Since the summer I have taken it forgranted that work would find me. I thought that networking and social media were the way forward and in many ways it has been.
The summer months were very busy. So much so that I didn’t have a chance to think about marketing, looking for clients or pitching to new companies. I assumed that the work I was doing and the results I was posting up on Facebook, Twitter and on my blog would be enough to draw in new interest. I expected the volume of people I was working with would in turn encourage return clients and new ones by word of mouth. Unfortunately for a multitude of reasons, it didn’t. I took a gamble and it didn’t pay off. I guess you have to try these things.
Since the end of October I have been relatively quiet. Shoots have become few and far between because I made a conscious decision to stop doing the ‘TF’ work and target my business to a certain kind of customer. I also had several client projects to complete and I desperately needed to catch up on my own design work which had been neglected since early summer.
Now I am looking for clients for 2013. Creativity may be fun but money is the key component that any business needs. And marketing has now become top priority.
Sometimes though you need a little inspiration – that extra boost to tackle the task at hand. I attended a workshop with Enterprise@Lincoln this week with Jo Wilson from Fill the Gap Marketing. I’d been to the same class in early summer but my venture was only just getting off the ground and in the early days there’s only so much information you can take in. Coming back to the same workshop with a more focused approach meant I got a lot more from it this time around.
As I began writing this update I came across something along similar lines from fellow WordPress blogger C L Haden. Can A Sales Pitch Be An Informal Chit-Chat? is kind of where I thought I would go. I didn’t want to have to do the hard sell, but rather casually drop my business into relevant conversations and absorb clients from there. It’s like word of mouth but only slightly less subtle. It does work, but you’d have to crowbar it into a lot of casual conversations to get enough business. Either that or have a social life anyone would be envious of.
I was particularly interested in Haden’s comment about people who liked your Facebook business page and yet had no idea what it was that you did, even though it was in your about section. It’s remarkable how many people hit ‘like’ but don’t read any further. And doesn’t that reduce the effectiveness of having a business page anyway? You would think having a good ‘like’ rate on your page would bring in clients. But often it doesn’t except when you are offering something for nothing. Perhaps that’s why social media isn’t having the impact I thought it would. Is everyone just hitting like and not reading and removing you from their newsfeed when they get bored of your updates? I am now looking at social media as free advertising rather than business generating.
Wedding dresses look like being a main source of income for me. It’s the one business area where I can be competitive with the High Street because remarkably enough a handmade wedding gown by someone like me is going to cost you less than a shop bought one with many additional advantages. So that’s where my marketing is currently aimed.
So how do smaller independent designers deal with marketing and sourcing new clients? Whilst a new and exciting range might be a great way to showcase your skills it might not be the work that’s going to bring in the money short term. Utilising free advertising whilst you are still financially vulnerable is essential, but is the risk of paying for a stand at a show or taking out paid advertising worth it? What works for you and am I missing something vital?