Diane Hall - The Frazzled Freelancer

Freelancer, Entrepreneur and mother of two...

Are you an anti-social media freelancer?

Are you an antisocial freelancer?  Do you bury yourself in your workload and think that face-to-face is the only way to network?

Social media is a trend that has become a staple part of many freelancers’ lives.  It’s not just for the young and it’s a great way of boosting your business.

There are lots of freelance jobs that carry out the majority of their work online and these are the ones who will already have their fingers on the social media buttons.  However, some freelancers or sole traders, for example, beauticians, plumbers, electricians, couriers –and many more – may need convincing that there is any value in having an online presence.

Let’s take the example of Joe Bloggs, the Plumber.  (By the way, this is hypothetical and not an accurate representation of other plumbers who may be reading!)

But I don’t use a computer…

Fair enough.  But how do you know your customers don’t either?  Potential clients could be sat online perusing the web for names of local plumbers.  All your savvy competitors will have their names in front of them – stealing the online market share.

I don’t think my customers will look online for a plumber, they’ll look in the Yellow Pages…

You’re right, some will.  But if the Yellow Pages are seeing a decline in demand then those lost readers are finding the information somewhere else – and it isn’t in a Christmas cracker.  They’re already online doing their shopping, banking, book reading, information gathering – surely something like looking a number up online wouldn’t be too much of a stretch for their imagination?

So you’re saying I need to be online.  What does that mean…I need a website?

At the very least.  It doesn’t have to be flash or expensive – there are even lots of free templates out there and plenty of information to help you get one up and running.  Could a family member help you if you’re not good with computers?

And that’s it, is it?

No.  Not at all.  This is where the hard work starts.  Yes, you are now online and Mrs. NeedAPlumber is searching for your number and finds your site.  That’s great.  Aren’t you lucky she was setting her search for just the service you provide?

What about the extra services you offer, i.e. boiler maintenance?  Perhaps 25% of your customers who take up this service do so as a result of a breakdown or repair – but how many think about getting this type of cover yet never get round to it?  These are potential customers you could convert to paying clients.  Having a website is half the battle but if no one knows it’s there – like Mrs. NeedBoilerCoverButHaven’tGotRoundToIt – then you need to present the solution slap-bang in front of her face.

How on earth do I do that?

This is the million dollar question.  There are certain things you can try, a lot of them using the tools of ‘social media’ but they’re not conclusive or guaranteed.  Like advertising in print, it’s a case of some types of promotion working better than others.  It can actually be fun finding out what online promotion is effective and what isn’t, for your business. 

You could have a blog.  This is an online news reel of articles or news penned by yourself – kind of like an online diary – but centring round your business.  Because each entry or ‘post’ is a separate article in its own right, the more content you have flooding onto the World Wide Web the more chance there is of the search engines picking you up from the keywords you will undoubtedly imprint in each post (like ‘plumber’).  If you think you could be interested in commenting on news or products in your industry and could find 5 minutes to post here and there, then this could be a tool to benefit your business.

Other social media

You could think about giving a ‘how to’ guide on YouTube.  Using a webcam you could record a short video giving tips and advice on bleeding radiators, for example, and post it on the video site.  If you link this back to your own website (ask the family member again if you’re unsure) it can give your traffic the valid impression that you’re an expert in your field – convincing them you are definitely the man for the plumbing job in that new extension they’re planning.

There’s Twitter, Facebook, MySpace and more besides – these applications have uses too and I’ll go through these another time.

The trick with social media – in my opinion – is to forward plan.  Think where your potential customers may hang out online.  Have a brainstorming session and think of the services you offer, and what situations your clients would be in, to have a need for them.  Using ‘Joe Bloggs the plumber’s’ example, my first thought was that a plumber is an emergency service – that people race to him when their house is in danger of flooding.  But on reflection there are plenty of instances when customers could ‘plan’ to use his firm – therefore, an online presence and a raised profile will help them be aware of your company and put two and two together when they come to employ such a tradesman.

The strong moral in this post is that freelancers have to constantly adapt.  They don’t have superiors within their company to do this for them.  Freelancers need to move with the markets, the economy and advances in technology – or they’ll go the way of the dodo.

Adapt, Adapt, Adapt!!!  It takes practice but freelancers are better than anyone else at reacting to work situations. 

Do you still think that technology doesn’t play a part in your freelancing career?  I’d love to hear your thoughts!

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Written by Editor on November 22, 2010 and filed in Featured, Frazzled Freelancer, News, Opinion , , ,

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