Build Your Business by Being Your Own Client

By Erin Ollila, Contributor, on December 7, 2016

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Always practice what you preach. I can’t lecture my clients on the value of storytelling in marketing and then ignore my own digital presence. A hairdresser can’t show up to work every day with a greasy ponytail. A photographer needs an updated head shot on her website.

As a self-employed professional, you must continuously build your business to keep the money coming in, and if you’re not actively marketing your goods and services, no new clients will come to you. So, why is it so hard to set aside time to work on your own business needs?

Simple: It’s because your clients are the ones paying you. If you don’t work on their projects, you aren’t bringing in any money. Constantly overbooking yourself may prove financially rewarding in the short run, but you’ll never find time to grow your own business with that type of schedule. Instead, opt to make a little less money for just one month, so you can create a marketing strategy to grow your business for long-term success.

Schedule Time for Your Own Business

You can’t expect to build your business without making time for it. Though, that’s easier said than done — I know firsthand. I’ve spent about six months redesigning my website, and very little gets done when I don’t intentionally set aside time for it to happen. Scheduling time is an investment you make for your future.

If it helps, pretend your freelance business is a client, so you can give it the attention it deserves without holding yourself back with the thought, “I’ll just do it when I have time.” According to Parkinson’s Law, “Work expands so as to fill the time available for its completion.” Make the time. Invest in yourself.

Be open to any small stretch of time available for your business needs. A web designer may not be able to work on her computer while waiting for a doctor’s appointment, but she can jot down thoughts in a notebook on topics she’d like to cover in future blog posts. You can also schedule social media updates from a smartphone, or record yourself speaking while commuting with a voice memo feature.

Marketing Tools to Build Your Business

1. Website

If you’re working as a freelancer without your own web presence, stop what you’re doing and create something basic. Better yet, hire someone. (Okay, well, maybe just wait until the end of this article before leaving.) Your website is a representation of your work, so make sure the design is fresh and easy to navigate, and that your pages and blog posts are optimized for search.

But don’t be hasty; take the additional step to ensure your copy and design are planned for conversions. You don’t want your website visitors to simply view your content. You want them to make an appointment, purchase a product, enroll in a course or take a similar action, depending on your industry. Upgrade your website, so it can make your sales or capture emails, which leaves you able to nurture leads in the future.

2. Testimonials

Testimonials market your product or services for you. Humans are wired to put their trust into the recommendation of someone with recent experience working with you, rather than the person who’s trying to sell to them (in this case, you). First, don’t be shy about asking current and former clients to provide a testimonial. Most people are happy for the opportunity to provide feedback on your behalf. Plus, you may already have recommendations you can use. Look to LinkedIn, Facebook reviews or any vendor review sites, such as Wedding Wire for individuals who make wedding cakes.

3. Editorial Calendars

If your website contains a blog, you need an editorial calendar. Do you know how time-consuming content creation can be without a plan? Many self-employed professionals just wing it when it comes to posting content on their website, but an effective strategy will build your business from the foundation up.

An editorial calendar helps you ideate topics for the year ahead, optimize that content by identifying which keywords to use in your blogs and create deadlines, so you’ll always stay on — and ahead of — schedule. Regular posting attracts repeat readers, which you can convert into future customers.

4. Social Media

Meet your current and prospective clients where they are. Right now, that’s on social media. Your business needs visibility on the major players, such as Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, LinkedIn and Snapchat. To master social media, you simply need to become an active participant on it. Don’t join and disappear; be active by linking to blog content, posting quotes relevant to your industry and sharing content written by others. If finding time for social networking feels overwhelming, schedule it in advance with a tool, such as MeetEdgar, Buffer or Hootsuite.

5. Analytics

Don’t waste time creating a marketing plan, implementing it and collecting metrics if you aren’t going to analyze the information. Set aside time once a month to gather analytics from your website and social accounts. Decipher what works and what doesn’t, and immediately implement changes based on the month’s metrics.

With proactive steps, making time to nurture your own business doesn’t have to come out of pocket. We all know the benefits of getting organized, but in this case, organizing your time and tools to treat your own business as you would any of your clients could make the difference between overworking in your off hours or gaining back some precious free time.

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