It’s 2016 and there are more and more freelancers than ever before. Within the United States, one out of three people reports some freelance income. With so many freelancers it’s imperative that you separate yourself from the masses and really show off what you do. Cold emails worked ten years ago, but not so much anymore.
The best way to strut your stuff is through teaching. The proverb, “those who can, do; those who can’t, teach,” doesn’t apply in 2016. Teaching is the best form of marketing for freelancers because to be taken seriously, you need to be an authority, and to be an authority, you need to be teaching others.
Even with an outstanding body of work, you can’t count on having a steady flow of referrals. There are going to be dry spells. That’s why the most successful freelancers produce content that’s always visible, shareable and in some cases, purchasable.
Teaching doesn’t have to take a lot of time either. Modern tools have made it very simple to create and share knowledge and either get paid for it, or earn referrals from it. It’s honestly more about getting something out that’s authentic and helpful, rather than spending weeks crafting something to perfection.
Where you should teach.
Building your brand through teaching is as easy as sharing what you know. There are three mediums to consider: written, visual and video. What you should publish really depends on the type of freelancer you are and where your audience consumes content.
Let’s use a freelance copywriter as an example.
A freelance copywriter is a writer, so one avenue to explore would be blogging on industry topics or tips on a type of work he or she does for clients. To make sure the content gets seen, a great platform to use would be Medium, as you can publish and submit content to larger publication within the platform that has a built-in audience.
As a writer’s audience grows on Medium, he or she may experiment with different channels to reach a larger audience. For example, putting video content on YouTube, then stringing related videos together into a larger series (text, video, images, etc.). Alternatively, you could also combine the videos into a course on Coach and use it as a way to market services, or simply sell the content for profit.
Video production might be a step outside of your comfort zone, but it's a lot less scary than it seems. What makes it valuable is that it's a tad bit harder to pull off, so fewer people do it.
While the content will live on Medium, YouTube and/or Coach, you can use existing social media channels like Twitter, Instagram and Snapchat to promote it.
Nurturing the relationships you make.
As your content begins to proliferate across the Web, you’ll begin to receive questions through emails, comments and the occasional phone call. It’s really important that you take the time to thoroughly respond to everyone’s question because this is a great signal to potential clients that you care and are willing to help. Often those people asking questions will follow up with consulting work after their questions get answered.
You’d be surprised by how many people will reach out to hire you years after reading an article you wrote or watching a video you made. They’ll think to themselves, “I really need an exceptional copywriter who knows the in’s and out’s of how to write push notifications.” Having read an article you wrote on Medium long ago, they’ll get in contact with you because you come to mind as an authority.
How to profit from your teaching.
While teaching online often leads to new business, you can also make money immediately through the content you create. There are effectively two ways to do that: selling ads and selling your content for a fixed price.
If you are interested in selling ads against your content, you’d have to host your own blog through Wordpress or another platform. If you’re producing videos, YouTube has a revenue share with all content producers.
Selling advertising is the tried and true method for content, but also requires you to have a large audience. It’s often easier to build up a smaller, highly engaged audience to sell your content to at a fixed price.
Finding what works for your business.
Keep in mind, every freelancer and business is different, so it’s up to you to test the waters and find the teaching style, content type and platforms that will work best for you.
Before getting started, remember to ask yourself three questions: what do I want to teach, what would my “students” like to learn, and what do I want to get out of this?