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With the explosion of digital media and the ‘freelancer economy’ never has setting up a freelance business been so attractive, yet so competitive. Whether you are offering graphic design and web development, content writing, video production, or even high level consultancy – the freelance world is a highly saturated and ruthlessly competitive marketplace with strong international competition; meaning people are competing for projects based on the value of their local currency and cost of living. What was once you competing with the guy or girl down the road is now you competing with a global network of freelancers, some for which can undercut you due to their cost of living and local labor being 10x or even 20x cheaper!

When setting up a new business there’s a lot to get done. In addition to understanding fundamental (yet somewhat tedious) business practices such as accounting, taxation, contract requirements and business law – the majority of which you can learn from a small business guide – the most important business practice you can learn is effective marketing.  

See, you can have the best design skills in the country, but if you aren’t able to market yourself effectively then nobody is going to know who you are let alone have compelling reasons to become attracted to doing business with you. Irrespective of the quality of your creative work, your ability to market yourself is paramount to your success in setting up as a solo practitioner or creative  agency. This article provides five tips on how to tout your creative wares.

  1. PICK A NICHE

It’s tempting to be a creative jack of all trades. However, most people prefer to do business with someone they view as an expert within a particular field. Rather than promote yourself as someone that dabbles, it would be better to position yourself as an expert within a particular niche. This could be a line of work such as video production or a particular industry such as hotels.

  1.  WORD OF MOUTH RECOMMENDATION

Think of it in terms of the good old days where you would go to a video shop. Before the days of Netflix, where you would wander on down to Blockbuster and rent a video for the night.  Imagine now, someone you know and trust recommends a film they know you’ll love. Chances are, you’ll check that film out.  Similarly, when people we know and trust recommend service providers, such as graphic designers, we tend to go with their opinion.  

Word of mouth marketing is the oldest and most effective form of marketing there is.  The social proof that comes from online reviews, testimonials, and social media ‘likes’ works on this principle, but don’t forget people do business with people. No matter how online focused your creative business may be; word of mouth from real life people interacting with each other is the most effective marketing around. Encourage satisfied customers to spread the word by offering an incentive, such as a future discount to both parties if they recommend a friend.

  1.  NETWORK, NETWORK, NETWORK

Again, in the age of social media, it would appear redundant to attend networking events in person as everything is now done online. Indeed, we focus more on developing our Instagram accounts than we do interacting with real life people. But if you want to make an impression (bearing in mind people buy ‘people’ more than the service they provide), you need to get out there and market yourself.

In summary, become an expert rather than a jack of all trades and get out there. Don’t hide behind the interne. Network with people, create a great impression and leverage the satisfaction of happy clients by incentivising them to recommend you.

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