If I’m going to be real, there’s a lot of advice out there on building your freelance business that is either annoying, boring, or just difficult for some people. For me, keeping a stream of social media content hits on all three of those.
Don’t get me wrong. I love it when I find an interesting article to share or an event that my followers might find interesting…but…I get tired of it. Just being honest like Dre.
Sometimes I don’t feel like searching. Sometimes my professional Twitter just isn’t where I want to be. Sometimes I just have more important things to do. This though is where automation comes in and can save your freelance life with a simple, low maintenance pipeline.
Before we cover how to get this pipeline moving, two things.
This isn’t a suggestion. If you’re going to freelance, you need to be on social. I don’t care if you only work with local businesses or prefer to meet all your clients in person. Being engaged on social is a sign of legitimacy, but it’s also a way to generate new business. I’ve seen clients who eventually signed first lurking around my social accounts. On the flip side of that, when you see people engaging…reach out! That’s a warm lead and you don’t want to pass that up.
Second, once you get good at it, you can sell the service as an add-on to your current freelance services. This is especially true for writers and web designers, so don’t drag your feet on learning. I’ve charged between $50 and $100 an hour for add-on social media management and $15-$20 per post created. Now, my posts and time aren’t fluff — they come from hours on top of hours spent learning the social media environment of my niche and are effective tools for my clients to generate business and learn about their customers. You can do the same, so don’t wait to learn (again though, this is why a niche is so important. Social media management is worth much less from people who don’t understand the needs of the people they’re engaging with.)
You can manage your social media manually, but if you want to be productive, you’ll want to make use of some specific tools to help cut back on the effort you’re putting into it.
Dedicated Social Media Accounts
This should go without saying, but I’m gonna say it again anyway — You need social media accounts dedicated to your freelance business.
You should be on Twitter if only for the sake of listening and connecting with other freelancers. If it won’t jeopardize your employment, you should be on LinkedIn with an account that clearly lists the fact that you offer freelance services. (This article should help you get started.) Other sites can be helpful if they fit with your niche and the type of freelancing you do.
I have yet to find a good reason that even people only considering freelancing shouldn’t be active on social from day 1, so yeah. Set up your accounts today (and while you’re at it, come on over and follow BlackFreelance😉
On a side note, even if you’re a writer building a journalism career, it can’t hurt to explore content marketing or business writing and have a separate account or two for that area.
Once you’ve settled on a niche, you’ll want to start really tuning in to the news in that field. The easiest way to do this is to have it brought to you via news alert services.
These services bring keyword-related news (because you freelancers need keywords) straight to your inbox on an immediate, daily, or even weekly basis. This means you don’t have to burn time rifling through trade magazines and news sites to stay on top of changes in your niche. My favorite is Google Alerts, but if you’re not a Google person, there are alternatives.
As far as social goes though, the articles these news alert services deliver provide GREAT material for sharing on your social accounts, which is why our next tool is…
Social Media Schedulers
Social media schedulers post to Twitter, LinkedIn, Facebook, Pinterest, you name it, even when you’re not online. I use them (yes, even for this site) to share the ads I don’t like to think about — the “buy my product now!” posts (I’m not really comfy selling myself directly) and anything that’s not top of mind for me on a regular basis.
You might be thinking that you don’t like schedulers because they don’t feel right. I know they feel impersonal and like you’re possibly abusing your social media account, but listen. This is one of the reasons you need a separate social media presence dedicated to your freelance business.
A business sharing a blog post every day for a week isn’t rude. Contacting other businesses for interviews and questions isn’t obtrusive. Using a business presence on social is a signal that you’re open to a certain kind of engagement that individual users likely aren’t interested in or might even object to. This signal goes both ways, so don’t be shy about sharing for your business in ways you might not as an individual.
I love Buffer (who, by the way, now has a way of letting you schedule posts to Instagram) because it’s simple, clean, and recycling posts is very easy. You’ve got other options though. Most will cost you a few dollars, but trust, it’s beyond worth it.
So once you’ve got these three tools going, you’ve got to use them. Alerts won’t help if you’re not reading them and LinkedIn is nothing if you’re ignoring your notifications. Here are a few tips that help me keep my social presence flowing and bringing in information on my industry (and new clients, because that’s why we’re doing this, right?)
- Keep your scheduler open: I keep Buffer open almost all day. If I find anything interesting for myself (or one of my clients who pays me to manage their social), I drop it in. Having it open will help shape your mindset to one that’s always open to news and info in your niche.
- Open all your news alert emails: All of them. Every last one. I used to let these slide, but then I realized that every press release is a potential pitch and every article is a chance to learn or valuable information to share with my followers or potential clients. If you have an alert that isn’t doing anything for you, delete it and replace it with better keywords.
- Schedule time to engage: We’ve talked mostly automation, but you do need to be out there talking to people, reviewing your notifications, and simply being present in your niche. In the Academy this week, we’re working on using platform-specific tools (Twitter lists specifically) to really refine how you use that engagement. You can do this on your own though with a simple calendar reminder to get online and start connecting.
- Make notes: If you pay attention, you’ll start to notice trends around what topics people respond to, what forms of media they like, and what platforms get you the most results. Make note of anything you find. This is how you’ll learn to refine your social media freelance presence over time.
One of the best things about getting engaged on social is that it really helps you build freelancer confidence. When you go into calls with clients knowing that you’re up on what’s new in your niche, you’re able to speak with authority and know that you’re offering your clients something they can’t get anywhere else, from any other freelancer.