Kick-Start Your Freelancing Career With A Marketing Push

If you’re new to freelancing, one of the easiest ways to get off to a good start is with a direct marketing campaign. And whilst we all shudder when we hear the words ‘direct marketing’, the aim is not to make a nuisance of yourself. In fact, quite the opposite – so there’ll be no aggressive cold calling with breathless scripts. And if there is, you didn’t hear about it here.

A well-researched and cleverly put together campaign can be just what it takes to launch your career. It’s what got my translation business going a few years ago, and this year I’m doing it once again for my freelance (photo)journalism business.

Here are a few ideas to help you pull it off (without your work simply ending up in the trash can):

Research Potential Clients

The first thing you need to do is find potential clients. If you’re a translator, try searching for online lists of agencies you’d like to work for, as well as any direct clients that might need work done in your language pair. Writers can look for publications in their field of interest, whilst designers could look for businesses that need their services. Whatever your field, look up people and companies that might be a good fit.

Write a LOI

Otherwise known as a letter of introduction, this device is vital and is going to make or break your campaign. Think of it as a cover letter, where you introduce yourself and include all your relevant skills, experience and details, as well as why you’re interested in working with them. If you have a personal ‘in’ – for example if you someone recommended you – mention it. Make sure it reads well (no breathless scripts!), and include a link to your website, as well as any relevant work you might have done.

Hit the Sweet Spot

Tailor each and every email to the person you’re writing to. So no “Dear Sir/Madam”. Put in some effort and mention something to show you’ve done your homework (something from their website, for example). Also, including hundreds of CC’s is not going to make you very popular. If you do this, you definitely didn’t target your LOI.  And don’t forget to attach your CV – I’ve found a one-pager works best, especially in the translation industry.

Don’t Spray and Pray

Next, don’t send out your LOI to hordes of potential clients and then hope that something sticks. This is a waste of everyone’s time, especially yours. You really need to target your campaign. Who would you like to do work for? Where are your skills a good match? What are the rates like? There’s no point in landing a client that pays peanuts, so rather look for decent (and professional) companies and clients. Make a list of the companies you researched, and go for those.

Track It

When you’re ready for blast off, remember to keep track of your campaign. Excel is great for this. I use a simple spreadsheet and include any important information as a reminder. For example, the company name, website, email, contact person and any notes, as well as the date I sent the LOI and when I received a response. Sometimes prospects answer that they’re not currently looking for anyone, but would like to keep your details on file. This is a great opportunity to contact them again at a later date, but you’ll only remember if you made a note of it.

In the beginning, you’ll have to send out quite a few. Not tens, more like hundreds. I sent out 200 with my first campaign. At first things might be a bit quiet, but work will soon start trickling in and, before you know it , you’ll have a handful of steady clients. Some might contact you months after you sent your details. This is good news. The trick is to make sure you keep at it. So after your initial push, make sure you have a LOI target every month – about 20 or so. This will help you navigate the feast and famine cycle of freelancing.

Good luck with your campaign. Let me know if you decide to try it – I’d love to hear from you. And for those that are already established freelancers, did I leave anything out? What else has worked for you?

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4 Comments on “Kick-Start Your Freelancing Career With A Marketing Push”

  1. intralingo says:

    Marie-Louise,
    These are really great tips. I think you also make an important point, that they can be used when you’re branching out into new areas (good luck with that, by the way!). I’d add that they’re also applicable at certain points in the same career. Markets change, clients close their businesses or find other translators. Marketing is a huge part of any entrepreneur’s life at all times!

    • Hi Lisa

      Absolutely. I think marketing is perhaps one of the most important aspects to setting up, and functioning, as a freelancer. Besides the actual translation side of things, it’s probably the area one needs to spend the most time on – and relying on only a handful of clients can be quite an insecure position to be in. If a major client folds, there’s a lot of legwork to be done in order to establish a good flow again, so it’s definitely best to keep at it. Thanks for the input!

  2. Good ideas!
    I would also suggest mailing thank you cards, especially after the first assignment with a new client. 🙂
    The Traveling Translator

    • Great idea. I’m sure that after providing the best service possible, and then sending a card, one would definitely be fresh in the client’s mind (and first on the list when they need more work done). Never done this before, but definitely worth a try!


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