I don’t have to tell you that we live in one of the most demanding economic times this country has ever faced, with unemployment numbers at record highs.

And because the job market is so uncertain, a lot of hardworking Americans are taking control of their destinies. They’re going out on their own, hanging out their shingles, and entering the workforce as freelance professionals (consultants, coaches, trainers, entrepreneurs, authors, writers, etc.).

The beauty of the freelance lifestyle is that it gives you the freedom to pursue your dreams while creating a strong financial base for yourself. One that working for a company could never give you.

Of course, when you go out on your own, there are more challenges and more unknowns.

Consider this: If you’re a freelancer, your success will always hinge on your ability to market yourself to your target audience. And the plain truth is that no matter what service you’re providing, OTHER folks are doing it too.

In other words, every other freelancer in your field is trying to get YOUR clients.

Throw in the fact that it’s a buyer’s market for specialized knowledge these days, and you have to take decisive and meaningful action.

So what’s the secret? How do you outshine your competition?

Well, I’ve found that the quickest way to show your target audience that you’re “‘da man” (or “da woman”) for them to hire is to set yourself up as an expert in your niche. And one of the surest and quickest ways to do that is to become an effective public speaker.

When you stand up there on that platform to share what you know with a room full of potential clients, they will automatically think, “Well, if he was asked to speak, he MUST be pretty good at what he’s doing.

As a freelance copywriter and consultant, I’ve tried all the recommended techniques for landing clients. I’ve used direct mail. I’ve written articles. I’ve done cold calling.  And the one tool that’s given me the biggest (and quickest) bang for my marketing buck is — you guessed it — being a public speaker.

Unfortunately, if you’re like most people, you might prefer to have a colonoscopy than to give a speech. However, if you give it a chance, it will rapidly give your career a huge boost.

I have, for example, gotten over $12,300 worth of work (not counting anticipated repeat business)… all from just one seminar I spoke at in my hometown.

Need more reasons to try it? How about these…

1. It Gives You One-on-One Contact With Potential Clients.

I love it when potential clients come up to me after a presentation and hand me their business cards. I love not having to chase them down myself. Effective public speaking will absolutely give you the edge for connecting with clients who want to work with you.

Just think: No more voice mail. No more hoping they got your letter. No more playing phone tag. Public speaking gives you the opportunity to talk to your prospects face to face.

While you have their undivided attention, you can deliver strong content, solve their problems, hit their hot buttons, and have them clamoring for your services. Being in front of the room passionately speaking on your subject gives you 100% contact with your target audience right there and then. It doesn’t get any easier than that!

2. It Gets You Out of Your Comfort Zone… and Into a Sizeable Profit Zone.

If you’re like many freelancers, you spend much of your time alone, tapping away at a computer. And public speaking gets you out of your office and knee-deep into an entire universe of prospects. It gives you a way to learn not only what they want and need — but also how you can expand your services to provide what your target market craves.

Nothing is more exciting than presenting an in-depth program and having eager clients bounding toward you afterward to discuss possible project ideas.

3. It’s the Quickest Way to Build Your Opt-In List.

The money is in the list. Always was. Always will be. Public speaking helps you build your list quicker than any other form of marketing on this planet Earth.

I once spoke at a seminar that had about 95 attendees. I spoke for an hour. And every one of those attendees signed up for my e-zine. At the beginning of my presentation, I gave each person a sheet to fill out with their contact information. Then I had “a call to action” during the seminar to remind them to do it and hand it in to me.

The cost to get their contact information? Zero dollars. The ability to follow up with my new subscribers/fan base whenever I want to? Priceless.

Getting Started

The trick is to match your presentation to your audience.

Chambers of Commerce and Rotary Clubs are good places to start. Just make sure you provide them with information THEY are interested in hearing about.

Keep in mind that you’ll be approached by lower-end prospects (who can’t pay as much) as well as higher-end ones. But you have to start somewhere, right? Working with lower-end clients at first is a good way to start the ball rolling. Higher-end clients will more than make up for it down the road.

You can take this to the bank: Learning how to captivate, motivate, and persuade an audience is a skill that can return many dividends to you over the course of your professional life. It is a skill that will NEVER, ever go out of style.

Not only do you get paid to speak to people who are likely to hire you… you have an opportunity to sell your products (books, reports, courses, etc.) after your presentation to make even more money. (There are people who actually speak for free because they know they’ll end up selling thousands of dollars’ worth of stuff at the back of the room.)

[Ed. Note: Peter “The Reinvention Guy” Fogel delivers presentations on humor, reinvention, copywriting, and marketing to corporations and associations across America, and helps entrepreneurs unleash their “inner public speaker” for higher visibility and bigger profits. He is also the creator of Peter Fogel’s Guide to Effective Public Speaking. For more information on his products, more of his articles, and to sign up for his FREE 7 Days to More Effective Public Speaking e-course, go to www.publicspeaklikeapro.com]