"Could you just share you Instagram handle with us?”
If you’re a freelancer working independently I’m sure that sentence had you feeling like ‘if I had a penny for every time a potential client asked me that’.
With the world shifting from a physical realm into a virtual one, Instagram is the place where a majority of this population thrives. As a freelancer it is necessary to understand and make use of Instagram as a self-promotional platform.
So here’s the ultimate guide on how to market yourself using these tools on Instagram as a freelancer.
Instagram gives you a 150-characters window. Make every character count as this is the first glance any potential client or a follower has to your profile. Make your Instagram bio interesting and inject as much of your personality into it as you can.
It should communicate exactly what you do. This is the spot where you should include links to your website and other marketing hubs. Including links makes it easier for potential clients to know exactly what it is that you do. It gives them a detailed insight into your line and style of work thereby contributing in their clarity of the decision to work with you.
Define your goal
Think about why is it that you are on Instagram? Is it to create awareness about yourself as an artist and your work? Or to gain more clients and followers? Increase engagement? Or to simply promote your brand and your product?
The reason you have taken to Instagram should reflect your motive as a freelancer. If you are a writer who simply wants to be known as one then your goal on Instagram is to create awareness and increase engagement. If you’re a photographer or a graphic designer looking to get more work then your goal is to promote your brand and get more followers and clientele.
Once you have zeroed down on your motives, this chosen reason will further help you decide how to strategise accordingly. So as a writer with a desire to increase their popularity, your posts should link back to your work. The pictures you post must lead your followers to your personal blogs or your website. Similarly, as a photographer seeking more work you must opt for a regular posting strategy that showcases your work and puts it on the platforms that the client are at.
It is incredibly important to define your Instagram goal as every other strategy or tool that follows will rely and lead to back to this goal.
What should you post
So what to post on Instagram?
Your work… kinda obvious?
It requires a little more planning than simply posting everything that you do or everything that you would want potential clients to see. It makes sense that fitness gurus or yoga enthusiasts and fashion bloggers would have all that material to work with but most freelancers are limited to the confines of their home offices. Nothing particularly aesthetic about that. So what about regular posting and how should one go about doing that?
The answer is pretty simple – your lifestyle. Who wouldn’t want to be their own boss and work from wherever one finds comfortable? A co-working space, your favourite café down the street or even your own living room couch? Though a routine occurrence for you, the idea of professional independency is appealing to many. This allows for fun and liberal content in itself while also doing a marvelous job of attracting the attention of people who would both hope to work like you or hire you.
Instagram is a visual platform and its appeal depends on the visual delight it provides. One way to make your page look enticing to the audience is by deciding on a definite colour palette. Determine your brand colours and choose an aesthetic that compliments both the brand and your personality. Stick to your chosen palette and create a colour harmony for your page that will make it visually memorable.
Another way this can be done is thematically. A good strategy for writers, photographer or designers – every three pictures (one Instagram row) can allude to a single chosen theme. This will ensure the page has a tone of diversity to it without making it look too haphazard.
Ever baked a cake without an oven? Sure you were able to make it eventually but it just took a lot longer for the cake to rise and a lot of confused wondering if it ever would. Posting on social media without a clearly defined goal or a strategy is a lot like that. Ponder over your goal, think about your target demographic and what kind of content do they wish to see?
Treat your profile as a professional page
If you’re using Instagram to attract clients your profile needs to be show-ready. While you may happily post pictures of you partying with your friends and family on a personal account, you wouldn’t want to do this on a client-facing profile.
Ensure that your profile looks credible. Match it with the branding (the colour palette, the fonts and the styles) that you have on your website or other social media platforms. Include a constant influx of linking back to your work and sites through your posts and make sure that you have relevant contact information present.
Share your work
Your Instagram page is your brand’s literal window to your work. Don’t shy away from self-promotion or indulging in talking about your achievements. Share your work on your page. This will give your potential clients a fair idea of your line of work and your followers a way to engage with the brand better.
Show behind the scenes: Take pictures of yourself working on projects – BTS footage as a photographer, articles in progress as a writer or when you hit blocks seeking inspiration, work in progress pictures for designers, etc. Doing this will give your followers an insight into your working style and also keep them hooked for anything new or exciting coming up.
Direct traffic to your blog: Post intermittent images that will lead back to your personal blog. An image related to the current week’s blog post with the “link in bio” caption or a design that will excite your followers to visit other profiles of yours, etc. This will lead to a boost in your website or blog traffic and increase audience engagement.
Post quotes: Quotes conventionally do wonders on Instagram. If you’re a writer, poet, or an author of any sort; post quotes from you recent work linking it back to your work. Posting quotes from famous authors that you follow, believe in or credit your success to is also a good way to gain engagement.
