Is there any freelancer in the world who hasn't heard of Facebook?
It's the place online to hang out with friends, share family photos, follow updates from your favorite brands, and find out what your fellow high school students have made of their lives.
For many people, Facebook is synonymous with the Internet. It has become such an integral part of life that many smartphones come with Facebook apps and buttons built-in.
But is Facebook a good fit for freelancers?
Do you, as a freelancer, really need to use Facebook? It's easy to be drawn in just because everyone's using it. That's not an altogether bad reason (where there's a gold rush there's usually gold), but it's better to think it through in more depth before you plunge in.
Facebook's self-stated mission is to "give people the power to share and make the world more open and connected". Now that sounds like what freelancers need. A place where they can share their skills and connect with potential clients.
Your Clients and Prospects are on Facebook
Around half of America is on Facebook. A similar number of Americans visit the site every month, whether or not they have a Facebook account. One in seven of the world's population is signed up to the network. People aren't just signed up. Facebook plays a major role in their lives. The average user spends over six hours a month browsing through Facebook posts, photos and updates.
With those kind of numbers, you can safely bet that a good percentage of prospects for your freelance business hang out on Facebook.
A good rule of thumb in marketing is to spread the word about your business where your customers already spend time.
A good rule of thumb in marketing is to spread the word about your business where your customers already spend time. With that in mind, Facebook becomes a prime place to market your services.
Most freelancers wouldn't dream of trying to promote their business without a website, even a website with only a tiny amount of traffic and terrible SEO. Yet many freelancers overlook Facebook, even though they have a network of friends there who could help them promote their business and find work.
Your current network of family, friends and business acquaintances is a vital asset in your freelance career. Chances are, few of them will give you work directly. However, many of them will know someone who needs your services. Being open about your freelance business on Facebook is a subtle, unobtrusive way to let your family and friends know you're in the market for work without them feeling obligated to help. If they want to help you spread the word, they can. If not, that's fine too.
Talking of finding work on Facebook, recent research discovered that 28% of people found their last job through social networking, of which 85% found their job through Facebook.
Your Prospects Expect to Find You On Facebook
Have you noticed how big brands, from soft drinks to sports clothes, no longer promote their own website on billboard advertisements? Instead, they include a link to their Facebook page. Facebook has become the destination where business engage with their customers.
People are familiar and comfortable with the idea of businesses being on Facebook, so much so that it seems out-of-place for a business not to be on Facebook. If you don't have a Facebook page, your freelance business could be standing out for the wrong reasons.
Conversely, being on Facebook builds trust with your prospects. It shows you're a business they can connect and engage with. Being on Facebook shows you're approachable, which is good news if you want prospects to approach you.
Facebook Builds Engagement Around Your Business
I've heard some freelancers argue that being on Facebook waters down your marketing efforts. They say that maintaining a Facebook account on top of a blog, Twitter feed and LinkedIn account spreads you too thin. You want to build a community and foster engagement around your freelance brand, but by being in so many places, your potential clients don't know where or how to engage.
As an online freelancer, you likely read many blogs in your niche and follow hundreds of people on Twitter. It's easy to assume everyone is like you. But not everyone is so deeply involved in the world of blogging and tweeting. If your prospect doesn't read blogs - and your blog is your only marketing platform - how will they ever find you?
By being on Facebook, you place yourself where most people already are. You broaden your sales funnel and give more prospects the opportunity to find your services.
The people who already read your blog don't mind, either. Giving them the choice to connect on Facebook creates more engagement, not less.
As a bonus, Google likes it if you're on Facebook, so if you set up your Facebook account with SEO in mind people searching online for your services are more likely to find you.
Your Peers are on Facebook
Not only are your prospects on Facebook. Other freelancers are there. As Facebook is designed for discussion, sharing and networking, it's ideal for connecting with your peers, whether to share ideas, learn more about freelancing, collaborate on projects, or create a referral network.
Freelancing can be lonely at times, so having the support of others only a click away is invaluable.
Facebook is Time Efficient
A Facebook account is simple to set up and maintain. You can set up a Facebook profile, page or group in a couple of hours. Once it's set up, you only need a few minutes a day to keep it maintained.
Facebook offers big returns for a small investment.
To use Twitter effectively, you need to post 10 or 20 tweets per day. That's time consuming!
With a blog, you need to write lengthy posts two or three times a week. Like Twitter, a blog eats away at your schedule and your productivity.
On Facebook, you need only share things you think your target audience will find interesting or helpful. One post a day is plenty. If you post more than three times a day, you'll likely drive away your Facebook fans rather than engage them. Facebook offers big returns for a small investment.
Why Facebook Might Not Be Right For You
Facebook is a good choice for most freelancers. However, there are some distinct disadvantages to using Facebook to promote your business. These are:
- Facebook is a time sink.
- People don't use Facebook for business.
- Facebook won't solve all your problems.
Having your productivity drained is the biggest reason you should avoid Facebook. Facebook is addictive, and it's easy to get sucked into checking status updates or browsing your friends' latest vacation snaps rather than doing the work you need to do. If you struggle to manage your time on social networks, or you have an addictive personality, you're probably best to avoid Facebook. You'll put a lot of time into it, when you should be working on client projects, and you'll get very little in return.
Many freelancers are disillusioned with social media because they expect it to bring the work pouring in, and instead, they're met with a deafening silence.
Once you've set up your Facebook account, it should take very little time to maintain. If you find yourself spending more than 30 minutes a day on Facebook, you need to take a moment to check and evaluate whether you're using it effectively.
The fact that people don't use Facebook for business can be an issue, but only if you approach Facebook expecting to find immediate work. Facebook is a networking tool, not a job board. You're on Facebook to build relationships that might - in the future - lead to work. As long as you approach Facebook with this in mind, you'll do well.
Finally, Facebook not solving all your woes sounds obvious, but it's important to state it. Many freelancers are disillusioned with social media because they expect it to bring the work pouring in, and instead, they're met with a deafening silence. Facebook is only one cog in your marketing wheel, so treat it as such.
Being good at marketing isn't just about spreading the word. Before you start marketing, you should know the services you offer, your niche, and who your potential clients are.
Your Store Front
Here's a helpful way to think of Facebook.
Imagine your freelance business is like a store. Your website is like the inside of the store, where your prospects can browse your products. But if you only have a website, then your store is effectively hidden away on a small side street, with a single door as its entrance, and no window display.
Facebook gives you an exciting store front and window display on a bustling shopping street. Thousands of people will walk past. Not everyone who passes will want your products, or will come in to take a look. But because more people are passing by, and because your products are better displayed, you will get more customers. And even people who don't come into your store will tell their friends about you. Now that sounds good.
What do you think? Is Facebook right for your freelance business?