Freelancer Marketing – How to Write an Ad for an Online Directory

One of the toughest jobs Freelancers face is self-promotion. To advertise anywhere — whether it’s on your web site or in an online directory — you need to effectively communicate what you do and how great you are at it. If you’re not sure what to include, start with answering these questions:

  • What are the basic services you want to offer to clients? (e.g., software development, web design)
  • What types of clients do you want to work with? (e.g., small businesses, manufacturers, sales organizations)
  • What specific skills do you have that you think clients want? (e.g., PHP/mySQL, .NET, Linux)
  • Why should the client hire you instead of someone else? (e.g., exceptional customer service, fast turn-around for projects, business savvy)

Once you have the answers to these questions, you’re halfway to writing a great ad for your services that will entice clients to call you instead of another consultant. What comes next is how to structure what you write.

The first lines of your ad should communicate who you are and what you do. Your intro should provide an overview of your skills, who they would appeal to and any niche markets that you serve. In online directories, the first few words are all that appear until the potential client clicks on your link, so make these words count!

If you have a company name, your intro might look like this:

GeniusConsulting specializes in Application Development for manufacturing companies.

For an individual, it might look like this:

Genius Consultant specializing in Application Development for start-up companies.

Next cover the types of jobs you do and how you have benefited your clients such as how you have helped clients reduce costs, streamline processes, improve the customer experience, etc. This is what’s going to grab the potential client’s attention, because although they want your technical skills, they also want to know that you understand what drives their business.

Also, keep in mind that capturing the attention of search engines is a key component of any ad copy. Include any languages, operating systems, experience with mobile devices or anything else that might make you stand out. When a client uses the search feature to find .NET programmers, only those consultants who list .NET will appear, and that could be your listing that gets clicked!

Ad Ideas:

    1. Post your résumé. Jeezzzzz, people, this is an online directory, not Monster.com. Post your résumé on Monster (and on your web site); for an online directory, clients want a summary. Clients don’t want to know everywhere you’ve worked. And they don’t want to read your résumé cover letter. They want to know how you’re going to help them.
    1. Using lots of words that mean very little. The deeply technical people are often guilty of this rule and I can say that I used to be one of them. I had a writing teacher tell me once that if I could write something with 10 words that I could write with 30, the reader (in his example, that would be the teacher) would appreciate having to read only 10 words. Clients don’t have time to read your ad, they’re going to skim, so make it easier for them to pick up the key information you want them to know.
    1. Get in the way of closing the deal. I’ve seen consultants post ads that were condescending of the very clients they wanted to land. I agree that clients can sometimes be a pain, but the art of succeeding is to take the pain and make it your gain. The client doesn’t know what they really want? No problem! There’s money to be made in helping them get there. Write an ad to entice people to call you, not drive away the ones that might be willing to spend more money to have you consult with them about their shortcomings.
    1. Write some fantastic phrases that will catch a client’s eye, and then make sure you bury them in the later paragraphs instead of being posted at the top of the ad. For example, do you think the client wants to know (1) that you outsource your development to Elbonia, or (2) that you are going to get their project done quicker and cheaper? Think about who your desired customers are going to be and focus on writing your opening sentence so that it grabs them and makes them want to click on your listing.
    1. Make it harder for your customer to contact you. A phone costs $15 per month in the USA; a web site costs $10 or less to host and includes e-mail. Why are you shortchanging yourself by making yourself look less technical or professional than the client? The client wants you to be the expert in these matters, so you want to act like it. [Special note to FreelanceLocalTech users: we use special anti-spambot code on the site to help prevent unintended use of your e-mail address, so there’s no reason not to list your e-mail address in the listing.]

Bonus sucky ad idea: Search-invisible ads! If there’s a search feature on the directory site and your listing doesn’t have the keywords that your potential customer might search for… you’re not going to be found! If there are a range of projects you like to do or skills you have, make sure you list the ones that your potential clients might enter as search keywords.

Finally, include your contact info and website information. If you don”t have a web site — get one! You are marketing your services, a website is the most basic way to communicate how savvy you are with technology. Even a bad website is better than no website.