Stop marketing. Start engaging.”) A lot of their focus is on what not to do, but they also share examples of the ways companies get things right. The book of the same name is a fun and educational read, you can sign up to the infrequent newsletter for bite-sized lessons, and listen to their Unpodcast. I’ve absorbed a lot of valuable lessons from them as a consumer as well as a communicator, plus they make me laugh. Check them out if they’re not already in your regular rotation.
Admin note: I’m transitioning my dianewild.com/blog into a place for regular communications thoughts and tips, while awildwanderer.com will house my sporadic personal blog posts. If you were subscribed to my personal blog before, you will continue to get only those posts in your inbox. If you want to receive my communications-focused posts as an e-newsletter, sign up below.