15 effective and free ways to market your freelance business

As a freelancer, you have to wear many hats – some you will be comfortable with, others less so.

Many creative freelancers tend to be more introverted, and a little reluctant to market their freelance business properly. This is completely understandable, there’s the fear of judgement and failure.

But freelancing involves taking risks – and if you want your business to grow, and to reach more people, then you have to start putting yourself out there – no matter how much it makes you cringe!

Amazing things can happen when you do things that are just outside of the edges of your comfort zone. So here are some ways you can market and get your freelance business out there – and none of them are too painful, I promise!


Table of contents:

1. Take advantage of search engines

It doesn’t matter if your services are completely online and you can offer them from anywhere in the world – I really recommend setting up a Google My Business profile if you can.

This can be one of the best sources of free publicity you’ll find, and loads of freelancers don’t realise it.

It’ll take you half an hour to set up and it can direct lots of local clients to your freelance website. Even if you don’t yet have a website, you can add a lot of information and make sales through your account.

Once it’s set up, Google My Business will put you onto Google maps, hugely boosting your local visibility.

It also helps you with local SEO – when someone in the area searches for a business that provides your services, you will show up – often nicely featured by Google.

It’s always good advice to be on Google’s good side – and using tools like this will mean they are more likely to give you a natural boost.

Please note – you need a physical business address to make the most of it – this will be your registered business address. Google will send a postcard to this address, with a verification code on it.

2. Get listed in online directories

A quick Google search will also open up a whole new world of online directories – where you can create a listing for your freelance business.

It will take you only a few minutes to add your business to them, and the majority allow you to do it for free.

Let’s say you are a food photographer in Preston, UK. A lot of business directories have high traffic and a high domain authority – so if somebody searches for a food photographer in Preston, it’s very likely that your business listing on the directory will show up above your website in searches, and maybe even on the first page of Google.

I recommend focussing only on the well-established directories and creating solid listings that you will keep regularly updated and optimised.

Smaller directories often take their information from bigger ones – so you will most likely end up in those as well, passively.

3. Get strategic with Social Media

Social media can be a great way to form relationships with potential clients and to get your name out there, but if you’re not careful, it can also be a gigantic waste of time.

It’s important to go where your clients and audience go. So if you’re targeting people who are 60+, for example, you probably want to steer clear of TikTok.

Just because you can create accounts on all the platforms for free, doesn’t necessarily mean you should. It’s important to be strategic about it.

Choose Social Media platforms based on your profession

Visual platforms, like Instagram and TikTok, can be good options for freelancers whose services are more visual – like designers, artists, photographers. Instagram can be especially effective in this case, as you can treat your instagram grid as an additional portfolio and present the work that you don’t have showcased anywhere else.

If you are a writer, journalist, or something similar, then you should probably focus on building a presence on Twitter or writing a blog on Medium – both are a great way to attract the right audience that would need your services.

Freelancers often underestimate Pinterest as a social media channel. But not only can it get your business out there, it can also drive significant traffic to your website.

You can check out our other article to learn more about how you can use Pinterest to attract clients as a freelancer.

Related: How to Use Pinterest To Get New Clients – Part 1 and Part 2

Creating a company page on LinkedIn and Facebook can also be a good way to get exposure, but it only makes sense if your potential clients are hanging out there.

You don’t need to have a profile everywhere

Don’t be unreasonably ambitious and try to be everywhere – it’s not a sustainable way of promotion.

Do research to see where your potential clients are – get on there, and present your business in the brightest light.

Make sure your account is always up to date, and that you can regularly post fresh content that will grab the attention of your potential clients.

It’s much better to do just one channel really well, than a few badly.

4. Email Marketing

In my experience, most freelancers neglect email marketing, because they sell services, rather than products. But all freelancers can benefit from building an email list.

Email marketing is one of the best ways to stay in touch with old clients, find new ones, and develop automated processes to build your reputation and reach.

With email, you – and your subscribers – are in control. You don’t have to win over a social media company’s algorithm to reach your audience. Equally, your subscribers can unsubscribe if they don’t feel you’re giving them value.

If you provide value to your subscribers, they will keep opening your emails.

