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Thursday, August 4, 2011
Freelance Toolbox

By Dana Neuts

To keep the cash coming in, freelancers need to exercise their marketing muscle regularly. This can be a daunting task, but it doesn’t have to be. Simply think of promoting yourself as telling a story — your story — using a variety of marketing tools:

Website and/or blog: Once upon a time, a simple, static website that rarely changed was ideal for freelancers. Most included a bio and photo of the freelancer, contact information and links to or uploaded portfolio clips.

Many traditional websites are now being replaced with blogs created using platforms like Word Press and Blogger. With these new formats, freelancers can easily and affordably expand their online presence by adding a blog for ranting, raving and promoting; links to their social media profiles and other favorite sites; and more.

Social media presence: Yes, you can be a freelancer without succumbing to the magnetic pull of Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn, but you will be more successful if you participate at a level that is comfortable for you. I recommend that you have a profile on each of these sites and participate as time permits.

Here’s a quick refresher on what these sites help you accomplish. LinkedIn is ideally suited to help you connect with your peers and other professionals who might be seeking advice or looking for writers for upcoming projects. Facebook reaches a mix of personal and professional audiences. It is a good resource for connecting with editors, colleagues and potential story sources, in addition to family and friends. Twitter is where you can reach virtually any audience you desire in 140 characters or less per tweet. I use Twitter for staying on top of breaking news and for connecting and sharing resources with other freelancers.

Networking, online and off: Whether you love or hate online networking, it can expand a freelancer’s reach to editors, publishers and peers around the world to whom they wouldn’t otherwise have access. To network successfully online, however, you must participate by tweeting, posting, commenting, asking questions and engaging in discussions.

Face-to-face networking is also a great marketing tool for freelancers. In addition to industry-related organizations like SPJ, I am a member of my local chamber, a downtown association and a service club. These activities keep me in touch with newsmakers in my community and provide me with a wide net of potential referral sources. As an added bonus, events held by SPJ and other local groups get me out of my home office and out into the “real world.”

Business cards: For folks you meet face-to-face, business cards are a must. You want people to remember you and know how to reach you should they need your services or have a story idea to pitch. There are many online printing sites that sell affordable business cards in bulk. Use your own logo and artwork or, if you don’t have a design in mind, select from pre-made templates. For people I am able to interview only by phone or email, I send my business card along with a handwritten thank-you note to ensure that I am remembered.

There are countless other marketing tools at a freelancer’s disposal, but this particular set of tools has worked well for me. Regardless of the avenues you choose to promote yourself, make sure you exercise your marketing muscle often. Your business will be stronger as a result!

Dana Neuts is a freelancer and online publisher in the Seattle area. She is regional director for SPJ’s Region 10 and serves as SPJ’s Freelance Committee chairwoman. Learn more about at virtuallyyourz.com.

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