Freelancers: the art of communicating to get known

Every entrepreneur who is starting out should be aware of this: selling your services and products entails being able to get people talking about you. In the era of social media, communication channels are multiple and continue to evolve. Let's take a look at them.

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Starting up as a freelancer. It's a dream that many Swiss share. The latest report from the Global Entrepreneurship Monitor (GEM), which assesses the level of entrepreneurial activity, shows that the desire to become an entrepreneur increased by 6.1% in 2021 compared to the previous year. However, this is an endeavor that requires careful preparation. "The first element to work on is awareness," explains Julien Intartaglia, dean of the Institute of Communication and Experiential Marketing at the HEG-Arc in Neuchâtel. "It's almost impossible to develop your business if the public doesn't know about it."

To increase your brand awareness, it is necessary to identify a key component: the target audience. "Studying your potential market requires knowing your customers' habits, their financial situation, their relation to services or products offered by the company," continues Julien Intartaglia. "It is possible to take this even further, for instance by examining their fears, anxieties and frustrations. The objective then is to imagine a product or a service in connection with these emotions." The expert believes that many companies neglect this step: "This phenomenon is called ‘marketing myopia’, which can be likened to flying a plane and not having the controls in hand." Emilie Hawlena, founder of the women's entrepreneurial network Genuine Women, agrees. "When developing a project, the teaser phase is crucial and it is important to create one to three client avatars (which correspond to your ideal clients), she explains. This exercise will help you adapt your communication."

While some young entrepreneurs may engage a communications agency to conduct market research, there are less costly solutions. "One approach is to propose that HES students conduct a study of the company's situation as part of a Bachelor's thesis, for example," advises Julien Intartaglia. "This option is free and useful for both parties." Moreover, you can already start targeting potential customers yourself. "Another idea is to conduct surveys within your circle of acquaintances, which will generate interesting leads for consideration and development."

The importance of the right channel

Profiling your typical customer will also enable you to use relevant communication channels. "It is useless to advertise on LinkedIn if the target audience is a 15-year-old teenager," says Emilie Hawlena. Social media has also changed how a product is promoted. "In the era of personal branding, or personal marketing, it is now essential to showcase oneself, to put oneself on stage," says the founder of Genuine Women. "Talking about yourself is essential. Over and above the product, people will become interested in and attached to the person behind the project." For example, "I have in mind a woman who launched her own menstrual panty brand. Before the product even existed, she was sharing on social media how she worked, taking her followers into the production plant. When she launched her crowdfunding campaign, she reached her goal in four hours! She had created such an engaged community that the result exceeded all her expectations."

Although social media has become a major player in the field of communication in recent years, more traditional media remains in the race. The dean of the Institute of Communication and Experiential Marketing at the HEG-Arc in Neuchâtel is convinced. "We should not hesitate to use the traditional media," says Julien Intartaglia. "It's perfectly feasible to approach journalists and talk about your products or services without an advertising angle. It's all about initiating an exchange of ideas and advice, to reach the right people." For Emilie Hawlena too, traditional media is an excellent means of making oneself known and also offers an additional advantage: "The press can establish the project, give it credibility and possibly even a certain measure of recognition."

Therefore, direct communication remains an essential pillar when launching a business. And it is not enough to create a Facebook page. "Social media will never replace actual meetings," warns Emilie Hawlena. "You have to dare, even if the product is not yet perfect. The important thing is to get people talking about you!"


On the theme

Online presence is a must for any SME. To simplify the process, students from universities or a specialized company can be entrusted with this task. Marc K. Peter, professor at the University of Applied Sciences Northwestern Switzerland (FHNW), sums it up: " There are many tools available today (e.g. in the cloud), which allow SMEs to compete with large companies". Sometimes it is difficult to know where to start, but the editor of the "KMU-Transformation” (SME transformation)" study (in German) recommends seven areas of action. "This is a guiding principle that helps companies to plan and gradually implement their digital transformation. The important thing is not to wait too long and to be daring enough to test different solutions while taking into account employee and customer feedback."

Last modification 07.09.2022

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