You decided to explore the world of contract / freelance work as your next job.
That requires clients who will pay you for your services.
To understand how to gain clients, you need the answers to these questions:
What kind of marketing strategies do you use for this type of work?
How does this differ from looking for a long-term or permanent job?
What marketing tools do you use?
Where do you look?
Marketing Your Value Effectively
Marketing yourself as a freelancer/contractor requires effective use of these five basic elements of personal marketing:
1. Start with LinkedIn
In late 2018, LinkedIn is the most visible of the professional social networks with 590 million users, located in 200 countries. Many studies have shown that we all use LinkedIn to learn more about people (whom we might hire, do business with, or date).
Not having a good presence inside LinkedIn is a handicap today for most professionals today, particularly for those who are marketing their services.
Make sure that you are fully optimizing your Profile for credibility and appearance in search results:
- Ensure your LinkedIn Profile is complete, value-filled, and consistently focused on your relevant experience and the quality of the work you want to do as a contractor. And, don’t skip the headshot!
- Your entire Profile, starting with your branded headline, should make your expertise clear.
- The descriptions of your current and past jobs in the Experience section should include quantified accomplishments that demonstrate the quality of your work.
- The selection in the Skills and Endorsements section should support your professional expertise rather than irrelevant skills from your past.
- Tell the story of your relevant services and successes in your Profile’s Summary section, highlighting your expertise as a contractor.
- Be sure that you have Recommendations from clients and other professionals.
- Know and consistently use your most important and relevant keywords (LinkedIn SEO).
Be active and visible in LinkedIn, sharing relevant updates on a daily basis, interacting with other members, and presenting a consistent and professional image. Maintain your professional image in your writing, comments, and sharing.
LinkedIn also has a service, ProFinder, which may offer visibility to people looking for someone like you. After you have submitted 10 proposals to potential clients (successfully or not), you must purchase a Premium membership to continue your participation as a provider. That cost is $59.99/month.
[More: LinkedIn for Job Search articles offer solid advice for optimizing your headline, summary, and other sections of your profile.]
2. Enhance and Refine Your Resume
Rather than positioning yourself as a contractor, position yourself as an expert in the field you have chosen.
In your field, your resume is your marketing brochure.
Your resume should resonate with accomplishments that fit the field you are targeting rather than emphasizing only the contracting aspect of the work you have done.
You can list contracts in a career chronology section of the resume so that the potential hiring manager can verify your employment but in the resume content, emphasize your success stories. Determine a path for your contracting because like any other kind of job search, those who will land new roles have differentiated themselves and brought forward their talents.
A client had extensive experience in the banking field but decided to use those financial skills in a new direction. He had already worked in contract roles within the nuclear power industry. This is the beginning section of his resume:
Business professional, dedicated to client service with extensive experience in inventory control, contract performance, fiscal management, banking, and payroll operations.
We were selling the transferable skills from the financial field to meet the needs of the administrative side of nuclear power plant operations.
This resume continued with bullets from early roles in contracting with a demonstration of how he had achieved the goals of the prior companies. His financial expertise combined with his ability to rapidly assimilate and use new software applications effectively made his transition into running payroll and accounting functions in this new industry a good fit.
3. Energize Your Network
Your network is key in every kind of a job search. Contract work is no different especially if you are planning to make a career out of contract work.
Build a network of people who are in the know about the type of roles you are seeking. These can be people you have worked with in your contracting jobs — both fellow contractors (if any) and the clients — plus people you meet elsewhere.
Social media can be an essential tool as you explore opportunities. Branding yourself as an expert in your field and sharing information that positions you as knowledgeable in your target contract field will help you grow your network.
All networking benefits by relationship building but when you are seeking new opportunities, connecting with people already established in that field may be the source of your next role.
4. Use “Content Marketing” to Draw in Your Audience
According to Wikipedia “Content marketing” is any marketing that involves the creation and sharing of content published on the Internet to promote your services (or any product or business).
For individuals, content marketing is publishing information (a.k.a. “content”) which demonstrates that you are knowledgeable about a specific area.
Whether you are using LinkedIn’s new Pulse feature (the internal blog option in LinkedIn) or you set up your own website and blog, content marketing or blogging is an excellent way to position yourself as an expert in your field.
Not everyone is comfortable writing, but — if you are and if you are also willing to learn effective ways of writing compelling content that relates to your field — you could find yourself being sought out for that expertise.
The key to content marketing is to write about topics people want to read and draw readers to the topic with captivating headlines and interesting content.
5. Hone Your Skills
While promotion is the key to finding new roles as a contractor, you need to be continually seeking out opportunities to enhance your skill sets. An employer is not likely to invest in training you, today, even if you have a “permanent” job. Now staying up-to-date is your personal responsibility.
Many fields have certification opportunities. Research the most valuable certifications for your field and continually strive to earn new certifications that make you more marketable.
I remember a recruiter for the construction industry telling me that if he found people with the Certified Safety Professional credential, he had high-paying work for them throughout the country.
Do not ignore the value of staying on the top of your industry!
Bottom Line on Marketing Yourself as an Independent Contractor
Marketing yourself for contract work is not too different from a job search. Be aware that you will be in a continuous search to assure that your income remains steady. A single contract can last weeks, months, or even years depending on the project, the employer, and the field. But, you do need to be continually ready and marketing for the next opportunity.
More About Contracting/Freelancing:
- Why Smart Professionals Are Considering Freelancing
- Getting Started in Freelancing/Contracting
- Top 10 Contractor Fields
- How to Market Your Freelance/Contracting Services
- How Contracting Battles Unemployment
About this author…
Job-Hunt’s Freelancing and Contracting Expert Julie Walraven is a Certified Master Resume Writer and Certified Professional Resume Writer. She is owner of DesignResumes.com and has been helping people with their job searching since 1983. During that timeframe she has helped job seekers find employment as contractors, and she has acted as a contractor herself for many years, so she brings experience and a depth of knowledge to this topic. Follow Julie on Twitter @JulieWalraven.
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