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Questions and Answers


Self-promotion is icky to most technologists. Why is self-promotion so important? How do you get over the ick? (All)

  • Annalee, I'm going to put you on the spot about why it's hard for you to hand out your book's postcards.
  • Creatives often think their work will sell itself. But nothing sells itself.
  • The reality of our careers as independents is this: If you don't pitch yourself and your prooduct, no one else will. The most successful people are the best at self-promotion.
  • There's spammy, crass, aggressive marketing and then there's mastering the art of relevant and helpful promotion. You're not a used car salesman duping a customer into buying a lemon; you're a consultant offering a service that helps others. Geeks are in the service industry - we build products and offer services that make people's lives easier, and marketing our skills to the right people the right way is helping them.



How do you answer the question "So what do you do?"

  • "Geek scenes can be awkward but being able to talk about yourself comfortably and succintly is key. One of the most important things a freelancer (or anyone needs) is an elevator pitch. An elevator pitch is a concise and well-practiced description of what you do. Anyone should be able to understand an elevator pitch, not just people who are well-versed in geek speak. Having an elevator pitch is especially important in situations such as South By Southwest when you get asked dozens of times a day, "What do you do?" An elevator pitch can be understood by anyone and takes about as long as an elevator ride." (Molly)
  • Make your pitch about what you can do for the client versus about you. (Gina)



What's so important about specialization?

  • "You can't be everything to everyone. And if you do a lot of stuff then you probably don't do it better than a lot of people." (Penelope)



How do you make yourself memorable/differentiate yourself? (Molly)



The self-esteem factor: how what you think of yourself translates to what others think of you.

  • "...being a freelancer means having to take a lot of abuse and rejection and survive with ego mostly intact. So maybe we can talk about psychological coping mechanisms -- getting together with other freelancers to vent, joining professional organizations, learning how to talk to difficult editors or producers, knowing how to say no, etc." (Annalee)
  • Money! "Keep expenses low. When you makret yourself, it's all about confidence. It's really hard to exude self-confidence if you have no money in the bank. So there's a snowball effct-- no money, bad marketing, really no money, really bad marketing." (Penelope)


How do you deal with failure/rejection or a solid ego-bruising?



How do you market without compromising your comfort zone? When is it time to go out of the comfort zone (like speaking!)?

  • "I've always been a big fan of promoting yourself and your services by doing, in essence learning by doing. Even in a sea of a zillion weblogs, anyone can make a name for themselves if they focus on something and really excel at it. I'll be happy to take the position much of the crowd probably has: that marketing feels cheesy sometimes and a lot of geeks would rather not do it, but there are definitely some ways you can make it work for yourself without compromising your comfort zone." (Matt)



Karma is a boomerang:

  • "Be nice. Freelancers get a lot of mileage out of favors. In most cases, there are two or three people for each job. It's a favor that the person picks you -- they pick you because they like you, or someone else likes you. Don't kid yourself that you're the only perfect fit for a job." (Penelope)
  • Do work that doesn't have the explicit goal of promoting yourself, but does as a side effect. Like, contributing to open source projects; publish work under a CC or GPL license; freely share information on your weblog; volunteer your skills for a good cause/barter work and ask for attribution; positively contribute to an online community - like Metafilter, Flickr, a mailing list, LH; speak at events like SXSW. (Gina)



How do you get the word out/build your platform?

  • "the importance of having a platform -- whether that's a blog, a column, a regular gig for a magazine -- where you can promote yourself. As a freelancer who does both indie and mass-market gigs, I'm acutely conscious of trying to use my bigger platforms to call attention to things I'm writing for indie magazines or for lower-traffic blogs. And I've definitely had to use such platforms (as well as those of my friends) to market my book." (Annalee)
  • Blogging as establishing expertise (Matt, Penelope)



Creating demand: Can playing hard to get professionally pay off? (Penelope, Molly)

  • "It's not so different from playing hard to get in the dating world. Essentially, don't seem too free. While you should explore different tracts, taking any and every job will not get you into an expert role. Don't let client needs dictate your path. Part of marketing is creating an image. This doesn't have to be slimy or dishonest but as a freelancer you work for yourself and you're in charge of what you do; get the most out of it." (Molly)



Personal weblogs that get personal - will they scare off or attract potential clients?

  • pre-fire yourself/filter out clients that can't handle it
  • Personal vs professional (Gina)



How much time do you spend on marketing your work versus DOING it?

  • "Put aside time every day for marketing. The life of a freelancer is marketing. How else will you get work? Even when people are banging on your door to give you work, you'll probaby want to market yourself to the people who are giving out the really cool, inspiring work. So when you budget your days and your money, account for makreting in a significant way." (Penelope)
  • How do you plan long-term and short-term career goals without selling yourself short or zooming for the pie-in-the-sky jobs too soon?



How do you juggle multiple employers and when do you go after new business?

  • How many bosses is too many? (Annalee)
  • When do you say no? (Annalee)



How do you become a great networker?

  • "Timing, follow-up and follow through are key if you're going to be a freelancer. If you meet someone you want to pitch, do it sooner than later so the meeting is fresh in their mind and yours." (Molly)



Barking up the right tree.

  • Identifying your target audience and going after them.



What's in a name?

  • Love this story: My name is not really Penelope
  • Your name is your brand. How do you choose and use your name?
  • How do you decide to create a separate persona/organization/company name versus use you own?



Focus your marketing on your goals.

  • "Know what your goal is. What do you want your life to look like? Why are you doing this? Freelancing is really hard. If you don't know why this is an integral part of your plan for what you want in your life then you probably won't be able to convince yourself to do the marketing." (Penelope)

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