The Power of the Freelance Network

When I decided to begin this freelance journey, I was a little worried about how much competition there would be. In business school, we were taught the importance of assessing external threats (good ol’ PEST and SWOT analyses!) when developing a strategy. You’re supposed to analyze the market to find the perfect opportunity where you can excel over the others in your industry. When translating this mindset to my own business venture, however, it caused quite a bit of anxiety.

All I had to do was google “digital marketing expert” or “freelance writer”, or hop onto a site like Upwork, to see a long list of people who have the same qualifications, background, and skills that I do. Even worse, there are dozens of marketing agencies in the area who have in-house graphic designers, writers, webmasters, and SEO experts (I know, because I’ve applied to work at many of them). It felt like these agencies could offer everything I could, and more. I had no idea how to distinguish myself from the crowd, and was nervous about being able to handle all the needs of my future clients. (The irony of struggling to market myself as a professional marketer is not lost on me…)

But as I began to connect with many wonderful people in the marketing/freelance space here in Waterloo Region and Guelph, I’ve had the chance to see how they’ve chosen to position themselves – as writers, graphic designers, SEO experts, web designers, digital marketers, PR specialists, and more. We are all different parts of the same complicated machine that is Marketing. If you’re an individual freelancer, there’s no way you’ll have capacity to actively cover every aspect of the industry. Everyone has certain areas that they prefer over others, and eventually (hopefully), you’ll get to a point where you can choose what projects you take on. And that makes me less worried about competition, and hopeful about the potential for collaboration – because there will always be people who don’t want to do what I do, and vice versa. Together, we can take on bigger projects and better serve the needs of our clients.

My first experience with this symbiosis appeared at the beginning of August 2020. A colleague reached out to me through the wonderful organization Coworkers Collective (which, by the way, has a delightful slack channel that helps get me through lonely days working alone). She was working as a copywriter for a client who needed some extra social media support, but she wasn’t particularly interested in expanding her role into that area; would I be interested? She connected me with the Owner of the company, who brought me onto the team. I have had a wonderful time working with their Marketing Coordinator over the past several months managing the organization’s four social media accounts – they are glad to have my help, my colleague is glad she doesn’t have to handle social media, and I am glad to have a steady project that I enjoy. It’s a win-win-win.

An example where I was on the other side: A client for whom I had written some web copy asked me if I could design a promotional postcard. I said yes, then asked a friend if she would be available to subcontract the graphic design portion. My job would be to project manage and write the copy; hers, to work her magic on Photoshop. Not so different from my work at an agency after all.

I’m proud of what I’ve accomplished this year. It’s been extraordinarily rewarding to be able to look at a final product and know that I was responsible for every part of it – the strategy, the words, the implementation. I’m accountable for it all, good or bad.

But I’m also finally realizing something…I am more than the sum of my own skills. I don’t need to carve out a lonely niche in a crowded world of marketing professionals. The relationships and friendships that I’ve made over the years provide me not only with a wonderful support system, but also a network of extremely talented people open to collaboration. And that gives me flexibility and stability all at the same time.

If you’re a freelancer or marketing professional in Canada and would like to collaborate some day, please reach out to me at Let’s help each other excel!

Photo by Brooke Cagle on Unsplash

Social Listening: The Most Important Thing You Should be Doing Right Now

Reading time: 5 minutes

If you’re not an essential service, chances are that you’ve had to close or decrease your business for the last two months. To ensure you’ll hit the ground running once quarantine is lifted, you should be social listening.

“Social listening is the monitoring of your brand’s social media channels for any customer feedback and direct mentions of your brand or discussions regarding specific keywords, topics, competitors, or industries, followed by an analysis to gain insights and act on those opportunities.”


I would expand Hubspot’s definition of social listening to include scanning the wider social media landscape outside of your own channels.

Your Customers are Changing.

According to a 2009 study in the European Journal of Social Psychology, it takes an average of 66 days for a group of people to form a new habit in their life. As of this blog, it has been 57 days since the Ontario state of emergency was declared on March 17, and it will be in effect until at least June 2.

This means you need to completely re-examine your understanding of your customers’ product preferences, spending patterns, and moods.

People make purchases based on their values, priorities, and sense of identity. A big change in society like a pandemic is certainly going to change how we feel about our own sense of security. For example, I believe there will be a shift toward more long-lasting, higher-end products, now that we’ve had to do without repair or replacement services. I also believe there may be a desire for beauty over cost-saving, thanks to days and weeks spent staring at our interior decorating choices.

