Freelance Milestones

Our reliance on online marketing

When you’re working on a freelance business, it can take time to set up and become established, and sometimes this process can be daunting, confusing, and frustrating. There are marketing experts everywhere offering contradictory advice or propagating the use of technologies, platforms, systems, and media as the cool tricks of the trade that you need to wrap your head around to get ahead in business. I’ve found that to someone versed in the jargon of business, business advice must seem exciting and obvious, but to those who are not experts in business or marketing it can come across as a confusing nightmare.

If you remember the 1990s, or life before technology became prevalent in our lives, you’ll know that it hasn’t always been pervasive, and books written by the older generation will tell you as much. A lot of us, young or old, have gone through an adjustment period in life to increasing reliance on social media and online as a means of succeeding in life, and with this change came new best practice. It happened so fast, and though some are quick to learn the ropes and take advantage of the change, there are plenty who will always be a bit stymied.

Which strategies didn’t work?

1. Passing advice with no interest in the individual

When I was in my early twenties and learning how to develop my freelance businesses, it was with misguided excitement that I would find a new means to boosting forward based on advice from social media experts, usually. People emphasise different things: the importance of social media, website, SEO, in these times; or they would stress the same things and offer little tips on how you could get more out of a system with a tweak here and there. It started with misguided excitement, bordering on delusion, and then it would burn out into a hopeless realisation that this new-age trick wasn’t going to work either.

I didn’t realise at the time that I was thinking too much about gadgets and systems, and not what I wanted as a person or why these gadgets and systems were going to help ‘me’ achieve my goals in life. The experts weren’t interested in my personal development, and there was little encouraging my interest in marketing when people only threw advice at you and then left you.

2. Doing everything yourself – ‘going it alone’

The following was, to some extent, a mistake of mine. You may think you’re intelligent and independent and that these characteristics will allow you to surge forward ahead of your peers in a matter of time, but if you do think this you may be forgetting something crucial and that is that successful self-employment, as with any type of business I assume, does depend on an ability to form business relationships with others. It may not be easy to get work in your chosen field without the help of others, especially if you depend on others for your salary.

3. No marketing

If you’re fed up of marketing because you don’t like it and you think you can do better focusing on ‘your job’, you’ve basically given up searching for work, and you’re waiting for something to happen that won’t happen. The intent to succeed has to be there, in a form acceptable to you, or you may end up in an abyss of escapism. You won’t be doing yourself any favours by resorting to this escapism; the self-satisfied pleasure may be temporary.

4. The definition of marketing

Okay, so you’ve come to detest the word ‘marketing’ and anything that attests to it but this is likely because you’ve been confused into thinking marketing means cool online platforms, apps, gadgets; or on the other hand is all about serious marketing plans, complex calculations, and business plans. Obsess with either of these too much when you’re not knowledgeable about either, and you’ve been misled into how you’re going to use the best methods.

Some of the things that helped me

1. I sought advice from support networks

I don’t think anybody should be too proud to seek support. If you don’t use any networks that are considered to be support or labelled as support then just have a good think about all the people who have helped you on your way as a freelance: friends, colleagues, and more.

2. I took a social skills course

It helped my confidence, got me out there talking and connecting with likeminded people. This same course offered self-employment advice from somebody who thought in a similar way to me and had experienced self-employment. This one action alone showed me the benefits of getting out of the house, and I felt like instead of struggling alone in self-defeatism I was actually doing something to move my career forward – not something ‘I thought’ might work but something that proved I was more serious about succeeding.

3. I was persistent

I was persistent with my support networks. Without this persistence, I would not have finished my business plan and been given a mentor. On so many occasions I nearly gave up. Thankfully, my dad was there to help me see that I had to fight for what was in my best interests, and he was right. I had never been an assertive person, and talking to people sometimes made me anxious, so this was difficult for me.

4. The right people and the right professionals

The right people are crucial in your development as a human being, never mind a business. The right people have complementary skills that you can connect with to learn and grow. These people don’t always know what you need to know and it’s sometimes in unlikely places where you’ll find these people, but it’s always worth giving anything new a chance before dismissing it.

5. Try new things

Doing the same things, over and over, will bore you or drive you mad, even if you’re good at those things. To grow as people, we need something new every so often, to do different things every day and try something completely different every few months. Sometimes this includes tasks others have given you, and not just your own ideas. You can get bored of your own ideas, but other ideas are fresh.

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