Online Marketing for Free-agents

Note: The Cluetrain Manifesto celebrates its tenth anniversary this year.

Cluetrain #1 Markets are conversation.

Without conversation (oral, written, graphical, physical) there are no social transactions. This has been the key aspect of the un-marketing approach for my consulting business. It’s not just markets, but learning and working are mostly conversation as well. I’ve also learned in the past six years that the more you give, the more you get; especially online. To market yourself as a free-agent online, start by giving.

Cluetrain # 6 The Internet is enabling conversations among human beings that were simply not possible in the era of mass media.

I started blogging here in 2004, which my wife thought was giving away my expertise for free. My hunch was that my blog would be a good way to showcase my skills and experience, but I realised that it’s much more than that. First of all, it’s my pervasive presence on the Web. This is where you can find me as well as links to other things I may be doing. It has now become my knowledge base and provides fodder for articles and presentations. My blog enables me to have conversations with other professionals about things that matter to us. I’ve said many times that my blog doesn’t get me clients but, using a baseball metaphor, it gets me from 1st base onward. It’s also an enormous business card that tells more about what I think than any interview ever could. Blogs, podcasts or videos are excellent passive marketing devices, as long as you talk about your passions. Don’t try to sell anything. Another word of advice on blogs for free-agents is to keep them advertising free. The money isn’t worth it if you really want to sell your services and you will stand out from the crowd.

Cluetrain #7 Hyperlinks subvert hierarchy.

The advantage of being a free-agent today is that you can use the Internet to get around most hierarchies. Information on almost any field is available for free. Tools like Twitter let you “follow” people in fields that interest you; making it excellent for competitive intelligence. Checking out “crowd-sourced” tags on Delicious lets you see what others find important. You can connect with people on Facebook or the more conservative Linked-In, without having to join some professional association first. Personally, I use Linked-In for business and Facebook for friends & colleagues. However, both networks have connected me to paid work.

Cluetrain #9 These networked conversations are enabling powerful new forms of social organization and knowledge exchange to emerge.

It still requires hard work, perseverance, skill and knowledge but you can get recognised for your expertise. Kathy Sierra has an excellent graph showing the work required, but the tools to disseminate your expertise are here now:

Not only that, but many people are there to help you; just ask. Posting a question on your blog, Twitter or social network usually results in a lot of good advice. I revamped my website in 2007 after asking advice from readers, which increased traffic to my consulting section. Once you go online, you are no longer alone, for better or worse.

We now have many tools to engage in conversation and to create some wealth along the way, without giving up our rights in indentured servitude as salaried workers.

Cluetrain #10 As a result, markets are getting smarter, more informed, more organized. Participation in a networked market changes people fundamentally.

Jeff Jarvis:

To make the money I don’t make teaching, I consult and speak for various media companies and brands. The only reason I get those gigs is because companies read the ideas I discuss at Buzzmachine and ask me to come and repeat them in PowerPoint form and explore them with their staff. I’ve also been asked to teach executives how to blog (a class that should, by rights, take about two minutes). That work and the teaching get me to a nice income in six figures. So I’m not looking quite as idiotic now, I hope.

Rob Paterson:

NPR, all my work in New Media, Blackwater, Education – all my paying gigs have come through this medium [blogging].

Quick Start Tips to market yourself:

  1. Get your own domain name
  2. Free your Bookmarks and start sharing what you do
  3. Read blogs & make comments and don’t forget to Aggregate before you’re swamped
  4. Establish a consistent presence on Linked-In, Facebook, etc.
  5. Start your blog (WordPress, Typepad) without any fanfare
  6. Check out other social media like Twitter or what others are talking about
  7. Watch for patterns and see what makes sense for you

These Small Business Blogs may give some inspiration.

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