Guess what? Your marketing strategy is a whole system design. As a long time permaculture designer, I should have known it would be!
What follows is a “stuff I seriously wish I would have known when I started” list of essential tips for online entrepreneurs, especially if you’re relatively new at this and have spent any time at all resisting learning about “marketing” because it’s yucky.`
Let’s jump right in!
1. Lift other people up, especially people who seem like your closest competitors.
Your work is different than theirs, or at least it should be. And they are probably awesome people, right? I mean, if they’re doing work that intersects with your own passion, calling, and creative expression, then chances are you have a lot in common and could probably even be friends. If you openly and sincerely promote the work of people you admire, the light will shine back on you a thousandfold. This is basic abundance theory, and it works.
2. Find your niche.
If you don’t know your market, if you don’t know who your audience is, then how do you know what to offer?
Take the time to figure out exactly who you want to serve and how. Start with asking yourself who you want to have in your life, who you want to interact with, on the daily.
- What questions do they ask?
- Who asks the questions that interest you the most?
- What are the problems they complain about?
- Can you solve any of them?
3. Give, give, give.
Give ridiculously valuable content away for free, like this.
Even if you’re thinking, wow this is great writing! I could sell this to a magazine! Yeah, totally, of course! Do that. Send out a query, and if you get the gig, awesome. But if you don’t, or if you just can’t be asked to hunt around for a publisher right now but you’ve just written something really brilliant, just send it out to everyone!
You can write something else that’s even more brilliant tomorrow. Don’t be miserly with your creativity. It doesn’t run out…unless you hoard it. Then, it withers.
Yep, more abundance theory. And y’all KNOW I am not into the woo-woo stuff! But the fact remains: the more you give, the more you get, and when people can see that you truly love being a part of the abundance cycle, they will get on board. I promise.
4. Content, content, content.
Content is Queen. Full stop.
If your voice, your niche, and your offers are unique, original, and authentic, you will succeed. But you have to keep it flowing. No matter what happens with your life, your business, your family, try to make time every day for research and/or writing so that your blog always has fresh, original content.
Sure, you can schedule blog posts months in advance, and indeed you should. But don’t let that make you lazy, because you know as well as I do that the creativity can stagnate.
Take it seriously. This is a job, after all. Generate new creative work as often as possible, even if it seems scattered at first. Even if you feel like a complete imposter! Don’t even worry about it. Just. Keep. Writing. You’ll hit the sweet spot eventually. You’ll find your niche. Unless you give up. Then, you won’t.
5. Speak their language.
Speaking of content, what language are speaking? What lexicon are you using? It matters.
Are you writing in the tongue of your chosen brand archetype?
Are you speaking the language of your target market?
Learn the words that your ideal audience wants to hear, and use them. Keywords, hashtags, prose, sales copy, social media blurbs — it all needs to be within a lexicon you have intentionally chosen. The importance of this cannot be overstated. Common language leads to trust.
You aren’t tricking them by doing this! You are accommodating them, meeting them where they are at, and honing your own message and identity as a creative and unique individual in the world.
6. Shed the shame.
De-stigmatize self-promotion! You are not an imposter. Show off your feathers and, if it helps, think of it as “communicating” instead of “marketing.” This is your art! You’re allowed to share it and to make money on it too.
Personally, I think the bias against “self-promo,” which is especially prevalent in women’s communities, is rooted in patriarchy, and in the age-old traditions of telling women to STFU about their ideas.
When I say self-promotion, I’m not talking about smarmy MLM’s or whatever, (though even they can have value sometimes too). I’m talking about women being afraid to promote their own creative work because they think it will turn people off.
And to augment the problem, there are a ton of focus groups on Facebook, for women writers and a zillion other types, that strictly prohibit the posting of anything you wrote, made, or thought of yourself, and I find this just absurd.
What the heck is the point of spending a bunch of time yammering on in some facebook group about everything BUT the work of the women in that group? It makes no sense!
I moderate several large groups on Facebook that actively encourage self-promo in all of my groups. And guess what? It’s never a problem. Nobody is ever spamming or trying to sell Ray-bans! They are networking, actually, and bringing real change to each other’s lives.
If you’re a creative freelancer, people need to know about your work. Or you’re never going to get paid. And you need paid, right? At least once in a while, yes you do.
And if you resist learning the small but specific set of skills you need to succeed as a freelancer, just because those skills are labeled as “marketing,” then you are doing yourself and your potential readers/clients/friends a great disservice.
Because here’s the thing:
People don’t know. Your friends, colleagues, and social media buddies don’t know how brilliant you are. Maybe some of them do, sure. But most of them — the vast majority of them — do not know who you are, what you create, and what you can do for them as a client. And they want to know. They spend money on services like yours, and they want to know about their options.
I can’t count how many times I’ve had somebody I correspond with regularly say, months after I felt like I was over-promoting some course, say to me “OMG you’re offering THAT?!? I had no idea! I want it!!” So, do not underestimate the power of what I like to call “friendship marketing.”
But ethical, friendship-based marketing goes far beyond just talking about yourself on social media.
Which brings us to our final item…
7. Build a freelance funnel.
Every freelancer needs a fully-automated freelance marketing funnel, so they can give spend more time writing and being creative, and (almost) no time re-posting, re-blogging, cutting-and-pasting, and all that other tedious stuff it takes to get paid.
If you’re a permaculture person, you can relate the design of your funnel to how you might design your garden, so that most of the elements are automated, self-perpetuating perennials that need very little maintenance, while you focus your energy on whatever new things you want to grow/write/create!
Think of it like this: you can have a cob bench, a solar shower, and an herb spiral at your house, but as we well know, that does not a permaculture make! You have to pull the different components of your site, and your life, into a system that mimics and regenerates the natural world. And your writing career or online entrepreneurial adventure is no different. Design it as a system, and watch it thrive, it’s how to make money as a freelancer.
You might already know about funnels, or at least you’ve heard of this mysterious “marketing funnel” thing-y. You might even have one already built, and if it’s working perfectly and not taking up too much of your time, then you know I am absolutely right about this.
One thing you might not already know is that you can set up a wonderfully abundant funnel without spending a lot of money. Yes, you can everything on free tools but hear this: spend a little. The free services will seriously hold you back. Invest in yourself, and your business will take off SO much faster. I wish somebody had said this to me years ago, as I wasted a lot of time doing workarounds with free tools when I could have been focusing on creative work.