The 11 Best Marketing Tips for Freelancers

Marketing tips for freelancers

I hire freelancers all the time. I still consider myself one.

Not all freelancers have a marketing background (except you marketing pros, you). In fact, because most freelancers are so great at what they do–whether that’s writing, design, programming, strategy, or something else–that the service becomes their sole focus.

And that’s entirely fair. It’s hard to find time for marketing when you’re working on perfecting your craft. But it’s such a key part of finding clients, building relationships, honing skills, and ultimately paying your bills.

You know what’s easy? Making excuses.

It’s time to stop that. Here are 11 marketing tips* for freelancers, along with the excuses you might be making for not trying them. The best part? None of these require budget for advertising.


  1. Talk about yourself. Even if you think it’s awkward.

    Even extroverts can find this tough. But it’s important to talk about your services, and it’s completely normal. People go to the best they know…not necessarily the best.

    The key is to publicize what you’re doing without outright asking for someone’s business (unless it’s already a hot lead–then go for it). Mention your work in passing, and let them ask you questions. If they don’t, they may not be interested, which helps you avoid a potentially awkward conversation. But they may also be keeping you top of mind for later, when they do need your help.

  2. Make a website. Even if it’s basic.

    Most potential clients will probably Google your name to get a better sense of who you are. You might want to send prospects to a website where they can see your portfolio. A personal site reflects your personal brand, which is the experience you want clients to have whenever they interact with you or your work.

    These days, it’s easier than ever to make your own free website and not have it look like the bottom of a foot. Even a single page site with a bio, service offerings, and links to social channels is a great start (try if you don’t have much time).

    WordPress, Shopify and Squarespace all offer highly customizable platforms. Just install a free template and plug in your information–even if you don’t have an eye for design. Unless you’re a web or UX/UI designer (in which case your website’s look and functionality should show off your skills), a basic website is the least you can do when trying to build an online presence.

  3. Create your own USP. Even if no one sees it but you.

    All businesses should have a USP (Unique Selling Proposition) in order to stand out in the market. As a freelancer, you’re no different. How do you distinguish yourself from the competition?

    When I first started as a freelance writer and marketer, I thought ‘quality and good service’ were enough to set me apart. The problem with this: there were plenty of other writers and marketers who provided excellent results and were great to work with. I needed to find other ways to set myself apart (which led to my discovery that many clients wanted better systems and less back-and-forth, and that prompted me to launch Brandcafe).

    You should do this, too. Research competitors in your space, write down your USP, and keep it in mind any time you’re prospecting or pitching.

  4. Go to meet ups and events. Even if you don’t know anyone.

    Building relationships is a critical part of marketing. Grow your network by seeking out industry events or masterminds. Sorry, introverts–I know this might seem overwhelming, so go with a buddy and stick together.

  5. Share what you know. Even if you think no one is listening.

    Whether you have a blog, enjoy writing LinkedIn posts or are a burgeoning public speaker, don’t be afraid to share what you know. In this age of endless information, more people are realizing that publicizing your expertise is an advantage, not a threat.

    You can also submit guest posts to other blogs or platforms. Even if you don’t have an audience of thousands (and let’s be honest–this is most of us), keep creating content. It’s more likely that a potential client will stumble upon your articles or sit in on one of your seminars and realize just how much you really know.

  6. Create systems and templates. Even if you don’t have time.

    The busiest freelancers can stay busy by investing a few hours into creating systems and templates in order to save a lot more time later. Trust me. Do it, even if it means blocking out a Sunday afternoon.

    I’ve come to rely on the following ones:

    1. Proposal template
    2. Agreement template
    3. New client onboarding process
    4. Feedback delivery process
    5. Agency process
  7. Follow up. Even if it’s a quick note.

    To be clear, you don’t need to follow up with someone who has explicitly said they aren’t interested. Or someone who hasn’t responded to your last few emails. Don’t waste your time, or theirs.

    You do want to follow up with anyone with whom you’ve exchanged cards, or anyone who’s expressed interest in your service. A follow up message isn’t a lengthy pitch–it’s a genuine note to check in, see how they’re doing, and keep you top of mind.

  8. Engage with prospects on social media. Even if you think it’s too casual.

    Identify dream clients and participate in discussions with them when you can. Whether they’ve asked a question on Twitter or have shared interesting content on LinkedIn, this is an opportunity for you to offer insights (and for them to see your name). Be helpful, knowledgeable and casual. Unless they’ve explicitly asked for recommendations in your category, this isn’t the time for a pitch.

  9. Ask for referrals and references. Even if it’s a scary question.

    The end of a project or contract is the perfect time to ask for a referral or a testimonial. If your client has told you how happy they are with your work, it’s not inappropriate to ask them to consider telling others about you.

  10. Find your niche. Even if you’re worried about missing potential clients.

    This can seem especially scary for new freelancers. “If I specialize now, it means I have to turn down requests from clients who don’t fit. I have bills to pay, and I don’t mind doing that work.” You’d be surprised at a) how much more you can earn as a specialist, b) how much more you’ll know as a specialist, and c) how much better you can deliver as a specialist.

    I started as the biggest generalist a generalist can be. I initially offered writing, social media, public relations, content marketing, and strategy for any company in any industry under the sun. It felt disjointed, I didn’t believe in all of my clients, and I charged too little for how much I had to adapt to every new project.

    Now, I specialize in writing services (with the occasional social or content strategy) and focus largely on franchises, HR and technology. I won’t turn down a client simply because they don’t fit my niche (although you absolutely can), but they need to be of particular interest to me or my team.

  11. ABM: Always Be Marketing. Even if you don’t need the work.

    You might be busier than ever. You’ve got a handful of long-term clients, combined with multiple ongoing projects, and your business is thriving. Why would you keep marketing now, when you don’t need the work and you don’t have the time?

    Because consistency is key to long-term success–especially with branding. It helps you develop and maintain good habits, keeps you top of mind for clients, and makes sure that you never have a ‘slow month.’ You might even build up a waiting list. Always be marketing.

You can find even more tips in my article “10 actionable tips for struggling freelancers.”

Ready to stop making excuses and get out there, champ?

*Why 11 marketing tips? Two words: Spinal Tap.

I contribute to Freelancermap, a website that helps match freelancers and clients around the world. This post was created as part of their blog carnival to help solo experts better market their services.