This episode describes the stage with my new proofreading business when I proclaimed my arrival! Building a website, social media and content marketing are skills I used to announce to the world my services as a proofreader.
In previous episodes, Episode 1 and Episode 2, I detailed my voyage towards becoming a freelance offering proofreading services after decades as a primary school teacher. In this blog, I describe how I decided on my marketing strategy.
As a newbie freelance business owner, I know some folks who cringe at the thought of putting any personal details ‘out there’, on the interweb. But, in my opinion, how else are you going to advertise your services or get business unless you are a presence on-line?
“A website is essential: you need a ‘shop window’ to display your business.” These were the words of my Business Mentor at my local Job Centre when they helped me set up as a self-employed proofreader two years ago. The process of choosing a website domain, a host, and designing my website, plus researching the content marketing world of social media has been a steep learning curve. This is what I did.
Build a website
By January 2017, my NEA (New Enterprise Allowance) Business Plan (with People Plus) had been approved, and I was told to go and build a website. The only domain name which was available and that I liked the sound of was Proofnow. That was the easy part. Proofnow Proofreader was born!
“How do I build a website?” I was heard to ponder. I asked around. My only experience had been editing my class page on the school website where I taught.
Godaddy was recommended. Fair enough, the building of each page was fairly straightforward: I added Services, Pricing and About pages, with a few photographs for variety. I could add a couple of testimonials after six months.
But, although I was pleased with the look of the site on the desktop of the PC, and on the screen of my Android tablet, it looked dreadful on my mobile.
By December 2017, I knew I wasn’t going to renew with Godaddy. So I did some fairly intense research on who would host my website next.
I found Siteground for hosting website companies like WordPress.
I copied everything over from the soon-to-be-expired website, probably using old-fashioned techniques, and not how a designer would do it … But, after a couple of phone calls to Siteground customer service, who were very supportive, I was up and active with my new host. Phew!
Next, I won a website audit with Ahmed Khalifa (a Digital Marketing and WordPress expert). I received a friendly critique with excellent tips, followed by more research with other website gurus gave me the courage to tweak the theme and wording even more.
I am now even happier with my website and proud of what I have achieved so far. It is easy to manage, and looks great on a mobile! I mention this because statistics show that mobile devices are used more for browsing websites than any other. Folks want to look up a linked site spontaneously and even instantaneously. So, it is essential that your website works, and looks good. Anywhere. On any device.
Basic website tips
- easy to read, clear font
- your headshot and/or logo
- your services – what you can do for your client
- how does a new client get in touch with you?
- Say less of what ‘I’ can do (me, me, me), but what ‘you’, the client, needs. How can you (the freelance) can solve their (client) problem? *1
- match the branding on your website with that on your social media sites where you will publish and market your website. In other words: same headshot, same banner, same headline/tagline for consistent marketing.*2
- Designing your brand is made easier by choosing prepared designs from a free app. *3
*1 This method of your ‘About me’ page not actually being ‘About me’ (ironically) has been repeated by many on social media. It has been a revelation in tweaking how my website is worded.
*2 Advice from John Espirian and other content marketing gurus.
*3 Canva, recommended by Louise Harnby, is a design programme for those who have basic technical skills. I found it really useful when ensuring consistency in the design for my banners for marketing my website and social media profile pages (covered next). This represents ‘joined-up thinking’.
Everything I tried with my website was using trial and error, with the undo button at hand. Also with sheer surprise if something worked first time!
LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, …? What a minefield of social media! So, what kind of content marketer are you? I know some folks who steer well clear. I know some folks who do it ALL, spread themselves EVERYWHERE. Is that a good idea? Does it work? Does it GET you work?
I have had a personal Facebook page for 10 years: I use it to stay in touch with friends and family, as well as previous and new colleagues met through networking. The first thing I did on Facebook when I started my business was to advertise Proofnow Proofreader as a business Facebook page because that was the medium I understood.
Then I met fellow freelancer John Espirian (former member of the SfEP, now the CIEP) and learnt A LOT more about how to use LinkedIn. For example, build a profile page using specific criteria as he describes here. He recommends liking and commenting on the posts of others to engage in conversation. This raises the visibility of your profile. To some, LinkedIn is seen as the conference side of social media, where important leads can be followed, and serious business connections are made. Work may even follow from said connections. This is my favourite way to share with colleagues as it feels more business-like. Here is my LinkedIn page. Judge for yourself. Why don’t you try personalising your invite to connect? Then I will understand how we can help each other.
To some Twitter is viewed as the cocktail party of social media. On Twitter, retweeting (sharing) your own posts improves engagement. I am least confident with the use of Twitter. But, because a lot of freelancers are on Twitter, and because I suffer from FOMO (Fear Of Missing Out), here is my Twitter page …
The main advice I have gleaned over the last two years is from content marketers who say: do what works for you. If you can cover all (and it’s not recommended – unless you have more than 24 hours in your day), fair enough.
I need to do one of them well. Do it with purpose. Do it with meaningful content.
Shout it out!
When I was teaching, and was so frustrated that I felt like shouting at the class or an individual, it was generally much more effective to whisper “When I say … I mean it.” Pause. You could have heard a pin drop with the silence and anticipation. I hope that my whisperings of marketing are making a difference. Perhaps I should be shouting. I am certainly anticipating that doing all I can to market my business will result in getting my name out there, which should result in getting the work in. Tell clients you are available.
For those familiar with where I grew up – Glasgow in the 1980s – there was a marketing campaign called ‘Glasgow’s Miles Better’. My dad, as an employee of Glasgow District Council (Industrial Development Officer) took Glasgow around the UK to exhibitions, promoting its good points.
When I married Tom, my artist husband, in the late 80s, my father asked him to which galleries he had touted his work. My husband was reluctant. Dad took it upon himself to go around many galleries in Glasgow to promote his son-in-law’s art. I like to think that I have inherited my father’s skills in marketing. He would be proud.
Help, support, share
Having discovered a VAST array of tips in content marketing, I am still, not by any stretch, an expert. Everything I have learnt has been absorbed so much by osmosis. Much like a lot of newbie freelancers I suspect.
Networking (either in real life or online) with other freelancers means you pick up valuable advice; connections on LinkedIn; online support groups are another gem for tips from many specialist freelancers.
In summary, whatever medium you use, the algorithms love it if you like a post, comment and share what other small businesses are doing. It can’t help but raise your profile.
Networking IRL (in real life) with local groups is a great way to get out and about while promoting your business. It is incredibly useful if you can offer business cards or leaflets which act as a reminder of who you are and the business services you are offering.
Moo.com was recommended to me as a business card provider. Their website is user-friendly, with professional-looking products. I’m on my n-th set of 50 cards and they are always complimented.
There is some debate as to whether off-line marketing (on paper) still serves a purpose. But I like to market myself in as many ways as possible. All my social media links are on my cards (again, an area for debate is how much detail to put on them). Nevertheless, I am proud to say I give out my cards to all!
In my next blog, I recall answering my first query from a student. (Just trying to get a sample out of them, while they check if you’re available, when they haven’t actually written their thesis yet.).
Taking tiny steps as I adapted templates to compose my contracts, T&Cs, create invoices for payments and feedback forms.
As a freelance sole trader, you find that you have to be in charge of EVERY facet of your business: admin, IT, marketing, finance, … and that dreaded tax return. But there IS lots of support out there.
I wish you a healthy and happy 2019!
Thank you to Lisa de Caux for proofreading.