Freelancing and the Art of Marketing Karma

By Princess Jones

Let’s pretend for a moment here that your freelance career is a puppy. (Bear with me here. I’m going somewhere with this. Also, you get to choose what kind of puppy it is so it’s not like you’re not getting something out of this.) Puppies are a lot of responsibility and they need a lot of care. But some things are a little higher priority than others. For example, you can buy a really cute collar and groom it regularly, but if you never feed it, your puppy’s future doesn’t look too good.

Marketing your business is like feeding your puppy. If you fail to do it or fail to do it well, your business doesn’t stand a chance. This is why I usually care more about marketing and prospecting than some of the other little things over writers may place importance on. Sure, all that other stuff is important but if I don’t market my business, I might as well close up shop.

Knowing that, I’ve made marketing a priority in my business. I dedicate a good portion of weekly work hours to promoting myself through various methods. I keep a list of business contacts with detailed notes about where I met them and what contact we—ve made. I touch base with prospects several times a year. I have a guest posting editorial plan designed to target the audiences I want to build awareness with.

But there’s a quirky little phenomenon I’ve noticed in my efforts to market my business: marketing karma.

Essentially, it’s the fact that as much as I market myself, I often find new work from unrelated sources. At first, I thought it meant I didn’t need to market at all. Here were all these leads coming from left field. Maybe I didn’t need to do anything at all. So I stopped all efforts. Suddenly, my business (and therefore my bank account) was a ghost town. I figured it was a fluke so I started hitting the streets for work again. Once again, I noticed I was getting bites–just not always where I put my bait.

I’m not the first person to notice this. Peter Bowerman discusses it in his bestselling book The Well-Fed Writer. He talks about learning that if you send a dog out with a receipt book tied to his tail enough times, you’ll eventually get a sale. Over the years, I’ve read several blog posts about marketing karma, too. I’ve talked about it with other freelancers who have experienced it. Recently I converted my friend and fellow freelancer Melissa Breau into a believer as she started her first year of freelancing full time.

Tapping Into Marketing Karma

Karma is often misunderstood. There is this misconception that karma is sort of this universe-driven watchdog, punishing evildoers and rewarding the good. The concept is actually much less black and white than that. In very simplistic terms, everything we do has an effect on this world. What you put out into the world matters because it will affect other things until eventually it comes back to you. This is not a moral law but a law of nature. It is not good or bad. It just is.

Like spiritual karma, marketing karma is not necessarily saying that if you do something good, something good will happen to you. Instead, the energy you spend prospecting will bring leads to you, no matter where you put it. Sounds simple, right? Not always. Here are some things to remember if you want to tap into your marketing karma:

Frequently reassess. Marketing karma is only as strong as your marketing plan. You need to reassess your plans frequently as your goals change. Are you marketing something people actually need or want? Are you really putting as much effort into it as you think you are? Have you re-evaluated your approach to make sure you’re hitting the right targets?

Focus on action instead of results. Often, we try to control the results of our marketing. We want to make sure that each and every person we contact chooses us. But that’s impossible to do. All we can control is what we do and the rest is up to the world. Instead of placing importance on the leads you may get back, focus on putting thoughtful effort into the work of marketing yourself.

Keep an open mind. The biggest hurdle to taking advantage of marketing karma is a closed mind. You have to be open to unexpected opportunity. Things will come out of left field and you have to be prepared to make it work. I’ve gotten well paying jobs that started with random tweets. I could have ignored those tweets but instead I chose to keep an open mind and follow them to work I never thought I’d get.

There are those of you who find this concept too hippy-dippy-sell-me-some-crystals-and-check-my aura-ish to get behind. You’re rolling your eyes so hard that they might fall out of the back of your head right now. That’s ok. You actually don’t have to believe in marketing karma for it to work. It’s just a side effect of marketing your writing business with passion, whether you’re expecting it or not.

Princess Jones is a television addict, reluctant New Yorker, and freelance copywriter–not necessarily in that order. She writes about the ups and downs of freelance life on Diary of a Mad Freelancer. If you’d like to talk more about marketing karma, send her a tweet to @themadfreelancr.

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14 comments… add one
  • Well said.
    I will rest with that thought of a dog with a receipt book as it makes me remember the whole message of marketing karma.

  • Fantastic piece, Princess, and indeed, I too have experienced marketing karma. You put the wheels in motion and for a while the momentum will make it seem like they’re turning themselves.

    I will now go send out some more pitches.

  • Very nice article – good points all around. As the saying goes, you get out of it what you put in. And I like the idea of picking out my own puppy.

  • Nice article,

    I think that the whole karma concept is interesting when we keep in mind how social media works. Karma is, in a sense, a fundamental nature. You mentioned that you didn’t get works from direct sources, but I’m sure that you could easily follow the path of likes, retweets, and google searches until it all leads back to you.

    One thing that I think you neglected to go into depth on is the idea of really pushing your social media relationships. By push I don’t mean to push them into a corner, but rather, I mean push them in the same way that you would push your friends. You need to make effort to build those relationships. The more you invest into a relationship, of any kind, the better the “payoff” is for that relationship. If you do nothing in a marriage, don’t be surprised that the love of the marriage dwindles and fades. Keep up with your social media relationships because karma goes around in the strangest of ways…


    • I think as social media as just another marketing avenue. (Or in some cases, a form of networking.) As with all marketing, it’s a matter being consistent and focusing on actions instead of the results.

  • I read this post a couple days ago, and it really struck me & inspired me – especially since I’ve been sending out pitches and proposals like mad in the last month or so.

    Today, I was in the middle of sending out more & was feeling rather defeated. I wasn’t getting the response promised from one regular client, and I hadn’t had any kind of response in at least a week or two. (Except for someone wanting me to write for free.) I actually threw in the towel and walked away from it all. I came back a few hours later to find in my email that I had not one, but TWO new clients that said they would love for me to write for them. One said she was forwarded my information and samples from a name I didn’t even recognize.

    I guess the moral of the story is to keep up the hard work, and to keep your head up!!

  • “Focus on action, not results.” That’s the most immediately practical thing we can do, and it helps us get over rejection. When we’re focused on the action instead of the result, we have less time to brood about negative results.

    • And yet, how hard is it to remember that when you’re cold calling and don’t get any bites?! At least for me. I have to remind myself of marketing karma several times a day even though I know the concept very well.

  • As a student of Marketing what I believe is one should always focus on actions, not on results. If my offer satisfy the client, he or she will surely became a loyal customer. But we should not overlook the importance of promoting our offers to the prospective customers. If they don’t know what is our offer, then how will they respond? Well-written article. Thanks

  • Update: Miss Jones, I owe you a big thanks. Your post set off a spark. I’ve sent in a submission to a magazine (I expect a no, but hey! I sent it), written some more blog posts (some of which are being stored for a rainy day) and spent some time touching bases with some neglected aspects of my network.

    In return, the universe sent me a new opportunity, more blog and Twitter followers and an unexpected testimonial from a previous and valued coworker of six years ago.

    And I don’t know where it all came from. It certainly hasn’t been directly from my efforts.

    Incidentally, I also bought a stuffed Shih Tzu puppy that now sits on my desk with a judgmental expression when I haven’t “fed it” and a cheerful expression when I have. Just as a reminder.

    So, thank you Princess Jones. The universe has made your point. 🙂

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