#BGB Tutorial: 4 Freelance Blunders to Make You Go Woops! Or DUH. (You pick.)
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Whoever has ever said freelancing is “easy” should be strung up by their toes and dangled over a balcony somewhere, mouth stuffed with oversized gooey marsh mallows to muffle the screams. (I know, I have weird notions of torture.)
Those individuals clearly don’t know Jack. (Or even Jill for that matter.)
Seriously though, freelancing isn’t as easy as it may sound. It’s not “Oh lemme just hang out my shingle and soon I’ll be rolling in dough and living like a traveling bohemian.”
Brake check. Not even close.
It’s more like “Oh, lemme hang out my shingle. Wait, how do I even make a shingle? Do people still use shingles? Oh shite, I need to hire someone to make me a shingle and there goes all my dough! Guess I won’t be traveling like a bohemian this year. Drat.”
Or some sort of inner dialogue to that effect.
Regardless, freelancing (especially freelance writing) can be hard. Damn hard. And you’ll have ups and downs and everything in between, and yes that’s part of what makes it exciting… but it’s also part of what makes it terrifying too, especially when you have a family and people counting on you.
Which is why sometimes it’s OK not to be a trailblazer all the time. Sometimes it just makes good sense to follow the path of other trailblazers instead.
Learn from the mistakes of others, and avoid the kind of dumb pitfalls that all too commonly, noob freelancers often fall face first into.
Assuming Contracts are No Big Deal
Yes, there will be some clients you will never, ever, ever have to worry about, contract or not. (Do your best to keep those around for life, by the way.)
They will be amazingly awesome, easy to work with, pay you on time, sometimes even upfront and in full, and you will never have to use your stern voice with them in order to get paid for work you have completed to their satisfaction.
But even the awesome clients need clear cut terms and deliverables, so that they know when, how, and what to pay you when the work is done. Nifty things like contracts provide that.
And then there are the clients who are not so awesome, but maybe their lack of awesomeness isn’t apparent at first. Seeing red flags in a potential client often will only come with experience, so it’s easy to miss them when first starting out.
But there will be clients that suck, and those are the clients you will be getting on your knees and thanking God you had that contract with.
Thanking God, because at least now when they refuse to keep their end of the bargain, you have some legal wiggle room to hold them accountable to their commitments. (Muahahaha.)
And really, it’s protection for them as well, because in the very same way, you can be held accountable too if you fail to deliver on your promises. (Success 101… don’t fail in delivering on your promises.)
Now… let’s not forget pesky things like contracts the next time around....
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Time to revisit some basics. I think it’s good to do that on occasion, don’t you?
Frankly I think everyone should make a point to do it, at least every other month or so, myself included. It can be easy to get lost in the day to day of running your business, and find you’re glossing over the basics or missing them altogether, either because you think you already have them nailed, or you’ve just simply forgotten them.
Especially when it comes to the basics of marketing.
And sometimes maybe you just get downright tired of marketing period! I know as a freelancer, it can sometimes feel that marketing is a never ending process. And it is really, but don’t get discouraged. You just need to figure out ways to make the process as efficient and effective as possible.
It’s the same with my hubby’s biz as well. He’s a carpenter, and he has to constantly market himself in order to gain new clients and bring in more business… but luckily his business lends itself quite well to word of mouth growth, and he’s been blessed to gain quite a few new clients from that alone.
Marketing a small business run from a private home is really not much different than marketing one in downtown LA or a suburban strip mall. It’s still a business and needs targeted, intelligent marketing strategies. And of course, affordability is always a factor for small businesses.
Luckily, there are lots of low-cost or no-cost tools you can turn to for help, particularly online. These tools will help you announce and adjust your marketing messages as your customer base becomes more defined.
Establish Your Brand
Duh right? Told you we’re talking bare bones basics today! So first, decide on how you want to brand yourself or your business. And for a small or home-based business, don’t be afraid to incorporate your personality. I had to teach hubby this one too!
