There was a time not so long ago when freelancers relied on little more than a business card, some casual branding, and a little smooth talking to land new work. However, the omnipotence of the Internet has changed all that. Today, freelancers in all industries utilise the Internet far more than they make use of old-school networking events and intermediary third parties as social media websites, contributor platforms, and industry-specific forums can throw up more leads in a morning than a whole weekend of conferencing might deliver.
There is a caveat here though as there is one thing today’s Internet-obsessed freelancers need to worry about far more than their contemporaries from the pre-iPad generation ever had to: their image.
This is because a freelancer’s profile pic – that little avatar nestled in the corner of their Twitter, LinkedIn or Pinterest page – is often the first thing a potential client notices when they check over a freelancer’s credentials. When it’s considered that a picture speaks a thousand words, and only five are needed to send a potential client packing (“Eughh! I don’t think so!”), it is absolutely essential that you as a freelancer do everything you can to ensure your profile pic will draw prospects in rather than scare them away.
Here are five tips that will help you to do just that:
1. Consider the background
Many freelancers stick to using the same one profile pic on all of their online sites and various webpages as they believe the uniformity helps to foster a feeling of familiarity. There is nothing wrong with this strategy; indeed, a really flattering photo is likely to look good in almost any setting. However, it is important to note that some pictures will work better on some sites than others, so having two slightly different profile pics can often be a worthwhile strategy. For instance, profile pics which will be displayed in small boxes (like those on LinkedIn, for instance) tend to look much better with plain backgrounds, while large headshots (like those that are likely to appear on your own personal website) can actually look better with ’busy’ backgrounds, such as sitting in front of a drawing board if you’re an illustrator. Striking a very similar pose with two (or more) different backgrounds is often a good way to cover all bases in this respect.
2. Dress accordingly
If you went to see your dentist – a person whom you know to be physically attractive – for a check-up and they came in wearing a lobster bib and some deely-boppers, would you take them seriously? Of course you wouldn’t. The lesson here is simple: even if you are a very even-looking person (some might say “attractive”), potential clients will not give you the time of day if your profile pic shows you wearing something alarmingly brash on screen. This is not to say that you have to wear clothes that’ll make you look like a banker; just avoid the temptation to make a fashion statement that screams out “I’m trying so hard to stand out!” Casual, comfortable clothes of solid colours are normally your best bet as they tend to contrast most favourably with natural skin tones.
3. Lean forward
Have you ever noticed how people in really professional-looking profile pics (often in dramatic black and white shades) tend to be leaning forward? Believe it or not, this isn’t just a way to convey a raised eyebrow look that says “Yes, I can afford a professional photographer.” It is an aesthetic ploy used by pros to make their subjects look more attractive. How does it work? Well, conveyed wisdom has it that dipping your head so that your forehead is just a little closer to the camera than your nose and mouth helps to emphasise your jawline, thus creating a more flattering angle for a headshot. Try it in the mirror now and you’ll see how it works.
It is worth noting that leaning your head back has the opposite effect, i.e. it makes your face look fatter, so don’t be tempted to pull off a Santa-esque guffaw as you pose (unless, of course you’re, a freelance Father Christmas).
4. Go easy the night before
You will, of course, want your face to look healthy, happy and – yes, you can admit it – attractive when posing for your profile pic. Needless to say, your ’boat race’ will look far more appealing on the day of your shoot if you get plenty of sleep and drink a suitable amount of water the night before, as this will help to keep lines and bags at bay, and ensure your skin looks healthy and vital. Avoiding alcohol, caffeine and salt-heavy snacks is a good idea, too, so forget about a night out clubbing or having a box-set marathon into the wee early hours...
As handy as this list might be, it is far from exhaustive, so please feel free to share your own hints in the comments box below.