Ruth Slavid talks architecture

Market yourself – freelance post 6

Posted in Uncategorized by ruthslavid on January 4, 2013

You may think that going into freelance journalism rather than say getting a job as a PR means that you are avoiding the dreaded world of marketing. But not so. Here comes what I think is rule 7:

You need to market yourself like mad.

I was really fortunate in that I had had a staff job for 15 years,and so I already knew a lot of people when I was made redundant. And though I felt that I could be really grumpy (and was a little taken aback that almost every comment on my leaving card attested to my prowess at swearing) there seemed to be a lot with whom I got on well, and who liked my work. It must be much harder if you are trying to break into a field from scratch.

I did two things almost immediately. I emailed everybody I knew, told them I was going and gave them contact details. And I organised a party. It was in a pub, I invited a mix of personal friends, people I had worked with and professional contacts. I paid for some of the wine and all of the food. It was all the opposite of fading away politely.

So having contacts is a great start. But you cannot rely just on those initial contacts as gradually they will decrease. They will change jobs, be promoted, retire or just go off you. So you have to get to know new people (and some of them at least should be fairly young if you are going to safeguard your future). 

People always talk about targeted marketing, but it seems to me it is really hard to know exactly who will give you jobs. Sometimes they come from people directly, at other times by recommendation from other journalists or clients. I recently wrote a big report for Building Design on ‘How to win work’ and as part of that interviewed Peter Murray, who is Mr Architecture Marketing. He said that when architects go out to events, they have wasted their time if they just talk to other architects. They need to get to know potential clients, and also members of other professions with whom they could collaborate. For journalists, you need to meet both people within your industry and other journalists – the first may provide work, but are more likely to give you leads. The work itself is most likely to come from fellow journalists.

So what do you do when you go out? Be interested, be friendly, talk a little about what you do and more about what the person you are talking to does. Be old-fashioned and hand out business cards to new contacts. Occasionally I have said to somebody ‘I could write a report for you’ or ‘I could write a feature for you’. And it has worked. But mostly you want people just to be aware of you.

Oh, and remember to enjoy yourself. You are no longer there on behalf of an organisation that employs you. You are there on behalf of yourself. Let people see who you are, and if they like you, they will follow up. It may not be the people you expect who will do so, and it may not be for some time. But the more people who know you, and the more recently they have seen you, the more likely they are to give you work.

Evidently not all marketing has to be done face to face. But I will deal with other approaches in another post.

 

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