I was one of them. Are you? Are you one of the many freelancers that are unsure of how to get work as a freelancer and build your business online successfully? Both are common struggles. And both also have a common solution—online presence.
We’ll talk about how to build your online presence as a freelancer shortly. But, first, let’s answer an important question: What are the benefits of having a strong one?
The value of a strong online presence
As you probably know, online presence has to do with how visible you are to the right people online. In other words, can the people who are likely to become clients, partners, and supporters of your business find you and, when they do, do they feel comfortable engaging with you?
A lot of people chalk online presence up to having a website or social media profiles set up. While both are great, online presence:
- Can involve various other ways of getting in front of the right people including hosting events or workshops, guest blogging, going on podcasts, building email lists, etc.
- Is most effective when you actively build it instead of relying 100% on static websites and inactive social profiles
When you do actively, consistently build it, you’re able to:
- Earn the trust of future clients and others, as well as build reputation within our industries and niches
- Develop a lasting personal brand and increase the demand for our services by differentiating ourselves from other freelancers
- Generate more and higher-quality leads consistently, and turn them into clients
Plus, all of the above make it easier to scale our businesses if and when you decide to do so.
There’s no overstating the value of a thoughtful web presence, especially since more than 2 million people have flocked to freelancing since 2020. To get your piece of the pie, people have to be able to find you online, along with sufficient evidence of your skill, expertise, and authority. You can and should make it easy for them.
How to build your online presence as a freelancer
As mentioned, there are many ways to develop a presence on the web. But let’s do a deep dive on the 3 I’ve found to be the most powerful as a freelance writer—a website, LinkedIn, and Twitter. We’ll cover both the setup of these touchpoints and active ways to maximize the results they produce.
Creating a professional website
A website is home base. All roads—online and off—should lead back to it.
Technically, it’s not impossible to get work without one. But websites are so effective and so easy and cheap to create that there’s no reason not to have one.
Remember while building your website
Keep the following in mind as you create or update your site:
- You don’t need anything fancy. Even a simple one-page website can go a long way in showing others that you’re an established, trustworthy freelancer. Carrd is a popular option for one-pagers since it has a free plan and the paid version is just $19 a year.
Personally, I recommend Namecheap for buying a domain, WordPress.org for self-hosting your site, and Elementor for design. It’s still pretty affordable (I pay less than $100 a year for the trio) and offers more customization and scaling options than Carrd.
- Focus on your professional offerings. Unless they tie in with the services you offer to clients, personal essays and poetry, content about your hobbies, and other personal information shouldn’t be the focus of your website. You have very little time to capture the attention of visitors so it must be clear immediately how you can help them. Get to the point about what you offer and its value.
- Highlight value for visitors. It’s great that you have a passion for writing, have worked for X great company, and have Y years of experience. But those things don’t say much about what potential clients will get out of working with you. Since benefits are the main thing potential clients care about, focus mainly on how you can help them achieve their goals (and less on yourself).
- Show your expertise rather than telling it. It’s easy to say that you’re dependable, skilled, an expert in your niche or [insert other adjective here]. But if you don’t show that those things are true instead of just saying them, you’ll have a hard time building the trust needed to land new clients. Prove that you’re a true professional by talking knowledgeably about your industry and ideal clients, sharing testimonials, creating case studies, and so on.
Make your website an active asset
Once you have a website, then what? Don’t let it sit and gather dust. Besides updating it as your services, industry, and niche evolve, consider:
- Blogging on relevant topics
- Creating case studies on your latest projects
- Creating and driving traffic to lead magnets
Consistent publishing and growing website traffic are both good signals for search engines like Google. They can help you to appear in relevant search results and get found by people who need your services.
LinkedIn can also help you get found online.
Making the most of LinkedIn
Whether you adore LinkedIn or hate it with a passion, having a solid profile and being active there can help you get freelance writing work.
Perfecting your LinkedIn profile
What does a solid LinkedIn profile look like?
- Ditch the resume-speak. While a LinkedIn profile is similar to a traditional resume, it has far more potential. The platform is designed for making connections with others, and people like connecting with people. So don’t be afraid to be human and show a little personality.
- Use keywords but don’t keyword-stuff. Using keywords that you want to show up for in LinkedIn search results isn’t bad in itself. But don’t stuff keywords, repeating them over and over in ways that aren’t natural. You want your profile to be a pleasant read for anyone who comes across it so just talk naturally about what you do.
You rprofile picture and banner image
- Add a picture of yourself and choose it wisely. Many people are suspicious of profiles with no image. And a snapshot of your pet or your child or anything other than you can call your professionalism into question.
So upload a nice, recent headshot of yourself. The image should be crisp, the background well-lit, and there should be no other people in the frame. The more kind and approachable you look, the better so smile if you can.
