One of the best things about being a freelancer is that you hold the wheel when it comes to directing your personal brand. You can show your personality in ways that you couldn’t when working for a company. This is a great thing, until it’s not.
Far too many freelancers take advantage of their freedom and forget about something more important than showing off their style — maintaining a professional appearance.
Freelancers should always put professionalism first when it comes to appearance. That doesn’t mean not showing your personality. It means always appearing reliable and trustworthy, because that is how you gain and retain clients.
Professional Head Shots and Profile Pictures
There are a few simple rules for posting user images online.
- Never leave a photo space blank.
- Only use photos where you are recognizable.
- Don’t use graphics/icons as your photo.
- Take a least one professional looking head shot, and use it when appropriate.
- Take a least one photo that shows your personality, and use it when appropriate.
Abiding by these photo rules is especially important for people who work online. Because you may never come face to face with your clients, your photos are the primary way you represent yourself to your clients. The photo is your chance to build trust and establish relationships.
Below is a screenshot of the member directory on Community. Imagine that you are a client coming to the directory to find a writer to work with. Who do you think looks the most professional and credible?
I, for one, would much rather work with Dave than an anime cartoon or faceless avatar.
Select an Appropriate Photo Based on the Platform
Always consider why someone is going to view your user profile when choosing an image. For example, when selecting an image for your Google+ account, you may think using a quirky photo that reflects your personality is best.
But remember the purpose and use of this head shot. The user is viewing this image while deciding which search result to click on. The user is looking for the most trustworthy and reliable source.
So an unrecognizable, funny picture that shows personality isn’t a very good way to prove that you are a valuable author. Neither is a photo that doesn’t clearly show your face or your professionalism. (In fact, Google may even penalize you for a bad head shot.)
You aren’t trying to show personality through your byline. You are trying to show that you are professional, trustworthy, and knowledgeable. So in this case a clean head shot works best.
This doesn’t mean you can’t share photos that reflect your personality with your audience. It just means you should choose the appropriate place to do it. The same photo that didn’t work for the Google account works fine in a bio on an about page.
Places to Go Professional with a Photo:
- Membership sites where your colleagues and clients spend time (CopyPress Community, Moz Community, etc.)
- Google accounts (Google +, Gmail)
Places to Go Personal with a Photo:
- About pages on your website
You don’t need a professional head shot in order to be a professional, but it does say something about your commitment to your position when you do. Consider it an investment and get one.
Once you get a professional head shot, set it up with a Gravatar account so your professional photo will automatically pull for blogs and web forums.
Professional Email Accounts
These may seem like obvious tips but you would be surprised how many people fail to do these things.
Use the Same Email Address For All Freelance Work
Set up an email address for your freelance business, and use it for everything that relates to your professional life. It makes it easier for contacts to find you, revisit email conversations you had, and find you through platforms that allow to search based on email contact addresses.
Use a Professional Email Address
Keep the cute puns and funny email address for personal use. Ditch email@example.com and firstname.lastname@example.org and use an email address that is more professional.
The most professional email addresses include just your name — no numbers or phrases. It is best to have your own domain and an email address that matches. If you are using your domain name, use one of the following formats.
If you are using Gmail or another service, do your best to stick as close to your name as possible.
If you can’t match an email address with your name, strive to still keep it simple and keep your name in the email if possible. Try adding a short, descriptive word or number.
Make Sure the Account Information Includes Your Full Name
Your account information should be set up so that your full name shows in the email information. Make sure that both your first and last name show, and avoid any unnecessary formatting (symbols, asterisks, capitalization).
You want to make sure that you are easy identified in your email.
In this example, you can see how incomplete information can be confusing in an email thread. Always assume that recipients have many contacts and need both your first and last name to recall information.
Professional Email Signature Lines
As a professional, you should include a signature line in your emails rather than relying on signing each email.
Include a Signature Line
End your email with a signature line that includes your information. (The only thing worse than not having your full name in your email account is not having your name in the signature line either.)
This is especially important if you have trouble remembering to sign your name on your emails.
Optimize the Signature Line
You can also use the signature line as a way to further brand yourself. You can optimize your signature line by adding links to:
- Your Social Accounts – You can use use text or icons that link to your pages.
- Your Website – Always include a link to your blog, website, or both.
- A (Small) Plug for a Project or Promotion – If you have a something you want to promote, you can — as long as it is subtle.
You can see how CopyPress CEO Dave Snyder, uses a very simple signature line that includes his social and a link to a video describing CopyPress.
Add a Confidentiality Disclaimer
It is a good idea to add a confidentiality notice in your signature line as well. This will help protect you from people sharing information from your emails with others (important if you are sharing confidential information related to rates, client information, etc.).
This is a standard notice that CopyPress uses in our emails.
CONFIDENTIALITY NOTICE: This transmission is intended for the sole use of the individual or entity to whom it is addressed and may contain information that is confidential, or otherwise exempt, by law, from disclosure to the general public. Any public or private dissemination, distribution, copying, or taking of any action in reliance on the contents of this transmission, by someone other than the intended addressee or its authorized agent is strictly prohibited. If you have received this transmission in error, please notify [Your Name Here] immediately by replying to this transmission.
Or you can use something as simple as this.
Note: Unless we agree otherwise, this email conversation is confidential.
These are very small details that when done well, can highlight you as a professional or when done poorly, label you as an amateur. So be mindful of the appearance you are giving off. What other ways to you show yourself as a professional?