Article Written By Rebecca Haddad

Unless you lived a former life in sales, the concept of talking yourself up can seem daunting. How do you come across as skilled and knowledgeable without sounding arrogant – or desperate?

Self-promotion is the number-one tool for freelancers to find and retain work. It’s also the hardest skill to perfect (us freelancers are typically humble folk). It’s a topic that was discussed at length at the recent Launceston Freelance Festival, with experienced freelancers, mentors and academics agreeing that as we enter a new age of remote and automated working, standing out is as important as ever.

Marketing yourself is not only about confidence, but also understanding where and how. The good news? It’s far easier than you may think. Here are some tips from some of the Festival’s expert speakers to get you started.

  1. Understand your value 

Being able to define your value as a freelancer means knowing your technical experience as well as  the ‘soft’ skills that you can bring to a role.

Dr Marcus Bowles, chairman of the Institute for Working Futures, has spent the better part of 25 years researching the effects of new technological and human capabilities on industries, organisations and employees. He says that it’s important to consider skills such as relationship building, project management and an ability to adapt to a variety of team cultures.

“The future is human. The jobs that are paying more, that are enduring longer… are ones where the intellect and human skills are actually higher,” he explains.

But, how to make these skills seem legit? Dr Bowles suggests completing ‘micro-credentials’ to validate all your soft skills for an easier sell to clients.

Moving from a technical to soft-skills mindset is a challenge that journalist, producer and Media Mentors Australia co-founder Denise Eriksen sees among many of the creatives she mentors. Eriksen suggests conducting a skills audit to get you started: “You can actually find that you have a lot more skills and a lot more markets than you ever thought because you hadn’t written them down.”

  1. Define success

How much would you be happy working for? Is this particular job in line with your expertise? Is this job an opportunity to develop a new skill or establish a long-term relationship with a client?

Defining success metrics is an entirely personal decision. Whatever your measures – be it annual income matching, developing specialist skills within a certain timeframe, or writing for a specific publication – it’s important to define what they are before you identify and approach clients. Setting ‘end’ goals or KPIs also gives you a clearer career direction.

  1. Know your niche

It can be tempting, particularly in these uncertain times, to say yes to all the work opportunities you can get. While it’s natural for many freelancers to do this early in their careers to build their skills and experience, it’s important to narrow down your expertise for both direction and strong self-promotion.

“You should spread your net as far as you can as long as you have a targeted message,” says Dr Bowles. “If you accommodate too much, you can’t be recognised as an expert in your field.” Being able to market yourself under specialist areas elevates your expertise and allows you to confidently differentiate yourself from the masses.

  1. Know your audience

Once you’ve identified your niche areas of work, it’s far easier to identify your key audience of potential clients. Identify who your audience is, work out where they are in the digital space (social media channels are great places to start), then interact with and market your skills to them via these channels.

Following the digital activities of your clients also gives you valuable insight into potential freelancing opportunities that you can proactively offer. Do they have an active blog? Is their social media presence in need of some love? Identify any gaps that could be plugged by your expertise.

  1. Seek peer support

While the perks of freelancing (hello, flexible working!) outweigh the pain points, isolation is a common challenge of the career, especially for remote workers. There are days when you’ll crave a bit of water-cooler banter, or want to bounce off an idea on a colleague, or have a rant about late payments or handling tricky client feedback (spoiler alert: we’ve all been there).

Finding your community, be it within your local area or online, helps on both a personal and professional level. It’s an issue that prompted business journalist and content creator Nina Hendy to set up The Freelance Collective in 2015. The Collective is a space for creatives to keep accountable to their goals, share tips and find work – which, she says, gets easier as you build your reputation within niche areas. “It’s really great to be in some network or community that can also feed some work your way.”

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