Every now and then I’ve been known to click on the occasional Facebook ad. Usually, it’s something related to marketing, freelancing or small business because that’s where my interests lie.
And almost without fail, clicking on those ads results in frustration and irritation. I know that’s a silly reaction—the ads aren’t really targeted towards me—merely my general profile. I guess I shouldn’t take it personally, right?
You probably know the types of ads I’m talking about. Instead of calling out specific individuals, let’s just say they usually involve a video that includes fancy cars, big mansions and slick marketers.
What frustrates me about these videos is not the marketing or even the silky smooth salesmanship. It’s the idea that somehow, there exists a shortcut to building a successful online business.
And it’s bullshit.
Because you’re not getting the whole story. Marketing is important. Even critical. If you’re not willing to market and promote your business—sharing how you can help your audience and target market—your business is going to die a slow death.
So yes, you’ll need to market your business. But marketing is only a small piece of the puzzle and by itself, is worthless.
In my experience, there are three things that really matter when you’re trying to build an online business. In talking to other freelancers and solopreneurs, many of whom are far more successful than myself, I’ve found that the same principles hold true for them as well.
1. Focus on Relationships and Helping Your Clients
It’s human nature to always be looking for the easiest way to achieve the desired result.
As a freelancer, you want, er..need, a steady stream of clients and new work. Without them, you’ll go out of business.
Creating content, Facebook ads, pitching, lead magnets and email marketing are just a few of the tools at your disposal. And they are all useful and powerful when applied properly.
What matters most and what allows those tactics to be effective is your ability to build relationships.
I have a client with a traditional brick and mortar business who relies heavily on automation, email marketing and Facebook to generate new clients. All of those strategies have proven to be effective tools for growing their business.
But the marketing just grabs people’s attention. What they are really good at, is building relationships and providing value. That’s the most important piece of the puzzle. Without the ability to build relationships, all the money spent on marketing and automation would be wasted.
Even in my own business, the vast majority of clients and partnerships have arrived as a result of building personal relationships. I’ve met clients at the gym, in networking groups, in online forums and through referrals.
I know something personal about each and every one of them and the conversations we have are rarely 100% business related. For many of my clients, I am personally invested in seeing their business do well because it creates a win-win scenario.
The hard thing about relationships is that they take time to develop. When you need cash flow today, it’s tough to be patient.
Unfortunately, it’s a necessary ingredient in building a successful freelance business so you may as well get started today.
2. Market Yourself With Integrity
From my opening paragraphs, you have been under the impression that I am against marketing. But that’s not true at all.
Marketing is essential and trying to grow your business without it is not something I’d recommend that you attempt.
Sometimes I think the best marketers and the ones who don’t realize that they are marketing at all. For example, I had a conversation with a gym owner once who proudly stated:
“Marketing isn’t our thing. We just don’t believe in it.”
But when I took a look at their Instagram profile and Facebook page, I saw a different story. There were daily status updates, positive quotes, pictures, videos and more.
Although their marketing was completely void of hype, make no mistake, it was marketing nonetheless.
The thing is, if you walked through the door of their gym, there was no disconnect between what was advertised and reality. They were one and the same. To me, this is great marketing.
Let me give you another example: Gina, who I work closely with, writes great persuasive copy. Not only do her emails sell you on yourself and your ability to succeed, they “convince” you to take action.
Once you’ve taken the desired action, such as joining her community or buying one of her courses, there is no letdown. She delivers exactly what was promised and more.
We’ve recently joined forces on a big project. One of the biggest reasons why I chose to work with her when the opportunity presented itself is not because her marketing is great but because she delivers on promises and cares about her customers.
Market and promote the crap out of your business. Use social media to your advantage and publish content with abandon. Just make sure that you follow through.
Ultimately, helping your clients achieve their goals and objectives will result in the growth of your business.
3. Ask for Feedback and Pursue Excellence
We all like to think that our way of doing this is the best way. And sometimes that might be true. More often than not, though, there’s room for improvement.
The first piece of this puzzle is tricky because is involves asking your clients, customers and friends to share their opinions—both good and bad.
It’s tricky because developing and protecting a positive mindset is the most important things you can do as an entrepreneur. It’s also one of the most challenging.
Not only are you faced with having to defeat your self-doubt but you also have to deal with other people sharing theirs. As if it’s your responsibility to take it on for them.
As long as you’re able to accept constructive feedback and dismiss the rest, you should be open to hearing what other people have to say. Use their feedback to build a better business.
Your goal should never be the pursuit of perfection because it doesn’t exist. But pursuing excellence is definitely something that should be on your radar.
If you take one piece of constructive feedback from clients each month and use it to improve yourself and your business, just think about how much farther ahead you’ll be 12-months from now.
There are No Shortcuts When Building a Freelance Business
Building a freelance business (or any online business for that matter) is hard work.
I’d love to be able to tell you there’s an easy way and a hard way but it’s not true.
There is only the hard way. And that’s not meant to sound negative or discouraging, it’s simply the honest truth.
By focusing on these three specific areas, I think you’ll find the process of building your freelance business to be less stressful. No longer will you be looking for shortcuts and feeling disappointed when your latest marketing tactic or email fails to produce explosive results.
Instead, you’ll have resigned to the fact that building a business is a marathon, not a sprint. Put in the required work on a daily basis, stay true to your beliefs and build relationships. Eventually, these actions will pay dividends.