When I started freelancing, I had no idea what I was doing. I’ll be the first to admit that! I made a lot of mistakes when it came to how I was finding, pitching, and getting new clients. Even though I was a marketer, I didn’t quite know how to market my own freelance business.
And now that I’ve been working with other freelancers for several years, I tend to see most people repeating those same mistakes I made.
So in this post, I’m sharing some of the biggest mistakes I made when trying to market my freelance business and get new clients.
1. Trying to be everywhere
There are plenty of ways to market your freelance business. And one of the biggest mistakes freelancers can make is trying to use them all!
If you’re trying to market your business with a podcast, a blog, a weekly guest post, an active Instagram account, commenting in 20 Facebook groups, stalking twitter all day, and making elaborate TikTok videos… honey, you’re headed for burn out. I’m exhausted just reading that list! Also… if you try to do all this, when will you have time to do any client work!?
Good marketing is about creating a connection with your ideal audience, and that takes consistent action over a period of time.
When freelancers and solopreneurs try to be everywhere to reach a wider audience, they end up diluting their message and not going deep enough on any channel to really reach anyone.
Spreading yourself thin across the internet is not the answer. Focus on quality, not quantity.
Every social network and marketing channel works differently and requires vastly different strategies. You’ll be far more effective if you focus on just one or two, learn the ins and outs, dedicate the time needed to really make it grow, and master the processes of that channel.
Once you’ve got traction and systems you can add more to your plate (or hire help!)
Choose a marketing strategy you like (see the next point!) and stick to it for at least 3 months.
2. Using marketing strategies you HATE
Just because you’ve heard someone else was successful after using a marketing strategy, doesn’t mean you absolutely must use that same strategy.
Using a marketing strategy that doesn’t align with what you like to do will absolutely lead to procrastination… and possibly even tears, panic attacks, and drinking wine by the bottle under your desk.
Ok, maybe I’m being a little dramatic. But the point is… you won’t like doing it! And if you don’t like doing it, there’s a good chance you will give up.
If you’re super nervous about being on camera, then starting a YouTube channel is going to be a real struggle. You’ll procrastinate to avoid the discomfort. You’ll tell yourself you need to learn more before you can really start. And no matter how many “I made 6 figures after launching my YouTube channel” videos you watch, you’ll still struggle to make any real progress.
The thing is, there are plenty of strategies out there. And though you shouldn’t be doing all of them, you can definitely find 1 or 2 that work for you and fit with your strengths.
3. Completely relying on sites like UpWork or job boards
Listen, I’m not an UpWork hater. I started my freelance business using UpWork and it totally helped me to get things going and get my first dozen or so clients. I think UpWork is a great place to look for clients who are ready to hire you.
But guess what. UpWork shut down my account. They blocked me from applying to gigs or accessing my profile – because my profile picture wasn’t cropped properly! Are you freaking kidding me?! This happened to me more than once for various reasons, and I’ve read countless horror stories of people getting locked out of their accounts on similar freelancing and job board sites.
(Each time I was able to get my account back and get my funds paid out, but it was totally scary because most of my clients and income relied on the platform.)
My point is, while UpWork is a fantastic platform, this is the kind of situation where you don’t want to have all your eggs in one basket. If something goes wrong with the platform, or if you get blocked, you could potentially lose out and put yourself in a very bad position.
This is why having a marketing plan is absolutely crucial for freelancers.
For long term success and better quality clients, you’re far better off having your own website and building your brand.
4. Not picking a niche
When most people first start out freelancing, they will take any work they can get. Don’t get me wrong, this is totally cool to start, especially if you aren’t 100% sure on the kind of work you want to do, or the kind of clients you want to work with.
It’s ok to do this for a while. But if you want to attract better clients, spend less time pitching or applying for gigs, and have the kind of business where clients come to you, picking a niche is essential.
Trying to market to everyone dilutes your message and makes it harder to truly connect with anyone.
Marketing your freelance business is all about creating a connection with the right people. And the best way to create that connection is to get really specific with your messaging – how you talk about what you do, why you do it, who you work with, etc. If you haven’t defined a niche, it’s pretty difficult to get specific.
If you do have a niche though, you can be very specific with how you talk to your audience. Let’s look at an example:
I’m a copywriter.
I’m a sales page copywriter for wellness coaches launching digital products and online group programs.
If you’re a wellness coach, which person are you going to hire!? And if you know a wellness coach, which profile are you going to forward to them?
That’s the power of picking a niche. Getting really clear on your target audience will allow you to:
- Make all of your marketing efforts more effective when you know who you’re talking to
- Learn the way your audience speaks and thinks, which will help you to get more effective in your communication with them (and make your copywriting convert like crazy!)
- Get more referrals in your niche
- Choose the right marketing channels or networking events to focus on
Over time, picking a niche is going to lead to more referrals, more clients you love, and a healthier business.
PS – picking a niche doesn’t mean you can never work with anyone outside of that niche again, or that you have to turn down clients. It just means you focus your marketing efforts on the people you want to work with most.
5. Not using processes or systems
Processes always sounded totally boring and corporate to me, so I never really implemented any in my first couple of years in business. I realize now what a huge mistake that was.
Creating processes for your freelance business doesn’t have to be like an old corporate manual or stuffy plan that you stick to. It can simply be using a tool like Asana to track your projects, or creating canned email responses to common client questions.
Processes and systems are about streamlining your workflow, managing your projects, and keeping your clients happy. And how does that help you get more clients? Two ways:
1. Happy clients make referrals.
They talk about you on social media. They tell their friends about you.
One way to keep your clients happy is by having easy-to-follow processes, regular communication, and systems to keep them up-to-date on your progress.
Happy clients = more happy clients.
2. Free up your time
Processes for dealing with clients and streamlining your job means you spend less time on repetitive and administrative tasks, and less time in your email inbox. And that means you have more time to market your business and onboard more clients!
How do you build systems and processes into your business? Use templates, have pre-written emails, use a CRM and invoicing system.
Not having processes in place to work with clients (or having weak processes) creates allll kinds of headaches for everyone involved. And ultimately, it makes it harder for you as a freelancer to get clients.
Now that you know about these common mistakes many freelancers make when trying to get clients you can avoid them in your own business.