There can be times where you do not have work. If this is the case, or you want to increase your workload, there are plenty of opportunities. By having a positive marketing strategy, you can maximise your potential. There are many different ways to engage new customers. Some of these relate to the type of contractor you are. Others are more general. Take a look at our handy marketing strategies to benefit you as an independent contractor.
- You are the Business
This is the most important strategy there is. As soon as you become an independent contractor, you become the business. From now on, everything good and everything bad you do in your work affects the business. Everything flows through you, so use yourself as a marketing tool to retain existing and find new customers. Make sure you look right for your business. This does not necessarily mean a tuxedo or a suit. Make sure your clothes are clean even if they are well-used overalls or t-shirt and pants. Have clean hands to shake hands with your customer. These little things make an impression that are relevant and important.
If you need equipment, make sure you have it and it is in great condition. This could be a hardhat and protective boots for a building site. It could be the correct drill parts if you are fitting an external pipe. It could be blueprint sheets if you are planning a new building design. Whatever kind of contractor you are, ensure you are well prepared to impress customers. This is a vital marketing strategy to encourage customers to give you more work. Repeat custom is an important part of business for most independent contractors.
Use the right language with customers. Swearing and cussing is unlikely to give a good impression. Have a positive attitude that extends into your work. Independent contractors can talk themselves out of work by coming across as negative. Have a few sentences to explain your business quickly and positively to potential customers. Give your customers a good experience. Turn up on time and be honest and upfront about costs. If you say something will cost $50 and you later change this to $100, customers will be unhappy.
2. Create a Website
This is the most obvious presence you can have on the web. It allows potential customers to find you and identify you. This should look clean and professional with easy to see information. The key thing people want from your website is to know what services you offer. There should be a reference list of the services offered. Once they know you are the right person for them, they need your contact details. Ensure that your contact details are correct and up to date. If you do not reply swiftly, it is likely that the potential customer will find someone else.
The name of your website should be futureproof. If you link it to something popular now, it might not be so popular in 5 or 10 years. “Bestdesigner2015” might have been good a few years ago, but is seriously out of date now. You should have a logo on your website. You can use this for business cards and vehicle graphics if required too. Therefore, ensure it is a good quality image suitable for multiple uses. Buy the .com website and any other appropriate to your country, to avoid others copying your identity. Ensure the site you use to host your website has robust security to avoid potential hackers.
3. Time to Blog or Video
Add a blog to your website. Regular content on your website is valuable to bring visitors back to your site repeatedly. This grounds you as an expert as you write about tools, information and tricks in your trade. It will showcase your talents and make the most of them to potential customers. It will drive traffic to your site as regular updates rank higher with search engines. A blog will allow you to reach out to a new audience. These might be potential customers that have not heard of your services yet. It is great to find a method to reach these groups
The most important thing with a blog is that the content is of a high quality. Poor grammar and spelling alongside a not very interesting post is a recipe for disaster. Almost as important is that you post regularly. A post every 3 months will not get people engaging in your site. You need to add content every 1-2 weeks as a minimum. Regular content encourages potential customers to keep coming back. It is not something you can do half-heartedly. Have a schedule and stick to it, to maximize this opportunity.
If you do not feel able to write high quality content, that is not unusual. Many sites employ freelance writers online to complete their blogs. Unlike a staff writer, you would pay per blog or per set of blogs. Look for someone on a freelancing site that has good feedback or your language as a first language. There is a wide variation in cost but the most expensive option does not necessarily mean better. It is about finding someone who writes the way you want with enough technical knowledge. If the idea or cost of this does not fit with you, then you could try creating videos.
Videos are a fantastic way of getting information over quickly and efficiently in a warm and friendly manner. Buying a tripod for a couple of dollars is advisable, to avoid shaky images. Set out what you want to say in advance and aim for 30-120 second clips. There is free online software to edit videos, so do not worry about the beginning or end. This is the equivalent of a written blog post, but quicker and easier. After the first few, you will begin to find them easier to do. For writing or videos you can partner with other sites and guest spot. Sharing this resource can truly help you both.
4. Get into Social Media
When choosing your website address, you might want to reserve the social media handles too. This will give your online presence a slick finish. Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn and Instagram can all be so useful to you. Keeping up with social media is however a big commitment. It takes time and dedication. Having a plan is a truly vital part of succeeding with social media for your business. If you take a half-hearted approach then it will not be a success. If you only have limited time then just choose one or two social media sites to use. Better one delivered well than four poorly maintained.
You can use an online content manager to help you with your social media presence. This allows you to pre-plan your tweets or posts. You can control the different social media sites together in one place easily. You can create posts and schedule them for the future in moments. You can spend an afternoon creating a whole month’s content. Just ensure you are available to respond to the comments and posts that follow. Always be professional on social media without arguments or the temptation to write unpleasant comments. This is important for customers, as being argumentative is a turn off in most lines of work.
