Whether you’re a freelancer who wants to take your business to the next level, or you want to master the work-life balance, you know first impressions play a role in your business.
For businesses and professionals to do business with you, they need to feel you’re trustworthy and reliable. But how do you achieve that? By looking (and behaving) professional online.
Posting a photo of you in glasses isn’t going to cut it. So, how do you step up your game and look more professional online as a freelancer? I’m going to talk about it right now.
“I’ll just open a profile on UpWork and watch the jobs roll in.”
Ah, naive me was so sweet. When I first started freelancing, I made a couple of dollars per page. Yeah, I was virtually making no money, yet, I wanted to live the dream freelance life (the life you probably want to live too). But I was starting from scratch. I had no portfolio and was competing against well-established freelancers.
We all have to start somewhere – there’s nothing wrong with that. For myself, I had to start from zero, working my way up the ladder. And my story may sound similar to yours. While you have to “pay your dues” and gain a portfolio for yourself, you also want to move up in your industry and have the work-life balance you’ve been dreaming of.
Here’s the thing, many entering the freelance world overlook this part of the process. They believe they’ll land a big client without needing to put in the elbow grease and work one day a week for the rest of their lives. And (sadly), that’s not how it works.
The reality is if you want to become a freelancer, it’ll take time for you to gain recognition in your industry and reach those high-level clients that you want in your portfolio. Freelancing isn’t glamorous; you need to grind.
Is getting high-level clients impossible? Absolutely not. Will it take time? Yes. Are there things you can do to help look more professional online as a freelancer? Yup, and I’m going to tell you about them now.
You’ve gotten a couple of clients, you have a Facebook page, but you’re still not where you want to be. I totally get that.
But, if I may say so myself, you’re not going to get to that next level unless you take a leap forward. What does this leap look like? Well, here are 7 essentials to help you look more professional online.
Before you make any moves, it’s important to understand your goals. In other words, what do you want from your freelance business?
By knowing where you’re at and where you want to be, you can take the steps needed to achieve your goals.
For example, when I started my freelance business, my goal was to develop my portfolio. I wasn’t focused so much on profit as I was on the quantity of the jobs. I wanted to build my clientele and gain customer reviews to appear trustworthy and established – aka. professional.
So, let’s think about it together. What are your goals?
Would you like to:
Knowing your goals can help you create a path for how you’re going to achieve them. So, sit with yourself and think about what you want from your business. This will help you understand the steps needed to look more professional.
When I started my freelance business, I opened an UpWork profile, and that was it. And while it was enough for me initially, I didn’t build on it. As a result, my freelance business didn’t grow outside of UpWork (that was until I started to be more professional).
If you want to appear more professional, you need to play the part. This means you should invest in an online portfolio or website.
Your portfolio or website will include projects you’ve worked on and showcase your skills. You can also add some information about your background, creating a personal connection with those who visit your portfolio/website.
By showing your work and providing information about yourself, you look more professional. And with that, you build trust and authority.
And it really works. When I had a website showcasing my work, I gained more projects and long-term clients.
Freelancers that appear more professional behave professionally.
In other words, if someone contacts you for your services, replying one week later isn’t going to work.
What helped me succeed in the freelance world is that I replied to potential and returning clients quickly and professionally. Anyone who contacted me never waited more than 24 hours for a reply. By replying swiftly, I gained their trust and became someone they could rely on at any time.
Take the extra five minutes to reply to clients, even if it’s at the end of the day and you’re exhausted. Take the time to send an automatic “I’m out of the office until Monday.” Those extra five minutes will pay off for you.
You’re a freelancer; no one else is going to promote you. It’s all on you. I’m not trying to freak you out, but it’s important you understand that you’re the only one who can push your business forward.
That said, show off your skills! You’ve worked hard to become a professional in your industry, right?
So, don’t be afraid to highlight your skills. Even if you don’t think they’re relevant or of value to your customer, showcase them.
For example, I would always highlight my communication skills. Even though my customer only wanted a blog post, I showed them that working with me will be an effortless and easy experience. While they liked my writing, the extra skills I added to the project are what convinced the client to hire me.
When I first started my freelance business, I was focused on getting reviews. When prospective customers looked at my profile, I wanted them to see review after review recommending me for my services.
Why? Because customer testimonials are key to increasing your professionalism online and building trust with prospective customers. They’re unbiased opinions about the quality of your services that people often rely on when making purchasing decisions.
By including positive testimonials on your portfolio, customers think, “wow, so many people say this person is amazing at what they do – it must be true. I can’t miss out on them; I need them on my team.”
With so many social media platforms out there, it can feel like you need to be on all of them to succeed. Well, that’s just wrong.
You don’t need to be on every social media platform to look professional, but you should have an online presence.
Let’s be honest; if you’re not on social media, it’s weird. Have you been on a date with someone who didn’t have an Instagram account? Yeah, exactly.
Okay, I mean it’s not weird, you’re probably mentally healthier than the rest of us, but social media provides businesses with social proof. And that social proof is essential to making you look more professional.
To choose which platform to be present on, look at your audience. For example, most of my clients were businesses and professionals, so I created a page on LinkedIn.
If you want to look more professional online, choose a platform where your target audience spends their time on.
I know what you’re thinking, what’s wrong with my Gmail account? Nothing is wrong with your Gmail account, but you want to look more professional, right?
Gmail is easy to set up, and anyone can do it. But having a business email, for example, [email protected] adds that professional look to your brand.
So, upgrade your email address. Oh, and the best part is setting up a business email is easy to do.
When you work in a company, there are systems in place that add a personal touch for you. But you’re a freelancer, so you need to do it yourself. You are the customer service.
I’m not saying you need to take your clients out for dinner, but you can do little things to maintain your relationship.
For example, I would send my customers Christmas cards, come up with new topic ideas for them free of charge, or give them a discount when I made a mistake.
I didn’t have to do those things, but it made me look more professional and created a stronger relationship between us.
Over to You
Being a freelancer is one thing. But if you want to become a successful freelancer, you need to play the part which means becoming more professional.
If you take the above tips and implement them into your business, you will look more professional and feel professional. As we all know, the way you feel about your business matters and shows.
Natasha Ivanovic is a Vancouver-born creative writer that started her writing career as a freelancer while studying for her Master’s in Investigative Psychology. On the weekends, she writes short stories for her blog, TheLonelySerb, and cuddles with her bulldog, Bob.