Robert Bowen January 11th, 2010

How to Make Yourself Stand Out as a Freelancer

The cybersea is full of freelancers all out to make their mark and their money to keep their freelance fires burning. With an abundance of opportunity pouring in to the market, getting yourself out there and making sure you are heard and seen will help you sway those opportunities more your way. But with so many others striving to do that same thing, how is it you can rise above the multitudes to still be singled out? Not to mention trying rise above the agencies that are further populating the waters, and complicating the issue. Of course, most of us are of the mind that our work should speak for itself, and while this is a sound principle to stand by, we first have to get people to see our work. We have to find effective ways to bring these businesses to our blogs or portfolio sites that demonstrate our skills and reasons why we are so employable. But this often puts all of the pressure and focus off of your work, and puts it someplace far less comfortable (for some), right on you. Which means that you are the one, the only one, responsible for tempting traffic in your direction by establishing a draw and fostering the right atmosphere. Below are a few ideas on how you can effectively achieve this. Also consider our previous articles:

It’s About the Networking, People

One of the major ways to help you rise above the rest is through the effective use of the various social media networks. Now by effective, I mean more than dropping in and sharing a link, especially if it is only one of your own. Social media is about interacting and networking, both of which require you to actively engage with others. This is more than one sided, this is conversational and developmental. Sharing information and experiences across the networks helps to strengthen your freelance business as you begin to foster new relationships that can prove educational and reciprocal. Become an active participant in these circles and you will find that your visibility will begin improving. Not like your vision, but your visibility. Others will start taking note of you, and consequently, your freelance business. This will not happen over night, but with focus on a few key points, you can learn to maximize these networking interactions to help turn them into opportunities.

Let Your Personality Shine…

…unless your personality it a bit on the crap side, then perhaps you should focus on your professionalism, and skip down a header. In order for people to respond to what you have to say, you have to say it right. Most of the time, that means approaching it with your perspective, and yes, your personality. Doing so without these added ingredients can leave your points with a bit a dry reception that reduces its overall connectability. Not to mention, if all you are doing is sharing links, you are not interacting, you are info-bursting at all of your followers, which can be helpful, but ultimately, does not allow for the connections to be made. Now, in this pursuit, be sure to stay focused on the balance line to make sure that you do not tip the scales too far. Putting a bit of yourself in the mix is a must, but make sure that you remain informative and informed. A big mistake that people make when beginning to venture into the networks, is that they make the experience all about them. Me, me, me, is not exactly the kind of social media interaction that most people are looking for, so by injecting your personality, make sure you remember that this is different from only sharing your content.

Focus on Your Professionalism

Another thing to remember as you are populating the various social media outlets, is to keep your business and brand in mind. If you are working to build the name of your freelancing business then you want to make sure that you keep a professional edge to your interactions. Still your personality plays a part, but since you are attempting to get your business to stand out, then let the business end have its networking heyday as well. Share information that is relevant to your field of freelancing, this way you find and are able to connect with your online colleagues from the community. And if you are trying to get design clients to your site, then tweeting or facebooking about how wasted you got whilst watching Project Runway is probably not the kind of sharing that is going to send them running your way (unless of course the client themselves was also getting wasted whilst watching PR, then maybe. But deep though that bond may be, is still may not have the desired effect.) So if you are looking to catch some eyes from the potential clientele pool pervading the networks, then keep to the professional edge for an advantage.

Help Your Fellow Freelancer

Another way to use the social circuits to raise your visibility, is by helping out others online who are in your field and looking for assistance. This can be beneficial in a couple of different ways to both you and your freelance business. The first thing it can do, is offer you a bit a refresher when you take the time to consider their issue. Perhaps mulling over aspects of your work that you have not for some time, or that you never have. In which case, it provides you with a learning opportunity as well, and expanding your knowledge base within your field only strengthens your business. Not to mention, that by helping others out with any issues or roadblocks that they may encounter, keeps you in mind when those you have helped end up with an overloaded plate and need to pass along work. Or pass on work. If there is a job that they come across that is a bit over their heads, given that you have always been there with the answers when they needed them, you may be the first name on their tongues. Clients tend to be open to recommendations from those they have turned to, when those pros have to turn them away. So by helping out others in your field, if they have recommendations to offer, they may send them in your way.

