If you’ve landed on this page, then you’re either a full-time freelancer, own or work in a small business, or you have a side hustle, and you’re looking for tips on how to smash your marketing strategy. (Or you’re just reading this to kill time at work, but we’re not judging). Whatever it is that you’re offering – mad copywriting skills, slick web design, fantastic handmade products, or mind-blowing illustrations – you need to get your name out there if you’re going to start making proper money.
And that’s where we come in! We’ve compiled the ultimate guide to free marketing tools and useful tricks for freelancers and small businesses. Rather than just another article telling you to ‘write a blog’ or purchase a costly picture editing software – we have gathered advice that will genuinely help put you on the map without costing an arm and a leg.
Our Top 5 Marketing tips and free tools for freelance and small businesses
Pinpoint Your USP
Start with the very foundations of a successful marketing strategy and define your unique selling point (USP). What sets you apart? What do you offer that’s different to everyone else? Whether you can do something better, cheaper, faster, or just in a friendlier way – find your hook and let it inform all your promotional activities.
Define yourself or your business as a brand – are you edgy? Funny? Classic? Do you offer a full package deal or expert insight into a specific field? Find your niche and play up to it. Make sure everyone knows exactly what you offer, and why they should choose you over another business or a freelancer offering a similar service or a product.
Best free tools for marketing research
Technology advancement and widespread digitalisation have enabled us to access an increasingly large amount of data, which helps us make informed decisions. We can find data about where our customers’ shop, what time they are online, which social media or online platforms they are most likely to use. Marketing research is an essential step when building your strategy, and we have prepared a list of fantastic & free sources for your research purposes.
Free tools for social media research: Hashtags & Trends
To further expand your target audience, try adding hashtags to your posts. To find the most relevant ones, for example, on Instagram, search for a common term that applies to your business and then, based on the results, start gathering data and discover additional terms and hashtags that describe your business the best. This exercise helps to find hashtags that can help you expand your reach and discover trending topics in your industry.
Free tools for general market and trend research
Stay on top of your game by regularly checking relevant publications and following the key opinion leaders in your industry.
- Marketing Week, The Drum, Campaign, Google Trends – For marketing news, trends and inspiration – keep an eye on these publications to know what is coming up in the industry and stay on top of your marketing. Please note some of these run a freemium model when you can access a limited amount of articles a month free of charge.
- UKOM, Office for National Statistics, Ofcom – Free and reliable consumer research sources, find valuable information about your customer media consumption habits, and much more.
Get an Online Presence
Once you have established your USP and done some market research, it is time to review your online presence. No – this doesn’t just mean that you need to start a blog! Although, if you can create timely, relevant and educational content that you promote across a number of channels then it certainly won’t hurt your chances of finding new clients.
This is much more wide-reaching than a blog – you need to set up a website (a good one that covers your whole portfolio and products or services!) and social media channels, and you need to actually USE them.
Create your own website free of charge
A great website has a clear structure, is easy to use and tells your customer about your product or service. When creating a website from scratch (create your website on WordPress for free here) or updating it with fresh content, check out your competitor pages and see if there are concepts or ideas you’d like to include on your own website as well as consider the best SEO (search engine optimisation) practices to ensure your site is not only easy to read and navigate for clients but also for search engine robots. Check out this article on SEO 101 by Moz for helpful SEO tips when setting up your own website.
List your business on local directories to improve reach
Once your website is up and running, consider listing your business on Google My Business and Yahoo Places for Business. This will make it easier for customers to find you and is especially important if you operate in a certain local area. Have a look at these articles to find out how to list your business on Google My Business and Yahoo Places for Business for free.
Let’s get you Tweeting and Instagramming like a pro!
LinkedIn is great for networking, interacting with your professional contacts and keeping up with industry news, but that doesn’t mean you should ignore Twitter, Facebook or Instagram – or even Pinterest! Depending on your target audience, choose the social media platforms that they spend time on and interact with the most, otherwise, you will be missing out on hundreds of clients browsing these platforms every day. You want to be catching their attention with relevant and engaging posts!
Free tools for content creation
Once you have set up your social media accounts, start identifying the types of content that are relevant to the platform and that your target audience is most likely to engage with. Once you have done this, it is time to create content! Below we have listed our favourite tools for creating content.
How to come up with content ideas: Competitor, trend and market research (check out our free resources in the market research section). Don’t hesitate to jump on marketing trends if they fit your brand’s personality.
Copywriting: Always get someone to check your spelling or use the handy browser extension – Grammarly.
Free tools for creating visual content: Canva is a fantastic, free tool to use for creating stunning images, graphics, animations, presentations and so on and on! It is very user-friendly and can get you creating visuals in no time! Take a look at Canva’s design school for helpful videos and tutorials if you want to start using Canva. If you are looking for free stock images, check out Pexels and Unsplash. For image resizing, try the Pixlr image editor tool.
Top tip 1: Create a content calendar because consistency is one of the cornerstones of succeeding online. Check out this free content calendar template.
Top tip 2: There is no shame in reusing content! Consider tweaking the content you have already made for sharing on several platforms; for example, a video made for Facebook could also be shared on IGTV (Instagram), cut into shorter clips for reels (Instagram) or change the layout and share it on Pinterest. Work smarter, not harder!
Pay Per Click (PPC) ads
Try paid ads – you don’t need to invest a huge amount, and you could see a lucrative return. And make sure that you’re engaging with your followers consistently – these are likely existing clients and new clients, and it directly reflects on you as a brand if you care what they’re saying.
First impressions count! When you’re trying to win new business, you want to look as slick as possible. That means setting yourself up with a professional email account, phone number and postal address.
The easiest way to do this is to use a service like Virtual HQ, which can set you up with an impressive office address and even a call monitoring service. Protect your privacy and create a proper storefront with a virtual address. Once you’ve done this, all of your freelance or small business marketing efforts will instantly appear more professional.
Be an authority within your industry
What are you best at? What could you teach to others? One of the best ways to demonstrate your own talent and skill is to hand it over to others by way of education. You can fast track yourself to a position of authority within your industry by creating tutorials within your niche. You don’t need to give away all of your secrets – but maybe offer a few impressive hints and tips for free, just while you’re getting started. Once you’re established then these tutorials can even become lucrative for you.
Guest blogging is another way to share your expertise and promote yourself as an industry expert. Find publications that are relevant to your target audience and offer to create content for them that uses your knowledge. Not only will the links be amazing for your SEO profile, but you’re getting your name out there in a professional, positive way.
If you don’t have time to create content, then a super quick way to establish yourself is to become a member of QUORA and answer questions within your industry.
A free-of-charge way to get more leads
Just ask! It sounds simple, and even a little bit intimidating – but it really is the best way to promote yourself and nonetheless, it is for free. Most business comes from word of mouth, so the first step towards new clients is to mention this to your current and former clients. Make it clear that you have enough time to look after more than one client’s work, and ask them politely if they would be happy to refer you to anyone they know who is currently looking for your product or service.
Tell your friends and family about your work – you never know who will be looking, and if someone knows you personally and likes what you do then they’re much more likely to hire or purchase from you than a stranger.
Go to networking events and hunt out potential clients and be brave! Tell them outright what it is that you do, and even negotiate a face-to-face discount if they take your card. If you don’t manage to secure any business then and there, don’t be afraid to connect with them on LinkedIn – then they can see what you do through the channel.
Now you’re armed with all of the tools that you need for freelance or small business marketing, get out there and discover all of those clients who are just waiting to hire you!