The continued dominance of our digital landscape has resulted in websites becoming a dominant medium. It is now essential for businesses, organizations and many individuals to have a central online home. This need, along with frequent updates and upgrades, means web developers are in high demand. That doesn’t seem to be changing anytime soon, with the Bureau of Labor Statistics predicting that there will be a 13% growth in development jobs this decade.
However, that doesn’t mean scoring these jobs as a freelancer is a walk in the park. The industry is competitive. While you may have a set of great skills and creative ideas, that’s often not enough. As a freelancer, you not only need to be seen by potential new clients, but also maintain a presence. This requires a marketing commitment.
Let’s take a look at some of the ways you can successfully market yourself.
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Know your market
It’s hard to market well if you don’t know who you’re marketing to. It can be tempting, especially early in your freelancing career, to try to please everyone. However, this will probably have less impact than restricting your intentions a bit.
Start by taking stock of your skills. What do you have to offer your customers? If you have specific expertise in e-commerce sites, you can focus on retailers. If you specialize in multimedia, you may be looking for companies that capitalize on their content. This process involves researching the industries that most need the services in which you excel. Take the time to understand their needs and challenges so you can meet them. This doesn’t mean that you should necessarily target your marketing to just one type of customer. However, each type of potential employer should be treated differently. When you understand what each type of client is looking for, you can present more effectively.
Once you’ve established who needs your services, you also need to know where they’re looking. At the start of your freelancing career, it can be difficult to establish this. But there are places where freelance web developers tend to find work. This can include your personal network – many business owners are looking for professional referrals. If you’re targeting the film and animation industry, you’ll often find customers browsing social media for portfolios. You need to research where customers are going so you can direct your marketing efforts to the right places.
Demonstrate your strengths
Many web developers have multiple skills. This can be especially the case if you are self-taught. It’s important, however, not to produce marketing that portrays you as an amateur in any field. Focus on creating marketing materials that demonstrate your key areas of strength, including soft skills. Businesses want to know what you can do for them quickly, on budget, and at the highest level of quality.
You can start by producing content — blogs, videos, and social media posts — showcasing your expertise in each specific skill area. It not only shows that you can do the job, but that you can explain why your approach is effective. If you can do this with confidence, it will likely instill the same confidence in potential customers. This can also be a good approach to take with portfolios that you email to clients and host on your website. Rather than breaking your examples into projects, you need to break them down into skill sets. This makes it easy for customers to access the capabilities they’re looking for and see what you’re capable of. It can also be useful to set up each skill set as a microsite that you can link to in relevant social media marketing posts or email distribution.
When creating this content or doing outreach, it’s equally important to remember to honestly portray your strengths. As a freelancer, you are effectively a small business and are subject to regulations and laws on how you advertise your services. It may be helpful to review resources that highlight common small business marketing mistakes and the legal implications of these missteps. Don’t claim to be able to perform tasks you don’t have experience in, and certainly don’t give the impression that you are an expert in anything that you are not. This helps you avoid legal pitfalls, but also earns the trust of your growing customer base.
Build your brand
There is a misconception that branding is largely useful for businesses. But it can also be an essential part of your marketing as a freelance web developer. After all, branding is all about shaping a company’s image and establishing a connection with the target audience. When a consumer thinks of a certain product or service, companies want them to immediately consider their brand. You should aim for the same with the industry you are targeting.
Just start. Formalize the qualities you want your customers to associate with your business. It’s not just about the skills you offer, although those certainly come into play. You need to consider what experience you think your customers should get from their time with you. Examine the ethical values that are at the heart of how you operate. You are also a unique contributor in your field; What aspects of your personality would you like to express?
You can then start shaping your freelance website, portfolio, and social media platforms to reflect this. You might even want to create a logo and other design concepts that represent your brand ideals. From there, you should aim to achieve brand visibility. Post on forums and social media. Create ads that communicate your unique identity in the web development space. Establish your brand values in your email communication with your customers.
As the web development market grows, it also becomes more competitive. As a freelancer, you need to start your marketing by understanding your target customers. A clear representation of your strengths can help you make an impact, which is then supported by strong brand building. It takes extra resources and effort, but effective marketing can help you have a thriving career.