Freelance Construction Marketing: How to Get Started
Marketing is the lifeblood of just about every industry in the world, from car dealerships to professional sports to the thriving technology sector.
The construction industry and its vast number of trades are no different.
Masons, elevator installers, plumbers, general contractors, and beyond need to advertise their services to potential clients and other contractors.
The question is, where do you fit in with construction marketing?
Do you have a passion for marketing and an ongoing interest in construction?
If so, check out our complete guide to getting started in the freelance construction marketing world.
How to Start a Career as a Freelance Construction Marketer
Here’s a quick breakdown of the steps you need to take to get into construction marketing:
We’ll explain each of these steps in more detail below, so keep reading!
1. Build Your Marketing Skills
Becoming a freelance construction marketer is somewhat of a marketing vortex. Not only will you be building brand awareness for construction firm clients, but you’ll also need to do the same for your up-and-coming gig.
That brings us to step one — mastering the ancient art of marketing.
Practice Your Marketing Skills
Excelling in the marketing world isn’t as simple as being a charismatic, sales-minded smooth-talker with a firm grasp on industry lingo. (Though those qualities will undoubtedly help attract customers.)
Construction marketing also requires a skill set that could include:
- Market research
- Content writing
- Social media marketing & building an online presence
- SEO (search engine optimization)
- Digital marketing
- Marketing campaigns such as PPC (pay-per-click) ads
- Website design
- Marketing strategy
Before you pink slip your current boss and print up business cards, make sure that at least a handful of these marketing niches interest you.
Many of your fiercest competitors will be full-service marketing agencies offering a la carte services or full packages. So the more gaps you can fill in a firm’s marketing strategy, the more they’ll rely on your services.
Take Marketing Courses
Nearly 54% of marketers don’t have any college or professional training in the marketing industry, and 55.9% with a degree only find it “fairly useful” (another 11% dubbed it practically useless).
But unless you’re a natural-born construction marketer (and, who is?), it’s crucial to catch up on the latest marketing tactics and trends.
LinkedIn, Udemy, edX, and Skillshare all have a collection of online marketing courses for newbies and veteran marketers alike. Master SEO principles, learn pro lead generation tips, and become an Instagram-marketing fiend.
2. Invest in Marketing Tools
Now that you’re a marketing whizz, it’s time to step up your game and invest in professional marketing tools to drive traffic and conversions.
Try these five starter tools before wooing your first construction client:
A Customer Relationship Management (CRM) Tool
CRMs are the undisputed champion of modern advertising, with 29% of your fellow marketers rating it the #1 marketing channel.
With tools like SalesForce linked up to your clients’ handles, you’ll have a deeper look into “hot” leads and marketing campaign analytics with the luxury of email automation (drip campaigns).
Much of your future marketing success hinges on your relationship with Google and other search engines.
With in-depth keyword research, you can optimize their web content and finagle their way to the top of the first page of results for search queries like “home builders in Denver.”
Digital Marketing Software
If you’re dead-set on the digital approach (which you should be), Canva is a nifty tool for designing social media platform banners, icons, flyers, and ads.
A High-End Computer & Internet Connection
Whether it’s Zoom-calling with potential clients or editing minute-long videos without a laggy connection, a high-end computer and reliable Wi-Fi are must-haves for a construction marketing professional.
A Portfolio & Professional Website
A professional website with a portfolio is the #1 method for marketing your marketing services (that’s a mouthful). Fill it with sample construction ads, DIY construction tip articles, or even marketing tips for construction firms.
Bonus points if you create landing pages for each construction niche. The analytic data could help you discover which groups offer the most local opportunity for marketing business.
3. Choose a Construction Niche or Specialty
Most of us think of brand new buildings when we hear “construction.” But within the construction industry, there’s a long list of niches and subcontractors in need of marketing expertise, as well.
In addition to general contractors, your future clients may specialize in:
- Plumbing & pipefitting
- Elevator installation
Think about the local demand and your understanding of the niche. If you come from a family of electricians or live nearby industrial parks, you’re much more likely to find more clients and those that trust your expertise.
4. Set Up Your Finances as an Independent Contractor
Once you decide to pursue construction marketing and which niche(s) you want to specialize in, you’re for the not-so-exciting part — business.
Here’s a closer look at setting up your finances and business as an independent contractor ready to take on the construction marketing industry:
Set Your Rates
Being a freelancer brings the luxury of setting your rates, negotiating pricing with potential clients, and raising your fees at any time.
Do you have a set annual income in mind? Then, divide that by the number of hours you plan on working throughout the year to calculate your hourly rate.
Remember that average industry salaries are widely available on sites like Glassdoor and Indeed. Make sure your hourly rate aligns with your experience and the “going rate” for a professional like yourself.
Or, you can take the risk of charging per deliverable or project if you know exactly how long it takes you to write a 1,000-word article or create a graphic.
Register as a Limited Liability Company (LLC)
The major downside of freelancing is that you lose the company protection that you’d have when working at a standard marketing agency.
Creating an LLC will better shield your assets (like your home or car) if an unhappy client sues for damages.
It’s also incredibly straightforward to form an LLC, requiring little more than paperwork filing, an EIN, and a local business license.
Track Your Income & Business Expenses
Without an annual W-9, tax season becomes a bit trickier as a freelancer. Finance tools like Quickbooks allow you to track your business expenses and income to maximize your deductions and avoid under or over-paying taxes.
Hire an Accountant or Tax Preparer
If you don’t want to juggle the paperwork every April and manage the quarterly taxes you have options. Being self-employed, you can hire an accountant or tax preparer to handle these tasks for you.