While your images matter the most on your page, your captions occupy the place of a close second. Design your captions in accordance with the purpose of your post. Is it to inspire, educate, make people laugh? Whatever is your chosen purpose ensure that the caption alludes to it.
On certain occasions a longer caption may also help further your purpose. If you’re posting about a recent experience or sharing your knowledge, don’t be afraid to try longer captions. Treat captions as the place where you get to directly interact with the audience. Make use of this space as a platform where you get to share and talk about exactly what you wish to say. Your followers do want to get to know the person behind the brand. Engage with them through conversational captions.
Pick the right hashtags
Your secret weapon to reaching your target demographic – those little Instagram hashtags you see under every picture.
Picking the right hashtags is a critical step that allows you to expand your reach and puts you right where your target audience is. Instagram allows a maximum of 30 hashtags for every post but a decent 25 should do the trick. Treat hashtags like little search engines that can get your post seen by more people.
Do a little research to determine the kind of hashtags your potential clients and followers are using. If you’re targeting a writer and a poet demographic for instance then popular hashtags like #WritersOnInstagram or #InstagramPoets is a wise choice.
If you’re confused about the popularity, reach or even the relevance of a particular hashtag, visit Hashtagify.me. This tool helps you to play around with multiple words and see their stats. It’ll also allow you to see the most popular as well as the most relevant hashtags for your post.
Picking out the right hashtags help communicate one’s expertise, makes for great content and allows potential clients to look you up on Instagram.
Instagram Stories and IGTV
A relatively recent phenomenon, Instagram stories is the new age gospel for our shortened attention spans. This is a good way to get candid with your audience. Instagram stories are an ideal space to share special BTS videos. With the new close friends feature you can even conduct online contests – the winners of which will be given a special insight or an educational video or even simply an Instagram live where they get to ask you questions and interact with the brand.
Instagram Television on the other hand is a good space to do slightly longer tutorial, educational, inspirational or even opinion based videos. You can ask your followers what is it that they would like to know about you or your work and adhere to the demands accordingly in the form of stories and IGTV videos.
When should you post
As a freelancer you work for yourself and if you feel like hopping over to Instagram to simper at cat videos or gush over the beauty of your favourite celebrities nothing is particularly stopping you (except the crushing blow of your deadline of course).
But not everyone has that luxury. Most corporate officials have someone constantly watching over their performance where meandering on Instagram is not looked upon favourably. So what is the best time to post on Instagram in order to maximise your engagement on Instagram?
7.30am to 10.30am: What’s the first thing you do when you open your eyes in the morning? And what helps you pass the painful morning commute traf-fucked all the way to work? Scrolling through Instagram in the wee hours of the morning has become a cultural phenomenon. Bend this universal habit to your advantage and use this time to do your routine posting.
1pm to 2.30pm: You know the drill – you sit down for lunch, or just step out to tale a break and unconsciously whip your phones out. And what is it that you open first in your carefree state of mind? Yup, you got it. Utilise this period to wield you posting magic and gain engagement.
6pm to 10pm: Your workday has just ended and you’re probably either on your way or already home. In this fleeting moment of relaxation, what is the first leisure device that appeals to you? Your phones! This is a particularly dedicated Instagram scrolling time, posting during which can do wonders for your brand.
Get a business account
Instagram has the option of making your profile a business one. This business profile helps quantify and provides analytics on the engagement, activity and reach for every post. Analysing this Instagram business account generated reports helps one understand what works for you as a brand, what did not work for you, which kind of posts had the most number of engagements, etc. all of which helps devising a definite strategy to chalk out a future course of action.
A business account also ensures the presence of a direct call-to-action in the form of a ‘Contact Me’ button placed directly on your page instead of navigating to find the menu.
Find potential clients and reach out
Once your profile is up and running, be proactive in engaging with your audience. Look out for the types of clients you’d want to connect with. In some cases, this may mean following their brand page. For others, it will help to look up companies that you’d like to work with on LinkedIn and find the individual who would make the decision about hiring you and trying to connect with them on Instagram by direct messaging them, sharing your work with them or even simply following them to get to know more about them.
You can also do your research on Instagram. Search for hashtags that your clients might be using. Follow those hashtags and post pictures bearing the same hashtags to help reach their search feed.
Engage with your target audience and your clients
Once you’ve followed each other, engage with your target audience. Don’t wait for them to comment on your post (though you should make sure you interact when they do); instead, actively engage with their content first.
- Leave comments.
- Ask questions.
- Be complimentary.
- Build a relationship before you reach out through a direct message.
Having said that, the entire concept of social media is a whimsical one and while many have tried to devise gospel strategies and planning, there can never really be a rule set in stone. Saying true to yourself and your expression of the brand is certainly important but a major game is simply a trial-and-error one. Different things work for different people. Find out which one these work in your favour and be prepared to have it challenged!