Twitter for Your Freelance Practice

Because the February-March session sold out,  I have been invited to reprise my three-part workshop  “Become Your Own Boss: Effective Business Plan Writing”  at Boston Center for Adult Education 122 Arlington Street Boston MA on Mondays May 9, 16 & 23 from 5:30 PM – 7:30 PM.  For more information or to register please visit http://bit.ly/becomeyourown59  or call 617.267.4430.

I don’t know about you,  but I’ve made a point of avoiding Twitter.  It appeared to be a total waste of time,  unless you plan to either start a revolution or take your band on tour.  Tweeting on subjects like what I decide to have for lunch is way too much information sharing.

Although it’s been easy to dismiss Twitter as just so much noise,  the microblogging platform is nevertheless rapidly gaining traction among businesses.  A convincing case can possibly be made for using Twitter to benefit a Freelance consulting practice.  So maybe I should reconsider?

Twitter is now five years old and growth trends for both business and personal use are upward, despite a reported 60%  dropout rate among users.  According to the tech marketing research firms BIA/Kelsey and ConStat,  nearly 20%  of businesses currently include Twitter in online marketing strategies and nearly 50%  indicate that in 2011 they plan to increase the use of online social media as a means to connect with current and potential customers.

Data from both research firms show that newer businesses and younger business owners are more likely to embrace online social media,  rather than traditional print media,  and to incorporate its use in marketing and customer outreach.  Businesses less than seven years old are more likely to use Twitter and less likely to advertise in the Yellow Pages,  for example.  Money is also a determining factor,  since other than time spent updating content (and time is money),  online social marketing is free.

But how effective is Twitter and the other social media platforms in helping to spin straw into gold and generate billable hours?  I’ve read a handful of anecdotal success stories,  but in my experience LinkedIn has not brought me a single contract in four years of active membership.  Come to think of it,  two years of blogging hasn’t brought me any money,  either (but hope springs eternal).  However,  there is a prospective client who follows my posts and has complimented me on what I produce.  There’s  no contract yet,  though (hint, hint!).

One thing I do know is that it’s entirely possible to build a lucrative consulting practice without either ad budget or Twitter,  LinkedIn,  blog or newsletter.  The most successful Freelance consultants with whom I’m acquainted—client lists to die for!—spend no money on promoting their services and have no social media presence.  An internet search of their names yields nothing.  That’s because in our business,  it’s not only who you know,  but also who knows you.  The highest paid Freelancers are known by the right people and they’ve successfully monetized those relationships.

Most of us will never dwell in that Valhalla,  but we know that Freelance consulting is a referral business.  We know that  to keep the cash flowing,  we must continually demonstrate to those who matter that we are capable,  reliable experts who will get the job done every time.  To be successful,  we must create and sustain positive word-of-mouth  (always the best form of advertising),  primarily by doing a first-rate job for our clients.

Beyond that,  we must establish good relationships with those who possess the money and motive to contract for our services.  The smartest Freelancers know to build relationships  before  they are needed. 

In theory,  social media help narrow the gap between the regular folks and the fortunate few by allowing us to share expertise and information,  announce our successes,  learn what is being said about the types of services that we provide and learn how to effectively communicate our value.  We have a forum in which to portray ourselves as  a knowledgeable,  trustworthy,  familiar known quantity,  which is precisely what our highest paid colleagues have done.  We also learn to get smarter about how we do business overall.

So maybe tweeting might be worth your time?  Next week,  we’ll discuss practical tips for how to create buzz for your business by way of Twitter. 

Thanks for reading,

Kim

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