Because many freelancers don’t use email marketing, it’s a reason more for you to use it. It’s an easy way to stand out, leave a professional first impression and present yourself as a person who means business.

Use email to demonstrate your expertise

A good email marketing strategy will help you to nurture your subscribers, stay on their minds, and establish yourself as an expert in your field.

As an added benefit, you need an email list if you plan to make money in other ways, like courses, templates or digital products. Starting an email list early will mean you can build other income streams far more easily.

Related: 5 Steps to Build Your Email List

5. Be an active part of an online community

One of the perks of going to co-working spaces is the community you get to be a part of. Many organise relaxed networking events and social activities where you can meet other freelancers.

Due to the current situation, going to co-working spaces is mostly off the list, but thankfully there are plenty of great communities online.

Join free Facebook and LinkedIn groups

Paid membership sites can be great, but they are not necessary. You can equally, or even more effectively, market your freelance business through free Facebook and LinkedIn groups.

Whether you should be in Facebook or LinkedIn groups depends on where your potential clients are hanging around. But on both platforms, a quick search will give you a lot of groups where you can join for free and get in front of your target audience.

How to find good groups?

Be selective about the groups you are joining, because unfortunately some of them are just full of spam posts and are a waste of time. A good signal is the number of members and the number of posts in the group on a daily or weekly basis.

If a group has some suspiciously high number of members and 100+ posts per day – stay away. Whatever you post there, it will get lost in the group quickly and the only interaction you will get are spam comments.

This is where paid memberships and groups can actually be useful. Because there is a financial commitment, the quality of the members is usually high, as the spammers have been filtered out.

Whether you’re in free or paid groups, try to spend 10-15 minutes each day on engagement. Be an active member – share your tips, show your expertise and don’t be shy to offer your services as a solution to someone’s problem.

Don’t be too salesy – offer value first, your services second.

When you are active in a group, not only will people remember you, but your posts will perform better and will be shown to more members (yes, you need to think about algorithms even in groups).

If you are not getting value out of some group, leave it. You want to spend time in groups only where it’s worth it.

6. Collaborate with other freelancers

Connect with non-competing freelancers who have the same target audience as you and ask if they are interested in collaborating. It is a win-win situation for both of you – you can market your freelance business in front of their audience, and they can get theirs in front of yours.

For example, think of a collaboration between wedding photographer and a wedding calligrapher – they each have the same target audience, and their services will complement each other. Through collaboration they can both reach a wider audience, while also offering a better service to their clients.

Choose your collaborators wisely

Be careful about who you collaborate with though – you don’t want to connect your business name with unprofessional or unscrupulous freelancers, this will hurt your reputation too.

If you are not sure how to find relevant people who you could work with, start locally. Search for local freelancers who offer complementary services to yours, and reach out to them.

I also recommend creating a profile on The Dots – it’s an amazing platform for freelancers and creatives. People are often looking for collaborations there.

7. Start blogging

Regular blogging will not only help you with SEO and push your website’s ranking up, but it is also an opportunity to position yourself as an expert in your industry.

It builds your credibility – as you are able to demonstrate your knowledge and level of expertise.

As a freelancer, you’re always aiming to solve your clients problems for them. So do this in your blogs too.

When you post articles on how, for example, a good web design can help them convert more visitors into customers and earn more money, you will attract your ideal clients right onto your site.

Some of them are even likely to ask you to help them implement the ideas, if you’ve presented them compellingly.

A lot of my clients found me by googling a problem they have and then coming across the answer in an article on my blog. By showing them – and freely sharing the solution – they realise what they need to do.

But they often don’t have time, or the confidence to do it themselves, so they reach out to me for help.

The days of hiding what you know are long gone. Now you should share information freely, and focus on selling the implementation of that solution to your clients.

Have in mind that this is more of a passive way to market your freelance business, so be patient and consistent.

Publish at least one article per week

A good blog doesn’t have to be too time consuming, and its a great way to refine your thinking.

Try to commit to a post that is around 1,000 words per week. Ideally, three articles are a perfect target – but I understand that’s not doable for many freelancers.

