Marketing and selling your skills as a freelancer is often overlooked until something like a global pandemic blows up in your face.
I had been lucky.
My fruitful network of friends and family had kept me employed for nearly 10 years.
I don’t even have business cards.
Why would I need them if I wasn’t introducing myself to strangers? Well, strangers that could become potential new clients.
Designers are notorious for not marketing themselves properly. We will happily design and deliver a whole marketing campaign for a client, but as soon as the table is turned, marketing yourself somehow feels grubby.
This adversity to ‘selling’' is what separates designers who are profitable from designers who are not.
Please note, I didn’t say designers who are good verse designers who are not. This has nothing to do with how skilled you are as a designer (well, it does but not as much as you think) - it's all about how you promote yourself.
Author Blair Enns in Win without pitching sums it up best:
“It’s time for us to address our fears and misunderstanding of the basic business function of selling. We recoil from the ‘s’ word because we see selling as the distasteful act of talking others into things. We see it as the act of persuasion.”
Most designers like to think if we are any good at what we do then we shouldn’t have to talk people into hiring us. Reality is you will have to sell yourself at some point in your career - no matter how awesome you are.
We resist because if you conjure up an image of a sales person they are normally a pushy person who is more interested in making the sale than assessing if you are a good fit for what they are selling.
To be a good sales person, think of yourself as a respectful facilitator.
“Selling is about determining the fit between the buyer's need and the seller’s supply then facilitating the next step.”
The next step may be to work together, but it may be to part ways as well. Being able to make that decision is what will position you as an expert.
At the end of the day we sell ideas and advice so how we sell impacts what we are able to deliver.
Sales and marketing are so important that you should be spending 40% of your time on self-promotion, 50% of your time on the deliverables and the remaining 10% on admin!
I’d be lucky if I spent 5% on self-promotion pre-pandemic. Actually this blog is the only thing I do at work that isn’t directly related to client work. And claiming it as self-promotion could be pushing it! I’ll take it though, or else it would just be 0% on marketing!
Being able to promote yourself properly requires you to answer the following questions:
Who am I? What do I do? Why does it matter?
While these questions sound simple enough, if you haven't thought about them before they can be quite confronting (see BB23 for my meltdown).
You need to know WHO your target audience (and industry) is before you can market to them effectively. Having got all my work from my network for the last ten years there was no common thread (or industry) other than they all knew me somehow.
Marketing to people ‘who might know me’ isn’t a strategy.
Realising this MASSIVE gap in my business has forced me to stop and reset my working day. I HAVE to spend at least 2 hours a day on marketing and sales! There is just no way around it.
There will never be a ‘good’ time to start so it must be today!