Make time to market your services.
How many times have you read that bit of advice?
Well, it’s rock-solid. If you aren’t making a point of marketing yourself, the risk of falling into that ugly feast/famine cycle is exceedingly high. If you aren’t building marketing time into your schedule, it’s tough to move up the income ladder.
So, make time for promoting yourself.
But not too much time.
I’ve been working on redesigning my workflow lately in an effort to improve my efficiency, boost my bottom line, maintain something approximating sanity and to provide ample opportunity to catch a number of weekday afternoon Royals games this summer. Following some good advice, I’ve been more conscious of what I do every day and I’ve made a discovery: I spend too much time on the marketing and promotion side of things.
I know that many writers get good results by working through job listings, but I’ve responded to exactly two of those ads over the years I’ve been in the business. I secure client work via repeat clients, word of mouth and rainmaking. It keeps my busy. Maybe too busy. I’ve realized that I need to take my foot off the gas.
Yesterday, for instance, I saw a little Facebook status update from someone I’ve hired in the past to do some non-writing related work. I couldn’t resist dropping him a line about the project he mentioned and discussing a content creation option that might be of interest to him. We had a nice back-and-forth and it might lead to something.
Later, while doing some research on another project, I wandered into a fascinating website that was chock-full of great information. It also looked like it was put together in 1995 (sparkly animated GIFs and the whole works), even though the business is still updating it. I could immediately see how its over-long, rambling pages of almost-impossible-to-find text and images could be broken into individual pages and posts within a WordPress framework to produce a much better site. Some good organization, a lot of rewriting, a little new material, some keyword research, some basic SEO and a few other bits of “this and that” and they’d have something really effective instead of being discoverable only by those staring at a business card or finding it via a link on an almost equally obscure site.
So, I pitched them cold with an email. They responded this morning. Looks like another client.
I don’t keep stats on my rainmaking efforts. However, they produce clients more often than you might think. That’s great–until you find yourself looking at more work than you can handle without cutting other things out of your life.
There are at least four ways I might control the over-marketing problem. I can bump rates to control my workload. I can work on ways to better scale my business for increased growth by bringing in additional people and resources. I can be less aggressive in the rainmaking department. I can say “no” more often. I’m dabbling in all four, but I know this will be a tough nut to crack. Sometimes, I think I need a Twelve Step program on this front.
But fixing my personal issues isn’t really the point of this post. I think the whole over-promotion thing stems from a common fear experienced by many freelancers–what will happen next?
Even those of us who’ve been doing this for a long time have a hard time fighting that nagging feeling that we could wake up tomorrow with nothing profitable to do. The last few years have crushed the old idea of job security for just about everyone, but freelancers don’t just work with an economically ravaged safety net–we don’t have one at all.
We’ve all heard (or have survived) the famine side of the feast/famine cycle at least once and we don’t want to visit that territory again.
In an effort to build a more secure business, we’re always prospecting for work. Some of us do it even when we really don’t need to do so.
So, I’m wondering… Are you successfully managing a promotion addiction? If so, how? Do you consciously limit your business-building efforts or do you just “let ‘er rip” and then deal with the consequences?