Social networking for freelancers

Continuing our discussion of satellite sites, I want to talk about Ganymede.

Um, I mean social networks.

Not moons.

Depending on who you ask, social networks are either web-killers or wastes-of-time.

To add to the fire, here is how I think about social networks.


Social networking definitely has its strengths. I’ve said in the past that freelancing is like dating: it will take a few tries before you find the right client.

You’ll need to get clients to know, like, and trust you enough before they hire you. Social networks can help build that trust little by little over time.

Social networks can also help get focused attention on something – a launch, a blog post, your authority piece… Especially when combined with a newsletter (the best way to get focused attention), social networking can have a lot of potential reach when you need it.

The third strength of social networking is research. On one hand, you can use it to research a potential market. Who’s talking about what, are there unsolved problems, recent events or conferences… You can use this research to build up your ideal client profile (or even find actual ideal clients to build a relationship with).

On the other hand, you can research a specific person individually. I use this with potential clients to see what they’re talking about, interested in, or problems they’ve been having.

Just today I found a gem in a potential client’s Twitter feed. He was talking about trying to hire someone to help him with a project. Several times. Over the past two months. That means he really needs help, he isn’t finding someone, and I can adapt my messages to him based on that.

This also works for existing clients if you want to "find more like them".


But social networks aren’t the be-all-end-all marketing solution they’re sometimes billed as.

I’ve found it really difficult to forge strong connections by social networking. You can build weak ones and reinforce existing ones (#1 above), but starting from scratch to build a strong bond needs more privacy than most sites provide. You can start a conversation there, but you almost always need to go someplace else to finish it…

Most of the time I take these types of conversations to email, private chat, or phone.

… which is another weakness of social networking. It’s nearly impossible to close a deal only using it. Even using private channels, it feels awkward at best and impossible in some cases.

My recommendations

Just like any tool, social networking has its strengths and weaknesses. I stress the weaknesses a lot because there is a lot of hype that only focuses on its strengths. It’s important to have a balanced perspective.

I recommend freelancers to use social networking in a few ways:

  1. Strengthen existing relationships
  2. Research
  3. Start new relationships that you grow in another place (like your newsletter)
  4. Share things your ideal clients would be interested in

I wouldn’t use social networking as my main marketing or communication channel. My over-arching goal is to get discussions with potential clients off social sites and into better channels like email or phone.

To answer the common question I get asked: yes, I have landed a project and made money from someone I met through a social network (Twitter), though we used email to hash out the details and Skype to actually work together.

Social networking should be one tactic you use, but not the only one.

Eric Davis

P.S. You can also use social networking to be social. Shocking, I know, but talking with your peers and about random topics can help you feel more human to potential clients. But unless you have free time, this can turn into a waste of time. I’ve removed all social apps from my phone and limit my access from my laptop to only 15 minutes per day.