“Anti-marketing” Marketing for the Ordinary Freelancer

Georgina Laidlaw

These days, everyone’s a marketer. And some people truly love promoting themselves. I trained in marketing, but I’m not in that category. I’m just an ordinary freelancer, more intent on doing good work than promoting it.

Also, as a ghost writer, I often do work for which I can’t claim any public credit. Even if I loved putting myself “out there” (wherever that is), I have very limited options for showing off much of my work.

Over the years, I’ve learned to develop some less-obvious, subtle-yet-effective means for self-promotion. Since you, like me, might be an ordinary freelancer who doesn’t enjoy “marketing” yourself, I thought I’d see what you thought of these.

1. Telling the story

This technique is one of my favorites. Basically, it involves telling the story of a project’s development through social media (in my case, Twitter) as it happens.

Of course, there are certain facts about those projects that I can’t include for reasons of confidentiality. But the gaps left by those omissions make room for creative expression — which is, after all, part of my unique offering (as it may be for you).

Recently, I completed a large ghost writing project. I tried to pull the related tweets up today, but (as you may have noticed), Twitter’s having a few server issues. In a nutshell, I made tweets about:

  • writing several thousand words in a day
  • researching Latin American prehistory
  • knuckling down to deliver a book draft (and needing a stiff drink thereafter)

That may seem enigmatic, but these tweets did a lot to:

  • point out to my short copy clients that I offer long-copy services
  • express my enthusiasm for my work
  • imply my versatility and adaptability — I can do a lot more than simply putting a few sentences together

2. Asking the question

I have a lot of friends and contacts in industries that use my skills. Whenever I see them, I ask them the question:

“What are you working on?”

I ask this question because I’m genuinely interested in what my friends are interested in, and they’re all pretty passionate about what they do. But the question creates an opportunity for me to find out the details of what they’re doing, what excites them, and what’s happening in their fields.

The other thing the question does is prompt the polite response, “And what about you?” This provides another opportunity — one in which I can talk about the projects I’m working on.

Since my friend or contact has just finished telling me about the highlights of their working life right now, I can tailor my response to include projects that I expect will be relevant and interesting to them, and/or projects that require skills that might meet a need that they themselves have.

3. Speaking up

Like I said, I do a lot of work that I can’t publicly claim as my own. But I’m aware of the value of project and competency evidence — proof that I can deliver. So I’ve found other ways to present that evidence.

I blog on a few different sites that are pertinent to my target audience. I love doing personal projects, and I actively draw attention to those. I also love doing the occasional job that’s outside my usual focus (like writing a magazine article or delivering a workshop) and linking to, or talking about, that.

I love to talk with peers in related fields about industry developments, and I’m not afraid to ask questions about the things I don’t know or understand, or explain my views on relevant issues I’ve researched and thought about.

Why “anti-marketing” works

These techniques work very well to promote my services. Firstly, they’re easy and enjoyable, so they don’t make me feel like I’m making some great effort to “market” my “business.”

Secondly, they’re subtle — almost subliminal in some cases. So my contacts, most of whom don’t want to be marketed to (and with whom a more obvious marketing approach would be uncomfortable, given my friendships with them), don’t feel edgy or as if they should have their guards up.

Last of all, they’re natural approaches that reflect my personality and philosophy for work, as well as the needs and expectations of what marketing types would call my “target segments.” And don’t run the risk of appearing contrived or forced, because, well, they’re not.

There’s one big bonus, too: because of the indirect, conversational, non-restrictive nature of these promotions, they open up work possibilities (and new contacts) that I believe would be more difficult to find if I were tied down by website copy, brochures, or a set fee schedule.

How do you “market” your services? Do you use “anti-marketing”? I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments.

Image courtesy stock.xchng user JMGRIFFIN.