The odds of a client becoming physically injured from your work as a remote marketer are slim to none. Yet, you’re never completely immune from lawsuits.
At the very least, think about getting professional liability insurance.
If you accidentally use copyrighted media in your marketing materials or make an honest mistake that costs the client money, this E&O (error & omissions) insurance policy offers some legal protection.
5. Find Your First Construction Clients
Finally! With a business and finances set up, you’re ready to prove your marketing prowess and find your first real-deal construction client.
Check out these five ways to secure your first paying customer:
Reach Out to Local Construction Companies
Yes, the first method is also the most obvious — direct contact.
Search for local construction companies on Yelp or Google Maps. You can also drive by nearby construction projects to jot down the contact information on their work trucks.
Alternatively, you could also reach out to local subcontractors or real estate agents to ask who they know in the industry needing marketing know-how.
Or attend construction-related trade shows where these pros hang out (if they’re not at the job site).
Connect With Them on LinkedIn
As corny as it may sound, there’s nothing wrong with befriending your local construction business owners and sliding into their connections.
The “secret” here is to dial back the sales pressure. Instead of asking if they need a marketer, share or create posts that they’d want to read (about marketing or construction) and interact with their content whenever you can.
Search for Them on Business Databases
Each U.S. state keeps a record of all registered businesses — typically through the Secretary of State’s office. Find your state’s database and search for a keyword related to the construction specialty (like “plumbing”).
Then, collect a list of potential leads and work your marketing magic.
Begin Building a Network
“Building a network” can mean one of two things in the tiny world of construction marketing:
Creating Partnerships With Other Marketing Professionals
If you specialize in print marketing and find a subcontractor who also needs SEO services, having a fellow marketer to recommend could land you the gig and build a referral-based business in the future.
Think of it as building a mini-marketing team.
Building Partnerships In The Construction Industry
Every industry relies on a strategic marketing approach to scale its business.
By building a network of subcontractors, general contractors, real estate agents, and even local home improvement shops, you increase your odds of finding new clients through word-of-mouth recommendations.
Offer to Do Smaller Projects
Offering to do smaller projects — like creating a single ad or drafting an email marketing newsletter — will get your foot in the door and prove your expertise. It’s also an opportunity to beef up your portfolio and win over future clients.
6. Establish a Marketing Funnel
Marketing funnels aren’t a new beast for a gurulike yourself. But now, you need to build a funnel for yourself.
How do you plan to nudge business owners through your marketing funnel from the “Awareness” stage — where they simply know who you are and what you do — to the “Action” phase — where they book you for a project?
Make It Known What You Do
If nobody knows you’re in marketing, let alone marketing for contractors in the construction industry, your business simply doesn’t exist.
To help would-be clients learn about you:
- Add “construction marketing expert” to your online bios
- Sign your emails with that same or a similar title
- Build an online presence on LinkedIn, Twitter, Instagram, etc.
- Keep business cards on-hand (and pass them out!)
- Talk about what you do when others ask (without controlling too much of the conversation)
- Create a memorable or catchy company name
Truthfully, you never know who’s sitting next to you behind home plate at a baseball game or who that person at the grocery store happens to know.
People who know you will like you, and those who like you will trust you, and that’s the trifecta of building a firm client base.
Get Involved In Local Events
Marketing doesn’t always have to mean blatant. You can also subtly sponsor the door prize at a local banquet or hand out branded pens or mini traffic cones at the local 5K race. Who doesn’t love free things?
Share Your Knowledge Online
Before a customer splurges on your services, they want to vet you and your marketing skills. So put them on full display on your social media accounts and your professional website.
If you want to prove your marketing expertise, publish an article like the “13 Best DIY Construction Marketing Ideas” on your blog. A post like this could give potential clients a few pointers.
But you can also add a bonus of 25 tips to a PDF, ask readers for their email address so that you can send it to them, and register them for your email campaigns. Boom — email address collected and mastery proven.
Build Your Subscriber List
Email campaigns are the #1 way to contact dozens or even hundreds of people at once in a matter of seconds.
Build your email subscriber list by offering something in return for handing their email address over, like:
- A quick-start guide to construction marketing
- Enrollment in a raffle or contest for free items or services
- A DIY marketing course for newbies
- A demo explaining how to write a newsletter or use Ahrefs
- A template for monitoring search analytics
Phrasing matters, too. Consider: “Give me your email address because I’m going to send you an email every Friday” versus “If you give me your email address, I’ll give you a super useful tool that’ll help you improve your business and build brand awareness.”
Many of your online followers and subscribers are interested in your services. But they simply aren’t ready to write the check just yet.
Offering the occasional free service, affordable or smaller packages, or no-strings-attached consulting calls can hook them in.
You may also like: How to Answer the Question ”How Much Do You Charge?”
7. Create a Referral Program
Soon enough, you won’t need to spend hours poring over a newsletter or cold-calling local construction companies or subcontractors.
Instead, the customers will come to you, which saves you more on marketing costs.
The best way to make that a reality is to create a referral program.
Not only do 92% of us trust the word of our friends, family, and colleagues (almost guaranteed hot leads), but referrals are also more likely to do repeat business with you.
A refer-a-friend program may include a 5–10% future discount for every new construction client they refer. It could mean several new customers for every previous client.
Or it could be a $50 credit on their next project, a free service (like keyword research), or 50 free flyers.
After doing all of that, you’re ready to put your construction marketing strategy to the test and build a profitable and reliable business. But first, you need to turn your marketing efforts into your own business!
Decide on your marketing niche (i.e., content marketing, web design), choose a construction specialty, make yourself visible on Google searches, design a great website, and commit to helping your customers grow their own companies and gigs.
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