Marketing Yourself Online: How to Make a Name for Yourself
Trying to make a name for yourself in the digital economy? Now is the perfect time to do so, whether you’re an independent worker or an employee looking to build a personal brand. More and more companies and contractors are doing business online, and there are countless opportunities out there to take your career to the next level.
But the Internet is a crowded, noisy place, and it can be difficult to figure out how to get your foot in the door. How do you build a platform that people will not only see but recognize? How can you better your reputation, increase your visibility, and market yourself for success? With the right knowledge, some patience, and a lot of dedication to your goals, you can market yourself to gain more exposure and better opportunities for your work.
I speak from personal experience: I went from someone who had never blogged before in July of 2013 to running a writing and content management services business in June of 2014. My new life as a solopreneur in the digital economy allowed me to make incredible connections and create a career with fulfilling work — and it also allowed me to double my income. But none of that would have been possible had I not learned to market myself. Here are the steps I took to increase exposure and create my own opportunities. You can do the same to market yourself successfully.
Start a Blog
The best way to market yourself is to create your own platform from which to (subtly) toot your own horn. You may roll your eyes at the idea of being “that” person who blogs. But consider what the real purpose of a blog is: it gives you a space that you control. Instead of relying on someone else to notice you and hoping that they share your story and knowledge with an audience, a blog allows you to take the initiative to do that yourself. You can use yours to establish yourself as an expert on a certain topic, as a portfolio of work you can point back to when someone asks to see what you can do, or as a way for others to verify that you can talk the talk and walk the walk.
My own blog served all three of these purposes when I was starting out as a professional writer. It showed that I could indeed write, edit, and handle the back end of a website. Running a blog also taught me how to create editorial calendars, utilize SEO, get around CSS and simple coding without completely ruining the entire website, and more. These additional skills helped me go from someone tinkering around with a blog for fun to a professional that could help other people run their own sites and blogs.
Oh, and don’t forget — when you fire up that blog, have a plan for your content. Don’t be afraid to get highly specific. In fact, being a specialist is a smart way to go; it makes it easier to market yourself as an expert in a certain field. And it also helps ensure that you get in front of people that are passionate about what you’re doing. That’s key if you want word-of-mouth marketing to help you out down the road.
I have something extremely specific to say when I market myself, because I chose a niche. I’m not just a writer; I’m a financial writer. I don’t just help manage content; I help financial planners and small financial businesses with content management. Yes, I do miss out on many, many clients that don’t have anything to do with financial services. But because I chose a niche, those clients I do have are thrilled when I know the ins and outs of their businesses and exactly what their clients need and want. Because my clients know others in the financial services industry, whenever someone in their network starts a conversation with, “man, I really need someone to help me run my blog…” my name is (one of) the first to come up as a solution.
Get on Social Media
Creating a blog and producing killer content is an excellent first step to marketing success. You’ve created your own platform, your own proof that you’re an expert in your field and you have things to say that are worthy of an audience. But by itself, a blog is not enough. You don’t want to pour your heart and soul into creating content that no one reads — or even sees. You need to make an effort to engage with others who would enjoy what you’re creating. And the easiest way to do that is to jump on social media. Social media platforms are ideal for forging new connections and building relationships. If you want to rock this channel for marketing yourself, keep these tips in mind:
- Share helpful content
- Share other people’s content
- Participate in the conversation: ask questions, provide answers, and show that you’re engaged and interested in what other people have to say
Work for Free (or Lend a Helping Hand)
Want to market yourself and put your name on countless different outlets and channels? That’s every brand’s dream, to be everywhere! The good news for you is that you can be by offering to do a little work for free. There’s a lot of debate surrounding the issue of uncompensated work. The bottom line is that doing some things for free is an excellent way to market yourself, because it allows you to earn links back to your own site or blog and allows you to begin establishing a reputation as someone who provides value for others.
You don’t have to slave away for everyone you know, hours at a time, and never be paid. You need to be strategic in what unpaid work you offer to take on. It might be contributing a few articles a month to an online magazine you love. Or it may be offering to run a brand’s social media account for a month in exchange for a recommendation, review, or other recognition that will help advance you to your big goals. For me, my unpaid work was the time I put into my own blog to get it off the ground and to grow readership. It was also the countless guest posts I did for other bloggers. I went to the blog owners I admired and offered to write a post for them. In turn, a bigger audience than my own saw my work and I gained a reputation in my niche as someone who was driven, hardworking, and good at what she did.
If you’re not willing to do things like guest posting or contributing to another blogger or business owner’s project, then consider at least lending a helping hand. Do you know someone who is struggling with a problem? Reach out and offer them a solution. Did someone in your circles recently mention he was feeling overwhelmed? Ask what you could do to help.
Don’t Wait for Permission
Once you’ve established yourself in your niche, don’t wait for anyone to tell you it’s okay to get to work. If you want new clients, new positions, and new opportunities, you must take action and seek them yourself. You need to identify your ideal market, whatever that means to you, and pitch yourself to them. Reach out directly and ask how you can help. Always approach from a position of offering value, whether it’s to a client, employer, or customer. Explain what you can do to help them. Make it about their needs, not your own.
And remember, even if you’re looking at a screen, you’re speaking with another person. If you want to successfully market yourself, all you need to do is be courteous, considerate, polite, and sincere. Say please and thank you — and you’ll be amazed at how many people remember the fact that you were kind and eager to help. Marketing is sometimes a dirty word, and for good reason when you constantly approach situations with a thought of, “how can I get what I want out of this?”
The best actionable tip I can provide anyone is to always seek to add value. Flip the question on its head and make it, “how can I make this person’s life a little better or easier today?” If you let that idea guide you, you can’t go wrong when marketing yourself, establishing your reputation, and creating an amazing personal brand in the digital world.
What marketing tactics have you found helpful? We’d love to hear your stories in the comments below.
As always, if you enjoyed this post, please “Like,” Tweet, and share with friends. Thank you for reading!
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About the Author: Kali Hawlk is a writer and content manager who is passionate about personal finance and business. She also runs Common Sense Millennial, a resource for members of Gen Y who want to do more with their money. You can connect with her on Twitter @KaliHawlk