June’s blog has been a bit of a tricky one for me, trying to find inspiration. Despite having a number of things to talk about later in the year (when the timing is right) I was at a loss for a topic for June.
Then, it hit me: I’ve been struggling with marketing, so why not talk about that?
I’m not a natural salesman and marketing does not come easily to me; however, running your own business requires you to get stuck into things you may not enjoy, unless you’re lucky enough to be so successful that you can employ someone to do it for you – but that’s a bit of a chicken and egg predicament – you need to be able to afford to employ someone at an early stage in order to have a chance of better sales.
Speaking to other freelancers, and reading up at the SfEP, it seems different things have worked for different people. Some insist they haven’t had to do any marketing – their first few jobs came via word of mouth and it just snowballed; others have insisted social media is the only way to go; others insist printed media is still king. These approaches have all worked for them, so which is right for me?
When I first started, I did some “cold-emailing”, i.e. getting email addresses for publishers etc. and making contact. I struck lucky in that I caught one publisher just as they were working on a couple of financial texts so had a steady stream of work from them. This was a double-edged sword in some ways: I put any further marketing on the back burner, since I had the work to keep me busy.
Then that work came to an end… and I had none lined up because I hadn’t been marketing and had all my eggs in one basket. So, I started again to look into it. I found this article useful and it made me think about what I was selling and to whom.
- What’s my product?
- Proofreading, though not exclusively that, as my earlier blogs in February and March discuss, but clearly, I had to market one thing at a time. I’m here to help people get their written material (leaflets, reports, essays, webpages, whatever) accurate and consistent. I’m your final pair of eyes!
- What’s my target market?
- For proofreading this could be publishers, organisations and individuals – anyone with some written material that’s going public. Again, I felt I had to target one area at a time.
- What’s my competition?
- There are plenty of proofreaders out there, more established and more experienced – so what would attract someone to me? That leads nicely to the next bit really.
- What’s my niche?
- This is where, perhaps, I can start to get somewhere. I have a mathematical and financial background. So, publishers of content in those areas would be my niche market, plus some of those lovely students nearby, studying for their degree in such subjects. I can combine my specialist knowledge with a proofread so that any glitches in the technical and specialist areas can be looked over as well.
- How shall I develop awareness?
- Well, this blog, as introduced in January, is one approach. I’m on all the major social media and have had articles in some local publications. I’m also networking, something I never thought I’d be doing! I’ve done some good-old-fashioned leafleting as well – seeking out as many community boards as I could, many of which are to be found in coffee shops…
- From where do I gain credibility?
- Here I fall back on my years in finance and my career record, but then as I work with clients and produce good work, I hope this develops my credibility and reputation.
- How do I maintain consistency?
- This is branding – across everything: logos, style etc. I’ve been lucky to have great help from Greenlight in this area. My social media sites are consistent but there’s still work to be done…
- How do I maintain focus?
- This is the tricky part – it becomes a job in itself. Doing the occasional post on Facebook is one thing but a sustained campaign on one, or across social media is another. One approach is to outsource – but this has to be worth it with any resulting work covering the cost of doing so. And it isn’t just the initial posts, it is the follow-up of any “likes” or other contact. It’s effectively another email address to monitor.
Marketing is more than just getting an advert in the paper or a presence on Facebook. It is something one has to set aside time to actively do, whatever the approach. It is not an overnight thing – the work has to be put in knowing it may be months until something comes of it (indeed, one response to my paper adverts came a few months after publication).
I could liken it to having children (or incubating eggs). They need consistent nurturing and it’s a long-term commitment. Why do chickens lay eggs? Because if they dropped them, they’d break.
And, it is never quite finished. This website is up and running but needs some work to polish it off and get it in line with social media and I’ve little presence on LinkedIn (for now).
It’s all part of the rich tapestry of running your own business!
Kindly proofread by Janice Gilbert, WordperfectVA