When I first joined Facebook in 2009, I did so to stay connected to family members, friends, and students. My social media presence was quite capricious and often, to be honest, I went on there just to be nosy—to see who was getting married, having a baby, getting a divorce or all of the above.
This lasted for years until a friend, who is a social media guru, chastised me about being virtually invisible. I told him, “I don’t do social media.”
At the time, I didn’t really see the purpose of having connections with people I didn’t actually know. I was content with my 500 friends.
My friend nudged me further and said that I was missing out on a gold mine. He explained how he used his social media presence to introduce potential clients to his work, to create a brand, and to gain greater visibility which he leveraged as a freelance writer and public speaker. “Give it two months,” he insisted. I agreed.
It actually took less than a month and I “got it.”
Fast forward to 2017 and I now have a combined 23,000 friends/followers/fans on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter, with my primary base being Facebook.
And, yes, he was right. It is a virtual gold mine if you figure out how to use it to your advantage and I am not talking about algorithms or sponsored ads. I am talking about good old fashioned human connections—even if they are virtual.
So, what can you do? Try these 6 tips.
Be clear about how much of ‘you’ you want to share
If you want to get traction on your personal page and that traction is derived from strangers, be very clear and intentional about what you plan to share. Because I brand as a freelance writer who is passionate about writing and social justice issues, I am myopic with my posts.
Occasionally, I may throw in what I ate for dinner last night and I may shout out my partner, but that is rare. I also made some of my old pictures and photo albums private. My rule of thumb when deciding whether or not to post on any platform is: Only share information that you are ok with telling a perfect stranger. As your platform grows, that’s who you may end up talking to.
It’s ok to have more than one Facebook page
Facebook limits personal pages to 5,000 friends. As I watched a significant uptick in people sending me friend requests, I knew that I needed to expand my reach.
I did not want to start over and create a public figure page, so I opted to create two additional pages.
I established a page exclusively for Seldon Writing Group, LLC and a page called Black People Who Love to Write, where I have followers of all racial and ethnic backgrounds from all around the world.
I think of these 3 pages as my trifecta—-me, my work, and my passion. This may seem like extra work, but it’s not. I often share posts from one page to all three of the pages.
If three different pages seems unrealistic and you don’t want to open up your personal page to others then definitely create a FB page just for your freelancing services and invite all of your friends to like and follow it.
Tell people what you do and share
Do your social media connections know that you are a freelancer? When’s the last time that you—to the extent that you can—shared some of your work? I underestimated the importance of this at first. It’s not enough to just tell people, “I am a ___________________.”
You may have potential clients who are in need of your services and simply sharing that you freelance can lead to transactional relationships. Like I tell my writers, show, don’t just tell.
Be consistent in how you use your platforms
One of the most important aspects of social media branding is brand consistency. If you are a freelance videographer, make sure that your social media platforms are aligned with what you do and your area of specialization.
People will start gravitating towards you because they will associate your page with great video products. People will also use what you post as virtual business cards when they tell others about your work.
With Facebook analytics (for non-personal pages), I can gauge the reach of a post, the gender, age-range, and geographic location of the people who follow 2 of my 3 pages. For example, my niche audience on FB are women ages 34 to 55 who live in NYC, Chicago and Houston. 65% of my new clients in 2017 are via Facebook and they fall within this demographic, so I can actually attribute this growth directly to having a social media presence. Had it not been for FB, they probably never would have ‘found’ me.
Create good content
Good content is like the trailer of a movie that isn’t coming out until 2018 and you’ve already made plans to see it.
In the social media ecosystem, good content is a status, a post, a tweet, a picture, a caption, a meme or even a hashtag. Links to longer pieces are great, but sometimes, 30 seconds is all that you need. Good content is also like a virtual billboard for your services. I have posted content that has been shared by thousands of people. I also know that my content has reached over a million people. Does this translate into sales? Not necessarily, but it does help with branding and marketing your services.
Venture into new territory
I joined Instagram in June at the urging of two different clients. “You’re missing out, Doc.”
When I initially thought about Instagram, I thought about scantily clad women and since my modeling days are over, I opted to pass. I really did not understand why it would be advantageous for me from a business standpoint. So, one day, as my client and I were having lunch, I asked him to show me how the hashtags worked.
He showed me a few posts and when he typed in #freelancers, #writers, #authors, and #editors, millions of posts popped up. We clicked on a few and I was pleasantly surprised to see others sharing their written work. I’ve grown to like Instagram and I primarily use it to share inspirational quotes, cover shots of my clients’ books, or a selfie or two.
I also link my company website in my bio and a few links to my blogs. I have made some connections that have resulted in opportunities to freelance. Conversely, Twitter has not panned out as much for me, so I don’t actively use it, but it might be right for you.
It is worth noting that because I have watched other people launch and grow businesses using social media platforms, I am drawing from tips that are more process-oriented than personality based. I know my charisma is a factor in some of my success, but these tips are bankable for freelancers anywhere if you give them time.
One other cool thing about posting on multiple social media platforms is that many of them are interconnected, so you really only have to pick one and share from there—there are even apps for that.
I’d love to hear from you. How have you used social media to establish and/or build your freelancing career?