6 Marketing Strategies for Independent Consultants and Creatives

If you’re an independent consultant — or considering self-employment or project-based work to find work-life fit — you’ve likely wondered how (and whether to) market your business and your services. Marketing and branding can be a challenging process for many business owners, but this gets even more difficult when your business is you.

Many new consultants are shy about selling themselves — I know I was when I first got started 15+ years ago — so I’ve put together six tips to help you cultivate your brand, market your services, build your business, and join the future of work.

1. Determine what services you will offer

Getting your service offerings right is an important first step. Ideally, you’ll find your niche and become a thought leader in your niche. It’s easy to say you offer IT Strategy, Graphic Design, Financial Analysis, or Strategic Business Services. But you’ll benefit from nailing down the specific project-types that you can offer. Put yourself in your prospective clients’ shoes, think about the problems they face, then put together a list of your services that solve your clients’ pain points. This should be an iterative process — as you grow your business, you may want to add new service offerings or remove unprofitable ones.

Once you’ve determined your services, consider putting together a price list. Whenever possible — when projects can be clearly constrained and carefully scoped — I recommend listing a flat rate for each service you will offer. Calculate this flat service fee by taking your preferred hourly rate and multiplying it by your estimated hours for each project or service type.

2. Work on your personal brand

Now that you have your own business, always keep in mind that you are your own brand. All of your branding efforts should have a consistent feel, theme, and message. Think about the kind of feeling you want your brand to convey as you craft your messaging — and even as you determine your brand colors. In terms of social media, make sure to update your LinkedIn profile as that’s the first place many potential clients will look to get your credentials.

Keep in mind that as an independent professional, your actions in your personal life may impact on your business. Differing messages or actions across your personal and professional social media channels could lead to being perceived as dishonest or untrustworthy. Everything you do, say, or publish online reflects on you and your business — and ultimately affects your success as an independent professional.

3. Work on your pitch

Every business — including your consulting or creative business — needs an elevator pitch. Craft a concise, compelling, easy to understand 30-second statement describing your business and your services. (They call it an elevator pitch because you should be able to give it to a potential client in the time they happen to join you in the elevator to the time they reach their floor.) Working on your elevator pitch will help you hone in on what is unique about your business. A memorable elevator pitch will allow your clients and potential clients to sell your services for you!

4. Build your business website

A professional website is a valuable marketing tool and the backbone of a good brand. Your website is where potential clients will turn when they’re researching your credentials. Make sure your website is professional, modern, and well-written. Get professional help if you need it, but be sure your website is built so that you can maintain it yourself — personally, I prefer building my business websites with WordPress, but there are several other options for easy content management.

Be sure to optimize your website for search (SEO) by writing copy that matches your chosen keywords. Moreover, track your metrics — such as page views, audience insights, acquisition channels — with Google Analytics so you can constantly refine and update your site. Don’t forget to take advantage of your network of fellow freelancers here! If you need help, consider trading your services for help with your website.

5. Establish your credibility with thought leadership

Establishing yourself as a thought leader builds your credibility and is a cost-effective marketing strategy for independent consultants. Join online forums where you can share your expertise. Write blogs on your own website, on LinkedIn, or via Medium — allowing potential clients to stumble upon you organically. Speaking opportunities at conferences and professional organizations are another way to promote yourself. The more you can build your credibility as a thought leader, the easier it will be for potential clients to believe in the value of your services.

6. Leverage your network

Social media has become an effective way for brands to speak directly to their customers and clients. As discussed earlier, start with your LinkedIn profile. Keep it up to date and share content relevant to your business and your industry. Offer advice on posts made by others. Then, depending on your industry, you may also want to cultivate your public Twitter account and/or your Instagram account. You’ll want to find a balance between sharing valuable information and promoting yourself.

Join industry-related forums as well as online groups for freelancers. Leverage your social network properly and it’ll turn in to a steady stream of new clients via word of mouth referrals. In addition to networking via social media, be sure to attend relevant conferences (yes, even virtually) and periodically reach out to past clients as well as potential clients that haven’t panned out yet.

Remember, your consulting or creative business won’t sell itself. Once you’ve established your brand, built your credibility, and cultivated your pitch to match your unique skills and services, it’s up to you to sell with confidence to leverage your network and grow your business — the business of you!

Got questions? Let me know in the comments!

Yolanda Lau is an experienced entrepreneurship consultant, advisor, and Forbes Contributor. She is also an educator, speaker, writer, and non-profit fundraiser.

Since 2010, she has been focused on preparing knowledge workers, educators, and students for the future of work.

Learn more about Yolanda here.