Marketing as a Long-Term Consultant

I spent the first year and a half of my freelancing life taking any job I could find. Some of it was work I wanted, some of it wasn’t. I was not particularly adept at marketing myself as a solo practitioner in the open market, mostly because my clients were so diverse that a referral from one wouldn’t necessarily transfer to the next. Once I was picked up as a long-term contractor by a couple of large organizations, the money stress eased. The marketing did not stop just because I had an existing (renewable) contract each year.

I was picked up by one division of a large space company in 2018. The workload has fluctuated, so the income is not my primary source of income. As work slacked off for the initial customer, I started picking up work from other departments who got word that department X had a tech writer who “spoke space.”

More importantly, I let my initial customer know what my interests were within the organization. I asked him if he’d mind referring me to people in the departments doing those things. In that way I moved from editing technical documents to working on proposals for other cool projects…which sparked my interest in supporting their engineering work once the proposal won.

“Marketing” is a bit different once you’re employed. It’s easier because you know people you’ve worked with recently who can vouch for the quality of your work. But here’s the important part: you need to be doing good work with the customers you have to ensure that they will vouch for your services. My experience with this employer has been a mix of random people reaching out to me and me reaching out to specific departments. If people are reaching out to me, there’s more likely to be work attached because they need help right away.

If I’m contacting other departments, they might or might not have work for me to do, but at least I get “on their radar” for future work. It’s playing the long game, and it requires a bit of patience. I did that with another employer, where I was supporting one group within the company but expressed interest in another. That other departmente reached out to hire me months after the original contract ended.

If you’re supporting large companies to provide the bulk of your freelance income, the goal (usually) is to expand your client base. Some freelancers operate with a “long game” goal of becoming a permanent, full-time employee of the large company client. Whatever your goal, doing a good job wherever you are is an excellent way to “market” your skills, even if you’re not reaching out to other potential clients.

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About Bart Leahy

Freelance Technical Writer, Science Cheerleader Event & Membership Director, and an all-around nice guy. Here to help.
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