Whether you call yourself a freelancer, an independent contractor or a solopreneur, you’ve got something you want to sell. It might be landscaping services, bracelets and rings or coaching for running half-marathons. Regardless, if the world doesn’t know what goods you’ve got, those goods won’t get out there. But considering the financial constraints most freelancers face, the most promotion you can do is advertising on a budget.
Go back to basics
The advertising landscape has buckled in recent years — just ask major newspapers, which once relied on print-based classifieds (going, going, almost gone) for most of their revenue. Few freelancers can afford high-ticket promos, like TV spots or billboards, so a good deal of my advertising on a budget advice will concern itself with online promotion. Starting with some basics, Kissmetrics provides some brief overviews on the types of online ads and places where they’ll prove most effective.
But let’s tackle a big gorilla first: You might’ve heard about that Facebook place, with its meager 1.65-plus billion users. Surely among those teeming hoards, there must be some customers who’re pining to have their yards landscaped, their necks braceleted and their marathons half-run. If you’ve fiddled with Facebook, you know you can see sponsored ads in your feed, as well as ads in the sidebar. One of the best things about buying Facebook ads is they can target certain things, like an ad viewer’s location and interests.
But even if targeting leaves you less blind in pitching your stuff, your ad work won’t perform well without a relationship with your potential buyers. With a little research, you can find good information about audience targeting and how to set it up so the clicked ad going to specific goods or services spots your website. Additionally, Facebook ads let you set a daily budget (start small!), design your promotion with text and images and track results.
Coder or Contractor?
Obviously, there’s a big difference between a freelancer who offers web coding and one who offers landscaping. The coder could be totally location-independent, completing all their work virtually, where the landscaper is normally held to local geography. For instance, if you run a construction company, you may decide to turn to Facebook to set up a business page, increase customer outreach and gather data on costs per click versus costs per impressions.
Now that we’ve tackled one gorilla, let’s turn around and face another: Google isn’t a slouch in the online advertising game; it’s another big contender for competitive advertising on a budget. Even if you’ve tried to ignore them, Google ads are in your face when you enter a search, and they can prove effective for sending potential buyers to your landing page or site, while giving you good control over your advertising spend.
Knowing your customer and how they think is a tremendous advantage in choosing the search terms that bring up your ad. Business News Daily offers the best tactics in choosing keywords that apply to your business. There’s also good info there about localizing your ad targets for contractors that need to speak (and sell) to their neighbors. You don’t need to run your ads 24/7 either; turn them on to ramp up slow business, for special promotions or for a specific goal. And if you’re curious, check out this detailed look at how a graphic designer uses Google AdWords to build his email list.
Linking up Your Buyers Through LinkedIn
Though it doesn’t have as long of arms as Facebook or Google, LinkedIn does have some stretch. If you don’t have a business presence on LinkedIn, you should consider it; besides being free, a good deal of business is begun, negotiated and completed through connections on the site. If you do have a business presence there, you might consider amping up your business with LinkedIn ads.
You need to write good ad copy, use relevant images and target your customers here. Like Facebook, you can set up your costs by the click or number of impressions, and there’s a campaign manager to track results. With the right LinkedIn ads, you can use analytics to keep your advertising on budget and under control (though, LinkedIn ads can run a bit higher than other platforms).
Free Advertising! (Well, Sort Of)
Though it can be a resource drain in terms of time spent managing social media, there are a lot of ways you can build a customer base without buying ads. Blog about your topic on your site and tweet the links. (Obviously, no crass commercial pitches, but posts that solve customer problems.) Create a free business page through Google+, where you can also post useful information on your trade. Make sure your free LinkedIn business page has a solid summary about what you do, using good SEO, too.
As long as you reflect on the results you want, start slow and keep a sharp eye on the stats, advertising on a budget might, in turn, make that budget bigger and bigger. Get after it!