Build an audience to get more freelance clients
Published Nov. 20, 2020 by Andy L. in Marketing yourself
Having a sizable audience enables many professionals to excel faster than their competitors. Why is this the case? This article takes a deep dive into that question and provides some pointers when seeking to scale your freelance operation using an audience.
Should you build an audience?
Building an audience usually comes in a few forms:
- Throw money at the problem - Running ads, paying off influencers, paying others to do it for you, etc...
- Delivering real value consistently – Post, share, record, do whatever it takes to consistently share and provide value.
- Luck - Maybe you are a celebrity already or have means of using someone else's fame to support your effort.
Of these three my guess is delivering value is going to be the path most lead. On paper, this sounds easy but the amount of time, energy, and work required to do this is intense. You have to go all-in on it.
Asking yourself if you're able to commit to such a tall order is a good first step. Too many people start down this road and quit. The success stories you see are the ones that never quit.
Not everyone can successfully build an audience
Not everyone has the commitment level required to consistently provide value. You might have kids, a full-time job, or lots of other commitments that make it very hard to find the time. That's perfectly fine because there are alternative means of finding work as a freelancer. Don't get discouraged if you can't go down this road.
Building an audience is only one way to help find more work using a network effect as your tool. If you're capable of grinding for a couple of years blogging, sharing, recording videos, and more you should find the light at the end of the tunnel. Persistence tends to pay off.
How to build an audience
Everyone's path to an audience is different but a common pattern you see is the process of being fairly transparent with whatever you are working on as well as providing real value to whomever you are targeting.
Provide real value
Sharing content about whatever it is you enjoy doing is a good first step in building an audience. Most people don't want to know what you ate for dinner yesterday but they do like to know you are human.
If you're a designer, maybe you share tips and tricks on how you approach designing something.
If you're a developer, maybe you share tips and tricks on how you approach programming something.
Do things like this consistently and over time more and more people will start to discover you.
I have a YouTube channel called Web-Crunch. On that channel, I average one new video per week. The videos are usually tutorials on web development and design. I have been posting there and my blog for about 2 years now and have scaled my subscriber count to just under 13,000 with over 1 million video views. This channel has brought me a consistent stream of inquires from contractors looking to hire me.
I believe they seek me because I demonstrate what it takes to help them with their specific challenges. Of course, these challenges relate to what I publish so it's important to understand whatever it is you are sharing is want people will deem you as a professional about.
Niching down is a great tactic for finding a more focused audience. By focusing down you can be one of the leading people an audience looks to for advice, knowledge, or value. With so much content out there you might think it makes sense to be more diverse in your offering. Unfortunately, when contractors search for help, they tend to be focused on a specific type of help. Being narrow in what you offer may lead to more people finding you and that then leads to more work inquiries.
Share often but provide value. There is such a thing as over-sharing. You don't want to spam people but you do want to be on their radar even if they aren't seeking you out. Great ways to do this include using popular social media channels like Twitter, LinkedIn, Facebook, and YouTube.
Take time to craft well-written/recorded content. Quality over quantity is always a safe bet when it comes time to share.
Communicate with your audience
Simply sharing is half the battle when it comes to building an audience. You need to also communicate with your audience as they start to interact with your content. Whether it's a video or a social media post, use the comment section to your advantage.
The fact that you respond directly to one person who took the time to respond to your content builds more trust over time.
Pick 2-3 platforms and focus on those
Targeting 2-3 channels to share on will make your life easier. It's already hard enough to create and share value. Using only a handful of social networks or platforms will often yield better results than trying to be everywhere all the time.
Collaborate where possible
If you can guest blog, or post a guest video on more popular channels you might jumpstart your process of building an audience. People that have already built an audience have been in your shoes before. Simply reaching out is sometimes all it takes to get your content on their platforms.
When collaborating in this way you still want to provide value. Within the content, you can discreetly link back to your website and/or mention your availability to start to get more inquiries. Make it easy for them to seek you out.
Building an audience doesn't happen overnight
I have been blogging for roughly 5 years and publishing YouTube videos for about 2 years. My audience still isn't that large considering the amount of time and energy I have put into it. I have seen real results by providing value (almost always for free) but it just takes a ton of time. You have to decide if this path is for you and if you do commit, just know it's going to be likely years before you see some bit of success.
These biggest takeaways have worked for me:
- Consistency is key
- Focus on quality of quantity
- Listen and communicate with your audience
- Be human
- Make it easy for people to get in touch with you
- Expect it to take years