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How to Leverage Social Media for Freelance Gains (Part 1)

  • By James Bennett II
  • November 25, 2020

Your social media feeds aren’t just a repository for Harambe tributes or hot takes from hotheaded political pundits. As a freelancer, they are your best friends. Using different social media platforms efficiently and correctly will increase your visibility and clout. And if you play your cards right, there’s even the chance that editors and niche creatives will seek you out for an opinion or assignment.
In this post, we’ll be covering three platforms: Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram. Read up on how to maximize your presence on these three services, and cross-check against your current behavior. Make tweaks where necessary, then score a solid contract or invitation to collaborate.

Facebook for Freelance Gains

Objectively the easiest platform to bring the noise. Facebook started out as a place where old classmates could connect, and even though they’ve been wrapped up in controversies ranging from UX alterations to news story coverups, it has retained its status as the Social Network. What makes it so special is that your audience is ready made— the legwork of finding people with whom to share your work has already been done for you. This goes doubly for users who have been active for years already.
The obvious advantage that Facebook carries over the other two platforms we’ll cover is that its text-heavy. Statuses have a whopping 60,000 character limit, and compact comment threads keep the conversation neatly in one place. And earlier this year, the company announced an overhaul of the notes feature. No longer a weird “never have I ever”-esque corner of the platform, the new Notes allow you to pen gorgeous essays à la Medium— with full integration into the rest of the service.
The applications are obvious for the freelancing writer. Share a sketch of your thoughts or early drafts of longer pieces for feedback from people you know. It’s always a good idea to have a blog where you provide regular commentary on your niche or professional interests, but if you for some reason aren’t set up with one yet, this may not be a bad place to start.
However, Facebook doesn’t need to be reserved for sharing what you’ve already created. Use it to find work and connections, too. Facebook friend lists tend to be more curated— unlike Twitter, adding a connection on Facebook requires always approval. The result? Direct replies to inquiries like “who’s hiring? Who needs freelance xyz?” or industry help “Can I get some pitch advice? What’s a good publication to read concerning my industry?” Oh, and it’s generally much harder to troll on Facebook than Twitter since you really can’t crawl Facebook anonymously.
One last thing. If you’re already pumping out that sweet, succulent content on a regular basis, consider setting up a public Facebook Page. The game is a bit different, but at the end of the day you can invite your friends to like your page for building an initial audience. It also serves as a nice place to intersperse commentary amongst the curated links to your work.

Twitter for Freelance Gains

Depending on who you’re asking, the sad thing about Twitter is that it can’t quite figure out what it’s for. It launched as an SMS service and has faithfully stuck to its 140 character limit through it all. But it could also be its saving grace. Since no one really knows what Twitter is supposed to do, you can make it do anything— which includes improving your freelance game.
If Facebook encourages interaction among friends, Twitter wants you to seek out strangers. Before we get too far deep into the applications of Twitter, go ahead and set your profile to public if you haven’t already. I understand that internet privacy is a thing a lot of us treasure, but keeping your feed private puts you in an already uphill position. Seriously, do it now. For those of us who are already coming with a public feed, congrats, here is a video of a Grandma shredding on a saxophone:
The reason why we set this to private is simple: you can follow someone with just a click/tap of a button.You want people to see your feed, think “alright, maybe this person has something to say”, and then follow you. Keeping your posts private makes your online presence a guessing game, and last I checked, Twitter was not Family Feud.
Being public on Twitter comes with a degree of responsibility. Obviously, you shouldn’t be tweeting anything flat out stupid. But just as importantly, you’re going to need to be smart about staying active. Here’s how to build up your Twitter presence in a respectful way:

  • Follow the Leaders: The biggest voices in your niche deserve your follow. They may not follow you back, but you’ll likely be receiving a stream of quality content that you can reshare to your own followers, or use as inspiration when working on your next project. Link your Twitter account to a tool like Right Relevance to get recommendations for accounts to follow.
  • Follow the Almost Leaders, Too: While you’ll probably get some great content from Mark (Zuckerberg or Cuban, take your pick) it’s a safe bet that you won’t generate any meaningful interaction from them. Engagements and interactions are the number one way to grow your Twitter presence, which translates into a wider network and more opportunities as a freelancer. Here’s a quick way to boost those numbers: every single time you read something you like, tweet that link, possibly add a comment, and make sure to add the handle of the post author (or video editor, or Soundcloud artists…). Let the content creators know they’re on your radar. Keep with it, and you might get that follow or a coveted retweet.
  • Contribute to the Discussion: Yes, you should absolutely share new articles and portfolio updates. But because everyone on Twitter is a stranger, you just can’t come with your own heat. It’s not all about you, so amass your own interesting links and strategically schedule them out. If you don’t spend all day lurking on the web, it can definitely get a more than little annoying finding links to share. To make it more bearable, sign up for a service like FlipBook or Feedly, which deliver potentially hundreds of interesting links from all over the web. Queue those up in Tweetdeck or Hootsuite, and you’re good to go.

One last piece of advice. Don’t abuse the DMs, but it’s totally OK to hit up insiders and editors if you already have a friendly twitter rapport.

Instagram for Freelance Gains

Instagram isn’t really somewhere to make professional contacts unless you’re seriously in the meme/weird Instagram business. However, it’s super valuable if you’re looking to keep your audience loyal, always coming back for more.
Insta is basically your singular branding experiment. You can walk the straight and narrow on Twitter and Facebook (although you should eventually break out of that mold). But there really isn’t a “right way” to do Instagram. Yes, there are several steps you can put in place to effectively share your content— like linking your account to Twitter, Facebook, Flickr, or Tumblr. But as far as individual posts go, you’re going to need to use your own voice and showcase the authenticity that people crave.
If you’re more of a visual artist, the usage of Instagram is pretty obvious. But if you’re a freelance writer/editor/ programmer, you should use your Instagram profile to document your own creative processes. Social media is all about wearing different masks and putting yourself on display, a behavior that Flickr founder Caterina Fake calls “social peacocking”. Find yourself in a cozy coffee shop while you’re banging out an article? Snap it. Pulling a late night? Put your desk on display. Covering the art world and go for a gallery visit? Are you a music blogger at a concert? Freelance UI/UX who’s working on sketches on a Saturday morning? Toss it on the gram. Show your audience that you know how to live and take pride in what you do.

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