As a freelance instructional designer, or any freelancer type for that matter, costs can start to add up here and there and quickly but there are ways you can affordably market your freelance business and find clients.
When you are just starting out, the money typically trickles in very slowly, if at all. That was the case for me anyway. To get myself started and into profit mode, I relied on what I knew and who I knew to get my first clients.
The people you have worked for or whom you have collaborated with in the past, had a direct line of sight into your work ethic and quality of work. Because of this, these folks are great prospect sources to reach out to for some freelance work. They already know you, like you, and trust you so this is a great place to start. Why? People like to do business with people they know, like, and trust.
When I first launched my freelance instructional design business back in 2013, I sent emails to former bosses and people I had worked with previously to let them know what I was doing and asked them to keep me in mind if they had any freelance instructional design work. That one email resulted in 4 clients.
Since then, I have even had past co-workers refer their new colleagues to me for services. I have even had 3rd party vendors from my old jobs introduce me to their clients who could use my services. And, in return, when I have a client who could use their services, I recommend them. Win-Win!
It’s also beneficial to let your friends and family know what you are doing. A few of them just might work for companies that use freelancers to augment staffing from time-to-time. A friend or family member can become a great referral source for you.
Similar to the email I sent out to my professional contacts, I sent out an email to my friends and family announcing my new business. I asked them to keep me in mind if they came across any training & development freelance opportunities, and I asked a handful of them to introduce me to the person in their organization who leads the Training function. Some did. Some didn’t.
From that one email, I landed one project from a friend who then referred me to a large company who had an urgent need, thus a second project and client. Score!
Today, I promote my business on various social media platforms as well. If you checkout my LinkedIn profile, you will see the name of my business, a brief description about what it is that I do, how to contact me, and a banner image that reinforces that information. It’s nothing fancy but it gets the job done.
I also create graphics that have my website URL and post them to my social media sites weekly. I have social media accounts on Instagram, Pinterest, Facebook, LinkedIn, and Twitter, and I post something to all of them at least once per week driving people back to my website or to an optin that gets them to sign up for my email list.
What do I post? I post about my blog (See example Pin below). I post motivational content. I create infographics (above) related to instructional design and post those. I create posts related to instructional design. I post about my free course and resources. I post about my online course, The Instructional Design Lab. And, sometimes, I post about my services.
Online Groups & Forums
Because I enjoy interacting, sharing ideas, and communicating with people who work in instructional design, I show up in online groups to post and comment. As a result, I often see in my Google Analytics data that someone visited my site from Reddit or LinkedIn, which are the two online groups that I am the most active in.
Speaking of LinkedIn, I was in a LinkedIn group a few months back and saw a post that was interesting and commented on it. Today, the person who made that post that I commented on is one of my clients, and she keeps me very busy, happily busy!
Oh, how the times have changed since 2013 when I first launched iRIDD LLC! Today, there are numerous freelancing sites where you can post your services and/or bid on projects. It’s such an amazing opportunity for freelancers.
I use freelancers pretty regularly in my business and source most of them from Upwork. I also have a freelance Upwork account that I have used to attract a few clients. It’s a simple to navigate platform, and it is so easy to bid on projects, contract, hire, manage projects, track yours or your freelancer’s work and time, and it’s simple to get paid or pay, depending on which side of it you are on.
Clients don’t have to be one and done! Instead, they can be long-term clients. Even if they only have one project for you to do right now, that doesn’t mean they won’t have more later. So, take care of your clients so that they want to keep coming back to you for help.
Remember that saying, “Out of sight. Out of mind?” Well, it’s super true for your business so it’s important to keep in touch with your past clients. Drop them a line every now and then to check on them and see if they have any work for you. Send email messages around the holidays. Keep them updated on what’s new with your business.
The point is – Don’t Let Them Forget About You!
What else can you do?
By now, I probably sound like a broken record, if you have read any of my previous posts, because I have said it before and I am saying it again now – make sure you have a sharp looking website that invites potential clients to look around. Your website can make prospective clients feel like working with you is a safe bet or it can make them run for the hills.
You can also join networking and professional groups where you interact with peers or local businesses. Personally, I am a member of the national chapter of ATD as well as a local chapter. I am also a member of Alignable and similar platforms. These all have the potential to lead to prospective clients.
Some people pass out business cards to everyone they meet. That’s an option, too. My business cards typically collect dust but some people use business cards pretty effectively. I’m just not one of them.
If you want to shell out some money on marketing, there are many options available today from Google Ad Words to online advertisements to mailers. Because my focus is on affordability, I am not going to get into those today, but I do want to point out that there are many opportunities to affordably market your freelance business, regardless of the size of your budget!
My free Facebook Group is a great place to add your questions and engage with other instructional designers on different topics related to instructional design, so jump on in and join the conversation.