If you’re self-employed, you’ve probably researched marketing on the internet. In fact, you’ve probably searched “internet marketing” using so many keyword variants that you’d make a thesaurus proud.
You already know what your research has told you. You’re supposed to build a brand, sell yourself until you’re exhausted, and hope for the best. After all, 35% of the workforce is now comprised of freelancers, so you’ll have to make yourself stand out.
But what about social media? As of this year, 81% of Americans have a social media profile. Is social media relevant to freelancers? Sure it is! There are countless ways in which you can use social media to build and grow your business.
An Office for the Next Generation
Guess what? Millennials have just become the largest age group in the United States, outnumbering the Baby Boomers and the Gen Xers. Unfortunately, this generation has earned a reputation for laziness, entitlement, and narcissism. After all, they spend hours staring at their phones blankly, expect everything to be delivered to their doorstep and do nothing but post selfies all day, right?
Wrong. To the contrary! It’s true that millennials were the first generation to be tied to their smartphones. But they’re also the first generation who are constantly and continually connected to their work. Wake up in the morning? Check the notifications on the phone. Head to the gym? Send a quick email on the way. Lying in bed? Confirm tomorrow’s calendar events.
As this generation builds their net worth, they will eventually become the employers. And you, as a freelancer, need to make yourself visible to those employers.
How is Social Media Relevant to Work?
According to Pew Research Center, 79% of all American internet users use Facebook, 32% use Instagram, 24% use Twitter, and 29% use LinkedIn. And that’s just in America. As a self-employed freelancer, you’re well aware that your clients will come from all points on the globe. Social media can help you find those clients.
Unfortunately, there’s a stigma attached to social media. Platforms have been criticized for perpetuating bullying, for exposing young people to the dark side of humanity, and for damaging careers. And, unless you’re a caterer, posting pictures of your dinner probably won’t land you clients. But choosing your words and maintaining a professional profile can.
One of the best-known platforms for professionals on social media is LinkedIn. LinkedIn allows users to publish their resume, post a brief bio, and connect with others. These connections alone are a great way to find clients (see this post on getting jobs on LinkedIn to learn more), but did you know that employers use LinkedIn to headhunt? 37% of employers surveyed claimed that they searched social media to find candidates for job openings.
Of course, you’re going to have to do a bit of legwork yourself; don’t expect all of your clients to come to you. Familiarize yourself with the platforms, and get to work.
Making Social Media Work for You
First and foremost, it’s worth repeating that you’ll need to keep your social media profile professional. Steer clear of political humor, religious talk, and profanity. If your profile is already littered with these no-nos, all is not lost. Register for a free email account with Gmail and start afresh a new profile.
Your profile picture should be either your business logo or a professional headshot of yourself. Your username should also be professional. Clients are more likely to look at AuthorMark than at YoMamaCanWrite. Finally, don’t clutter your newsfeed with irrelevant posts. It’s helpful to show a bit of your personality, but there’s such a thing as too much. You should also avoid controversy for the sake of controversy, many struggling freelancers see it as an easy way to generate interest, right until the lawsuits land on their doorstep and the remainder of their marketing budget now needs to be spent on an attorney.
Now that you’ve got your profiles set up, it’s time to start looking for clients. Here are a few tricks you can use.
LinkedIn has a cool feature that none of the other platforms do. You can add a headline to your profile. So, for example, you can describe yourself as Mark Thomas, Web Designer and Content Creator. This will allow prospective clients to search for your skills, increasing your chance of being headhunted.
LinkedIn also has the benefit of low expectations. The users of this platform don’t expect you to post updates every day, or even every other day. Adding an industry relevant blog post every few days should be enough to get you some attention.
Facebook has a reputation for playing host to countless memes and for allowing users to inundate each other with game requests. And while you can’t keep other people’s memes from showing up on your newsfeed, you can edit your privacy settings.
Once you’ve got your privacy settings just as you like them, it’s time to get to work. There are over 620 million groups on Facebook. No matter what your niche, you’ll find a group that’s suited to you. Choose several that you like, and follow them.
Post to your Facebook groups regularly (be sure to learn the difference between groups and pages), but not so much as to spam the group. Ask the page moderator if it’s alright for you to introduce yourself and describe your services, and then do so. You’ll find that Facebook is a great place to collaborate with other freelancers as well. Need someone to proofread your book? Just ask.
To someone who’s never used Twitter, it can look like a mess. There are a lot of people trying to fit an idea into 140 characters or less. But once you get a feel for the site, Twitter is actually quite simple to use.
First, follow hashtags which are relevant to your industry. Then, follow users who are relevant to your business. Most will follow you back, so everything you tweet will be visible on their feed. Finally, get personal. Create polls, ask questions, and don’t be afraid to ask for work.
Social media can be very useful to those looking to build a business. The platforms carry the benefit of being informal environments; a hashtag may land you a job where a formal query would not. Keep your profile professional, and be social. You’ll soon begin to find clients, and find that clients are reaching out to you.
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