Shauna Wekherlien, an Arizona-based CPA, ignited her business by sharing her very real passion for accounting by quite successfully branding herself as The Tax Goddess.
While not all accountants can hope to become immortal, Shauna’s enthusiasm comes through every video, email, and blogpost, duly branded as coming from The Tax Goddess.
Invest in the Cloud
Most home businesses require a lot of time and flexibility from the owner. Because you will not be at home 24/7, you should consider investing in cloud storage sites like LiveDrive.
They work with both home computers and business professionals by providing low-cost file storage and sharing, file syncing between devices and unlimited backup.
LiveDrive also has a 30 day money back guarantee, which is rare, according to Top 10 Cloud Storage....
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Maybe exhibition shows are right for you and your biz, maybe they aren’t.
Only you can know that. However if you have decided to dip your toes in the water and exhibit at a show for the first time, you need to know you’re probably not the only biz thinking along those same lines.
Exhibitions and trade shows present a wealth of opportunities to promote your brand, products, and services. Statistics say that 87 percent of the attendees will share some information they obtain at an exhibition, and 64 percent will speak about the event with at least six other people.
Also, attendees of exhibitions have a genuine interest in what exhibitors have to offer (why else would attend such an event?), so businesses can use that opportunity to gain valuable leads by effectively branding and marketing themselves.
However, there are a ton of other businesses out there, some of them perhaps even direct competitors within your industry, who have access to the same above stats as you, and who share the same dang vision when it comes to branding and marketing.
A little discouraging, isn’t it?
Nature of the beast though. If you own a business then naturally you will be constantly investigating and strategizing on ways to raise the awareness of your brand, gain visibility within your industry, and attract new business. Things like trade shows and exhibitions are often seen as easy ways to do just that.
Unfortunately when something is seen as easy, it can then become over-saturated. That’s pretty much how I view exhibitions most of the time. A bit like a free for all. But hey, clearly they work or they would not be such a popular go-to strategy.
In my view though, sure you’ll perhaps get some attention, gain a new customer or two, but it may not be the most fun (or effective) little party you’d pictured in your head.
Unless off course, you go the extra mile, and rather than just setting up a table and handing out business cards, you engage in endeavors to really make it fun and really stamp your brand firmly within the minds of the folks drifting through.
Why would you want to do this?
Well, why wouldn’t you?
Given the supremely cluttered state of exhibitions, it’s really only the one who stands out that earns the business.
If you’re goal is to get noticed while literally surrounded by hundreds of competing brands, then you need to enhance your exhibit function and appeal, and you do that by making it super fun and branding the hell out of your booth.
The following are some tips that can be used to spark the interest needed to make your next exhibition event a smashing success rather than a dud.
Custom Build It, Baby
Deciding on a custom style for your exhibition stand is an important factor that will influence the entire look and feel of your little area. Depending on the type of impact you want to make, your choice of the stand can offer different experiences for...
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Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn, in my admittedly humble opinion, have always been the social media platforms that I get the most mileage out of.
And out of all the ones I would probably deem “most useful” in a customer service type capacity, I would have to probably dub Twitter the winner.
Apparently other businesses agree with me.
There are quite a few big brands that have hopped on the Twitter train over the last couple of years, and they are using Twitter not just for customer service, but in a wide variety of other ways as well.
The infographic below, graciously provided by Alex at WhoIsHostingThis.com outlines the top brands currently dominating Twitter right now. Take a peek, and maybe you will learn something useful you might apply to your own branding shenanigans.
Over to You
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While I’m certainly no expert, I’ve recently been reading up on POP displays and potentially using them in your brand strategy.
You can walk into just about any Walmart, Winn Dixie, or and find yourself exposed to what’s called a point of purchase display, whether you realized what you were looking at or not.
According to BrandingStrategyInsider.com, a point of purchase is a place where everything a brand has done to promote themselves and raise image awareness either results in a sale, or it doesn’t.
