Most freelancers find advertising and marketing a bit mysterious, confusing and/or disturbing in some way. For this reason, among others, they try to avoid investing in them on a regular basis. In practice, advertising and marketing are two different activities in terms of goal, method and measurement with marketing being a much more practical, effective and affordable for most entrepreneurs.
To explain, advertising is promoting short term sales. It involves exposing a product or service to a specific audience and encouraging immediate action. The customer motivation to buy may be limited time or supply or a notably low price. The promotion, whether in audio or visual form, emphasizes the product and the reason it is advisable to purchase now. Advertising generally involves a short-term, often high, cost. The business owner measures the results by comparing the estimated profit without advertising to the estimated profit attained through promotion, deducting the advertising expense. For example, if a new business advertises a grand opening, a successful advertising campaign would lead to a much larger showup to the event and an increased volume of sales on and around the opening. Likewise, if an established business advertises a product whose inventory it wishes to reduce or eliminate, it is possible to compare volume and profit before and during the campaign. Once the promotion is over, the seller returns to business as usual.
By contrast, marketing emphasizes brand over item. Specifically, it aims to create an identification between a service or product and the provider. As extreme examples, Google, McDonalds and Pampers each invest great effort in creating link between their name and their product, search engine, fast food and diapers, respectively. Marketing campaigns generally lack short term incentives to purchase, including low prices, but instead focus on a positive attribute of the product or company. A name-recognition effort can take on a variety of forms, including media adverts, sponsorship, signing, conferences and talking to your neighbors. The sky is the limit but many forms of marketing only involve investing time, not money. However, successful marketing does involve consistent effort as the fruits of marketing are invisible and slow and require multiple exposure. Simply put, it may take makes months or even years to financially profit from the effort even though the name recognition campaign is actually effective. Large companies can afford to conduct measuring surveys to ascertain the actual effectiveness. Most freelancers must have faith, a necessary attribute in all respects for a freelancer. Successful marketing requires long-term, directed action.
Advertising may be appropriate for some freelancers. For example, an accountant or translator specializing in tax form preparation and translation may try to reach companies and individuals in the first quarter of the year as the tax filing deadline creates a time incentive to purchase their service. Likewise, a recently established site designer or immigration document specialist may be willing to sacrifice short-term profit in order to build a portfolio and reputation. Service providers can reasonably provide large discounts if they are especially efficient in their work. Of course, those entrepreneurs finding themselves with no customers can choose to offer especially low prices choosing to prefer low profit to no income. The issue is trying to raise the prices to normal levels later but that is a long-term problem, a luxury for some people. Thus, for entrepreneurs with short-term goals, an advertising campaign may be worthwhile.
However, for most freelancers, including translators, marketing is the better option in terms of effectiveness and cost. Since most independent business people offer a product or service that is generally only occasionally required, the best method for incoming business is the create a connection between that service or product and the potential provider. To give an example, a customer contacted me this week for a French to English translation after her Masters advisor read a previous post of mine and labeled me as a potential provider of translation should occasion arise. Even more, marketing does not necessarily involve significant financial outlays. For example, business group zoom meetups and telling your hairdresser what your profession are free of charge as are posts in Facebook and other social media. One graphologist posted a simple business sign in her garden and regularly profited from opportunity clients. Marketing does require time to think, create and act. For better or worse, many freelancers had and have far too much free time in the last two years. Marketing is a way of converting that surplus into a future financial profit.
As a trigger to thinking about marketing, I would suggest considering the following questions:
1. Do people in my local community know what I do?
2. When I enter my name in Google search, do my profession and contact details appear?
3. Have other people in my profession in my country and abroad, if relevant, heard of me?
4. Have my potential customers ever heard of me?
If the answer to any of the questions is negative, it is time to actively think about marketing and then begin an ongoing effort to change the answer to positive. The results probably will not occur immediately. However, in an especially volatile market, all entrepreneurs must consider the question of where they want to be two years from now, keeping in mind that the failure to act is an action in itself. Despite their connotations and the lack of comfort they create for independents, advertising and, even more so, marketing are important options for all freelancers building a long-term future in their business.
* Picture captions open up the Internet to the blind.
Picture credit: Image by <a href="https://pixabay.com/users/megan_rexazin-6742250/?utm_source=link-attribution&utm_medium=referral&utm_campaign=image&utm_content=4156934">Megan Rexazin</a> from <a href="https://pixabay.com/?utm_source=link-attribution&utm_medium=referral&utm_campaign=image&utm_content=4156934">Pixabay</a>