Blogging can be frustrating, because you are playing the long game. You’re unlikely to see the benefits for months, but when you do, you’ll be very grateful you stuck with it.

8. Write guest posts

Writing for other respected blogs and magazines, related to your field of expertise, is another great way to get your name out there and build your reputation as an expert. It’s an easy way to attract more potential clients without having to do any salesy stuff.

Even better, you will usually earn a link back to my website – which is invaluable for search engine optimisation and pushing your site up the google search results.

I aim to write 1-2 guest posts per month. Some freelancers find 2-3 established blogs where they regularly contribute, but I personally like to contribute to different blogs or magazines each month – as long as they tick off these requirements:

  1. They are related to my business/my audience reads it
  2. I can get properly credited, with bio and links to my website and social channels
  3. I can include at least one link in the article that I can use to refer back to the article on my blog
  4. The blog/magazine is well-established and has a good reputation

How to find appropriate guest posts?

To get started, you can search for “your profession + submit a post”. Or if you are working in a niche, you will get better results if you search for “your industry/niche + your profession + submit a post”.

If there is a magazine or a blog that you would love to contribute to, but they don’t have a public call for submissions on their website – that doesn’t mean you have encountered a closed door.

Many of them, especially larger ones, do that so they can avoid spam – and they often won’t say no to a good (and free) content. Check their social media pages, try to find their editor on LinkedIn and pitch your idea – you’ll be surprised how often people say yes.

9. Get on podcasts

If you can talk about your life and career as one big adventure – maybe you had to beat the odds to finally start your own business, have a good story that people should hear about, or can share valuable insights, you might should look out for relevant podcasts.

Just like with guest posting, being a guest on somebody else’s podcasts exposes you and your business to a whole new audience.

The additional benefit here is that you have a chance to turn your listeners into customers.

Podcasts tend to feel very authentic, because they are essentially just conversations. This means the audience is usually engaged, and interested.

Just think about how many times have you purchased a book, subscribed to a YouTube channel, bought an online tool or a course because you heard about it in a podcast episode?

You can convert listeners into leads and clients

People share a lot of free value in the long form conversations that podcasts are the perfect format for.

They give tips and advice to gain trust and prove their reputation as an expert.

If done right, by the end of the episode, the audience will want to learn more from them, this could mean checking their website, buying their products and hiring them for services.

You don’t have to be a ‘big name’ to be a guest on many podcasts. There are loads of amazing freelance podcasts that want to hear from anyone who has a valuable story to share – and most freelancers do!

10. Create and publish passion projects

We’ve talked a lot about passion projects, because they are a great way to stand out and get your name out there.

What’s great about passion projects is, because there’s no pressure, you have full creative freedom, and the chance to express yourself in a way that you might not be able to with typical client work.

People love seeing creative ideas and hearing interesting stories behind personal projects. It inspires them, and they love to share inspiring things with others.

Of course, not every project will go viral, but if done right, it will put you in the spotlight and make you stand out from the crowd.

We have a full guide on how to create passion projects on our blog, so make sure you give it a read before you get on work.

Related: Freelancers’ Guide to Passion Projects

11. Ask for referrals via email

You should always be aiming to delight your clients. Everything counts here – the communication, your work ethics, your overall approach to projects.

Just think of this – would you hire someone if your friend told you they are difficult to work with? Definitely not. We all listen to what other people say – especially when it comes to money. If someone else has had a positive experience, then that reduces your risk.

If you’ve done a good job and made your client happy and satisfied, they will usually be happy to help and give you a testimonial or even refer you to their friends and colleagues.

But only if you ask them to do that – don’t assume they will do it on their own – most people won’t. So as soon as you finish projects, you should politely follow up and ask for referrals.

If you are just starting out and don’t have clients yet, reach out to people who you have worked with before in previous roles or on past projects.

If you are a recent graduate without much work experience, you can ask your mentors from University to help you land first clients by referring you. Or help out a friend with a project, in exchange for a testimonial.

Be proactive here – ask for referrals whenever you can, but don’t be pushy about it. Also be kind to others and provide referral back when you’re asked. Small acts of kindness can go a long way.