Build Up Your Brand

If you want to stand out among the masses sharing the freelance waters with you, then another important focus is of course your brand. Take time to build it and strengthen it so that it can sustain and be seen. Yes, you want your name out there as well, but your brand is something much more than you. It is an idea, not a person. Like history, and V has taught us, an idea is something much more than just a person. A brand can work in much the same way if it is established and executed effectively. A brand can garner trust and consumer loyalty even if the person or people behind it are a complete mystery to us. So as a freelancer, you want to get that bond built between the community and your brand. You want that consumer confidence working in your favor, and not against you. This can be relatively difficult, especially when you are an unknown just starting out in your field. But this seemingly intimidating task can be undertaken with confidence that will be reflected in your work and eventually returned. As long as you know you are standing on a sound knowlegde base, then you can strike out through the cybersea to conquer and leave your mark upon it. Keeping the visibility of your brand high.

Use the Power of Your Pen…

…and of course, by pen, I mean keyboard. This is a fantastic way to build up your brand for sure. I am not suggesting that every freelancer is automatically a wiz with words and can finely articulate a point like a professional writer, but we all have access to a powerful brand builder, the blogosphere. For freelancers, turning to the online blogging community to establish and start constructing your brand can provide an invaluable leg up for exposure. Having a blog for your business allows clients a different insight into just who they are working with, not to mention a connectivity that offers some peace of mind as far as reachability. With regular updates, they can trust that you will be around and that they can contact you. And do not just stay local, branch out through the blogosphere. This is a great way to get your brand out there, if you are guest blogging on more prominent sites than your own, then you are bound to drive interest your way as you are seen by a broader audience. With insightful and helpful articles that you put together and share throughout the blogosphere, you are doing a lot to help further the strength and reliability of your brand. And the more you are seen around from various sources, the more you stand out to potential clients browsing for someone to take on their next project.

Winning the Word of Mouth War

Another area to focus on for building your brand, is word of mouth. This has always been a powerful business builder, and now with most freelancers working in an online environment without borders, this word of mouth is much more accessible and potentially viral. So we want to take care to get a positive word circulating about our business, and to do that we have to focus on our online interactions and client relations. Once again, your colleagues recommendations can play a part in raising your brand visibility, so be sure that you keep a respectful tone when your paths cross. As a freelancer, you may not have the time to put out every fire, so be sure you keep the number of them burning down to a minimum. You also want to make sure that your clients go away with great things to say about you, so a tight focus on customer service is essential to any freelancer. By keeping your clients happy as the project moves through the stages from inspiration to completion is a powerful way to win the word of mouth war for your business. When you are polite, punctual, and overdeliver on your promises, your clients will populate the web with positive words of praise. This will do wonders for improving your visibility and raising awareness of your business. So make sure that you keep your clients smiling to ensure that the words heard are airing on the good side of things.

Learn Both Sides of the Business

One further way that you can improve the visibility of your brand, especially in the eyes of your clients, is to learn both sides of the business. As a freelancer, you have a field that you no doubt specialize in, and it more often than not, tends to be in a creative field. And most of us know that in our fields we can never cease our educational growth. But we often ignore the other side of the business. The side that falls outside the creative reach and remains the same for most of us, regardless of which arena we play in. The actual business side of the business. There are two sides to every coin, and we cannot ignore that the business rules of engagement apply even in the fields of the freelancers. This not only provides us a comfort zone for all facets of our freelance business, but it also demonstrates to our clients a sense of pride in our brand. It shows that we are completely committed to and serious about the idea of being in business for ourselves when we take the time to learn how to effectively don each administrative hat that we are forced to put on as a freelancer. This offers more confidence in your brand for clients, as they know that the business dealings will be professional and well managed on your end. And any peace of mind that you can offer to your clients, only furthers your brand standing out from the others around.

Connect With The Community

Overall, an important way to raise your visibility in your market, is to connect with the community, and to become involved with it. This connection can be fostered in many ways, and though blogging and social media tend to be the way we get out there, we have to remember that this connection is extremely vital in assisting the growth of your visibility and needs care and attention. And while the previous suggestions offered can often ensure that this connection is being made, there are a few more things that you can do to further its effectiveness. Because without this connection, you will not stand out among the masses, but instead, you may just fall behind them. Being able to establish this connection with the community at large enables you to more than just exist within it, it actually allows you to flourish. Much like the idea that it takes a village to raise a child, it can be said that it takes a community to raise a freelancer. And it takes the freelancer nurturing that relationship with the community to help them stand out among the masses. And as I mentioned before about the reciprocity of the relationships we build online, this one is no different. Not only can this benefit the freelancer, but it can also have a positive impact on the community.

