Freelancers: How To Market Yourself in a Recession

Estimated reading time: 3 mins

This is the question many freelancers are asking at this time.

We market for a simple reason. If our customers (existing and potential) don’t know we exist, what we do, and how we can benefit them, how will we get more work?

Savvy freelancers like you know that marketing is a core function of your business. Of course, you want to get the most from it – it can be expensive in terms of your time and cost. So how are you approaching marketing?

I’ve learned quite a lot about this, in fact, over the last few weeks whilst chatting to freelancers who are still making waves during the recession. I’ve pulled together their key tactics and share them below:

  1. Keep spending if you have the money – as recession bites, prices drop, and that includes marketing services. If you have cash to spend on marketing, you’ll be getting some good deals. Marketing firms have much more spare inventory during a recession, as your competitors scale back. So spend now to gain the extra benefit. This will improve your brand and land higher quality clients. The return on investment will be high.
  2. Communicate your value – focus your marketing messages on the business benefits you bring to your clients. Use benefits, rather than features. This should include case examples to demonstrate that you walk-the-walk with other clients. Use ‘econometrics’ where you can, i.e. describe the return on investment you provide to your clients
  3. Focus on your top clients – your top clients give you your top dollar, or more guarantees of income, if there is such a thing. Market to your top clients to remind them about the value you have added to them and emphasize the benefits of your continued relationship. Make them feel important, and valued. Now is not the time to lose profitable clients. The other side to this is looking at unprofitable clients – is there business you do where you barely break even? Consider scaling back on marketing to these people.
  4. Align to your market – being a one-trick pony in these times will be very tough. You might have already been forced to take on projects outside of your core focus. Your marketing energy should align to your market – are you addressing their top concerns? Are you showing affinity with their business challenges? The truth is, the expectations of your market have changed, and so will their decision-making practices, so don’t lose an opportunity to show how you’re adpating too!
  5. Send the right message – right now, your clients want safety and security, both at home and at work. As well as aligning to their business challenges, set the right tone in terms of their individual needs.  This includes showing how you are a ‘safe bet’ rather than maverick. Humor and extremism won’t press the right buttons. Reassure instead. Show that you’re a friend with the future of your client’s at the core of your proposition.
    Here’s an interesting example on Chris Brogan’s blog when a marketing message might be a shot in the foot. Note the subtleties of the message and how if you don’t think it through it can have the opposite impact to what you intended.
  6. Switch channels – do you do online only? Or maybe you work through personal referrals? Consider adding marketing channels, or switching entirely. This doesn’t mean you’ll lose business in your existing channels, but if they’re drying up or stagnating then try a different direction for a while.

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