Point of purchase sales displays are typically placed at or near where folks cash out of the store, aka the point of purchase.
However they aren’t restricted solely to these areas and can in fact wind up in multiple locations throughout a store, strategically placed and designed to interrupt and influence a person’s buying habits at different points of the buying cycle.
Many a consumer has succumbed to impulse purchases because of a well-placed and unique display designed to market a particular brand’s product, or call attention to special sales, new products just released, or holiday promotions.
Impulse buying is big business apparently when it comes to the retail world, and businesses who learn how to market effectively and take advantage of those shopping habits are businesses that do very well for themselves.
Why Are POP Displays Effective?
Well usually it’s because the brand using the display has done their job well, and created a brand bond with their customer base already through other marketing means.
And when that brand places their products right under the proverbial nose of consumers who are about to check out, who already know and love said brand, the itch to impulse buy becomes extremely high.
That doesn’t mean up and coming brands can’t utilize them effectively, provided you have the means and the resources to include such displays within your strategy.
Are POP Displays Right for Your Biz?
If you are an entrepreneur that has created a product designed to appeal to the masses via big business retail outlets then most likely yes, they very well could be a great investment for you and your brand strategy.
However if you are peddling a product that is more upscale in nature, designed for a more narrow target market, then perhaps not.
Point of purchase displays made for retail locations also most likely won’t be an effective brand strategy for digital businesses or freelancers, although if you have creative ways to do this effectively, I’m all erm… ears? eyes? in the comments below.
What Makes for a Great POP Display?
POP displays seem to be the most effective option for brands we already all know and love, i.e. brands that have already done the work to establish a brand bond with their customer base.
Posters and digital displays seem to be used more for the purposes of brand-building and...
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Imagine enjoying a morning run on the local trail and seeing a neat 3-D art stenciling of a wooden bridge over a gaping cliff right on the path.
Like, woah. Where’d that come from?
Now, imagine people having fun with it, pretending to walk over it, snapping pics, and sharing it on social media outlets with their pals, just because it was so cool and different, totally unexpected.
Now, imagine your business logo in the mix, now also being shared on social media platforms, raising awareness not only of the kick ass art, but also raising awareness of your brand.
It’s this kind of out-of-the-box thinking when planning your marketing strategies that can bolster the popularity of your biz exponentially, and ultimately increase revenue.
You might call it a way of allowing your business to stop acting like sheep (going with the flow, only focused on boring typical marketing strategies) and instead behave like a lion.
Clean advertising uses stenciling to provide a contrast between what is clean and dirty on the pavement. Who knew playing in the dirt could be so fun or effective?
Stencil your company logo or image as a fun way of getting your business’ name out there while also sprucing up an otherwise grungy area.
Once the stencils are in place, all you have to do then is sit back and let the public go to work for you. This is especially fun and effective when used at local events like festivals and concerts.
The cool thing is it doesn’t even have be expensive.
One cost effective idea might be hitting up a local college art department and asking one of the students to create something for you.
As thanks throw them a few bucks and let them know you’ll be sharing it with all your customers… so not only are they helping you spread your brand, you’re helping them raise awareness of their art.
Switch Up Your Advertising Spaces
Some of the greatest feedback you can get from coming up with good advertising is for someone to say “Ha, cool!”
It’s still necessary to do the usual advertising in your local newspaper or cafes of course, and they can be effective.
But when you can also come up with unique spaces and ideas that throw your brand outside the norm, you’re gonna get a lot more “Ha, cool!” reactions, as well as a lot more people remembering your business.
Of course not every biz can afford to retrofit a zamboni to make it look like a giant razor shaving the ice at a hockey game like Gillette Razor did, but it’s not how much you can spend, instead it’s more about how creative you can be.
Look for Ways to Do Something Unexpected
Some other ideas might be creating a great bumper sticker slogan that supports your business; it’s affordable and travels well. Work out a deal with local sailboat and hot air balloon owners to advertise your business with a colorful logo.
Offer the city government to...