“The CDC and World Health Organizations are stressing the importance of proper handwashing and doing it often. This is bound to influence people to live healthier lives, which is a win for retailers selling healthier foods and sustainable products. It will move consumers to evaluate things from a different perspective.”

Michael Barbera, Chief Behaviour Officer at Clicksuation Labs via Forbes

Following social media will help inform your future product offerings. Image-based platforms like Instagram and Pinterest will show you what consumers are looking to buy once the pandemic is over. Tracking relevant hashtags will let you peek into consumer conversations – are they experiencing frustrations with certain types of products or services? What are they turning to right now?

Following online conversations will keep your content relevant. Customers are being bombarded with COVID-19 announcements from every business they’ve ever subscribed to. Don’t be yet another generic email in their inbox. Take those frustrations that you’re seeing on Twitter or Reddit and provide solutions.

My optometrist recently emailed me with methods to reduce eye strain from increased screen exposure. They have examined their audience's new daily routines and recognized an issue that needed to be solved. This is exactly the kind of content I want to see - topical, useful, and relevant to their core service. 

Listening to your customers can provide opportunities. By following your followers, you may come across a non-profit that is supporting people in your industry, or influencers who might be open to a collaboration. It’s a great time to build partnerships and genuine relationships.

Your Competitors are Adapting.

While you’re doing your daily social listening, don’t forget to check out what your competition is saying and selling. If they have caught wind of a new trend or are planning a new product line, you’ll probably see hints of it in their social media.

The most obvious change that many businesses are taking advantage of is an increase in online spending. According to a survey of over 1,500 people on March 20, 24% of Canadians planned to increase their online spending during the coronavirus. After this is all over, many of those people will likely continue their newly formed habit of online spending, thanks to simple convenience. They’ll be expecting easy-to-navigate e-commerce sites, free shipping, and smart tools such as recommendation algorithms. Now might be the perfect time to start building your online shop.

I’ve seen many local businesses partner with each other and local charities during COVID-19. For example, Pressed For Time Panini has used Instagram to participate in collaborative giveaways and the Guelph Box subscription service. You never know where ideas will come from.

Some great tools for social listening are Hubspot, Hootsuite, or Tweetdeck.

The Two Ways to Give Your Website a Boost

This article was originally posted on October 29, 2019 on The Letter M Marketing’s website.

Ever wonder why your website doesn’t get that many hits, despite all your hard work? Why aren’t you at the top of Google searches? It’s probably because of SEO – a strategy that is becoming increasingly crucial for every business to have. The world of digital marketing is always changing, and we have to keep up. To get you started, here’s a quick introduction to what SEO is, and why it’s so important.

What is search engine optimization (SEO)?

SEO is a strategy to help your website rank higher in organic search results in order to increase website traffic and leads. It’s a valuable way to build brand awareness. It is an active practice that involves various techniques to optimize internal and external aspects of the website. SEO influences the content on your website, as well its design and functionality. There are also off-site ways to boost SEO and build trust.

Why is SEO important?

When your customers search for your services or products, you want your website to be at the top of the search engine results page. This is because people generally click on the first few links that they see. The higher rank your site has, the more web traffic you will receive.

Google ranks search engine results based on how trustworthy, high quality, and relevant those websites are. It has created a vast index of all sites, which an automated bot “crawls” through to look for keywords indicating which websites are relevant to what was searched. If you haven’t taken SEO into consideration when building your website, Google will not be able to find your site or won’t believe it to be relevant.

What are paid online search advertisements?

Paid online advertisements are a way to ensure that your website can get to the top spot immediately. These can be targeted to very specific demographics and geography. There are display and text-only ads available through Google, as well as promoted posts and ads through social media networks.

Why might I need paid search ads?

It may take a long time (several months or even a few years) for your website to climb to the first page of Google search results as it builds credibility online. Paid ads are a great way to give your site an initial boost while you build your organic presence. They can also be effective for short-term promotions, seasonal products, and more.

 Search Engine Optimization (SEO)Search Engine Marketing (SEM)
Benefits-Lasts a long time
-Perceived as much more trustworthy than paid ads by Google AND by customers
-No continued ad costs
-Quick to implement and see results
-ROI is easily obtained
-Customizable and targeted
Drawbacks-Takes time to build – patience is key
-May require significant updates to existing website
-Requires strategic planning for all future content creation
-Continual cost and ad maintenance/refreshing
-Less trustworthy to customers and to Google

The best approach is often a mixture of both paid and organic tactics. Even if your organization has limited financial resources, a little time and care can go a long way to building your website traffic.