If you’re trying to drum up business as a freelancer, you need to appear professional both online and offline.
There’s a lot of competition from other freelancers, so making a good first impression before a potential client has even contacted you about work is imperative.
Any shred of doubt about your professionalism or reliability and potential clients will run a mile.
So what can you do to appear more professional and make a good first impression on a potential client?
1. Get your own domain name
Your own domain name is a very cheap but very necessary purchase. If you shop around, you can get a .co.uk domain for a few pounds for a whole year, or a .com for not much more.
Such a small investment can really help build trust. It implies a level of pride in your name, and shows that you’re willing to invest in yourself.
Plus yourname.com is much easier to remember than than yourname.freewebsite.com, as well as sounding much more professional.
Many free blog or portfolio sites allow you to use your own domain name over their subdomain address, so take advantage.
There’s no need to pay a lot of money for a portfolio site, but there’s really no excuse not to have your own domain name.
2. Buy some good quality business cards
Some people claim not to need them, but I’ve personally found business cards are still very much a necessity, especially if you’re a graphic designer.
They show that you’re prepared, and are a great way to demonstrate your design skills without having to carry around a portfolio.
Avoid cheap online printers advertising amazing deals on cards that may as well be printed on toilet paper. Think about what a cheap, flimsy card could say about you and your business.
Instead find a local printer and talk to them. They’ll be able to advise you on stock and finishes, plus the print quality will be much better than some of the cheaper online sellers.
If you’re not a designer yourself, find a freelancer and get some designed professionally.
3. Respond to emails in good time
If you get an enquiry about work, don’t leave it too late to respond. Chances are you’re not the only designer who’s been contacted, and if you’re too slow to respond you’ll lose the client.
On the other hand, don’t reply too quickly. You may come across as desperate for work, which may lead people to question why you aren’t busy.
Think about how people avoid empty restaurants. Would you eat in a restaurant that everyone else seems to be avoiding?
As a general rule, I always try to respond to emails the same day, and aim to reply to quotes I receive whilst I’m working within 1 to 2 hours.
4. Brush up on your email communication skills
It won’t fill a potential client with confidence if your emails are full of spelling mistakes and lack punctuation.
Ensure you write well, using grammar and punctuation correctly, format your emails so that you’re not sending a ‘wall of text’.
Address your the sender by name if they’ve provided one. By using their name you’re speaking directly to them, and you come across much friendlier than if you kept it too formal.
Don’t forget to thank them for getting in touch too.
Promoting yourself as a freelancer isn’t just about how experienced you are. Clients also have to be able to get along with you. Being friendly can’t hurt your chances of getting the job.
5. Dress to impress
Just because you’re freelance, doesn’t mean you shouldn’t make an effort when meeting clients face to face.
How smart you dress will likely depend on the industry you’re working in, the client you’re meeting and possibly even the location you’re meeting them at.
As a designer I’m able to get away with dressing ‘smart-casual’, something like a polo shirt and a pair of (clean and tidy) jeans normally does the trick.
It’s always better to be slightly too smart than turn up looking scruffy. You can always tone it down at the next meeting, but you won’t get a chance to make that first impression again.
It’s not just about appearances
Appearing to be professional isn’t enough. You have to actually act and work professionally, otherwise you’ll struggle to keep clients happy.
Freelancers reply a lot on their reputation to gain new clients. Word of mouth is quickly becoming my main source of work.
Do a good job for clients and they’ll gladly recommend you to their contacts.
Remember, it’s your name on the line!