10 Passive Marketing Opportunities for Freelancers

by Steven Snell

on November 18, 2009

in Business/Freelance

Freelance designers are faced with the challenge of constantly finding new work and converting inquiries into paying clients. There are plenty of different ways that you can market your services, but sometimes the most effective ways involve passive marketing.

In this article we will be looking at ten different ways you can passively market your services to potential clients. This includes some methods that involve work up front and then little to no work to continue marketing your services, as well as some methods that are passive in the sense that you are not actively pursuing clients or trying to advertise your services.

1. An Effective Portfolio Site

The portfolio site is a critical aspect to marketing for freelancers. One of the reasons that a great portfolio site can be so effective is that it will always be there to market your services to potential visitors. Regardless of what time of day it is or where the potential client lives, a strong portfolio site will promote your services for you. The portfolio site should showcase your best work, clearly communicate to visitors what you can offer, and allow them to get in touch with you about their project.

For more on portfolio websites, please see these resources:

2. Design Galleries

Once you’ve got your portfolio site designed and it’s ready to market your services for you, give it some help towards getting exposure by submitting it to design and CSS galleries. There are hundreds of gallery sites that showcase well-designed websites, and they can provide plenty of exposure for sites that are featured. Of course, getting your site featured in these galleries is not easy. Most galleries accept only a small percentage of submissions, which is all the more reason to take your time and create the best portfolio site possible.

In addition to submitting your portfolio site, you can also submit your work for clients to the gallery sites if it is worthy. While this may not send traffic directly to your site, visitors may see that you designed the site and they may be interested in having you do the same thing for them. At the very least, showing potential clients that your work for other clients has been recognized by galleries should help to build your credibility.

Submitting sites to lots of galleries can obviously take considerable amounts of time. There are some services that will submit your site for a fee. If you’re interested in these services see:

3. Referrals

Many designers get more business through word-of-mouth referrals than any other type of marketing or advertising. Referrals are highly valuable because if they trust the person who is referring you, you will benefit from that trust as well. With so many designers out there to choose from, many clients will ask friends or colleagues if they know of anyone to recommend. These types of inquiries are generally a little easier to convert than the average person who is contacting you about a project.

While referral business is a great thing to have, it will take some work to develop. The best thing you can do to increase the referrals that you receive is to focus on doing the best job you possibly can for your clients. Happy clients will result in referrals. Also, it helps to ask your clients if they know of anyone that could use your services, or at least mention to them that you would be happy to speak with anyone that they refer to you.

In addition to referrals from clients, you can also benefit from word-of-mouth advertising through your friends and family. Make sure that your friends and family know what you do for a living and that they have some business cards or at least a phone number or email address that they can share with others who may be in need of your services.

Another potential source of referral business is from other designers and professionals in related services. Many designers will provide referrals when they get potential clients that are not a good fit for their services, and other professionals in related industries may prefer to have relationships with designers that they can refer. This all comes down to having a strong network and actively pursuing relationships and arrangements for mutual benefit.

4. Footer Links

It’s very common for designers to include a link to their portfolio site in the footer of sites that they have designed for clients (of course, you should get a client’s permission to do this). As other people come to the website, if they like the site and they are in need of a designer they may click through to your portfolio and contact you. Especially on sites that are showcased in design galleries or recognized in some way for their design, having a footer link can help to increase your exposure and to build your reputation.

5. Designer Profiles

There are tons of sites out there for matching designers and clients up with each other. Many of these sites, like Elance, allow designers to create an account and add their profile. These types of sites are used very actively by many freelancers to find work, but they can also be resources for passive marketing. As potential clients come across your profile it is possible that they may contact you directly if they like what they see. While this can provide some business for you, it won’t send floods of new clients, so use it as a part of your passive marketing plan as opposed to being your only passive marketing technique.

Other sites similar to Elance include:

6. Portfolios on Other Sites

In addition to having an effective portfolio site, there are other places that you can display your work where it will be able to promote your services for you. Sites like the Behance Network are great for providing a platform where you can benefit from some added exposure. These sites tend to be frequented by designers, but they still lead to work for take advantage of the opportunity.

Aside from the Behance Network, some of the other places where you can post your portfolio include:

7. Your Blog

Having a blog at your portfolio site is a great way to attract visitors to your site and to build your name recognition as a designer. Maintaining a blog and writing posts does take time, so it is not a passive marketing technique in the sense that it takes no effort on your part. However, it is passive in that the blog will draw potential clients to your site and subtly promote your services, and once your posts are published they will be there to attract visitors and provide information until you choose to take them down. The main function of a blog is to provide content to readers, not to sell products or services, but it can still be very effective for landing more clients.

Through your blog you can publish content that will show visitors that you are a qualified designer who would do a great job with their project, but you don’t even have to say so. Use the blog posts to help readers by providing valuable information, show your expertise, and people will be more inclined to work with you when they are looking for designers.

One of the best reasons to have a blog at your portfolio site is that it will drastically improve your ability to draw search engine visitors. With so many portfolio sites out there it is difficult to rank well for just about any phrase that receives decent search volume, but a blog will help you to attract more inbound links, plus you can target specific keywords and search phrases with posts and have a better chance of drawing traffic.

8. Writing for Other Blogs

While publishing posts on your own blog is a great way to attract visitors, writing for other blogs also can help by providing exposure to a new audience. Some blogs pay for articles that get published and others may not pay, but they are likely to include an author bio with a link back to your site. Like posts that are published on your own blog, they will stay out there to promote yourself for the long term.

I have personally landed a few clients that have come to me through my articles that they found on other blogs. In these cases, I have been paid to write the blog posts, so the marketing benefits are really just a bonus. Landing clients through posts on other blogs can certainly happen, but don’t expect to find tons of clients this way. If you’re getting paid and benefiting from added exposure and the chance for new clients to find you, it’s a pretty good situation.

9. Interviews on Other Blogs

A lot of design blogs frequently publish interviews with various designers. While it may seem like you are not getting anything out of the time that you dedicate to an interview, it is just one more way to get some free exposure, and like blog posts, it will remain out there for the long term to be found by potential clients. Interviews are great for allowing people to learn more about you and to become more comfortable with you. Theses things can make all the difference when potential clients are trying to decide who they should contact about their website.

10. Social Networking

Like blogging, social networking requires time and effort but provides an opportunity to market yourself in a passive manner. You can get to know other users and get involved in the community of the social networking site, and it may wind up leading to design business. many designers get clients through their activity on sites like Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn.

What About You?

How do you market yourself passively? If you have any tips or experiences that you would like to share, please leave a comment.

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About Steven Snell

Stephen Snell is the owner and editor of Vandelay Design. Connect with Stephen on google+