12th November 2018 Carol Jones

My Freelance Journey: Blog Four – Marketing yourself and getting work

AMA conference 2018 © Brian Roberts Images
©AMA conference 2018 © Brian Roberts Images

MY FREELANCE JOURNEY is a new bi-monthly blog series where we follow Arts Marketing and Fundraising consultant Beckie Smith on her journey into life as a freelancer

Marketing yourself and getting work

With all the background work done, I needed to put myself out there and start getting work.

I thought this would be easy – having been at the top of my game in marketing, I assumed that marketing myself would be second nature.

I was wrong. I found myself standing on two polar extremes. On one hand I was ready and eager to go. There were people to meet, organisations to help, and audiences to serve. On the other, I was under-rehearsed, tongue-ted and I felt like it was my first day at school.

Time to go back to basics with Marketing 101.

Define your audience. Who is most likely to need my services? Easy! Arts organisations (or rather the people within it).

Segment. What kind of arts organisation? What size? What discipline? I’m focusing on multi-disciplined arts centres, or companies who specialise in performance with an annual turnover of £1m- £5m, but if you’re a dance specialist with international touring experience, why not start there?

Segment again. It isn’t an organisation who will contract you. It’s the people within it. If you’re a marketing or development consultant, it is likely to be the CEO, rather than the marketing team that hires you. However, if you are a freelance campaign manager, the Marketing Director would be a safe bet because they are the people on the front line, desperately needing support services and are looking for a solution to present to their CEO.

Make it relevant. At what point in an organisation’s journey will it be most appropriate to work with them? For me, it is at a time when an organisation needs to try something new. It might be that they are feeling stagnant and need a change, or they have recently received funding and are looking to make new waves in the industry. If you are specialising in campaign management, it would be more timely to make your approach in advance of a big campaign launch or just after one, so they can consider you for next time.

Identify your messaging. We all know that ‘please buy our tickets’ is the world’s worst marketing message. ‘Please contract me’ is equally bad. When we are selling tickets, we entice people with engaging content. It’s the same here. Offer case studies, blogs, offer golden nuggets of enlightenment and gems of inspiration. Draw conclusions from articles and form your own opinions.

Identify your channels. We know this like the back of our hand, don’t we? In the day job we specialise in online marketing, social media, print, promotion, partnership, advertising, pr. We choose the best channels and amplify our message through the others to ensure we get heard. For freelancers this means, network, write professionally, speak at sessions. Many counties have agencies who facilitate networking events, make your introductions there, follow up with an email and connect thorough social media. (Don’t do all of this in 24 hours, people will think you are stalking them). The best channel is word of mouth recommendation. Who do you know, who knows who you want to know? Can you ask them to make an introduction and recommend you?

Tailor your ask. No consultancy project is the same. You cannot say ‘this is what I do, please buy it’. Instead, tailor what you do to what your client’s needs. You can only find out what they need by meeting them. But what happens if they don’t know they need anything yet? Find a way to listen to their story so far and understand their aspirations. Make the conversation be about them. Then go away and work out how you can help them achieve their aspirations. This isn’t about them hiring you, it is about starting a conversation which might help them.

Coming to a contract. Only when a customer ‘actually asks you to do something’ should you talk about a contract and a fee. Professionals are not stupid. They will know that when they ask you to do something, they will expect to pay you. They will probably be the ones to bring it up (which is a relief because it helps you understand their budget, and it saves you from having to make the ask). Then you can either negotiate or accept – depending on your circumstances.

In conclusion. Marketing ‘the new you’ is as full on as marketing an artistic programme. It is a full-time job. Yet at the same time you must deliver the work for the clients you have already won. If you consult part-time, you will find yourself working full-time hours. If you used to work a full-time job at 40 hours, it has suddenly increased to 60 hours, 20 of which are unpaid.

No-one said it would be easy.

But it is worth it.

Follow Beckie’s journey as she adapts to the challenges and opportunities of freelance life. Next time, Beckie discusses the highs and lows of being a freelance consultant.

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