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vangogh
07-16-2009, 05:14 PM
When you're first starting out as a freelancer you're #1 question is probably how do you find clients. I know it was for me.

9 Tips for Establishing Your Own Marketing Method as a Freelancer (http://vandelaydesign.com/blog/marketing/marketing-freelancer/), has some ideas to help answer the question. This thread probably could have gone in one of our marketing forums, but I thought it might do the most good for people just starting out and hence it's inclusion here.

You can read the details in the post, but here are the 9 tips

1. Consider Your Ultimate Plans and Goals
2. Have a Branding Approach
3. Consider Name Recognition
4. Consider Your Ideal Client or Target Market
5. Consider Specialization
6. Develop a Small Advertising Budget
7. Work on Finding Partners
8. What’s in Your Portfolio?
9. Consider Blogging

The post is from Vandelay Design and so some of the specifics will be about a design freelancing business. The general principles should apply to any services based business.

I've honestly done all 9 of the above in getting my own business going over the years. All have proven valuable, though to choose 3 I'd say focusing on brand, identifying my target market, and blogging, have been the most beneficial to me.

For those of you who have existing services business did you do any of the above and which did you find most valuable?

Dan Furman
07-17-2009, 09:13 PM
All valid.

For my personal situation, two things in particular stand out to me:

1) A website that proved what I can do (in terms of writing.) In other words, my writing has to grab my clients.

2) Samples. For an "art" business like mine or VG's, there is no substitution for samples. Preferably "real" samples, but to start, that might not always be possible. But even if you have to make them up (and state they are fictional) that's fine too.

phanio
07-17-2009, 10:14 PM
Read on another forum that the Wall Street Journal published a freelance guide on July 14 - which outlined how to get paid as a freelancer as well as the numerous organizations that can help promote you.

vangogh
07-18-2009, 01:45 AM
Dan I think a website is imperative for freelancers. You're really expected to have one. Similarly to you my website proves that I can build one. I actually know someone in town who works as a web designer and last time I checked he didn't have a site for himself. I've never been sure how he finds work.

With samples I started out doing some free, some low cost, and even some fictional projects just to show I could do what I claimed I could do. I considered it part of my learning process and in truth I had the samples before I really set up shop.

Joseph is the guide something behind the WSJ login? If it's freely available and you have a link could you post it? How about the link to the other forum if you have it?

Blessed
07-19-2009, 01:04 AM
very good points...

as soon as my work slows down so that I have the time to do it I really must get my website up and going :) Of course that means I have a lot more to learn... at least I have a community of people to learn from here!

vangogh
07-19-2009, 01:35 AM
as soon as my work slows down so that I have the time to do it I really must get my website up and going

Work never slows down. You have to make the time to do it.

Blessed
07-20-2009, 02:58 PM
Work never slows down. You have to make the time to do it.

So True.

I guess since I focus primarily on print design setting up my website has been easy to push to the background, but I'm at the stage where I know I have to get a website for myself up and running so it's time to do it. As of today, both of my babysitters are off of their vacations and by the end of the week my biggest job of the year will be done so after I spend the weekend working on the monthly newspaper I need to start on my website. That means that Tuesday will be the day... wish me luck!

rezzy
07-20-2009, 04:47 PM
Steve, I agree. Life (work) never slows down. You have to make time to get things done you watnt/need done.

vangogh
07-20-2009, 07:49 PM
Good luck tomorrow starting the site. I find if you schedule time in the day to work on something and make that something a priority you can usually make progress. Don't try to finish the site in one day, but do set aside some time each day to work on it. Even if all you can spare is 15 minutes you can still make progress and in a few weeks look back on how much you've gotten done.

phanio
07-23-2009, 04:38 AM
Joseph is the guide something behind the WSJ login? If it's freely available and you have a link could you post it? How about the link to the other forum if you have it?

For some reason, I can no longer find the guide. I even tried to go back through some of the other forums I frequent and can't find that either. I can picture it in my mind - but can't seem to put my finger on it.

However, I did come across another WSJ article about freelancing that I thought would fit in this discussion: Negotiating the Freelance Economy - WSJ.com (http://online.wsj.com/article/SB124157147509390007.html)

Here is another I thought you all might find interesting: http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052970203577304574280030261191634.html

vangogh
07-23-2009, 01:01 PM
Thanks for the articles. No worries about not finding the original one you mentioned.

