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Make Time for Marketing
2011, Q1 (July 22, 2011)
By Andrea Wenger, Carolina Chapter Vice President (2011-2012)

If you’re a consultant or independent contractor, you know you have to market yourself to ensure a steady income. But how can your find time to sell yourself to your next client when you’re working 40 hours a week or more for your current one?

The key is to treat marketing as an ongoing activity. If you manage your time wisely, you can establish yourself as an expert in your field and make contacts today that will help in your job search tomorrow.

Get Organized

Freelance writer and poet Alice Osborn has become a leader in the Triangle’s creative writing community. She serves as the local rep for the North Carolina Writer’s Network, heads a Meetup group, runs a book club, teaches workshops, publishes a monthly newsletter, and maintains a blog. So how does she find time for paying writing gigs?

To stay organized, Osborn recommends creating a physical folder and an e-mail folder for every project as soon as the job comes in. Record deadline dates immediately. Keep a paper copy of your calendar and contact list as a backup of the electronic versions.

Block out particular times for tasks, including marketing activities. Check e-mail at scheduled intervals, rather than all day long. Don’t rely on e-mail for all communications. Call if the matter is urgent, or if it could be resolved more quickly over the phone.

Confirm appointments the day before. Make sure you’ve got a phone number (not just an e-mail address) for the person you’re meeting. Teleconference when possible to avoid the travel time of face-to-face meetings.

Schedule creative time to think, plan, and evaluate. If you start losing things or forgetting things, slow down. Productivity isn’t measured by how much you do but by how much you accomplish.

Find Balance

Laura Poole, a technical editor and life coach, stresses that when you say yes to one thing, you're saying no to something else. Make sure it’s worth the tradeoff. Sometimes that means doing volunteer work to get your foot in the door or to meet potential clients. Sometimes it mean turning down paying work from difficult clients who squander your time and energy.

Poole recommends keeping a to-do list that includes only those things that you can complete in a day. Break down large jobs into single tasks. Keep tomorrow’s tasks on a separate list from today’s. Give yourself the satisfaction of crossing things off your list, and seeing the list get shorter as the day progresses. Complete the tasks you dislike before moving on to the tasks you enjoy.

Don’t let yourself become dazzled (and frazzled) by tasks that are high urgency but low importance. If it doesn’t need to be done at all, then it certainly doesn’t need to be done right away.

Jeff Davidson, author of Breathing Space and Simpler Living, reminds us that having too many choices can be immobilizing. Instead of focusing on the wide range of options, start with the ultimate goal and work backward. What results do you want to achieve? What steps do you need to take to get there? Eliminate everything that doesn’t contribute to your goal. Clear out the distractions that serve as obstacles to your success.

If you can’t progress on your current task, put it aside. Take a break or work on something else. While you’re away from the task, your unconscious mind will mull it over. You’ll return to it with new ideas and a fresh perspective.

Build Your Network

When employers or clients consider hiring you, chances are, one of the first things they’ll do is check your Web presence. If you don’t have one, you may lose out to someone who does. The more information a potential client can learn about you, the better they’ll feel about their hiring decision.

If you don’t have a website or blog, consider getting one. Free blogging sites like Wordpress and Blogger make this easy—you can be up and running in a couple of hours. A blog can serve as a static website, but it also offers the opportunity to provide regularly updated content.

Social networking is another way to build a Web presence. Facebook, LinkedIn, and Twitter allow you to connect with others in the field. Be careful about the information you share, keeping in mind that it will be accessed by potential employers and may well last in cyberspace forever, even if you delete it. Also, limit the time you spend on social networking sites each day—thirty to sixty minutes should be adequate.

A local business networking site is Inside919, which connects business owners and professionals living and working within the 919 area code of North Carolina. While most networking sites are designed to help you find people you already know, Inside919 allows you to meet those you don’t.

Face-to-face networking remains an important part of any marketing strategy. One of the best ways to meet technical communicators in the area is to attend STC Carolina Chapter meetings or to serve as a volunteer. Build relationships even when you’re not looking for work, and your local contacts will be more likely to pass along job leads when you are.

Make a Name for Yourself

What’s your favorite part of your job? What are you really good at—better than most in the field? What specialized knowledge do you have that’s in demand? Somewhere in that mix is your niche.

Brand yourself as an expert in your chosen area. Blog about it, tweet about it, post notes on Facebook about it. Write EzineArticles. Contribute to Carolina Communiqué. Speak at an STC program. Become the person that colleagues go to when they have a question. Don’t be stingy with your knowledge—share it for free. Otherwise, no one will know that you’re an expert.

Find a unique angle. When I started blogging, I focused on questions of grammar and style. Unfortunately, hundreds of people are blogging on that same topic. So I switched to blogging about writing and personality type. No one is blogging about that. My target audience is smaller, but when I search on “INFJ writer,” I’m #1 on Google.

Market Yourself Every Day

Even if you’re not looking for work, you should be looking for ways to make yourself known in the local technical communication community. Select the marketing tools that meet your specific needs. In time, you may find that you don’t always have to seek out new jobs—the jobs will start coming to you.

Andrea is a senior technical writer and team leader at Schneider Electric. She blogs about writing and personality at WriteWithPersonality.com. She can be reached at andreajwenger at gmail dot com. End of article.

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