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5 years as Freelance Marketer – what Geraint’s learned

We are all about sharing what it’s really like to be a part of the sectors we operate in. We like to showcase incredible achievements of those around us and we provide a platform for those with experience to share their expertise and wisdom with their peers as well as the future generation. That’s what we are always about.

To do all of the above, as part of this series of articles, we are catching up with a range of very experienced sector professionals to ask them what ‘key things’ they’ve learned and could pass on to those within their sector, those working in the same profession as well as the next gen of talent. This is, beyond the actual skills it takes to do what they do.

First up, Geraint Clarke, self-employed Business Development Professional & Marketer. Geraint has travelled the world creating campaigns, and giving keynotes to huge companies (like Sony & Xbox) on the boot-strapping tactics of viral marketing on a tiny budget.

Now, Geraint, in an attempt to capture some of the wisdom you’ve gained as a professional so far, what are “5 stand-out things” you’ve learned within the past 5 years, while working as self-employed BD Professional & Marketer.

Geraint Clarke:

1. Say ‘Hello’ to unsociable hours.

When you leave the 9-5 behind you, you inevitably leave the 9-5 behind you. Weekends become work days and evenings become working hours.

The construct of work and life merge seamlessly into one, and the real effort goes towards making time to relax.

Working on a freelance basis, from a home office or otherwise, you’ll need to get comfortable with the idea that you’re never off the clock. An idea at 3am could save you two full days of pretend effort.

You’ll spend hours sitting at your laptop, blinded by the glare, hoping that thesaurus.com will regurgitate your nonsense as pure gold for client’s copy if you don’t adapt to more fluid working hours.

Say goodbye to Bank Holidays and Sundays of watching youtube videos from bed. Say hello to the postman thinking you’re unemployed because you’d rather work than put on trousers.

2. Learn when to say “No”.

I’ve learned that the real value to clients comes in the word ‘NO’.

It’s honest and only becomes confrontational if they’re expecting too much of you.

When you don’t know when your next invoice is going to be paid, the fear can make you overcompensate and say ‘Yes’ to work you don’t need…. or worse, work you don’t want.

Saying ‘No’ can work for you. Saying ‘No’ to a poor budget/offer increases your perceived value.

‘No’ to delivering at Midnight, when you got the request at 3pm allows companies to value your time and plan ahead better.

‘No’ to upcoming freelance, no matter how delicious the money sounds can build stronger relationships with your existing clients.

‘No’ has always seemed like a dirty word when you’re after business, but it’s the one weapon you shouldn’t be afraid to use.

3. Don’t be afraid to ask for more money.

Back before I developed ‘strategy’ for companies, I used to do SEO reviews for people’s websites on Fiverr.com. Not all tasks are created equal, and although my offer was the same, some clients were difficult, unresponsive or asked too much.

Chasing payments, answering follow-up questions or over-delivering started to cost me more than the original work was worth.

I decided then to segment my time and offer all additional work at additional cost.

For the quality of work clients were getting, they were happy to pay £20 extra for additional action steps, or £30 more for me to complete those steps on their behalf.

Anticipate the problem areas with clients and don’t be afraid to charge extra money for any extra time.

You may not want to annoy them and it’s a very British thing to keep the peace. Money is such a taboo subject to approach.

My advice to you is to balance where possible. If you complete a job in 3 hours, but you quoted 5, be honest with your client.

Then they’ll be much more receptive when you invoice for more money on jobs that take 6 hours, when you originally quoted for 2.

4. Death & Taxes are certain.

As Benjamin Franklin said “in this world nothing can be said to be certain, except death and taxes”.

Becoming self-employed you were bowled over stories of claiming expenses on date-nights and claiming uniform allowance expenses on your latest video shoot. It’s simply not true.

My advice is to save more Tax than you normally would. It’s a practical lesson that I learned from experience.

“Geraint, what does this have to do with marketing” I hear you cry.

Marketing, unlike some other professions can almost entirely be completed online. Clients can be emailed pdfs, presentations, Excel documents & invoices.

Your expenditure will be very very low, and therefore your Tax will be questionably high.

For fast growing businesses, you want to ensure you’re not taken in by the majesty of being able to order two flat whites on a Monday morning in Costa, because you’re self-employed, you’ve got nowhere to be in a rush.

One big client could take you into new brackets of contributions, and the mistake I made in the past, and I see many other freelancers make, is not saving enough for the tax year.

I blamed that LA trip, but my accountant blamed me.

It’s not glamorous, but it’s definitely important advice for any freelance marketers.

5. ROI is the secret to longevity.

The amount of marketing professionals I see that don’t monitor their ROI for clients is scary. For newcomers, ROI is ‘Return On Investment’. What can you earn for the amount you’re spending?

I see too many people quoting “Brand Awareness” as an excuse for their failures to show a return.

It’s fair that not every campaign works. Some websites don’t convert and bad products won’t sell-out regardless of your efforts. That’s not your fault.

However, in my experience it’s best not to spend anything that you can’t forecast a return on.

Let me explain. Let’s say the last time you sponsored an event last year and handed out 10,000 flyers. Sales went up by 5%.

Was it the event? Was it the leaflets? Was it Superman!?

Okay, okay, let’s not get silly, but hear me out.

Did those leaflets have coupon codes? If so, how many were claimed? Did those that claimed cover the cost of sponsoring the event, the staff, the printing of that many flyers? etc.

Lightning rarely strikes twice and doing everything you did because it worked the last time isn’t as effective as ONLY doing what worked the last time, and cutting the spend of what didn’t.

When you’re selling yourself to potential clients, you want to be sure that your influence at that business and anything you touch is going to guarantee an improvement in some way.

Otherwise, you’re going to struggle to get your next client.

It’s much easier to leverage success, and ROI is your secret sauce in the BigMac of Freelance Marketing.

Thank you Geraint for sharing!