• Advice

Marketing basics for freelancers

Branding can either happen by design or by default. As independent workers, it is important that we understand the power of our brand. It is even more important that we see ourselves as architects of that brand whether we are freelancers, contractors, sole proprietors, or small business owners.

The cornerstone of most branding efforts is marketing. Traditionally, marketing was often connected to the print and visual ads that you might see in a newspaper, magazine, flyers, leaflets, brochures, TV commercials, billboards and/or radio ads.

All of these methods still play a vital role in how information is disseminated and how brands are established and maintained. Yet, the advent of e-commerce and social media has drastically affected how we connect with each other and how we market to potential clients and customers.

For larger corporations, advertising and marketing are often significant line items. However, for smaller entities, including freelancers, there just may not be room in the budget. The good news is that size doesn’t matter when it comes to effectively creating a brand and telling people about it.

Before you begin a marketing campaign, here are a few questions to consider: How much can I spend? What is my targeted audience? How can I reach this audience? Do I have the time, talent and resources to do the marketing myself, or should I outsource it to another contractor?

Depending on the answers to these questions, you will be in a position to determine what your most immediate needs are and the best way to pursue those needs. In many instances, you may conclude that it is best to leave it to the experts. Others may find that branding and marketing can be handled in-house.

DIY digital marketing

Because I opted for the latter, I’d like to share a few things with you that have worked for me and that have saved me money. In the spirit of full disclosure, everything that I learned about creating a brand and marketing was self-taught. It was also organic. I started by paying attention to the type of marketing that caught by eye compared to the type that I discarded or ignored. I also focused on the aesthetics—how the information was presented. Lastly, I focused on what was said—the content. (Keep in mind that at some point, even if you launch on your own, you may still decide to outsource your marketing.)

After perusing the marketing materials of others, I discovered that traditional marketing would not be the best option for my line of work because 90% of my clients lived outside of my market. I needed to cast a much wider net and introduce my work to people in markets that extended far beyond my own.

This is where digital marketing entered my life. When you think digital marketing, think about the marketing that you have seen online on various websites and via platforms like Instagram, Facebook, Google, Twitter, or even YouTube. Although the placement of some of these ads can be annoying, they do present advertisers with an opportunity to scale up their marketing efforts.

Of the digital options that I mentioned, the one that has led to the most leads and actual tangible sales has been via my company’s Facebook page: Seldon Writing Group, LLC. I am intentional about using this page for the purposes of introducing our and further branding the company. The posts are genuine and writing related. I often schedule months in advance to ensure that there is content on the page even if I am not online.

As a result of this digital marketing effort, Facebook clients now account for a significant number of our new clientele. I know other freelancers who have great results with Instagram Business and others who swear by Linkedin. So, if Facebook is not your thing, you may want to think about another platform because, over time, the advantages add up. Here’s why:

Captive audience

Even though potential clients can scroll over, hide, or ignore ads, there are also those who will read your content and follow-up. In this sense, you have a captive audience, because digital marketing allows you to hone in on your desired audience. If you don’t offer e-commerce, you can focus on your local demographic. If your products or services are geared towards a national and/or international audience then you can pitch to them. With Facebook in particular, you can even specify an age range.

Engagement options

With digital media, you can build rapport and relationships with your audience through your blogs, your posts, and your live videos. As you build up and maintain content, potential clients can decide which, if any, of these options they want to use to engage and stay connected with you. With smart devices ubiquitous in most communities, there is a strong possibility that someone will click. Once they, click, it’s up to you to convert that click into a sale.


As I started to pay more attention to the “Sponsored” ads in my newsfeed, I assumed that they were expensive, but, relatively speaking, they are not. Posts can be boosted (sponsored) for as little as $2 to $3 per day and you determine how long you want the ad to run.


Data—some of us may be tired of hearing this word, but it a critical aspect of any marketing campaign. No one wants to waste money or pour money into an effort that is futile. Empirically, data helps us measure whether or not we are generating the traffic that we desire and engaging with the clientele that we envisioned.

An added advantage is that I can compare the organic reach to the paid reach. This has helped me to determine which ads are worth boosting and how well a particular demographic responds to an ad. I then use that data for determining where to put my future digital marketing dollars.

By tracking your reach and how many leads convert to sales, you can determine conversion rates; you can also determine if digital marketing is an optimal fit for you.

Tyra Seldon Tyra Seldon is a former English Professor turned writer, editor and small business owner. Her writing addresses the intersections of race, gender, culture and education.