Marketing: How to find work

How you start looking for business from the start will depend very much on your background and what contacts, if any, you already have who may be potential clients. The one advantage of being a marketing freelancer is that you can use your own skills to market yourself!

Remember that possible clients could be people that you meet in a social capacity as well as a business one. Never be afraid to drop your services into the conversation at an appropriate moment, whatever the circumstance. Generally, as a freelancer, people are always more sympathetic to your 'pitch' than they would be if you were mentioning a company you were employed by. People love entrepreneurs!

Think about anyone you have ever worked with in the past, or met through someone else, who may be a possible client. Track these people down via phone or online and get in touch. Start with an email explaining that you have set up as a marketing freelancer and ask them to bear you in mind if they have a requirement. Or pick up the phone if you're brave enough! Not all people like to be called out of the blue, so an email can often be a softer approach. You should also consider getting touch through social media, and invite people to follow your various profiles.

To get your first job on board there is also the option of contacting someone you know well and offering them a free or heavily discounted service. In return for your services, ask them if you can mention them as a client. You can use them to write a case study about what you did or show examples of the work you produced for them when pitching for other new business. Prospective clients will always feel more comfortable with using you if you do not appear to be your first one.

From here on in it's about Networking. The more people who know that you are out there, the more chance you have of generating business. Investigate local networking groups, breakfast clubs and the like, or industry-specific events if you are aiming your services at one particular market sector. A trade event is a perfect opportunity, where many prospective clients are all gathered in one place on their exhibition stands with nowhere to escape to when you approach them, business card in hand.

Another great way to generate business is through your suppliers. That might sound odd but it isn't. Build up your network of suppliers from existing contacts and new research, they will all be very happy to talk to you as you are, in effect, a route to market for them.

If you develop a good working relationship you will become a virtual part of their sales team, bringing in new business with no cost of sale for them. But the flip-side of this is that they will also uncover business opportunities for you.

Take a design agency for example. Many clients don't understand that design agencies are not full-blown marketers, and so they expect a much wider level of skills than the agency actually has. So, there is an opportunity there to form an alliance partnership with a design agency whereby they will involve you - either visibly or invisibly - in any wider marketing campaigns which they come across. All suppliers who offer one special skill are targets for this type of networking.

On top of all these methods, there is, of course, the option to market your services to cold prospects in the same way that you would run a new business generation campaign for any of your clients.

Use exactly the same methods as you would advise for them. Direct marketing to a well-researched target customer profile, supporting advertising (if you can fund it), PR and so on. Your new business is a news story! Write up a press release - or ask an industry contact to do it for you if writing is not one of your skills - and then send it to every publication you can think of that your target audience might read.

Make it industry-specific where possible and ensure that you focus on the skill-sets and experience which are most relevant to each audience. If you can write, or know a good ghost-writer, create articles on relevant marketing issues and see if these publications will print them in return for a credit and a link to your website.

There are a number of online resources where people post freelance marketing projects but many of these tend to be US-centric and some also charge to allow you to register, with little promise of relevant opportunities being listed. None of these which have been identified to date are a guaranteed source of business, but there is no harm in registering on the free ones. Many allow you to include a listing of your services and contact details - and whilst they rarely generate direct responses, they do assist with improving the chance of your web page being found by search engines.

Gill Taylor, Contract Marketing - freelance marketing support for all industries, with specialist IT-sector skills.

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