A lot of freelancers I talk to for the podcast find escape from the isolation of freelancing in social media.
For them it really is a social experience. Twitter is a great way to chat to like-minded people. Likewise, Facebook groups can provide real support and value.
But how about using social to actually get you work?
Traditionally, in the offline world, it makes sense to be seen in the places your potential clients are, be it at networking events, seminars, chambers of commerce, or conferences.
Making Use of Facebook Groups
E-book designer Janet Brent asked herself the question: “Where do my ideal clients hang out?”
She likes to work with online women entrepreneurs. The answer for her? Facebook.
“A lot of my work comes through Facebook entrepreneurial groups. I use Facebook like networking, so most of my Facebook friends are just contacts from online businesses, online based entrepreneurs. So I see what groups these friends are joining and join their groups.”
“My online sphere is a lot of online women businesses and there are a lot of groups around that. You find like-minded people.
I basically just join a conversation after I find anything that is related to design or e-books and then I offer my advice and expertise.”
I should add, she’s offering advice when needed, she’s not just going into the groups and shouting HEY! Who wants an e-book? She’s an active participator, a friendly member of the groups.
Keep in mind that Facebook groups don’t have to be about finding and chatting to clients directly. They can be for sharing with your freelance peers as well. Remember: don’t see your fellow creative freelancers as competition. They’re a source of potential support, inspiration and referral too.
Illustrator Kristian Duffy found work this way, where he’s based in Manchester “there’s an illustration club, for want of a better term, called Draw North West and we have a Facebook page set up and we share jobs and whoever’s perfect for the job would go in for it…”
Draw North West is a closed group so freelancers inside can talk freely, privately. I’ve had other guests relate similar things.
How to find these groups? Ask your social network for tips, search online (often meetup.com leads you in this direction)… and if you can’t find one, start one!
The Value of Instagram
Meanwhile, all of the photographers I’ve spoken to have had people get in touch after publishing their work on Instagram.
As Jordan Green put it quite frankly: “If you’re not on social and you’re trying to be freelance… honestly, you’re being an idiot (laughs). Especially in the creative industries you just need to: it’s an online portfolio for yourself.
You’re no longer posting out your printed portfolio to someone down in London in a scary big office. You’re now posting on your iPhone, online, where anyone in the world can see it. Which is brilliant.”
“If you’re not on social and you’re trying to be freelance… honestly, you’re being an idiot.”
Jordan takes it further than simply sharing his work though. He’s making connections too.
“I do a bit of a social media stalking”, he says laughing. “You find this person who works there and you’re like ‘okay, wait a minute, so they went on a work night out, okay so who’s tagged in there? Okay! That’s that person! I know it sounds really bad but that’s the new way of doing it! (laughs) It really is.”
Twitter as Treasure
Front end developer Barry McGee used his wallet to help him find work on Twitter.
“The challenge is to get your CV in front of people in companies who take freelancers on. I thought, well I see all these other companies pushing themselves onto my timeline, why don’t I experiment with that?”
“So I wrote a little tweet that said I’m a front end developer available from such-and-such-a date, linked my CV to it…”
He paid for a Twitter campaign to push that tweet to a specific niche audience he was targeting.
He admits he was reticent at first. “It’s a typically Irish/British thing that you don’t want to push yourself in front of people. But I got a lot of interest. There were a couple of really interesting people got back to me: Sainsbury’s, Financial Times – pretty big guys, it wasn’t people after a one page website.”
It’s hard not to argue with those brands, nor with the stats:
“For a two week period, spending $200, my tweet appeared in timelines 30,000 times. Now, it was only a 2% uptake who clicked through to my CV – but that’s still 500 people that landed on my CV that would not have seen my CV if it were not for it.
“When you look at the offline world; how difficult would it be for you to get your paper CV in front of that amount of people? I’m actually surprised not more people are doing it”
“I thought, well I see all these other companies pushing themselves onto my timeline, why don’t I experiment with that?”
Twitter has had a huge impact for another freelancer I spoke to, but in a very different way.
Ian Paget, branding himself as ‘Logo Geek’, uses his Twitter reputation and following to validate him as an expert in his field.
“With social media I’m not trying to get work. I’m not trying to get enquiries.
What I’ve found is that it’s really good as a way of making clients see that you’re active in the community, that you know what you’re talking about so when they do find you they can see that ‘wow, they really know their stuff, they’re someone really authoritative in the industry. That’s what I’ve found to be really valuable.”
As well as publicising his own blog posts he ‘curates’ content, finding the best articles and news from his logo design niche and sharing them. He has, as I write this, nearly 70,000 followers. But as he points out, it’s the reputation he’s created that actually gets him the work.
All of his gigs are from inbound enquiries. By setting out to be an industry expert online, he’s becoming one offline as well: interviewed for design publications and sitting on judging panels for top prizes.
Alex Mathers, founder of Red Lemon Club, used Twitter a few years ago to set up an interview with a startup in London – an interview which led to being hired as a part-time in-house illustrator for a year on a very competitive salary.
How? He ran a search for people tweeting about needing illustrators, and found the tweet of a company who were hiring. He contacted them in a tweet, sharing his portfolio, and was contacted immediately.
I’ve noticed a lot of business groups in my area have ‘#townsnameHour’ or ‘#countynameHour’ for example. These are hashtag-based hangouts, where local businesses get together the same hour each week chatting via Twitter using that tag.
These are often curated/encouraged by one person with an ‘@’ for that group, so find them out, watch the feed and jump in when it feels natural to. Some of these have spawned real life meet-ups from the tweet-ups.
As well as getting involved, start following these Socially active companies. They’re bound to click on your Twitter bio (so make sure it fits your professional freelancing bill!) at the very least and become aware of you.
At this local level, often the people tweeting are key figures in the business; this is a great way to get to know them.
At its heart, Social is social. Don’t underestimate the pure power of interacting with potential clients on Twitter, getting involved in their discussions way before you might go in for the ‘sell’ with them.
Who should you start conversations with?
Focus on people you admire and companies you’d love to work with. A few guests have had projects referred to them by other freelancers in their field, so even those peer group connections can convert.
You can even search for companies who are hiring on LinkedIn and then start interacting with them (or people who work for them), so they get to see your name and work in a more natural way.
LinkedIn gives you a platform to put your ‘insight’ out in posts to a specific business network, whilst its groups along with Facebook’s are great places to share your knowledge and connect.
Some social networks perform better depending on what you’re doing.
Instagram and Twitter are great for visual freelancers whilst composer Jamie Salisbury had a big corporate client find him from scanning through his Soundcloud portfolio.
For video producers or animators, Instagram and Twitter offer a great way to offer quick glimpses of your work.
For me, I’ve had a business in the US get in touch with me about producing a video for them because they saw I’d ‘pinned’ one of their videos in Pinterest. They then followed the trail: saw what else I was pinning, clicked through to my site, checked me out further and got in touch.
Another contacted me when I wrote a blog post about their videos and posted that on Twitter, including their handle. (An idea I borrowed from UX consultant Paul Boag after our interview, he uses it quite a lot).
You don’t have to be dishing out business cards for your name to be passed around anymore.
Pick a method, or a mixture of them that suits your work and your personality. Get social and see the opportunities come your way.
Listen to these guests and more talk in detail about being freelance over at Steve’s podcast, here.