Freelancing and the Art of Marketing Karma
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.