Social media: many of us spend a lot of time using it to procrastinate, sorry ‘research’, during our working day. But could websites like Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and LinkedIn offer freelancers more than a distraction?
Five social media experts (and fellow freelancers) share their advice for fully utilising these platforms.
Twitter is wonderful for sharing links to your work, chatting with fellow freelancers, and venting about the working day using fun GIFs. However, what many people don’t realise is the site is a treasure trove of potential work leads.
Benjamin Houy , frequently uses Twitter for his copywriting business. He suggests freelancers take advantage of Twitter’s lesser-known search features to find new business.
“By typing: ‘looking for’ AND ‘writer’ in Twitter search, a content writer could quickly find all the latest tweets from companies looking for writers. Similarly, a designer could type: ‘looking for’ AND ‘designer’,” explains Benjamin. “Since these tweets are often unanswered, getting noticed is considerably easier than it would be on a site like Upwork.”
Similarly, freelance social media manager Gillian McDonald is a big advocate of using Twitter as a networking tool. She says:
“If you hate networking, which I really, really do, then social media will be key to the success of your freelance business. Instead of worrying about going to an intimidating event where you don’t know anyone, you can do your networking over social media, at a pace that suits you. Take time to think about who you want to target and why they’d be useful for your business, then use social media to find them. Strike up a conversation and spark a meaningful connection – you never know when it will come in handy.
“Twitter is my favourite platform for this because it’s so quick and easy to respond to someone. Once you have a good network around you, you’ll find support, advice and potential clients right at your fingertips.
“When I started freelancing full time, I had already built up a great network on Twitter as I had been using the platform for years to promote my lifestyle blog. After sending out a tweet stating I was taking on freelance work and a few direct messages to the right people, I had taken on my first couple of clients.”
Facebook is about more than memes and viral videos. Adam Fitch is a freelance videographer, and runs the Creative Freelancer Community Facebook group . He believes groups are invaluable to freelancers, whether they are looking to join one for support and advice, or to start a community of their own.
“As a breed of people we end up spending a lot of time alone, sometimes internalising and winding ourselves up over small things,” he says. “Often all that is needed is to have somewhere to turn to for support. Facebook groups fill that gap.
“Ever since I started as a freelancer over 8 years ago I have always received a lot of messages from people asking for information, help, or guidance about all aspects of what I do. The group came about as a way to help numerous people at once. Rather than repeating stuff, I could reach a ton of likeminded people with a single post.
“I have gained much more from opening the Creative Freelancer Community than I thought I would. I am a lot more focused, a lot more driven and I feel the support of everyone daily. I have been lucky enough to help people to get new clients and make more money – something that blows my mind and puts a huge smile on my face.
“The group has become a family and I’m excited for its future.”
Who doesn’t love a scroll on Instagram? However, figuring out the best way to promote your business on this platform, particularly if it’s not the most ‘visual’ line of work, is challenging. Katya Willems is an Instagram coach for small businesses. She says:
“It’s useful to remember that people come to Instagram for enjoyment and escapism, not to be sold to. They don’t want to be bombarded with salesy images and captions – that’s just boring and your audience will unfollow fast.
“People buy from people – so allow personality and storytelling to lead your account.
“In my experience, the most successful Instagrammers are great storytellers, so think about how you can tell the story of your freelance life in an entertaining and inspiring way to hook your audience in.
“Here’s some content ideas, for either Instagram stories or the grid:
- You could share behind the scenes photos of life as a freelancer (you’d be surprised how interesting it is for your audience), whether that’s attending meetings or hot desking from a cafe.
- Share your influences and what inspires you in your work – that might be books, podcasts or a thought leader.
- Offer tips that relate to your business. If you’re a copywriter, share SEO or writing tips. It will help demonstrate your expertise.
- Show them snippets of your personal life. Perhaps you have a cute dog that you take for walks, or you love drinking green matcha teas.
LinkedIn is probably the most intimidating of social media platforms. But when used to its full potential, the site is a great research for finding new clients. Carrie Jarvis is the founder of Graduate Goals, which provides a professional LinkedIn profile writing service. She advises:
“Even just having a basic LinkedIn profile will give you authority and credibility, and potentially land you the all-important first page of Google if someone searches for you and your business.”
“Your headline should summarise your key areas of expertise and can include phrases such as ‘freelancer for hire’ if you want to actively look for work. Make use of the longer summary section to tell people more about what you do and invite people to message you.
“Fill out as many other sections as you can, in particular your experience and skills. LinkedIn will reward you by making your profile more visible in search results. There is also a careers interests section where you can state exactly what kind of work you’re looking for, including type of contract and location.
“It’s common practice to connect with people you don’t know on LinkedIn, but give them a reason to accept your request. A blank connection request may be ignored, whereas a short, personal message is more likely to be accepted.
“Look for and join relevant LinkedIn groups. You can search for specific groups and LinkedIn will provide regular suggestions. Many groups will have forums where you’ll find useful industry advice and you may even find clients on them looking for freelancers.
“Finally, nothing attracts new business more than recommendations, so make sure you have some on your profile. Ask previous clients if they would be happy to write one or two sentences about their experiences.”