When I was reading the first article above it dawned on me how freelances are replacing the temp work force. It seems an obvious thing that they would since it's generally advantageous to both parties. Employee gets to work at home and take on more than one temp assignment and employer saves on the cost of going through the temp agency.

kiawah
07-25-2009, 09:08 AM
One of the best things you can do is join Guru.com (http://www.guru.com) or Elance (http://www.elance.com) to start bidding on jobs - good luck

nighthawk
07-25-2009, 05:59 PM
One of the best things you can do is join Guru.com (http://www.guru.com) or Elance (http://www.elance.com) to start bidding on jobs - good luck

Hi kiawah, have you used elance and guru in the past? I would be interested in hearing your experiences. Having used them both I have found them to be a waste of time - those posting jobs there are typically looking to get the job done as cheaply as possible, and there are plenty of workers in india/china prepared to do them. Unless you are happy to earn $5 an hour, I suggest avoiding freelance sites like above.

billbenson
07-25-2009, 06:01 PM
Thanks for the articles. No worries about not finding the original one you mentioned.

When I was reading the first article above it dawned on me how freelances are replacing the temp work force. It seems an obvious thing that they would since it's generally advantageous to both parties. Employee gets to work at home and take on more than one temp assignment and employer saves on the cost of going through the temp agency.

Thats an interesting point. Anybody know how Kelly Services is doing in the current economy? An old girlfriend was a manager for them. Makes me curious.

vangogh
07-26-2009, 12:50 PM
Having used them both I have found them to be a waste of time

Same here. I only dabbled in them when I was first starting out, but it seemed like you would just be competing with someone in a part of the world who could work for much less money than you could. There would always be one or two bids so ridiculously low there was no way you could even come close to it.

I imagine you could still get some projects and perhaps getting a few and building a reputation in the site would allow you to still get work at higher bids. For me though, it worked better to find clients on my own outside of sites like these.

@Bill - I had never thought of that until reading the article. For some reason it helped me make the connection. I wondered how temp agencies were doing too. Years ago that would have been where I might have started when looking for a contract job. Now I would just find it myself online through an ad on a classified site.

For businesses it's likely much cheaper to place an ad on Craig's List or similar and sort through the replies. They'll likely find a good candidate for the job and will save on the costs of going through a temp agency. I would think temp agencies is one of the industries that becomes more easily replaceable with the internet. At the very least they need to modify their business.

Having said that I do know people who still find jobs through temp agencies. They're still with us and probably will be for some time. It's not hard to see how they can be replaced though when it comes to finding a job in some industries.

prova.fm
08-12-2009, 10:40 PM
Nighthawk,

I used guru, ifreelance, & oDesk as an employer, but I don't like it. As I'm setting up my new website, I've used freelancers to get some of the more complicated work done. It can be quite frustrating from an employer's point of view to hire on those sites because I'll get a list of people who all say what I want to hear & bid a ridiculously low price. Turns out, they rarely listen to what I need & don't follow through. I'm willing to pay for quality now, but that's hard to find on those sites.

Surprisingly, it's hard to find a good freelancer (not sure why). Plus I hate looking through stacks of data & test scores that give me a systematical view of why freelancer X would be better than freelancer Y. It takes longer than figuring out how to do things on my own.

I think Vangogh's right about the blog. If you have a great blog that gives great advice, it really improves your image. Wish I was a better writer :)

-David

vangogh
08-13-2009, 02:24 AM
I never thought about those sites from the employer's point of view, but it's easy to see how you can feel that way. I think what happens with those sites is you get too many people low bidding just to get any job. They say all the right things, but the question is whether or not they can deliver.

There are good freelancers out there. You have to find them and be willing to hire a bad one to find a good one. You also have to be willing to pay for them. The more experienced and talented tend to acquire more clients and are then able to raise their prices. You can still find someone good who's just getting started that won't be too expensive yet.

David the writing comes with practice. Some people do have a natural gift for it, but anyone can learn to write better. There are two things you need to do. Read better writers and write more yourself. When you read the great writers you'll start to pick up on their rhythms and you'll find yourself having a better ear. By practicing you'll start to notice your own writing more. You'll be able to recognize your strengths and improve your weakness. Pick up a couple of books on writing well too. There's lots of good advice in some. Once you see some things point out it becomes easy to incorporate into your own writing.

