Appearances matter. If you want a freelancing career, step up and start acting the part. Here’s how.
As a freelancer, you’re responsible for selling yourself to potential clients. That means applying for projects, pitching clients and always presenting yourself as a trustworthy, reliable professional.
As part of a recruiting team, I see my fair share of applications for freelance positions. I review resumes, portfolios and test samples from many freelancers — writers, designers, editors and Web developers.
While the industries these freelancers come from vary, one thing remains the same: it’s easy to identify whether someone is a professional or not.
Sometimes, you can tell even before you open the email.
Some of the following tips may seem obvious, but many freelancers while acting like amateurs. Here are a few ways you can avoid their mistakes:
1. Be professional, but not necessarily formal
Being professional doesn’t mean you have to be overly formal. There’s a big difference between the two:
- Professional: competent or skillful
- Formal: done in accordance with rules of convention or etiquette
One of the best parts about being a freelancer is that you don’t have a company mold to fit in. You can show your personality through your personal brand. Go for it.
Sophie Lizard, freelance writer and founder of , has a unique personality and you can feel it on her About page:
But the rest of her site is fresh, clean and organized, making her appear the right part of professional — trustworthy and reliable.
2. Get a professional email address
Ditch the [email protected] email that was funny when you were in college. Instead, go for something more professional like [email protected] Or better yet, get an email synced up with your own domain name ([email protected]).
3. Use consistent contact information
Dedicate one email address to your professional freelance life, and never reach out to the same person from multiple email addresses. Many people use email as a way to track information, so when you use multiple email addresses, it can cause confusion and lead to missed messages.
4. Offer more information than required
If a potential client asks for information, don’t give them the bare bones of the requested info. When trying to impress a client, more is better — when organized and tasteful.
Provide the requested information (e.g., a resume, cover letter and three samples) up front. Then add anything else you feel might help you get a job below the requested information (like additional samples, recommendations, etc.). This gives the potential client more info if they want it, while keeping the requested information easily visible.
5. Don’t be generic and sloppy
Take time constructing your pitches to potential clients. Don’t do this:
I am an experienced writer of blogs articles and even contract writing of chapters in books. Some of my work has broken site records for views. My specific areas of interest and expertise include strategy, technology, innovation and cyber security. My blogs typically go about 300 words and my articles are in the 1000 word range.
I am a professional that is consistent and does not miss my deadlines. Please let me know how we can proceed with this mutually beneficial opportunity.
Always add personalization when approaching clients (“I saw this on your site…”, “I love [blank] about your company…”, “I admire your company’s opinion about [blank]…”). And never quickly throw together an email without taking the time to correct sloppy mistakes.
6. Know the difference between freelance jobs and work-from-home jobs
The difference is simple. You accept freelance jobs because they align with your passions and goals. You accept work-from-home jobs because they pay money. ( to tweet this thought.)
Work-from-home jobs are for people looking for a quick and easy way to do odd jobs and make money on the Internet (). Freelance jobs are for people who want to build a career doing one specific task or service. It just happens you can do it from home.
7. Perform due diligence before asking questions
Remember that you want to work for the client. Don’t make them work for you.
We frequently get applicants who claim our site isn’t working or our application isn’t correct, when really, they’ve failed to follow the directions given to them.
Always triple-check before asking the client to clarify directions. When you need a client to hold your hand at the beginning, it makes them think they’ll need to continue to do that for the rest of the working relationship.
8. Show your face
If you work with clients you don’t engage with in person, use any opportunity you have to get in front of them on their computer screens. Don’t use graphics, icons or a distant photo for your profile photos on any site they use to connect with you.
Select an appropriate user photo or invest in a professional, quality headshot. It makes you look more reliable and trustworthy than an avatar.
9. Always ask, “How can I help?”
Clients come to you because they have a need, so ask what other needs they have. Come out and ask them what problems they’re having and ask if there’s a way for you to help fix it. Or offer up your other skills so they know you’re available if the need arises.
As a freelancer, you need to create opportunities for yourself. Don’t sit around waiting for clients to find you or load you up with work. Be proactive, show initiative and exceed expectations.
These are a few tips that can help you get started on the right foot for your freelancing career. While there are other to overcome as you wade deeper in the waters of working for yourself, being mindful of these simple fixes will help you get to the good stuff faster.
is the Community Manager for — a networking site, training portal and job board for freelancer writers, bloggers and designers. Find her on and .