Want to Make More Money Freelancing? Stop Chasing Leads and Start Building Your Reputation
Have you ever been on the receiving end of someone’s unwanted affection? How did it feel? Whether we are choosing a life partner or a business partner, we seem to be hard-coded to pull away from direct unwanted advances. We like to feel like we are in control. If you are trying to make it as a freelancer, understanding this simple truth will save you endless pain and suffering. But, if chasing leads and responding to countless project requests on freelancing sites isn’t the answer, what is?
If you want to make more money as a freelancer, it’s time to stop chasing clients and start building a reputation that brings new business to you.
The most obvious way to build your reputation is to exceed your customers’ expectations. If you don’t perform, nothing else matters. But, what if you are already performing a valuable service and want to reach a wider audience? Maybe it’s time to turn your personal blog into a reputation engine for your business.
Here are 4 tips for creating a blog that helps you to make more money as a freelancer.
Write About What You Love AND What People Value
One of the most dangerous pieces of business advice that you can give someone is to say “just focus on what you love and the money will come.” Many people, even seasoned professionals, think of their blog as a place to write about whatever comes into their heads. Unfortunately, no-one cares about what’s in your head unless it solves one of their problems.
The first step to turning your blog into a reputation engine for your consulting business, for example, is to write strategically. Focus on writing content that solves specific problems that your existing customers have and use clear calls to action. How do you know which problems to solve? There are several ways. Here are a few of the techniques that I personally use to generate content ideas.
Start with the Google Keyword Planner. Knowing what people search for online gives you a window into their minds. Most people use the keyword planner to enhance their advertising campaigns and SEO, but, it is also a powerful tool for generating content ideas. This is especially true for “how to” questions. Watch Google’s own short tutorial to get started.
Customer questions are another great source of topic ideas. As you help your customers through your consulting efforts, keep an eye out for common challenges. Are there particular questions that come up again and again? Would any of your customers be willing to let you write a case study on their business challenges? These topics often make great blog posts or short videos.
Finally, don’t forget that imitation is (still) the sincerest form of flattery. Don’t be afraid to look to other experts in your niche for content ideas. Follow the latest news in your industry or niche by setting up Google Alerts, stay in touch with influentials on Twitter and visit your competitors’ blogs once a week.
Put Your Personal Brand Front and Center
As a Boomer, you may feel uncomfortable putting your personal brand front and center on your blog. I completely understand. When I first started Sixty and Me, I worried what my friends and family would say when they saw my picture “in lights.”
The problem is, when you are a freelancer, you are your brand. It’s not enough to provide valuable content. In order for your blog to move from being a source of information to an engine of growth for your consulting business, people need to know and trust you.
The good news is, unless you’re trying to establish yourself as an internet marketing guru, you don’t have to fill half of your homepage with your smiling face. There are subtler and equally effective ways to get noticed.
One of the simplest is to add a biography box to the top of your articles. Some WordPress templates include their own, built-in, biography box. Alternatively, there are plenty of free plugins that you can use, including Author Bio Box. Since your bio box can be set to appear at the beginning of every article, it provides a strong visual reminder to your readers. For example, here’s what my bio box looks like. The image on the left appears at the top of every article I write, giving users the option of connecting with me in social media.
Another simple step that many bloggers miss is taking advantage of Google authorship. You may have noticed that certain search results in Google have a small picture of the author next to them. This functionality is not just reserved for celebrities and published writers. You can take credit for your work and get noticed by linking your Google+ profile to your articles. First, set up a Google+ profile. Then follow these instructions to link it to your content. Here’s what my articles look like in the Google search results.
Finally, don’t forget to develop your own visual style and voice. Large companies spend millions of dollars a year building their brands, but, you don’t have to have a big budget to make a visual impression. Pick a color to represent your brand, develop your writing style, and, most of all, be yourself. Authenticity is a highly seductive quality for freelancers. I bet you can’t guess what I chose as my brand color for Sixty and Me!
Encourage Dialogue at Every Opportunity
If you want your blog to generate leads, you have to do more than just provide valuable content. You need to provide a platform for discussion and relationship building. This could be as simple as remembering to ask a question at the end of each article that you write or as sophisticated as launching a discussion forum. Adding a Facebook comments box used to be a tricky process, but, it’s MUCH easier now. What I like most about Facebook’s free plugin is that it allows me to get to know the people that leave comments on my site as individuals.
Regardless of the tactics that you select, take the time to interact with your users. Respond to as many comments as possible and get to know your readers by name. As you research the companies they work for, you will almost certainly find opportunities to share and add value.
Give People a Reason to Get to Know You
Over the last few years, “list building,” the process of asking for someone’s email in exchange for something, has acquired a negative image. Part of the problem is that marketers are lazy. Instead of building relationships, they build lists to “market to” (i.e. send offers to people until they buy or unsubscribe).
This doesn’t mean that all list-building is bad. After all, if you have something of value to offer your readers, why not require them to make a small commitment before giving it to them? On the other hand, building relationships takes time, so, make sure that every step in your follow up process adds value. For example, I typically try to provide 9 pieces of high-quality, non-sales content for every sales message that I send. You can use an email service like Aweber to automate the process. Just make sure that you keep your content quality high.
Not interested in building an email list, but, still want to give potential customers a reason to get in touch? Why not follow in the footsteps of architect, John Morefield, who decided to offer professional advice for $0.05 as a way of attracting leads. Yes, it’s a bit gimmicky, but, it worked! As John describes, in this video, the personal connections that he developed by opening his mind and his heart to the local community became the foundation of his business. Could you offer a similar service via Skype and promote it from your blog?
In order for your blog to serve as the foundation of your consulting business it can’t just be a source of valuable information. People need to associate the value that your blog delivers with your personal brand and be given tangible reasons to build a relationship with you. If you accomplish these objectives, your blog will be a source of leads for many years to come.
Are you a freelance consultant? Do you have a blog that supports your business? What additional advice would you give to the other members of our community regarding how they can use their blogs to generate leads? Please join the discussion and “like” and share this article to keep the conversation going.