It’s not easy being a freelancer. Sure, there are perks such as (technically) being your own boss, escaping the monotony of a typical 9 to 5 desk job, and choosing which projects to take on. However, with the growing turbulence in the world economy and the competitive nature of the design industry, it is more important than ever to have great marketing skills to match one’s creative talent.
As Community Manager for a community-based creative website, I use many marketing tools to manage our blog, Twitter account, and other social networks to enhance the presence of our brand, as well as strengthen and form relationships with creatives worldwide.
Here are some great tools for social media, marketing + PR purposes that freelancers can also use to help increase their personal brand’s presence both online and offline, in no particular order:
Ping.Fm is a “multicast” site that allows you to let all of your social networks know what you are doing without having to individually update each one. For you aspiring social media butterflies, Ping.Fm is a time saver, as you can update your statues, blogs, or micro-blogs all at once across Twitter, Liverjournal, Facebook, LinkedIn, Tumblr, Wordpress, + more.
LinkedIn is a great, professionally-oriented networking site that allows designers a lot of opportunities to market themselves. Whether it’s connecting with existing clients or finding new work, there are many ways for a designer to utilize the site. Asking clients for a recommendation on your profile boosts confidence with potential clients. By utilizing LinkedIn groups, designers can connect with fellow designers or seek out niche groups who may need design services. LinkedIn Answers also provides an opportunity for freelancers to find people looking for creative help.
Tweetdeck is a favorite amongst Twitter fiends. The Adobe AIR app makes it easy to divide your followers among groups. This feature is especially useful for several reasons. You can create niche groups to display certain Twitter members (i.e. “clients,” “designers,” “inspiration”) to keep up with specific topics. The ability to filter tweets by keywords is also useful for branding and promotion. When people say they “need design,” you can engage in a conversation, or if you have a tracker on your company name, you will be able to monitor what people are saying about you.
Retaggr is essentially a virtual business card that includes your entire online presence. Your Retaggr profile can be embedded into email signatures, blogs, and on other websites for people to see where you are located online. It helps take the guest work out for people to find you on other sites, allowing you to be more connected with your network.
5. SEOMoz Tools
Modern designers know that an online presence is undoubtedly important to have in today’s freelance world. Stay on top of your website / portfolio’s search engine optimization with the free tools from SEOMoz.org. These tools allow you to determine the strength of a website, whether or not pages are being indexed on the big search engines, and analyzing how targeted a page may be for specific keywords.
6. Google Analytics
Pie charts, graphs, and map overlays may seem boring, but Google Analytics is an extremely helpful tool in tracking web metrics, determining referring websites, length of time spent on a site, what keywords were searched to get to a site, where your visitors are coming from, and more. By knowing these statistics, you can optimize against them. If people are coming to your site after searching “logo design” or are being referred via Twitter, then you are able to determine your strong and weak marketing points.
7. Shozu Desktop
Shozu Desktop is similar to Ping.Fm, but for photos and video. This website / application is known for making mobile media content easy to upload and distribute. Their desktop application is a great way to share photos or videos on your computer across over 30+ networks with one click, which is nice if you want to post a logo or illustration you’ve just created to multiple networks without having to update each site manually.
If coding isn’t your forte and you just want to display your best work, Pictobrowser is a way to convert your Flickr gallery into a portfolio. The easily customizable and embeddable app allows designers to showcase the work simply. Plus, it allows your portfolio to maintain the benefits of having the actual images live on Flickr. With group pools, tags, and ease of search, you never know who will stumble upon your work and want to hire you!
9. Mars Edit
Mars Edit is a powerful blog publishing tool made for Macs that allows for offline writing. The program plays nice with Wordpress, Moveable Type, Blogger, Drupal, and more blog publishing services. It’s organizational system allows for easy re-blogging, media file management (which can be extremely helpful when dealing with tons of images that can be re-used). The ability to write blogs while not connected to the internet is a huge benefit to busy freelancers on the go.
10. Yelp iPhone App
The Yelp iPhone app (or even mobile browser) is a great way to find good meeting places for clients. Especially when in an unfamiliar area, it’s great to read reviews and find out whether or not you are inviting clients to a nice environment. The “search nearby” functionality also allows you to find locations of interest. At a meeting in a coffee shop and need to fax something quickly? Yelp can locate the nearest FedEx/Kinkos. It’s also a great way to find + research local businesses that may need your design services.