5 Signs Your Freelance Marketing Sucks

We talk a lot about how to market freelance writing services effectively. But how do you know when there's a problem with your existing marketing and it's time for a change? Here are five signs that your current freelance marketing sucks and that your marketing plan is overdue for a visit.

  1. You only attract low-paying clients -- those unable to pay the freelance writing rates you actually need to earn to reach your financial goals.
  2. You don't attract any prospects at all. If prospects never approach you for a quote or proposal, you're doing a lousy job of getting the word out about you and your business. Once you're reasonably established you should be getting at least some natural prospects where you don't have to troll job ads and apply for them as though you're applying for a traditional job.
  3. Your professional sites gets little to no traffic. It's supposed to be a marketing tool. If it's not bringing in prospects, you need to rethink your SEO and Internet marketing plan to get that site seen.
  4. You don't know who your biggest direct competitors are. If you haven't even done that much basic market research, it's time to go back to square one. You can't compete effectively if you don't know who and what you're competing against.
  5. You don't have a memorable brand. In freelancing that "brand" is often just you. People should recognize and remember your name, especially in your specialty area. You should be getting interview and quote requests because people recognize you as an authority source on some level. There should be something that sets you apart from the ever-growing collection of other freelancers out there, whether that's a truly unique credential or simply your personality.

Are you guilty of any of these things? Have you let your freelance marketing slide a bit, falling into a routine instead of continually innovating and working to grow your business more efficiently? If you suddenly lost clients do you have a solid enough marketing plan in place that they'd be quickly replaced? Share your thoughts, stories, or other signs that someone's freelance marketing sucks in the comments below.

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Jennifer Mattern is a professional blogger, freelance business writer, consultant, and indie author. She runs numerous websites & blogs including All Freelance Writing, Freelance Writing Pros, NakedPR, and Kiss My Biz.

Jenn has 25 years' experience as a professional writer and editor and over 20 years' experience in marketing and PR (working heavily in digital PR, online marketing, social media, SEO, new media, and thought leadership publication). She also has 19 years' professional blogging and web publishing experience (including web development) and around 18 years of experience as an indie author / publisher.

Jenn also writes fiction under multiple pen names and is an Active member of the Horror Writers Association.

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11 thoughts on “5 Signs Your Freelance Marketing Sucks”

  1. You don’t know when to hold them, know when to fold them. This business takes persistence, but it also takes knowing when to go to Plan B.

    It’s something I fight because I tend to get impatient – I know, hard to believe 🙂

    Thanks for helping us focus, Jenn.

    • Exactly. We’re all going to make mistakes. And we’re all going to try things that just aren’t the most productive uses of our time. And that’s okay. Testing is a part of learning. But you always need that Plan B. If you can’t walk away from what’s not working, you can’t grow your business (or sustain where you are indefinitely).

      As for blogs, at least you comment. So call it networking and link-building. 😉 As long as you get something out of it, commenting’s a great form of marketing online. It’s just the reading / trolling w/o commenting that can suck time without giving you some benefit. Look at me enabling your habit. 😉

  2. Here’s my take on marketing – it has to be constant. That way, if a client does disappear today, there are enough clients still present to lessen the impact.

    Your marketing sucks if your clients today are paying the same rate your clients last year, two years ago, etc. are paying. Aim higher.

    • In many cases I’d agree. But at the same time I’d say that depends where you are right now (and where you were 2 years ago). I have clients who are still on rates they were charged years ago. But that’s because I can still exceed my hourly target rate, in some cases doing even better — over $200 per hour for one client’s projects even though they have a lower per-project rate than most for example. You eventually get to a point even in professional markets where you’re going to top out. The most I’ve earned was $400 per hour. But that’s not something that’ll happen every day doing the kind of writing I want to write. If your income isn’t able to cover what you want it to cover, I’m with you 100% — it’s time to aim higher. But if you’re meeting or exceeding your goals, you’re happy with the work, you’re happy with the clients, and moving up any further would likely mean having to re-launch with a completely new target market that doesn’t interest you, I don’t see anything wrong with rates from 2 years ago. It really comes down to how good you were 2 years ago at commanding decent rates. That said, there’s no way I’d take on new clients at rates like that. Too much is unpredictable in new working relationships to assume you can get a killer hourly rate. Some clients are time-sucks and others are a breeze to work with.

  3. I also believe it would behoove writers to decide what their ‘niche’ is. You can’t be everything to everyone. You may be stronger in one area of writing than another. What do you like to write? What industries appeal to you? Go from there and build a marketing plan. If it doesn’t work, go to Plan B.

    BTW: Writers may want to evaluate if they want to be freelance writers.

    • Both very valid points. It’s so easy to generalize what you do. It’s not enough to say you want to be a “Web writer” for example. What niche? What kind of clients? What kind of budget should they have? Who should they target as an audience? What kind of value is that client base looking for? Every general category has so many specialties and not knowing where you want to fall in that mix makes it very difficult to market your services as effectively as possible.

      And you’re right. Freelancing is not for everyone, no matter how appealing it might sound. There are plenty of other opportunities for freelancers from writing your own books and creating your own other information products to looking for full-time work in your area of interest.

  4. Jennifer,

    Thanks for letting me know how much my marketing sucks. And I mean that sincerely. 🙂

    I especially appreciated the point about competition. I think it’s very easy, especially hiding in cyberspace, to forget that we one-man-band outfits have plenty of competition out there and the competition can be fierce. We’re such a mutually helpful and social bunch, it’s almost funny to think of other freelancers as vicious competition, but it’s true. That’s business. It is what it is.

    Thanks again!

    • lol No problem.

      I think a part of the competition issue is that a lot of freelancers get so caught up thinking of people as colleagues that they forget many of those colleagues are in direct competition with them. And that’s fine. You can compete and still have a friendly professional relationship. But you still have to know what you’re up against business-wise so you can bring in the work you need to.

  5. Number 1 is absolutely right. If you’re not making top dollar, then you’re just wasting your time with losers. 3 is true, if that’s how you get business, which leads to number 4. Most of the clients I get now have spoken with maybe one other freelancer, if that. There’s not a lot of competition because I specifically use “offline” techniques to get business. I get the bulk of my business cold calling. Yes, it takes some “whatevers” to start dialing the phone, but it’s really not that bad. Also, you get in touch with a world of folks who know they need your services, but they don’t know how to find anyone. So, this all results in very little competition.

    • I would say any freelance writer not getting business through their own website is making another fundamental mistake. No matter what market you target, a professional site is a highly effective way to attract prospects or convince prospects to hire you. That includes magazine writers who should have a professional presence they can link editors to when they query. And it includes those who target local clients. Local search and social media marketing are more important than ever these days.


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