Over three decades ago, the term “guerrilla marketing” appeared in the business world. At the time, it generated buzz because of its nod to scrappy warfare and an unspoken promise of results (minus the cost).
For independent contractors, the same effective creativity can be used to appear front-and-center when prospects start searching for freelancers. Here’s how.
Help Prospects for Free
I’m not suggesting you complete projects without expecting payment. But I am urging you to consider sending tips to your prospects that may help their own business.
I actually landed an ongoing contract with my dream client using this method. I simply kept him in mind as I scanned industry headlines each week and tweeted him the ones I thought he may like to mention on his popular podcast. When the time came to find a freelancer to engage, who do you think came to his mind? After a few months, he asked me if I had any news clips on demand, “…and quick!” Turns out, he was in a pinch and had learned to consider me a resource.
Learn Their Client’s Pain Points
Often, freelancers get stuck focusing on the above advice without moving on and considering the end client. In other words, what does your client’s client care about most? What makes them tick? Ask prospects for a profile of their target audience, and then begin creating solutions for that person. Then, when prospects begin searching for freelancers experienced in connecting with their intended persona, you’ll have the reputation to back up your proposal.
Case in point: Jake, a friend of mine, is a freelance musician who loves animals. Instead of waiting around and hoping clients would approach him, he began writing and recording quick, 6-second jingles based on pets of friends and family members. He shared them on social, and of course the cute, personalized nature of each little project tallied loads of views, likes and shares. A prominent pet food company took note, and today, they’re in talks with Jake to produce a series of funny little spots for their own unique audience. Jake’s approach looks effortless, an admirable quality that attract clients like nothing else.
Remember In-Person Introductions
Creative marketing means thinking beyond running ads. Sometimes, it simply means keeping an eye out for someone to meet. “I was in a bookstore once and saw a frazzled-looking person in the ‘writing craft’ section,” says Ana Gotter, the freelancer behind Ana Gotter Writing. “I went up and made small talk, and walked away with a lead for a ghostwriting gig. It happened to be a business owner stressed about trying to write a book for thought leadership,” she says with a smile.
Keep your business cards on you, and be willing to make friends anywhere.
Re-Think Social Media
Sharing your work and connecting with colleagues online is a great way to stay relevant as a freelancer, but guerrilla-style creativity lets you look at social sharing tools from another angle. Surprisingly, I use LinkedIn and Twitter as search engines instead of networks. Here are a couple examples of how:
Brainstorm a hashtag a target client would use if they were struggling through something in your niche. For example, a freelance tax professional may search for the hashtag #ihatetaxes to turn up dozens of frustrated prospects who are either discouraged by quarterly taxes or obviously overpaying and in need of help. Replying in public is a great way to start a lighthearted conversation that lets them (and others) know you’re available.
Use the search bar in LinkedIn to look up a keyword or phrase that clients would use if they were searching for freelancers. Start with something simple like “hiring freelancers.” Next, change the default setting from “all” to “content” to turn up scores of posts from hiring managers asking their professional buddies to spread the word. Not ads, not recruiters, not agencies, but the actual decision-making managers themselves. Jackpot.
Use Google Alerts to Be in the Know
A year ago, a colleague sent me a tweet from a prestigious magazine’s new editor that said something like, “Hey writers, I want to add some spicy sauce to our digital pages. Pitch me.”
The publication was outside my favorite niche, so I didn’t pitch her. I did, however, set up a Google Alert for the phrases “pitch me,” “call for submissions” and “need writers.” Now, every day, my inbox is full of prospects looking for me to hit them up.
Yes, you’ll get a few baseball references with the “pitch me” one, and yes, some calls for submissions are for underwater basket weaving competitions (or something equally random), but there are always a few golden nuggets that you won’t find on the job boards or bidding sites.
By now, your creativity should be running wild. What keywords or hashtags will you be using to land clients? Make no mistake: Companies are out there, searching for freelancers. Your job is to go and get yourself found by the best ones.