With the explosion of digital media and the ‘freelancer economy’ never has setting up a creative business been so attractive yet so competitive! Whether you are offering graphic design and web development or video production this is a highly saturated and ruthlessly competitive marketplace with strong international competition; meaning people competing for projects based on the value of their local currency and cost of living – so what was once you competing with the guy or girl down the road is now you competing with a global network of creative freelancers.
Even if you have a specific qualification like an MBA with an engineering focus that sets you apart from the competition, in the world of freelancing a lot of it comes down to how visible you are within your particular niche, social proof, and word of mouth recommendation.
When setting up a business there’s a lot to get to grips with. In addition to understanding fundamental (yet somewhat tedious) business practices such as accounting and legal requirements – the most important business practice you can learn is effective marketing.
See, you can have the best skills, but if you aren’t able to market yourself effectively then nobody is going to know who you are let alone have a compelling reason to do business with you! Irrespective of the quality of your creative work, your ability to market yourself is paramount to your success in setting up as a solo practitioner or creative agency. This article provides five tips on how to tout your creative wares.
1. PICK A NICHE
It’s tempting to be a creative jack of all trades, however, most people prefer to do business with someone they view as an expert within a particular field – so rather than promote yourself as someone that dabbles it would be better to position yourself as an expert within a particular niche; which could be a type of work such as video production, or a particular industry such as hotels.
2. WORD OF MOUTH RECOMMENDATION
Think of it in terms of the good old days where you would go to a video shop, before the days of Netflix, where you would wander on down to Blockbuster and rent a video for the night. Imagine now, someone you know and trust recommends a film they know you’ll love – the chances are, you’ll check that film out. Similarly, when people we know and trust recommend service providers, such as graphic designers, we tend to go with their opinion.
Word of mouth marketing is the oldest and most effective form of marketing there is. The social proof that comes from online reviews, testimonials, and social media ‘likes’ works on this principle, but don’t forget people do business with people – and no matter how online focused your creative business may be; word of mouth from real life people interacting with each other is the most effective marketing around… so encourage satisfied customers to spread the word by offering an incentive, such as a future discount to both parties if they recommend a friend.
3. NETWORK, NETWORK, NETWORK
Again, in the age of social media, it would appear redundant to attend networking events in person, as everything is now done online. Indeed, we focus more on developing our Instagram accounts than we do interacting with real life people, but if you want to make an impression (bearing in mind people buy ‘people’ more than the service they provide) you need to get out there and market yourself.