This is a guest post from Holly Watson
As a freelance writer, I built my business and clientele from the ground up. Most aspiring entrepreneurs are familiar with this time-consuming and wearisome process. How do you market yourself in such a way that you can earn a living without having to walk around wearing a sandwich board or shamelessly passing your resume out to strangers on the street?
Quick survey: How many of you have an account on a social networking site? My guess would be more than 90% of readers have at least one account, either on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, or a similar site. In fact, a requirement during the final semester of my senior year in college was to create a LinkedIn profile; that college professors would (essentially) make this a requirement for graduation is indicative of the importance social media had gained over the years.
When I started my own business, I had the problem of not having a personal brand. No one knew me or the quality of my work. All of the sites I visited for advice and tips were frustratingly vague. Some said to offer my work for free and rely on word-of-mouth, while others advocated advertising and endless dissemination of my portfolio and resume.
On the advice of a former classmate, I opened a deviantART page and posted a lot of my work there. Very few people visited my page, however, because you have to have an account in order to view others’ work. This site is for artists who want to post their work, and if potential clients don’t fit into that category – and many don’t –it is unlikely they will go to the trouble of opening an account to view writing samples.
I also started a public blog and posted my work there, and several people started following my posts and offering feedback on my writing. However, none of my readers were in need of my services. While I valued the input and encouragement I received in this forum, I still felt as if I was nowhere closer to my goal than I had been when I started.
I opened a Twitter account and start sending out tweets about my business: services offered, credentials, etc. I started following random people, and I got a few writing contracts this way. I charged low prices in exchange for my customers’ promise to recommend me to their friends, colleagues, etc., but this only yielded a couple of additional writing gigs.
My next step was to open a Facebook page specifically for my business. In the biography section, I posted a brief version of my resume. I planned to post writing samples as notes, but business pages don’t offer that option. However, I had a separate (regular) page as administrator, and I not only posted writing samples there, but linked both pages.
Facebook offers advertising for businesses, as well. Businesses can choose between Pay Per Click (CPC), which only charges when someone clicks on the ad; and Pay Per Impression (CPM), which charges for every 1,000 times that the ad is viewed, regardless of whether it is clicked on or not. Facebook recommends CPM “to increase brand, product or service awareness” and CPC “to drive online conversions through their ads (e.g. sales of t-shirts or subscribers to a newsletter).”
Facebook begins the advertising process with bidding for what the advertiser is willing to pay. Once a price is settled upon, a daily budget, daily spend limit (which increases with every successful payment, regardless of daily budget), and a lifetime budget are set. You choose the target demographic, and Facebook offers viewers of your ad the choice to “Like” it or click on it for additional information, or to dismiss it as either uninteresting, misleading, sexually explicit, against their views, offensive, repetitive, or “other” (at which time you type your reason); this narrows your pool of potential clients.
Google recently launched its own social networking site, Google Plus. While this site does not yet offer business pages, Google offers AdWords and AdSense. AdWords offers both CPC and CPM options, and requires a $5 start-up fee; advertisers choose keywords, and the ad is displayed alongside relevant Google searches. AdSense places advertisements on participating websites, and pays the website owner every time an ad is clicked. Because these websites already target a specific audience, this increases the effectiveness of the ad.
Due to my limited finances, I opted against advertising, although I will undoubtedly revisit this decision at a later time. My work was posted on deviantART, my personal blog, Twitter, and Facebook. My final step was to tie all of these sites together by updating my LinkedIn profile. Whereas I initially left many fields blank, I added links to all of my sites, a copy of my resume, and a professional-looking photo.
I immediately noticed increased traffic to all of my sites. My personal blog, which had not yielded much success before then, started gaining readers, and I revamped it to be more of an Internet marketing blog, in which I not only posted writing samples and my resume, but also writing and marketing tips and tricks that I learned while researching the branding and marketing process. My Facebook page slowly gained fans.
It’s been six months since I started the branding process, and my client list is slowly growing. I still offer reduced rates to some clients in exchange for word-of-mouth advertising and referrals, but I am now able to fully support myself with my writing, thanks to my clever use of social media. Social media is here to stay, so why not use it to your advantage?