There’s no doubt that freelancers can benefit significantly from using social media. Growing a loyal following on Twitter or Instagram or sharing your work using Twitter could be a great way for finding new clients. Social media are also great for maintaining relationships with your existing customers. The sheer variety of social media platforms, however, means that it can be quite difficult to use all of them successfully. If you’ve always wondered how to improve your position as a freelancer, the following tips should be useful in attracting the audience and monetising your skills.
Set up your own brand
First, you should decide which channels represent your skills best. For visual skills, this may be Instagram while YouTube is the best for video lessons and PodBean or SoundCloud are most suitable for audio formats. There are also niche social media that are tailored exclusively to specific industries. For instance, ArtStation serves as a great platform for digital 2D and 3D artists by allowing artists to contact business customers (e.g. video game publishers) and share assets. This is both a benefit and a challenge. If you use several channels it is necessary to have the same identity on all of them including username, visual brand and contact information. Your Instagram profile and your ArtStation account would need to show the same works with similar descriptions and messages you want to show to your clients. This can be complicated as all social media have different features. As an illustration, the Instagram algorithm is heavily biased toward accounts that focus on commenting on other people’s posts.
Make a content plan
Once the social media channels are chosen, it is necessary to decide what information will be posted on them. Without a plan, you might mess things up so that your audience will not understand what you are trying to say. With a plan, you will have a structure of your messages and will be able to categorise your posts. With time, your audience will get used to these categories and will be looking forward to your posts. Moreover, it will be easier to find your posts when they are structured. A great way to attract new audiences is to take advantage of the inherent features offered by each media platform. On Instagram, for example, you can share small pieces of your photos as individual posts. This way, your profile would look like a memorable “mosaic” of highly detailed and large photos. Twitter, on the other hand, has the “Reply threads” feature, allowing content creators to tell stories of their work or share tips with like-minded professionals.
Regularly promote yourself
Social media are mostly free from payment channels, so you can advertise yourself broadly. The more efforts you make the more recognisable you will become. You can cross-advertise your channels on different platforms. Also, it may be useful to make collaboration with other bloggers or freelancers in order to capture an audience with adjacent interests. Analytical instruments such as Google Analytics will show which of your channels are more popular and thus more efficient for you. Too much advertising, on the other hand, can actively turn customers away from your brand. The best strategy is to combine paid advertising with informative content. As an illustration, if you’re a freelance writer, you could distribute promotional posts sharing writing tips or detailing how your work process is structured. Customers appreciate not only being provided with an actual service offering but also being engaged in its consumption.
Another suggestion is to divide all your social media content into ‘freebies’ and informative posts. ‘Freebies’ could be distributed as a part of paid advertisements. For instance, each promoted post on Instagram could include a promo code offering a small discount on your services. Seeing advertisements in one’s social media feed can be inherently annoying to some people. By relying on this method, you’re minimising this frustration and increasing the levels of consumer engagement. In contrast, we heavily advise against making your advertised posts mysterious or deliberately vague in an effort to ‘go viral’. The strategy is arguably over-done and it’s easy to simply hide any advertisements that don’t provide any real value from one’s feed.
Engage in broader activities
You can also advertise yourself indirectly by answering the questions in the discussions on themes of your expertise. Look for potential clients in comments under other posts of your themes or using hashtags. Clients will appreciate your expertise if you simply answer their questions or at least will learn about your existence. This is also emphasised in how social media structure their algorithms. Instagram and Facebook, for instance, prioritise accounts that actively engage with discussions with other users and whose comments receive the most ‘likes’. For a long time, social media advertising was about creating informative and engaging content. While this still is a major part of promotion for freelancers, directly communicating with other professionals or customers should be at least a half of all your social media efforts.
The comments you make on other people’s posts don’t always have to be detailed and informative. In many cases, you can simply leave positive feedback highlighting which parts of other freelancers’ works you like the most or what you have learnt from watching your colleagues. This should spark interest in your own account not only from customers but other professionals in the same area of expertise. While this is a relatively slow method of acquiring new followers, such organic growth could be integral toward building a network of freelancers you’re familiar with.
Distinguish between personal and professional accounts
For freelancers, it’s easy to mix personal and professional posts under one account, particularly if you’re trying to develop and grow in your given field. If you’re a musician, for instance, it seems reasonable to post new music combined with posts on learning new software or techniques for composing new tracks. The efficacy of such a strategy is a bit iffy. Many customers don’t want to learn about industry-specific terms or the difficulties you’re facing as a freelancer. As cynical as it may sound, many social media users are looking for engaging content and nothing else.
There are two possible solutions to this problem. You can always re-phrase your personal posts to sound interesting and engaging. If you’re an artist buying new brushes, you could make a post on what brushes are the best to use in your given style. Writing such informative content, however, is difficult and could take quite a lot of time. It’s also not guaranteed that this information would be of value to your followers. A simpler solution is to have separate social media accounts for your personal and professional activities. This way, you’ll give your followers a meaningful choice on what exact content they want to receive from you.
Use social media as job posting sites
While this recommendation is not applicable to all social media, several websites have features that greatly simplify searching for jobs. Reddit, for instance, has a number of sub-forums specifically for freelancers in any given field (e.g. r/HungryArtists). While these smaller social media forums are not as diverse as Instagram or Twitter, you’re practically guaranteed that anyone who sees your posts is either knowledgeable of your field or a potential client. One thing to keep in mind is that sub-forums and image boards typically have distinct rules different from all other social media sites. To avoid any conflicts with the moderating team, it’s better to familiarize yourself with these regulations and keep a mental check-list of what you’re allowed to do on any given platform.
Being a freelancer means being responsible for your business’ success. Social media are an excellent tool for networking, promoting yourself and attracting new customers. Nonetheless, using these platforms requires having an integrated marketing plan and keeping a pulse on new features added to individual websites. If you’re a social media master, though, you’ll easily find regular work and build strong relationships with your clients.