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"How do I find work?" is one of the toughest questions freelancers face.
While there's no magical work fairy to grant your wish for new clients, there are things you can do to make it more likely that potential clients find you and hire you. In today's world, using social media effectively is a key component of this.
In this article, I show you how to use Google Plus to attract, seek out and engage with prospects. I also explain why Google Plus is the place to be - right now - if you want to stay ahead of the game with your online marketing.
Hold tight, it's going to be an exciting ride!
Get the Basics Right
For most people, social media is exactly what it says it is: social media. First, it's part of their social life. They hang out on social media outside of work to get updates from their friends, as well as brands and celebrities they're interested in. Second, it's media in that it's something they consume for entertainment or distraction.
For freelancers, social media is a different beast. As a freelancer, you use social media with a purpose in mind. For you, the ultimate aim of using social media is to help you find the right clients for your business. These are the clients who need your services, who have an energy that inspires you to do your best work, and who can afford your fees.
This means approaching social media in a professional manner. For starters, you must see yourself as a media creator. You don't simply consume social media updates of other people. You create social media updates your potential clients will find useful - whether this is through curating the content of others in a unique way, or producing your own content.
In terms of Google Plus, it also means:
- Setting up your Google Plus profile in an attractive way to engage potential clients and encourage them to follow you.
- Reaching out to and networking with potential clients through Google Plus Circles and Communities.
- Using Google Plus tools to make your business as visible as possible in search results.
- Having an editorial calendar of content to share on Google Plus.
Getting the basics right is the foundation of engaging with potential clients on Google Plus. Only when you've done the basics are you ready to start searching for and reaching out to prospects.
Why Google Plus Works Well For Engaging Prospects
Twitter and Facebook have the advantage of being ubiquitous. Pretty much everyone hangs out there, so you have a vast choice of people to connect with. The only problem is, unless you're a celebrity or a thought leader in your niche, on Twitter and Facebook you're a small fish in a vast ocean.
With half a billion registered users, Google Plus has the membership numbers to rival Twitter and Facebook. However, very few people actually use Google Plus. While on the face of it, this appears to be a disadvantage, it can work in your favor. Engage your target clients on Google Plus, and you're more likely to stand out because the competition is elsewhere.
Where on Twitter and Facebook you can be overlooked or ignored, on Google Plus what you do and say matters. That's why Google Plus works particularly well for engaging prospects.
What does this mean in practice? If you have a person in mind who would be the perfect prospect for your freelance business, reach out to them on Google Plus. Add them to your circles, comment on their updates, and +1 the content they share.
Why Start Engaging Now?
Perhaps you're still not convinced. After all, if so few people use Google Plus, what's the point of getting involved now? Why not wait to see whether it takes off?
Striking early puts you ahead of the game.
There are two key reasons.
First, by engaging now, you get the early adopter's advantage. You get a head start at building an engaged audience. Many people you add to your circles will add you back. By the time Google Plus enters the mainstream as a social network, you'll be one of its leading lights.
To see the advantage of being an early adopter in hard numbers, compare the Twitter accounts of Danny Iny and Brian Clark, both top notch internet marketers. At the time of writing, Brian Clark, an early Twitter adopter, has over 130,000 Twitter followers. Danny Iny, who only started tweeting in earnest in the past couple of years, has just 3,000 followers.
Striking early puts you ahead of the game.
All of this leads to the second reason to start using Google Plus right away.
Even though Google Plus is still sputtering into life as a social network, from a broader marketing perspective it's already flying. Google is the King of Search, and it plans to use social networks to help it deliver users the most relevant search results. This means if you care about your website, blog or articles appearing in search results, you need to show Google you're someone who matters. The more circles you're in, and the more engaged you are on Google Plus, then the more Google knows about you. That gives you the advantage when Google is deciding where to list your website in search results.
Additionally, when people add you to their circles, your website and blog posts will be given priority in their search results. Consequently, you want as many prospects as possible to circle you. So get engaged on Google Plus, and start your circles growing today.
How to Find Prospects on Google Plus
As you'd expect from Google, the search tools on Google Plus pack a heavy punch, and are a great way to sniff out potential clients.
Many freelancers like to work with clients based in their city or state, and searching for local clients is the perfect way to get started using Google Plus Search. As I'm based in South Wales, a good city search for me is "Swansea".
When I click search, I'm given a list of all relevant results, which isn't particularly helpful. I want to filter it down to find local businesses. The quickest way to do this is hit the "Everything" button, and change the filter selection to "People and Pages".
Once I've done that, I get a list of Swansea businesses.
I can go through the list and "Follow" potential clients, adding them to any circle I like. I recommend creating a "potential clients" circle. Every so often, you can look through the circle and make sure you're engaging with everyone in it.
Another useful search filter is Communities. By searching for communities in my local area, I can find groups for business networking. Swansea is a small city, yet a search finds communities for marketing professionals, SEO Practitioners, and food businesses in the area. If there's not a local community suitable for your services and skills, you can set one up.
Search filters also allow me to search for local events I can attend for networking, as well as recent Google Plus posts about my city. Recent posts are useful for seeing local news. Learning to read the news as a business owner can open up hidden markets. Look out particularly for news of businesses expanding in or moving to your area.
Also try putting your job title into search, such as copywriter or designer. Filter the search to Google Plus posts, and select the option to display the most recent post. Chances are you'll find opportunities for work. Even when companies are advertising for a staff position, it's worth approaching them and asking if they've considered working with a freelancer.
Finally, try searching for keywords in your niche. For example, as a web copywriter, I might search for "blogging", "marketing" or "SEO copy". Browsing through the updates on Google Plus allows me to find the experts in my niche, and add them to my circles. These could become clients, or they could be people I collaborate with on a future project.
How to Engage With Prospects
Once you've found potential clients on Google Plus, you're ready to start engaging. Here are the top strategies of engagement:
- Post regular updates, sharing them publicly wherever possible.
- Comment on the posts of prospects. Creating a conversation shows you care, and makes you memorable.
- +1 the posts of prospects, when you genuinely like what they're saying. +1's are the Google Plus equivalent of a Facebook like, and we all love to be liked.
- Share posts from potential clients. This is the equivalent of an online "I like what you're saying there, I'm going to write that down and share it with my friends". Remember to only share content that's useful and relevant to your audience.
- Say thank you when other people share your updates. Comment on their share with a "thanks for sharing", and +1 their share. As well as showing that you're listening, it encourages people to share your stuff even more.
- Create a "people who share my stuff" circle for (you guessed it!) people who share your stuff. Drop everyone you add to this circle a message asking if they'd like to receive a notation alert when you share things they'd be interested in. Sending out notation alerts means the update goes to their email inbox, so they're more likely to see it.
- Images get attention. Where possible, always include pictures in your updates. Stuck for images? There are millions of images with a creative commons license on Flickr.
- This one's a Google Plus superpower, so use it wisely. On Google Plus, you can tag anyone in an update. If you want to get someone's attention, find some content they've created, and share it in a Google Plus update. In your update, tag their name and explain why you found their content helpful.
That's it! Engage regularly, be fun to be around, and share useful stuff. You will go far.