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Marketing For The Self-Employed

... is the key to any ... success. If you don't have any clients, then you don't have a ... But before you go out looking for clients, you will need two things. The first is a busine

Marketing is the key to any business' success. If you don't have any clients, then you don't have a business. But before you go out looking for clients, you will need two things. The first is a business card. This is probably the most important piece of marketing and promotional material you will ever use. This little piece of paper will tell people who you are, what you do and how to contact you. It is the most common item people will have from your business and it must look professional.

Your business cards should have all the following:

* Precision cut edges. If you are printing them up yourself buy microperforated stock so no little nubs are visible on the edges of the card.
* Be highly legible.
* If you have a company logo, it should be on your card if it is simple enough to be recognizable.
* Clearly indicate what it is that you do.
* Include your address, phone number, e-mail, FAX number and all other contact information.
* Don't print anything on the back of your card. If you need more space use a fold-over card.
* It should be standard business card size (2" x 3.5") so that it fits into a business card folder and Rolodex.
* It should be very different from all your competitor's cards so it stands out.

I would suggest that you start out printing your own business cards. This will let you make changes to layout and information without needing to have new cards printed at a print shop. You can use one of the many programs that will design business cards. While I'm no big fan of Microsoft, I do use their Publisher '97 program to create my cards. Then, after you work out all the bugs in your card, you can have them printed up professionally.

The next thing you will want to make is a company brochure. This promotional piece will let you go into more detail about what it is that you do. You can include client testimonials, artwork, photographs and much more. I have two that I use. The first one is used as a general handout that goes to all clients the first time that I mail something to them. Do be sure your flier fits into a business size envelope. The second one is designed to be passed out at trade shows and other special events. I usually customize this one for the audience at the event. Recently, I was a speaker at a science fiction convention, so the brochure I passed out talked about my ebook "The Writer's Dictionary Of Science Fiction, Fantasy, Horror And Mythology," and how it would benefit science fiction and fantasy writers. Before that, I attended a business trade show. My brochure for this event emphasized my experience writing articles, newsletters and booklets. It's always best to tell your prospective clients what you want them to know. Don't assume that they will deduce something. If you want them to know that you write newsletters, tell them that you write newsletters. This is where the customized brochure comes in handy.

Once you have a business card and brochure, then you will need to promote yourself. There are numerous ways to do this, including:

* Creating your own website.
* Networking at chamber of commerce meetings, clubs and organizations. Actually, you should network everywhere. This is where your business cards will come in very handy.
* Using classified ads and display ads to promote your products and services.
* Purchasing mailing lists for direct mail marketing.
* Public speaking. Yes, I know it's scary, but it works.
* Cold calling, either on the phone (it's easier if you make a script to read from) or knocking on the doors of potential clients. Be sure to follow up on these first contacts.
* Sponsor something. A local sports team or event.
* Donate your time and expertise to a charity or city project. You will make excellent contacts, and people will know that you care about your community.

Once you have started contacting prospective clients you must stay in contact with them. As a rule of thumb, you won't get a project from someone until your third to seventh contact.

There are many ways to do this. I have a list of potential clients, and I call everyone on this list at least once a month. I also send out postcards to everyone on the list four times a year. Hot prospects also get two additional special mailings a year.

Postcards can be made cheaply by creating the card in a program like Microsoft Publisher '97. Fit four cards on a page, then photocopy this design onto a very bright card stock. Cut the postcards apart and mail them. The very bright paper really stands out on a client's desk that's piled high with paperwork.

Other things that I have done include: mailing out monthly calendars, sending out small gifts (pencils, pens, small photo albums, etc. with my name and phone number printed on them), mailing Christmas and birthday cards and sending thank you cards after every completed assignment.

You will need to establish pricing for your services. The best way to find a starting point is to check with several professional organizations in your field to see what the national average is. Then call several people in your area who are doing what you want to do and ask what they charge. I would suggest calling as a prospective client as you'll get more cooperation from them. Remember that prices will be higher in large cities than in small ones.

If you think that finding clients, and getting assignments, are the end of your problems, think again. You still need to be paid.

Most of your clients will pay you. They may take longer to pay than you would like, but they will pay. In two years as a freelance photographer in Southern California, I had only two clients that I had payment problems with. The best way to avoid problems with payment is to have a signed contract. Many professional organizations can supply you with sample contracts that you, or a lawyer, can customize for your specific needs. Be sure the contract includes what services are to be rendered, what fees are to be charged and when payment is due. Even if your contract states that payment is due in thirty days, it's not uncommon to wait ninety days to get your check. It's something you just need to live with. It's better to wait for payment than get bent out of shape and lose a client. But feel free to call the client every two to four weeks to get an update on your payment.

You can also find clients by setting up your own website. Showing examples of your product or service, along with testimonials, can be a great help. It also allows prospective clients see your work instantly. You could even find clients using only a website. I sell my ebooks on my website, and I have friends who sell their web design, writing, audiotapes, astrological forecasts and other services exclusively from their website. If you have the skill and time, you may also want to have an e-newsletter to send out regularly to those who have signed up for it. It's a great, and cheap, way to promote yourself and keep your name in front of prospective clients. Doing anything on the Internet can be time consuming, but it can cost almost nothing. I pay $25 a year for my domain name and $10 a month for a website. That's about the cheapest promotion you will find anywhere.

The real secret to promoting your business is to stay motivated. Be excited about your product or service, and show that excitement to your clients. Excitement is contagious, so get your clients excited about you and you'll have a much better chance of getting a sale or assignment.

Suggested Reading

1001 Ways To Market Your Books by John Kremer - Even though this book was designed to help writers sell their booksBusiness Management Articles, it's full of useful marketing information that anyone can use.

Any of the Guerrilla Marketing books by Jay Conrad Levinson - These books are a great source of marketing information.

The Well-Fed Writer by Peter Bowerman - Peter will show you how to be financially self-sufficient as a freelance writer in a big city in six months or less.

Article Tags: Business Card, Business Cards, Science Fiction, Prospective Clients

Source: Free Articles from

Jeff Colburn is a freelance writer who specializes in websites, newsletters, poetry and genre fiction. His books, "The Writer's Dictionary Of Science Fiction, Fantasy, Horror and Mythology" and "The Youngest Ninja," can be purchased from his site, The Creative Cauldron is a site filled with information for writers, photographers, artists and other creative people.

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