Becoming your own boss is only a dream for many of us. As the world continues to connect, and technology allows professionals to become increasingly international, these dreams are now the reality on a regular basis for individuals around the globe. Entering the world of freelance work doesn’t need to be impossible, and you don’t need exclusive tools or large amounts of money. Realistically, all you really need is the ability to connect and use social media.
Freelancing is challenging at times, but we believe a freelancer’s most important tool is the ability to network in the digital age. It’s now possible to do this without ever meeting face to face. The key to modern networking is effectively using social media to engage with influencers, possible clients and, most importantly, other professionals in your industry.
In a recent survey of U.S. based workers, 34% of the national workforce was freelance in one way or another, which comes out to 53 million people. If you’re worried about how to do this, here are six tips on how to effectively begin building relationships and gain the exposure you’ll need.
1. Use all of the major social networks (and use them regularly)
Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and Instagram are the four social networks that any professional should be regularly using, with additional services such Snapchat, Tumblr and Reddit being important for those that work in creative industries. Each of these services offer different advantages depending on what a user needs to get from them, but they all allow for a professional to grow their audience and be found easily online.
When using these social networks it’s paramount that you use them often. This means regular post updates, highly visual content, and swift replies to messages you receive. If you don’t regularly maintain your social media accounts, you can appear lazy, impersonal, and worst of all, unprofessional – which never looks good to a possible client.
2. Don’t be afraid to join random conversations
Twitter is all about industry influencers sharing interesting things. It’s an open, creative, public dialogue, and while LinkedIn is the largest professional network out there, each of these services offer a great opportunity to meet like minded individuals and showcase your work.
However, sometimes it’s difficult to know when and if you should talk to people you don’t know in real life. There’s nothing to lose from trying (if you do it right – but we’ll cover this soon) so get out there and get Tweeting. Additionally, groups on LinkedIn allow for in-depth discussions with industry professionals. Take part in these when possible too. Building professional connections can lead to future client based work, so make sure you reply to messages and get back to the people who get in touch with you.
3. Don’t spam other users
Talking to others online can have a profoundly positive effect on your career, but it can also cause damage if done incorrectly. Don’t over-think things though. Getting it right is just a matter of using common sense.
For starters, do not send bulk messages to influencers, especially on Twitter where these messages are visible to everyone – this is simply spam. Instead, send personalized messages directed at them and them only. Twitter users are real people, so make contact with them in the same manner you would like to be contacted yourself.
Additionally, these services should not be used for simply promoting your own business, and the majority of messages you send should not focus around something you created, or an event you’re hosting, unless it makes sense for these people to share them. Instead, make sure most of your messages to people don’t even include a link, but rather a constructive, contributing response.
4. Make a conscious effort to grow your audience
There’s no point in using social media unless you try to attract new followers. Posting attractive content that rewards engagement is vital. To do this, ask potential followers to discuss things with you; ask questions, pose theories, and ask for feedback on work.
Moreover you should think about the type of content you post: videos are more engaging than still images, so consider creating these whenever possible. Also, create original, unique content that makes you stand out from your competitors.
5. Link your accounts in the right way
Linking accounts is a great way to save time, while allowing your great content to be shared on multiple platforms simultaneously. However, linking accounts can create some issues that are annoying to potential followers.
One of the most common errors is a harmful loop between social networks. This happens when, for example, a user’s Facebook is linked to their Twitter, which is linked to Tumblr, which is linked to Facebook. The result is multiple postings of the same content, which looks unprofessional and can quickly fill up a follower’s timeline – on several platforms!
Think about the way your services are linked together, and the types of content you want to post on each. It can save time to have profiles linked, but it may be beneficial to leave some services separate. The extra leg work required to post across all of your profiles is worth avoiding problematic content and updates to your followers.
6. Don’t be afraid to pay
Facebook is known to limit the potential reach of your posts. Current estimates claim your posts only reach, on average, around 6% of your total audience. This isn’t great when trying to promote yourself, but you’ll reach many more individuals when you pay to boost posts. Twitter and Facebook make it easy to start paid advertising efforts without breaking the bank. You can reach new people while sticking to a tight budget.
Be aware of when you shouldn’t use social media
The final piece of advice is understanding when not to use social media. This sounds contradictory, but it’s actually quite important to the time you spend online. One of the most important things to improve your online presence is expanding your offline identity and network.
Networking in person shows you are human, and this can have a great effect on how people interact with you online, especially if you’re relatively new to a profession. When you meet new people they’ll be more likely to follow you on your social networks, especially if you provide them with a business card containing all of your social network details. Socializing can unlock a whole new work world, so get online (and offline) to start connecting and freelancing.