Give Them What They Want

One way to make that connection with the community that will linger and lift you up is to find out what it is the community is looking for, and then find a creative way to give it to them. Fill that niche that the you know the community is longing to have filled and you will garner the positive attention that will lead to higher visibility for your brand. It’s the law of supply and demand, and surprise, surprise the law applies in the freelance field just as it does in any other. The community is a dynamic vibrant organism that is constantly evolving, which means that the needs of the community are ever changing. This is an effective way for you to use social media, to reach out to the community and inquire as to what they are looking for. Reach out to the masses working in your arena and share some questions, pose some queries, whatever you can do to connect with them using social media. Whether it be an information gap, a lack of resources, whatever the area that the community needs attending to, they are receptive and open to being asked about it. So go for it. Just make sure that if you ask the question, you listen to the answers, and deliver on the promises you make to see to these needs. Doing so, will have numerous benefits towards moving your freelance business forward.

Engage In Discussions

A further way to make a connection with the community that you are freelancing in, is to engage in discussions with members of that community. Not one sided bursts of communication like we find most of our interactions get boiled down to online. Here you actually need to take time to have thoughful, engaging dialogs with other professionals from your field. Formulating opinions and ideas that are more than just congratulatory words of praise, but are actual talking points that will serve to get a conversation started. This is why I always recommend that clients attach a blog to their site, to assist them in making this connection and engaging the online community. Freelancers need to heed these same words of advice, and turn to the blogosphere to start an online discussion that will offer for an exchange of ideas that can ultimately serve as a learning opportunity. Blogs can afford you this forum to reach out through, just as social media does in other instances. Social media can also help with discussions, but generally a more open environment for these lengthier exchanges are better so some outlets are more accomodating than others. Either route you take, engage and take others along with you, and you begin to stand out from the more passive participants in the community.

Find Your Own Voice…

…Chances are, it’s what has been missing from the community all along. That is one of the biggest advantages that you have when you begin trying to connect with the community, you. Your unique perspective and take on the various areas that you operate in, have not been and cannot be offered by anyone other than you, so use that to your advantage. Given that this is the case, making it a point to seek out and nurture your own voice will help ensure that when you start sharing that voice with the community, that it will resonate and connect with other members in the collective. Now by your own unique voice I am not saying that you cannot have outside influences while en route to this discovery, quite the opposite. We need those influences and inspirations to help us find our individual style and approach, and possibly help point us in the direction of our voice. But still that final product should be unmistakeably you. Just as your personality is important for aiding your social media interactions, allowing your unique voice to speak for you and your freelance business will assist you standing out from and making a connection with the community.

That’s A Wrap

Those are a few of the ways that you can help to ensure you and your freelance business will be able to rise above the rest of the crowd. Of course, that does not mean there are not other ways to do this, so feel free to offer any other suggestions in the comment section below.

Further Resources

About the author

Robert Bowen is an emerging author, celebrated podcaster and poet, and most recently the co-founder and imaginative co-contributor of the creative design and blogging duo at the Arbenting Freebies Blog and Dead Wings Designs.

Robert Bowen

Robert Bowen is an emerging author, celebrated podcaster and poet, and most recently the co-founder and imaginative co-contributor of the creative design and blogging duo at the Arbenting and Dead Wings Designs.


  1. Nicely done. I need to implement a few of these items myself. As for learning the actual business side of business, I think that should be job one. You can’t run a business if you don’t learn that bit.

  2. Great article. Quite lengthy but full of helpful tips. Just hope I can put some of them into practice. I came across your article via facebook!

  3. I find this article quite interesting and full of great tips; it makes me re-think about almost everything and that’s good =)

  4. Thanks everyone for the comments, and kindness. Much appreciated. Always nice to know the post resonated and was helpful.

  5. Nice Read but it seems like its just about keeping pace with social media and blogging etc. If more time is spent on work and practice, that’s going to help a freelancer way more than just being famous in Social World.