Social media can be a great place to advertise. You can hold competitions where entrants must ‘like’ and ‘share’ for an entry. Equally, you can pay for adverts to be shown to potential customers. Narrowing down the demographic can ensure the correct people are seeing your advert. Say you run a face-to-face business in the USA. There is usually no point someone living in Australia seeing it. Equally, if you run an online business targeted at women, there is usually no point men seeing it. By targeting correctly, you can maximise your money. Do limit spending and set a budget as you can spend a lot in a short time online.
5. Do Not Underestimate Email
Have a ‘subscribe to’ section on your website and collect email addresses. Do the same with your customers. Before too long you will have a list of people you can send a newsletter to. If you are writing a blog, you can reuse some content. Add in a few pictures and mini-articles, for a newsletter in under an hour. Sending this direct to those who are interested in your work, could get you new work. Getting work from existing customers is just as important as getting new customers.
It is vital that these newsletters are actually useful and give relevant information. If they are always a rehash of the previous one, they will not be read. They should have a smart and easy to read format to be as accessible as possible. Ask customers to let you know what they would like to read in the newsletter. You could use an online site to send out the email. They will even be able to tell you how many people opened the email. Do not send newsletters more than once a week, or you might find people click that unsubscribe button. Do send newsletters at least once a quarter to maintain regular contact.
6. Go Offline
Having some offline approaches is just as important as the online ones. Having business cards to hand out to customers are still a positive marketing tool. Many people like something physical to keep or stick onto the fridge. Handing out leaflets can be a great way for potential customers to meet you. It all depends on the service you are offering of course, but this can be a good approach. Keep it personal, take the time to meet and greet your potential customers. This kind of personal touch means a lot in business.
If you want to work with businesses, you might consider sending a formal letter. It might sound archaic but it can be a good way to introduce yourself to a new organisation. Use this opportunity to explain the services you offer. Add in any guarantees and benefits for the organisation. You can use this opportunity to add in information about costs if that works for you. Alternatively, you can offer a free visit or consultation. You can follow up the letter with an email a few weeks later. While this type of approach does not work for everyone, it could work in your line of business.
7. You Are What You Do
As noted at the beginning, you are now what you do. Everything you do that is good, potential customers will focus on. Equally, everything that you do that is not so good, will be noted. Ensure you always deliver as promised and leave your customer feeling happy. When you do this, you can ask for testimonials. This is a sentence or two of positive comments from a customer you can use. Whether on leaflets or on your website, these are so useful. New customers looking at these comments have evidence that you are able to do a good job. You care about making your customers happy and will presumably make them happy too.
Testimonials are an excellent way to convert your good work into new customers. Another positive way to do this is by asking for referrals. Hand your customer 5 business cards. Write their name and a date (i.e. 12 months away) on the card. Challenge your customer to get two business cards returned to you before the date you have written. That is, handed to you (or mailed) when you do a job for a new customer. Give them a reward if they do achieve it. This could be something linked to your business like a free vehicle service or boiler service. Or it could be a $40 gift card or a dozen frosted cupcakes. It depends very much on what you offer generally. It is important if you are going to do this though, to make the reward worthwhile.
8. Be Busy When You Are Not Busy
Being an independent contractor can be such frustrating work. One minute you are busy to breaking point. The next it feels like you will never have any work again. There is rarely a continuous stream of work. However, the key to this is making sure you keep yourself busy when you are not busy. That is to say, when you do not have work on, be busy getting new work. This could be posting on social media or scheduling posts. It could be writing formal letters to companies. It could be sending an email out to previous customers to offer a 10% discount for work that month.
You could create your next couple of newsletters. You might edit your website with a new blog post or some up to date news. You could create a new leaflet and post it through 500 doors. If you are not working and you want more work, then actually try to get it. Sitting around complaining about a lack of work will achieve nothing. Actively try to get more work. You will only get new customers if you work hard at it. Just taking what you have when you get it, could soon lead to financial difficulty! If you want something, make it work for you.
Working for yourself can be an absolutely brilliant profession. Having the freedoms you get when you work for yourself are truly unique. It can equally be unpredictable and hard work. However, if you are willing to market yourself to achieve positive results, it can work well. You can follow so many marketing strategies. What to do for the best can often feel so confusing. However, following some simple basics can give you exceptional results. The complicated route to something is not always the best. Being successful in marketing can be straightforward.
Getting a solid online presence can be a great start to building a successful business. A mixture of a clean and professional website and social media can have a positive impact. Undertaking a blog or video that you post regularly, can get you a good following of new customers. Do not underestimate the power of making positive effects offline too. Leaflet, letters and asking for referrals can all make an impact. Most of all, never underestimate your personal power. The things you do, good and bad, will make an impact on your business. Be the best you can be to build your business into a great success.