KristineS
08-13-2009, 01:39 PM
David,

Have to second Vangogh's advice on the writing thing. One way to learn to write better is to read writers that you enjoy, not with an eye toward enjoying their work, but more with an eye to figuring how they use words and what about how they write makes you enjoy reading their work.

Another way to increase your skill is to read what you write out loud. Reading out loud helps you identify awkward phrases or sentences that don't quite fit where they've been put. It can help smooth out your writing quite a bit.

prova.fm
08-13-2009, 08:09 PM
How do you guys decide what to write about? And I don't mean, "oh, I should write about design." ;) I mean each post. Where do you come up with the ideas? Kristine, do you have a blog?

-David

vangogh
08-13-2009, 08:39 PM
All sorts of places. It's not always easy to decide what you're going to write about. I keep a brainstorming file. Usually every Monday morning I open that file and spend about an hour jotting down any idea that comes to mind. If an idea comes to me later in the week I open the file and add it to the list.

While I'm in there I start looking over everything on the list and pick one idea and being to make notes on it in another file that will eventually become the post. Ideally I'll get to the point where I have several of the note files going at the same time and even better several finished posts done at any one time.

Back to where the ideas come from. Some of it comes from the brainstorming, some comes from reading other blogs and getting ideas from them. Sometimes it's something someone said in a comment on a previous post. Sometimes I'll pick a general subject and do a little keyword research to see what more specific phrases people are searching for and I'll write a post around one of those phrases. I'll do something similar by looking through my analytics. If you have a post that ranks well around a phrase you can probably rank another one around a similar phrase.

I've grabbed ideas walking around town and observing what I see. Part of the trick is to begin to recognize that something you commonly see or do would make a good blog post.

None of the above is an attempt to say it's easy. Believe me when I say I struggle with finding topics all the time. You don't want to commit to writing more than you can realistic write. At the moment that's one post a week for me and I seem to be able to come up with one thing to write about each week. Hopefully some of the processes I'm putting in place will allow me to up that to twice in week.

prova.fm
08-13-2009, 08:47 PM
Wow, that's a really good idea. I actually get a lot of business ideas. About a year ago I started writing the good biz ideas in a Composition Book so I wouldn't forget about them once I had the time to pick & start one. It turns out, writing them down took it off my mind so I could sleep quicker at night (thinker). So I started writing every business idea down, no matter how ridiculous, just to get it out of my head. I already filled up one book. I don't know why I didn't think about that same idea for blogging.

I'll definitely do that.

-David

You'll have to let me know how you do your keyword research.

vangogh
08-13-2009, 09:03 PM
That's perfect. Now go back through it and pick some of the ideas and start making notes in another notebook or in a file. I used to try just writing the post, but lately I've first written down an outline of what I want to talk about with a few quick thoughts on each point I want to cover. At the end I'll make a few notes about resources to add. What kind of posts I might link to and in my case any images or code I need to create.

With the outline and notes done I'll search a little for posts to link to and record the URLs in my file. Generally I'll find a few more things in each of the posts I find that add to my outline. Then I'll create any images or code I need.

I've been letting the notes sit for a day or two and then I'll come back and write the post.

For whatever reason it's easier for me to gather my thoughts when I don't feel like I'm writing a finished piece. When I'm writing the outline and notes they come much faster than when I'm trying to write the post. When I do go back to write the post from my notes the writing comes much faster since I already know what I want to say.

I think the process helps me separate the writer in me and the editor in me and helps both of them do what they do better.

jonicode
09-07-2009, 10:45 AM
Excellent tips Van, I'm thinking about starting a blog, any suggestions on which is better (and easier) to begin with? Wordpress or Blogger?

vangogh
09-08-2009, 02:27 PM
I prefer WordPress. Both are easy to use, but if you install WordPress on your own hosting account you'll end up with so many more options and much more control over things. You may not need all that extra control at the start, but in time you most likely will.

WordPress is pretty easy to install too. A good number of hosts will have an option to install it with a few clicks from your hosting control panel. Even the manual install is pretty easy if your host doesn't have the quicker option.