I quit working for big companies in 2003 and started freelancing. I was lucky, and I found my first two clients right away. They are the best clients I've ever had, and I still work with them. However, two clients are not enough to make a thriving business and feed my ferrets. So, I had to find more clients. I started thinking about marketing and quickly became nauseated.

I thought of telemarketers calling on the phone, interrupting a good book or time with my kids. I thought of the big pile of mail I threw into the recycle bin each day. I thought of expensive ads in journals-and all of these thoughts made me cringe, and postpone the marketing effort.

Does any of that sound familiar?

I like to help people, and marketing, at least what I used to think of as marketing, sure didn't sound like it was helping people. If I had to market, I wanted to do it in ways that didn't make me squirm and didn't make me want to go back to work for a corporation. So, the first thing I did was research and the first thing I learned surprised me a bit.

Marketing is not what I thought it was.

Okay, what exactly is marketing?

Marketing is the process of matching your capabilities with the needs and wants of potential clients to create a good working relationship where your client receives something he or she wants and values-and you profit. Basically, the end result of marketing done correctly is a good thing because everyone's happy. Think of marketing as a matchmaking process.

Whew! Now what?

Now, you need a plan. What tools can you use to market yourself? When are you going to use them? How much money are you willing to spend? How are you going to go about it?

Write a marketing plan

What you need is a plan. Now, don't get scared. It's not as hard or as scary to write a plan as you might think, and I'm going to walk you through the process in my upcoming series of articles.

Okay, well, what is a marketing plan?

The marketing plan is a written document, resulting from a planning and thought process that outline exactly what you are going to do to create and maintain those good customer relationships. A good marketing plan includes prioritized objectives, quantifiable goals, lists strategies, and has a budget.

Why should you write a marketing plan?

Most of us know the gist of maintaining good client relationships. We know that we should provide good service and a quality product. We know how to be nice to our clients, so do we really need a written plan? The answer is yes.

Here are more reasons why it is a good idea to write a marketing plan.

1. Budget: The marketing planning process gives you a budget

2. Goals: It helps you clarify your goals

3. Strengths: It helps you figure out your strengths

4. Weaknesses: It helps you figure out your weaknesses

5. Opportunities: It helps you figure out your opportunities

6. Threats: It helps you figure out your threats

7. Organization: It forces you to use an organized approach to marketing

8. Commitment: It solidifies your commitment to marketing

9. Assumptions: It makes you aware of your basic assumptions