Starting Out

Why Should Freelancers Build a Cohesive Image Before Building Their Online Presence?

When I first started freelancing, I made a lot of mistakes.

I accepted work that paid pennies (that’s not an exaggeration – I was literally working for $1 to $3 an hour because I thought I needed to for ‘experience’), my first website was an amateurish mess on a free hosting site, and I didn’t learn how to write great pitches until after I’d wasted hours doing it the wrong way.

Why Should Freelancers Build a Cohesive Image Before Building Their Online Presence?

Trying to look like a jack of all trades leaves you looking like a master of none.

Luckily, those blunders were easy to fix. I stopped writing for cheap and started guest posting strategically to build exposure when I was between clients.

I deleted my old website and started from scratch. I signed up for a few newsletters and learned how to be a better freelancer in my spare time.

But there was one mistake I made that I regret more than all the others. It has cost me hours of work, and it’s one I want to convince you to avoid at all costs.

I started building my online presence without clearly defining my image first, and it made me look like a complete disaster.

On some sites, I was a mommy blogger. On a few, I was a foodie. On my first website, I posted anything I felt like writing about that day.

I had content about politics, personal finance, chronic illness, and parenting mixed in with generally unprofessional entries about my life.

I didn’t get replies to over 80% of my article pitches, and my main source of freelance writing income was from a content mill.

I know marketing yourself as an ‘everything writer’ is tempting in the beginning when you’re desperate for clients.

You don’t care what you write about, you just want to WRITE. My first venture into this field flopped because of that ideology.

Trying to look like a jack of all trades leaves you looking like a master of none.

Clients want credibility, and nothing destroys yours faster than not having a field of expertise. Writing on every subject I could get my hands on meant that my portfolio was anemic in every area because I was spread thinly across many fields.

When I was pitching articles or applying for freelance positions, I couldn’t provide more than one or two links to my work that were relevant (and that was if I was lucky).

This made me appear to be exactly what I was – an amateur. I may have had a lot of writing experience, but I couldn’t be called an expert on any single topic.

How to Build a Cohesive Image Online

To fix this, I had to face the fact that I couldn’t be everything to every potential client. I needed to establish myself as an expert, and that meant drilling down my image to a well-defined niche.

Don’t get me wrong, you can make it clear on your services page that you will provide content on a number of subjects, and it’s possible to have multiple blogs for different subject areas – but when you’re first starting out, focusing on a single subject area to build up your image is the best way to establish yourself as an expert.

Guest post strategically on blogs in your niche, maintain a blog within your niche, and use those bylines to pitch articles and apply for freelancing jobs with relevant work samples.

It’s important also to maintain a cohesive image across social media.

Your bio or description should use the same verbiage across every platform.

It can be more detailed on sites that emphasize your bio more strongly, but you should drill it down to a kind of elevator pitch for yourself, and use the same couple of sentences at the beginning on each site.

If you have a personal Facebook, Twitter, or Google+, you should make sure that it’s as private as possible so clients don’t find anything unflattering when they research you.

Over to you – did you make the same mistake? How did you resolve it?

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Wow. This post is just what I needed. I have lost many days trying to decide what I should concentrate on 1st. I have a long-term goal. In order to get there, I want to build my brand & generate a sustainable revenue stream writing freelance. I want to build a simple portfolio website to showcase my work & to use when I pitch work. I would work on my website & think I need to be working on my freelance brand. When I am in the middle of research or writing, I lose confidence thinking I should be launching a blog. As I understand you, Jodi, I should be writing samples & posting bids on Freelancer & up work? Thanks again JimReply to Jim