When you work for yourself, in most cases you are the product. It’s your experience, your expertise, your knowledge that you’re trading for cold, hard cash.
But the surprising result of that obvious fact is that it means you will need to spend more time than you ever expected, day in and day out, talking about yourself.
For some people, I suppose that’s easy, but for most of the free agents I’ve worked with over the years, it’s one of the hardest parts of what is otherwise a pretty great way of making money. In order to find clients who want your expertise, you have to get comfortable being your own biggest fan. So how do you do that without feeling totally awkward?
First off, you’re the face of your brand, and that’s a good thing. My website has my picture on the home page, a fact that horrified me when my designer first suggested it. But I do it because people want to have a sense of personal connection when they are looking at experts to hire. Think about it: When you have a business or personal problem, do you want to go to a big, anonymous, impersonal organization, or do you want to go to someone you trust?
This is the first part of the art of selling yourself. People are looking for authenticity, and that means you have to put yourself out there so your buyers can feel like they know who they are working with. No, it’s not about what you look like, it’s about the fact that you are a real person, with real experiences.
Once you’ve demonstrated that you do, in fact, exist, the next step is to showcase your strengths. People want a reason to choose to work with you.
Let Someone Else Talk About You
This can be tough if you try to do it yourself. When I write about myself, I often downplay what I’ve done, but when you’re trading on your expertise, it’s no time to be shy. If you aren’t comfortable making strong, confident statements about your work, get someone else to do it! Ask your friends and colleagues how they would describe you professionally. Get testimonials, examples, and references. Better yet, get a video of someone who thinks you are awesome talking about what you did for them.
OK, so now your prospects know you are a real person, and you’ve got some strong testimonials from other people validating that you do amazing work. Now it’s time to make sure you are crystal clear about what you do. Many people who are new to freelancing start out trying to sell everything to everyone, but buyers want to see a sign that you can definitely help them. That means being specific about your capabilities.
Define Your Unique Offering
I can say I’m a leadership development expert, and that puts me in competition with thousands of freelancers, as well as some heavy-hitter companies like FranklinCovey, Skillsoft, and more. But when I say that I specialize in helping new managers in technology companies engage their teams using a four-part process with proven results, I have suddenly created a much more powerful message. Don’t be afraid to be specific—the more narrowly you define your niche, the easier it is for the right people to find you, and the more likely it will be that they want to buy what you’re selling.
Last but not least, make it easy for people to get in touch. Create a simple contact form that only takes a few seconds to complete. Include an e-mail address if people want to reach out directly. Leverage LinkedIn, Facebook, and other social media outlets so people can engage with you however they find it easiest. Be visible and available at networking events and other in-person venues. As you create your personal professional brand, all these elements hang together to describe who you are and what you do. Because you are the product, and the best thing you can do for your success is to sell yourself!