Social media is a wonderful way of sharing pictures of cute cats, vacation snaps and having a group moan about politics. It’s also an excellent medium for accessing your market - if approached correctly.
We have a wide variety of social networks available to us - Facebook and Twitter are the most obvious. LinkedIn is a useful place to network with other professionals, while Instagram and Pinterest offer an excellent shop window without having physical premises.
Each of these networks has different potentials for the freelancer - finding the right fit for your business is the first port of call.
According to recent studies, 45% of freelancers surveyed in the United States gained work leads from friends and family, while 36% used social media for successfully engaging with employers. That’s a high proportion of freelancers relying on existing contacts. It seems that - done right - social media can be an excellent way to landing freelance work.
What is your trade?
If the fruits of your freelance labor are visual, you should consider getting on Pinterest and Instagram.
Picture sharing sites are an excellent shop-front, so choose your images carefully. Ensure that they’re well-lit and in focus, and concentrate on the unique, quality touches that make your service individual and bespoke.
Pinterest is used widely by art-makers and the interior design community - if you do terrific home conversions, install premium kitchens, design funky T-shirts or are a top-class photographer, Pinterest is a suitable place to start for you.
87% of Pinterest users have bought something they’ve seen on the site, according to a study by Millward Brown, so this is an essential shopfront for visual freelancers.
Instagram’s principle demographic is 18-29-year-olds (55%), so if you’re aiming at an older audience, Pinterest is probably more for you.
How do I use my online presence to tempt my market?
The widely accepted truth about social media marketing is to broaden your output away from shame-faced, obvious “sell” tactics. If you bombard with spam or use your page or profile to flog your services shamelessly, your followers will get bored, and they’ll resent your presence on their newsfeed.
Instead, use your social media presence to share - hook them into your profile by sharing relevant articles to your business; post customer commendations; exciting data is a fantastic way to keep your brand consistent without shouting HIRE ME!
Show your audience that you’re a human being with diverse interests (but keep them relevant). Share images of recent projects or portfolio items. Thank your customers by name and tag them.
Follow other freelancers in a similar field - especially the ones that you know are successful - see what type of posts they make and “be influenced.”
You find some social media website templates here.
Who is your ideal follower?
Think about your ideal follower. Why are they following you? What would they like to see and read? What will encourage them to share your posts amongst their own networks? If one follower shares your post and one of their friends share it, leading to more shares, you’ve gone viral in a short amount of time.
No-one’s going to re-share a post that just states, “HIRE ME.” Still, images are amongst the most commonly shared post-types. People will share a great picture or a glowing customer review.
If you’re doing something unique, make a video about it or write a post about it - but visuals are better in lots of respects.
Social media is 2-way traffic. Always respond when a follower comments - make them feel like their opinion counted, even if it’s just to thank them for engaging.
Use your social media presence to show the world some of the “behind the scenes” stuff that might be interesting to them. People are fascinated by processes - show them how you print your T-shirt or talk them through how you research and write an article. Use Facebook Live - you might think that no-one’s interested in watching you install a washing machine. You’re wrong!
Some things to avoid
Just like obvious HIRE ME tactics, avoid joining in well-threaded conversations just to plug your services - people don’t like it, and it makes you look desperate.
If there’s something you can contribute from your professional perspective, get involved. Show-off your knowledge (remembering that no-one likes a big head!), make valid points that reinforce your position as an authority in the field. Use good grammar!
Don’t use your profile or page to bad-mouth clients - no matter how bad they’ve been. It will always come back to bite. Remain professional - you might be insulting a potential contact’s friend!
The whole world is on Facebook - from your besties to your grandparents; from work colleagues and old school pals to potential stalkers. That offers an enormous potential marketplace - but you’re whistling in the wind unless you understand how to target an audience.
Decide about whether to use your profile or to set up a business-specific one, or a Page. A Page is a dedicated profile created for businesses, brands and other organizations. Pages allow you to focus on your business with a public platform totally. You gain followers by individuals “like-ing” your page.
If you use your profile, you’re limiting your reach to existing friends - that might be fine, but bear in mind that that also means that your potential customers may also see tagged photos of you on a drunken night out.
Micro-ads are a brilliant way of directly targeting and engaging with an audience.
Like it or not, Facebook holds a heck of a lot of information about us - they know if we like burritos, baseball or buy from Amazon; they know if we have a secret penchant for Miley Cyrus, Gilmore Girls or Sense8. Yep, they know all our embarrassing secrets!
For the freelancer, this information is precious because it means that you can access a defined target audience with a micro-advert.
For way less than $50, you can make sure that people who have shown a specific interest in your niche (in one particular geographic location, with particular “likes”) see your ad or post, mixed into their newsfeed.
You can define your budget and identify exactly who you want to target - and the rest happens by the magic that is the internet. For more information about setting up your micro-adverts, check out this video.
Similar rules apply for Twitter regarding what and how you share - but the art is to get your message across in 140 characters.
While Facebook is a relatively “closed” (but direct) network, Twitter has a broader reach by appealing to the ReTweeter.
Just like birds are attracted to shiny things, Tweeters are drawn to beautiful images - so use the platform to your advantage. Include still images with your tweets - they are more widely shared (as opposed to video) and are more easily spotted on the newsfeed.
Use hashtags and @mentions to engage directly with specific followers and people who you want to participate with. Retweet or quote content from people you’d like to work for - they may hire you.
Use your Twitter profile to present a professional image of your business and get a @name that is easily remembered. Follow clients and get involved by sharing their content - make them feel that you’re paying them an interest (and they won’t forget you as quickly!).
“What the hell is LinkedIn?” must be one of the most shared questions on the internet.
This is the social media platform for freelancers that hate social media. It’s a professional networking site that can connect you directly with other professionals. News-feeds are full of business-relevant information, and there’s very little banging on about politics or sharing pictures of cute kittens.
Have a decent, high-quality photograph for your profile. A professional headshot will present you in a better light than a snap from a drunken night out just because your hair looked nice.
LinkedIn is an online CV. Make sure that your employment history is up-to-date (and truthful!). Include a brief description, elucidating upon the tasks involved in each job. Show off your skills, highlight your achievements and get customer commendations.
Your profile is defined (and searchable) by your skills, so make sure that you complete your profile with considerable attention to detail.
If you find someone that you want to work with, view their profile - don’t immediately contact them directly. They will see that you’ve viewed their profile and they may very well contact you first - just a little bit of reverse psychology that can work.