Innovative advertising ideas you could adapt for your self-employed business

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You can have the most incredible concept for a self-employed business. However, it can be hard to get noticed by potential customers, especially if you're using the same advertising techniques as everyone else. That is where the power of impactful, innovative and intelligent advertising comes into play! Learn how to stand out with these innovative ideas you could adapt for your self-employed business.

In the fast-paced world of marketing, innovation is key to capturing audiences and staying ahead of the competition. Large corporations often set the bar high with their groundbreaking marketing campaigns and big-budget adverts, but small freelance businesses can also draw valuable insights from these success stories. We’ll go through some examples of imaginative and effective advertising that has previously been utilised by big corporations but can be adapted by freelancers who wish to boost their visibility and grow their business.

Maybelline Cosmetics CGI campaign

Maybelline’s clever CGI campaign appeared to involve two forms of London public transport - a double decker bus and an underground tube train, both fitted with fake eyelashes attached to the front. The methods of transport have a Maybelline Sky High mascara wand placed next to them and, as they move forward and travel underneath the wand, the huge rubber lashes re-enact the same motion that human eyelashes would. It's actually a CGI concept at the moment, and hasn't actually been used on the Tube. But it shows how you can take a fairly mundane and everyday product, and reimagine it in a visual and surprising way.
© Source: Metro/TikTok @user42781933/Courtesy of Maybelline


How can this be applied to your business?

You may not have the budget to advertise your self-employed business across the London Underground but there could be ways you can demonstrate your products or services in a physical way for potential customers. If it's in an unexpected place, it'll grab more attention than typical email or direct mail marketing. If you can catch people off guard, they're much more likely to remember you and share their response on social media. Which means you can benefit from people spreading the word about your business organically.

In addition to this, similarly to the Maybeline advert, you don’t necessarily have to advertise your products in a physical form. Instead, you can benefit from the cost-effectiveness of social media to showcase your business in creative ways. The more confident you become when it comes to displaying your products or services, the more you will attract potential clients.

Durex price comparison adverts

The second case study that deserves a place in this list is Durex’s selection of clever product advertisements. Each one of their advertisements are minimalist when it comes to the design, however the message behind each advert is both creative and humorous. The witty comments and matching visuals often joke about the costs associated with having children, potentially deterring some people from having unprotected sex. The remarks are often light-hearted and funny but carry an impactful message.

It’s often effective to appeal to your audience’s emotions and, in this case, appeal to their sense of humour. It’s an approach that can be adopted by freelancers easily when marketing their business.

It is important to assess what kind of a response you would like your audience to have when engaging with your campaign. Do you want to encourage sympathy, appeal to people’s sense of humour or even perhaps ignite anger? If this is decided and directed through your advertisement then it should have the desired effect on your target clientele.

Furthermore, in the case of this specific advert, Durex are subtly communicating value for money. Freelancers should be clever when informing potential clients of their own rates and find ways to effectively demonstrate their own value.

© Ads of the World, Agency: Espiral DP


Surreal’s celebrity name billboard campaign


© Surreal/Future


This intelligent campaign by Surreal involves a selection of hugely positive endorsements from various big celebrity names, displayed on their billboard adverts. However, the actual people who have made these claims about the cereal brand are not the celebrities themselves, they are in fact regular people who share the same name. No lies have been told in order to execute this awesome campaign. Just a mild level of deception to grab the viewer’s attention.

How can this be adapted by freelancers?

This innovative concept is particularly effective because it grabs the viewer’s attention with the bold title and then subverts their expectations with the sub copy. It’s this subversion technique that could be adapted by freelancers effectively to attract more attention to their business.

This concept could also be utilised to help you gain more traction across social media platforms. People are curious and often obsessed with the thoughts and opinions of others. This is why celebrity, influencer and ambassador endorsements are often an effective way of presenting a product or business to a wider audience. Of course, these tactics often come with a price tag, but a more cost-effective alternative could be to ask for testimonials, case studies, and referrals from your clients. Or, why not reach out to fellow freelancers and offer to promote their services through your channels in exchange for the same for you on theirs?

British Airways multi-choice adverts

BAM- advert.png
© British Airways by Uncommon from AdAge

Next on the list is the billboard adverts by British Airways. These simplistic but effective multiple choice-style advertisements are a great example of less is more. It appeals to the personal side of people and why individuals may actually want to travel. The adverts are a play on the traditional customs form one has to fill out when travelling, but an extra option is added to represent a more realistic reason as to why people may be catching a British Airways flight. This personalization makes the advertisement more relatable and emotionally impactful, leading to a stronger connection with the brand. In addition to this, the adverts are highly memorable due to their interactive and emotionally resonant nature which contributes to better recall.

How can you re-create this for your business?

The concept is simple and could be re-created to market your smaller business. This advert takes the mundane action of filling out a customs form and transforms it into something more personal and relatable. A similar action could be created for your freelance business by taking something that’s specific to your industry and implementing this concept. The combination of the mundane task and the inclusion of something personal and possibly humorous or emotional is likely to engage an audience.

Barbie Movie campaign

The Barbie movie marketing campaign had a budget of $150 million, more than the budget for the production of the film. Now, we’re not suggesting freelancers begin a marketing campaign with this sort of scope, however, elements of this campaign could be achievable on a much smaller scale. The power of branding is something that all business owners should consider. A distinctive colour and font go a long way when trying to create a place for you and your business in a highly competitive marketing environment.

© Barbie from Rockcontent

What can you do as a freelancer?

Similarly, within the ambitious strategy employed by the Barbie campaign, lies the opportunity to create a comprehensive visual identity across all content. This involves skilfully integrating a single memorable colour and a unique font into every aspect of your branding materials. The linchpin here is maintaining consistency and fluidity across all platforms, fostering instant recognition and strengthening your brand's distinct identity.

The manner in which surprise, emotion, and relatability come together shows how well-planned strategies can truly pack a punch. As freelancers begin to make their mark in a dog-eat-dog world, these previously executed marketing examples can act as guiding lights with flexible principles that can help you connect and make a lasting impression. Getting creative, understanding what tugs at audiences’ heartstrings, and telling a compelling story – these are the tools that'll help you present your business with confidence in a competitive world.

Below are some other articles that offer freelancers useful advice when it comes to developing their marketing strategies:

Marketing your self-employed business

How to get more clients

How to craft your best elevator pitch

How to find freelance clients

How to become a freelance social media manager

Here’s to the rule breakers: How to re-frame marketing


Need more help? Self-employment often means having to navigate lots of different websites with no clear source of truth. As the only not-for profit focused on self-employment, IPSE provides impartial and relevant advice on the topics that matter to you.

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Meet the author

Lucy Smith

Social Media and Content Executive

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