If you have decided to take the plunge and launch a freelance career, there are a number of stages you need to go through before you are ready to trade. Our previous articles covered the financials and this will help you launch and communicate your business to your clients.
This is a generic marketing launch guide that will help but the details are dependent on the type of products or services you are offering so it’s great idea to talk to someone who offers professional marketing services, even if it’s just an initial meeting to establish what you need. Getting things right from the outset will save you lots of time and, from a marketing point of view, it allows you to get your messaging straight, both in your own mind and outwardly to the world.
For our example we are going to use a freelance graphic designer.
What do you offer?
Most importantly, before you consider anything else, you need to be crystal clear about what you offer. This might sound obvious but if you can distil your goods or services into one sentence it makes it easy to understand and also helps you to determine who your audience is. You can expand and diversify later but understand what it is that you do right now and focus on that. Understand what your clients are looking for and meet their needs with your offering. Adapt if necessary, remember you are working for them and if they need someone who works on a Saturday or someone who can collaborate with someone else, you might need to be flexible.
Using our example, this could be a graphic designer who specialises in the design of digital brochures. He is happy to work to short deadlines and in conjunction with the client’s copywriter.
Who needs you?
To help direct your marketing and make the most of any investment you are going to make, it is always best to narrow down your prospective audience as far as possible. This might sound slightly negative as you are starting out. You want to tell the world what you do but, business-wise, with limited resources, it is far more prudent to target your communications to the most receptive audiences. You can always extend them as you grow or add new services or products.
Understand who might need your products or services. Write down exactly the type of customer you want.
For our example, this could be small to medium sized businesses. He may have done graphic design for a lot of food and drink businesses so he can narrow it down further to just those. He might really enjoy working with family-owned businesses so he can reflect this in his list accordingly. He could begin by creating an actual list of all the small to medium sized, family-owned businesses within a geographic area that works for him.
Be direct, use as few words as possible and expand where necessary. Use headlines, bullet points and any additional words can appear at a later stage when you have interest from your client. Most start-up businesses make the mistake of trying to say everything, all in one go. People are busy and generally skim read anything vaguely salesy so you will need to get to the point quickly. The background information can follow in due course or be available on your website.
Digital brochure design
Food and drink specialists
Fixed price for digital and print brochures
Quick turnaround – usually 3 days from start to finish
Experienced designer with fresh, exciting design ideas
Email address • Phone number • Web address
What else do you need? You can expand on all of these points in your website and in person when you are in front of your client.
Try and communicate what you do, and for whom, in a short, snappy tagline. Don’t try to be clever, cheesy or funny – just cut through all the waffle and tell people what you do. Your tagline can change as often as you like so we’d recommend you use this to describe your business if your business name needs to be more neutral (allowing for future changes and developments).
Joe Murray Graphic Design
Beautiful digital brochures for the food and drink sector
There has to be a number of good reasons for a company to use your services. Write them down, memorise them, they are your sales pitch! Why would you use you? If you can’t think of any reasons then you might need to tweak your business model – is your product/service in demand? Have you identified your audience correctly?
Our designer example says that he is local, quick, good and offers competitive rates. He also has experience in this sector with examples of work to demonstrate this. He also knows and can recommend some excellent food photographers who he has worked with before.
This is quite a large consideration as this is when you decide how your business is going to look. You may have plenty of ideas but we would seriously recommend naming and branding the business after you’ve completed the above steps. How you present your business will be largely influenced by what you’re offering and to whom. To be brutal, whilst you should be delighted with how it looks, what you think matters far less than what your clients think.
Your brand is multi-faceted: it’s a mix of your name, tagline, the colours you choose, the tone you adopt and any imagery you feature. Developing your brand should involve other people as you need to check that it does what you want it to. Take into account any feedback you receive as it is really valuable. If you arrive at a brand that doesn’t communicate what you do or offer, then it isn’t right.
You should LOVE your brand as it is something to be proud of and will be part of your working day for a long time. Changing or evolving a brand is absolutely fine but it shouldn’t be done too often and evolving is always better than changing so you don’t lose any traction or engagement you had previously built. When using your brand anywhere it is vital that it is consistent and always presented in the same way, in the same colours. Larger businesses have brand guideline documents that specify exactly how the logo, typeface and other accompanying items should be used, do an online search for such a document for inspiration for yourself.
Where does your business need to be to stand a chance of getting noticed? It’s usual to have a website as a baseline. These days, a website comes before anything printed – even business cards! A lot of how you decide to present yourself will be dictated by how customers buy from you and what you are selling. Will you be trading online? Obviously this is less practical for a painter and decorator! Be mindful of where your customers are and think carefully about how they will hear about you.
Do you need:
Or can all of these items be originated and sent digitally? Most businesses are happy to accept online quotes, invoices and statements so the need to have reams of printed stationery is decreasing rapidly.
Think about your customers – are they on social media platforms? Is Facebook right for you? Is Linkedin a good place to be seen? To a certain degree, ignore how you personally feel about these platforms and just put yourself in the shoes of your clients and see if they would respond to you via these means. If you're not comfortable managing social media, get advice on the easiest, most painless way to do it. If you are selling online, this is vital.
Our example has a super cool website full of work examples, testimonials and he regularly posts on Facebook and Linkedin. He has started to create a good list of businesses he’d like to work for and he so now he needs a plan for the short and medium term to get his business off the ground.
There’s a lot to think about and these steps just get you ready to launch. The next stage is to have a marketing plan that you start and sustain, even when you have more than enough work! We’ll follow this up with marketing planning and business development ideas in the coming weeks.