12. Attend events and online conferences

Events and conferences can bring double benefits to your business – you can connect with other freelancers, get collaboration opportunities, and connect directly with your target audience.

For example, my wife and I also run a travel marketing and design agency.

So we attend marketing and design-themed events, where we get insights on the latest trends, learn from other professionals and connect with other freelancers.

But our target audience – the people who buy from us – are not usually present there.

That’s why we also attend industry focussed events – which are, in our case, travel shows.

That way we get the best of both – opportunities to improve ourselves and collaborate with other freelancers, and chances to get our agency on our target audience’s radar.

Events and conferences, do involve getting out of your comfort zone and approaching people, rather than wait in the corner for someone to approach you.

Especially now when most of the events are online, including the networking part.

But it can bring you good exposure, help you to build a network and get you high-quality leads – so it’s worth the ‘suffering’.

13. Pitch to marketing agencies

Check your local marketing agencies and see what services they offer.

You’ll find they often welcome applications from freelancers, who they can share work with. Send them your portfolio, the types of projects you can help them with and your availability.

Many marketing agencies want to have a pool of trusted freelancers they can include in projects whenever they need to. So you want to be in that pool – that can be another way for you to get regular projects.

Avoid sending your email to the generic address unsolicited, like hello@website.com. Instead, do a little research about their team, and see who would be the best person to reach out to.

LinkedIn can help you a lot here, as you can easily find people there based on the company they work in. Once you have names, head over to hunter.io or voilanorbert.com and get their email address.

14. Pre-record video content

We all know that video content performs well and brings impressive marketing results.

In this world of social media and digital marketing, you should really make an effort to get comfortable in-front of the camera.

As a service based, one-person business – you have to be willing to put yourself out there – at the end of the day, people buy people.

Videos let people see you, and build trust with your audience. So spend some time working on your skills in-front of the camera and building your confidence – you won’t regret it.

Making filming less awkward

Luckily, there are plenty of ways to make filming yourself less awkward and weird. Firstly, you don’t have to do live videos – pre-record them and work your magic in the editing part.

Invite a friend who makes you feel comfortable to assist you with filming. Place them right behind the camera, on the same level, and talk to them, not to the camera.

That way you will look more natural, and also become more comfortable with the whole idea of filming yourself.

Obviously, the more you do it, the better your videos will be. You’ll get used to speaking to camera and it will come more naturally to you.

Another good tip is to set up your camera and equipment in the morning, and then do the filming later. It can be overwhelming trying to do everything all at once.

Even better, leave it set up, so there is less friction to hopping over and filming.

Filming yourself is hard, and it will be tempting to give up at the beginning, but it’s a skill that just need practice.

We have a rule that prevents us from giving up too soon on a project: you only have permission to give up when you’ve created 100 pieces of content.

So create 100 videos – if you still hate it, you can give up knowing you gave it your best shot.

15. Tell your friends about it

As freelancers, we are so invested in our business, that it’s hard sometimes not to take things personally. That’s a major reason why many of us hide our businesses from our closest friends and family – because we fear they will judge us negatively.

But, obviously, friends are there to support us. They might not understand your choice and reasons why you want to be a freelancer and live that lifestyle, but they won’t judge you. They will either support you, or say ‘Okay, that’s cool’ and move on.

In reality, people are obsessed with their own lives, and give very little thought to what you’re doing.

So, put that fear of judgement aside, and tell your friends about your freelance business, and what you offer.

When they know about it, they can then recommend you at their work, to their colleagues or other friends as a service provider.

Ask for honest feedback

Ask people whose opinion you trust to take a look at your website and social media channels, and support you if they like it.

That way they will help your content be seen by more people – and you never know who might need your services exactly at that moment.

It doesn’t cost you to tell them about it, it doesn’t cost them to support you on social media – you have literally nothing to lose here, only to gain.

Final thoughts

Now that we have reached the end of the list, go through it again and pick out a few steps that will give the best results for your business. Don’t try to do everything for a few days, and then let it all slip.

Consistency is crucial here. Aim to pick a few things and do them well.

I’d also love to hear what’s worked for you, so leave a comment below with your best tips on how to market a freelance business.

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