As a new freelancer, one of the toughest things so far has been proving myself as a competent human being.
Okay, maybe people know that I am competent. But seriously, it is hard to show the world my talent and potential when I have only worked for a large company in my career. All of my work was confidential or for internal use only, so putting past projects in my professional portfolio is a no-go.
Plus, there is the imposter syndrome. I do not feel adequate enough to charge full price for my new freelance services because I compare myself to established coaches.
What am I supposed to do? How am I supposed to grow a business if I cannot take that first step of establishing myself as an expert?
A couple of years ago when I was working in sales, I came across the book Duct Tape Selling: Think Like a Marketer – Sell Like a Superstar by John Jantsch. Naturally, the sales title interested me, but the book is a wealth of amazing knowledge about becoming an authority in your field, marketing yourself as such, and selling the heck out of your product/service.
Little did I know, I would be revisiting this book years later to help me establish a freelance career!
Becoming an expert and marketing yourself can happen simultaneously. When people look you up or ask about you, what will they find? Is it the information you want? If not, use the tactics below to create the brand image you want your audience to see.
Show people what you can do. Help your potential clients before they even start paying you for it. People remember and respect you if you can teach them something new, something valuable. There are tons of platforms that allow you to demonstrate your value. Just choose the platforms on which your audience already spends time.
Where and how you can add value:
- Create a blog
- Write for news organizations like HuffPost, Buzzfeed, or Medium (easy to become a contributor)
- Write a book or eBook
- Design worksheets and workbooks
- Host an email or online course
- Create a tutorial or how-to guide
- Host an AMA (ask me anything) on Twitter or Reddit
- Mentor someone who is new or learning in your field
- Answer questions in online forums such as Reddit, Yahoo! Answers, and Quora
- Offer insights and solutions when people in your professional Facebook groups ask for them
- Write reviews for resources in your area of expertise
- Conduct research or an experiment then write up your results
- Provide a round-up of the best resources for your tribe
- Join a group board on Pinterest
People are more likely to trust you if they can imagine working with you. You need to get your name, business, and face in front of your potential clients.
Ways to get visible include:
- Speaking at events
- Guest lecturing in classes
- Creating videos
- Hosting webinars
- Appearing on television, in online videos, and on podcasts
- Hosting a chat on Twitter, Reddit, or Google
- Partnering with an expert in an adjacent field
- Mentioning mentors and other experts in your work if they have helped or inspired you on social media
- Optimizing SEO on your website
- Getting professional headshots and portraits
- Using hashtags that are popular with your tribe
Network, Network, Network
Surely this is not the first time you have heard how important networking is. No, your success will not completely depend on who you know, but you can enrich and accelerate your success by connecting with the right people.
It may sound outdated, but business cards are still an invaluable tool as you network. For less than $15, you can order them online — an investment that is well worth your money. Find a way to make your cards stand out if possible, but at a minimum, include your basic contact information and a clear idea of what you do.
Ways to network:
- Find a relevant Meetup
- Attend the meeting of a professional organization
- Join a local organization, Chamber of Commerce, or business group
- Host Skype coffee dates
- Invite others in your field to a Google Hangout
- Create a mastermind with others in your field
- Start a club or regular event
- Host an online summit where you bring in experts in your field and adjacent fields
- Join social media groups, like Facebook groups, where professionals in your field hang out
- Ramp up your LinkedIn account and reach out to other professionals
- Become a member of a professional hub or shared office space
- Enroll in a local class or program in your field
- Join a gym or fitness class
- Do a group activity that involves one of your hobbies
Build a Community
Once you have begun to put your expertise out there in the universe, you need to build a community. This community becomes your tribe, attracts your ideal clients, and allows past clients to become your evangelists. Your community is a place where your tribe can interact with you and each other. One example of this that has gained popularity in the past year is a Facebook group and for good reason. As an expert, you will have access to thousands of people in your tribe on a free platform with a low barrier to access. Just don’t be smarmy.
More examples of ways to create your community:
- Build an email list and send valuable emails
- Send a newsletter
- Run an Instagram account
- Run a Pinterest account
- Share photos on SnapChat
- Communicate in a group texting app like WhatsApp, Viber, or GroupMe
- Run a giveaway or contest
- Create a client referral system
- Create an MVP/VIP loyalty program
- Give a TEDTalk
For more exercises to display your work, check out my new free eBook called, The Portfolio Builder! This issue is filled with ways to practice telling a story to an audience. If you need to bulk up your portfolio, choose one (or all!) of the exercises.
*This article contains an affiliate link for the book, Duct-Tape Selling! As a bookworm, I only recommend books I really loved reading. I hope you enjoy them, too!