    1. @AFI

      While I respect your opinion, I think that the two aren’t fighting against each other. There’s no doubt that practice and work are going to help anyone improve in their respective fields. But what leads to more practice and work is promoting and sharing. If the work is original, thorough and cool, why not share?

  6. You make great points here Robert. I agree customer service is a very important part of the freelancing business. It’s essential what could make or break your career. You may be an excellent designer, but if you can’t communicate and understand your client’s wishes, you’ll never be on top. It’s tough competing with agencies who can offer a one-stop shop. But what freelancers can do is offer outstanding customer service with work at the drop of a dime. This is how I’ve been competing against larger firms. When they take weeks to deliver, I can turn it around in a few days. And you’re also right when you say deliver more than you promise. Surprise them with something as simple as a neat effect they didn’t ask for. It speaks wonders.

  7. I will echo what others here have said “great post”.

    Social media is OK for networking, and a whole new experience of course – and your advice for SM networking is really sound. The only problem is that few people really understand, or are willing, to engage their followers with a little bit of real conversation. On Twitter this is a special disease, unfortunately. Facebook is a little ‘friendlier’ in this regard, in my opinion.

    Having given SM a good go for a few years now, I still find that nothing really tops real person-to-person interaction when it comes to garnering new clients or connections. Going to local meet-ups, or attending social functions, conventions, etc. is still the best bet because you have real opportunities to meet and greet people, face-to-face. It’s easier to ignore people online than it is in real life. ;)

  8. I like this overview. Especially the part about sticking to who you are. (Which is something no one can copy. And the only thing you can do long term.)

    Another thought.

    In talking to (and commiserating with)freelancers every day, it seems that the most successful ones all have a sharply-focused niche. The big-money freelancers are not all-purpose generalists. They are all the best in the world at something.

    Sometimes their niche is a distinctive style. Or a category, like designing book covers, writing about IT, doing close-up and microphotography, healthcare illustrations, Drupal and Joomla, film and TV graphics.

    Sometimes it’s markets, or a demographic, or a mindset. (People who hate ‘salesy’junk, PR for renegades.)

    It’s way easier to make waves as a specialist. You get really good at it. You know where the customers hang out.

    And you can charge more than the jacks-of-all-trades. Which is always a good thing.

  9. “Learn Both Sides of the Business” & “Learn Both Sides of the Business” I completely agree with you. Thanks again for the great Tips.
    It really worth the reading.

  10. I think it is far more important to network locally than to use all these social networking websites like Facebook, Myspace, Twitter or even your own personal blog. Get a few good local clients and do great work for them. Then, let them spread your name to people they know. People value other people’s opinions about you more than they value your opinion about you.

    It’s just like shopping at Amazon. Do you buy a product on Amazon without reading the reviews (both good and bad) by other customers that have already bought it?
    Getting to know people around you is much more important than chatting with someone on the other side of the world.

  11. Nice job, and made me all gooey and smug inside. :)
    I would only add that I did a quick search and didn’t find the word “collaboration” in your piece. It might be presumed that “networking” can suffice in that territory, but it’s different in spirit. I can’t say enough about collaboration. It’s a big world with lots of readers and employers. Plenty for all. Can’t we all just be friends?

  12. Excellent tips for those wanting to make it as a freelancer! I think most of the bases have been covered here, and if freelancers work on these key points then there is no doubt they will have a great career doing what they love.

  13. This was a great article. My personal key to success would have to be through internet MARKETING. Benefits of internet marketing include:

    1. Sometimes you wont even have to spend a dime

    2. Spreads your brand out virally and have people knowing or coming across your services just through searching the internet

    3. Everyone now a days are always using the internet so using very popular sites to promote yourself if pretty easy

    4. Internet marketing usually converts better than just plainly advertising because it isn’t temporary, the work you put in usually stays there for quite a while, so you always have incoming clients.

    These are just some basic benefits of how internet marketing will get you noticed quicker than any other source. For more info on the topic you can visit my blog if you please. Thanks for the great post Noupe!

  14. Hi, i think that i noticed you visited my site thus i came to go back the prefer?.I am attempting to to find issues to enhance my website!I suppose its adequate to use some of your ideas!!|

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