Successful freelancers are usually highly networked. Additional work comes their way through their numerous professional and personal connections. Their reputation precedes them and sells new clients on their value before they ever meet the freelancer. They already understand how marketing is really about conversations and relationships. When incoming work slows down, there's no obvious way to "try harder" because so much has come about through their network. It's not clear how to get more aggressive with marketing, sales or strategy efforts.
Most marketing books I've read are written by ego maniacs. They recommend pushing the features and benefits of the freelancer's services on the world. A few recommend a "soft sell" approach but then do a hard sell of their own services. The advice to "push" assumes this tactic will overcome ignorance, hesitation and resistance in the marketplace. Sales pitches and promotional materials are presumed to be effective at correcting the misconceptions of the sales leads and potential buyers. The marketing gurus dismiss the freelancers' misgivings, call reluctance and avoidance of these tactics as:
- a lack of commitment to success
- a pattern of self sabotage, squeamishness or failure
- a lack of intent to overcome resistance and conquer the market
- a lack of self esteem, confidence or courage
Ego maniacs cannot connect the dots between buyer remorse and sales pressure. They fail to see how their "overcome the resistance" approach does more harm than good to repeat business, customer loyalty and referrals. They assume they are right and free lancers are wrong.
I recommend trusting your misgivings about marketing books, gurus and their advice. Estimate that most of what they point out as lacking in free lancers is what they lack themselves. Start looking for a different approach to get more aggressive. Here are some ideas to get more creative:
- What if prospective clients are detectives looking for clues? How easy is to find out where you are, what good you do, how it applies to their situations?
- What if prospective clients are consumer watchdogs? How do your attempts at self promotion come across to others: hypocritical/authentic? hype/truth-in-advertising? over-promise/deliver as promised?
- What if prospective clients are disaster relief services? How can they help you, contribute new ideas to what you deliver, restore full functionality of your offerings?
- What if prospective clients are students learning from you? How are they making sense of what you've given them, figuring out what difference you make and identifying how you fit into their situation?
- What if prospective clients are wandering in a forest where you are guiding them to their destination. Where are they getting lost, confused, misled -- as they try to find what they are really looking for?
- What if prospective clients are cat lovers and you care for dogs? How can you translate what you do to be of service to feline kinds of leads?
- What if prospective clients are playing hide and seek with you? Where might they hide where they expect you to never investigate? Where do you always look that they know to avoid?
When free lancers get this creative about their marketing, they say "our product is customers". They see the thing they create is not products and services, it's the clients. The trust, buy-in, loyalty, referrals, and repeat business are the creation of how the leads get treated, informed, guided and encouraged.