While you don’t need to hire a professional photographer, your picture should make you look professional.
- Create an informative banner image. This image is one of the first things people see so it should make a positive impression and get people more interested in what the rest of your profile will say. Instead of keeping the default banner or uploading a generic stock photo, give a brief overview of what you do. Even better, you can also mention who you serve and how to contact you. Here’s mine ??
Go beyond your job title. Why? Let’s say that a potential client—an executive who needs thought leadership content—does a LinkedIn search for a freelance content writer. These are the results that appear:
- Person 1: Freelance Content Writer
- Person 2: Content Writer | Thought Leadership Content For Executives | Become an Industry Leader
Which one is the executive more likely to choose? Even if Person 1 also writes thought leadership content for executives, Person 2 immediately stands out as the most likely to offer what the exec needs.
The takeaway? Your job title is not unique and doesn’t give any outstanding reasons for people to click on your profile. To stand out, give more detail on what you do, for who, and with what results.
Your LinkedIn summary
- Prioritize readability. Avoid jargon wherever possible, vary sentence lengths, and split up long paragraphs. Keep your summary to a moderate length.
- Focus mainly on your ideal connections. Who do you want to meet on LinkedIn? Write your profile specifically for them. Talk about their industry, their challenges, their goals, and what it takes to get them to the end result they want.
They’ll be far more likely to contact you if it’s clear that you understand them well, care about the same things they care about, and have the expertise needed to make a difference for them.
- Show some personality. Forget the dry third-person writing found on the average resume. Write your summary like you’re introducing yourself to someone in person, sharing why you love what you do and the great results it gets for your clients.
EXPERIENCE, EDUCATION, AND OTHER EXPERIENCES
- Go beyond the role. Don’t just list your run-of-the-mill job duties. Besides what you did, get into why you did it, challenges you encountered along the way and how you overcame them, notable things you achieved, etc. (Same goes for your education. Don’t just state what you studied but also what you learned and how that knowledge is an asset today.)
- Speak naturally. And let your enthusiasm shine through.
Keeping active on LinkedIn
In addition to having a well-thought-out profile, a big part of developing a presence on LinkedIn is being active and engaging there. Here are a few tips:
- Repurpose your content for LinkedIn. If you’re creating content for social media platforms, email or other channels, save yourself some time and repurpose it for LinkedIn. It’s one of the simplest ways to gain exposure without a huge time investment.
- Show off what’s new (instead of treating your profile like a resume that only gets updated every few years). When you get featured in an article, are a guest on a podcast or have something else interesting going on, take a second to feature it on your profile and make a post about it.
- Engage on others’ posts. Leave meaningful comments as often as you can. Add your two cents. Ask questions. Tell short stories. Respond to comments other people have made to keep the conversation going.
- Do cold outreach. Yes, cold outreach is one of the things people complain about most on LinkedIn. But that’s because most people do it wrong. They jump straight to pitching with no real interest in understanding how they can be a valuable connection.
If you do the opposite, cold outreach (and even partially automated outreach) can be an incredibly effective way to build your network, get noticed, and get hired on LinkedIn.
What about building your network, getting noticed, and getting hired on Twitter, though?
Establishing a presence on Twitter
The bird app is one of the most powerful tools for growing your freelance business. If you use it strategically and consistently, Twitter can:
- Attract attention to your freelance writing biz, earning you more website traffic, leads, etc.
- Build your personal brand, which can showcase your expertise, skyrocket your credibility, and sell potential clients on working with you
- Open up collaboration opportunities to be a guest on podcasts, create content with other professionals, etc.
Here’s what you need to know both about making your profile appealing and growing your reach and following.
Creating an attractive twitter profile
Successful Twitter profiles often share these common threads:
- A professionally acceptable profile picture. No, “professionally acceptable doesn’t have to mean boring. The world won’t stop if you use something other than a bland corporate-looking headshot. However, as a general rule, it’s best to have a crisp headshot (rather than a logo or picture of something random). And it’s also smart to avoid group pics and super casual, personal photos that could hurt your professional image.
- A clear description of what people will get out of following. It may be tempting to fill your bio with your accomplishments, interests, and such. But that’s risky when you completely leave out why people should care enough to follow you. Highlight, first and foremost, what you tweet about and how it will help the people you want to connect with.
- A custom banner image. Creating one can skyrocket the visual appeal of your profile, keep your branding consistent across platforms, and give you additional space to highlight why people should follow you. 10 minutes of basic design work in Canva can help you grow a quality, engaged following that will contribute to the growth of your business.
- A website URL. To earn trust and develop a good reputation online, all aspects of your professional web presence to be interconnected. That way, there’s no doubt that you are who you say you are on Twitter, and interested people can easily find out more about you and what you do. So link to your strongest assets in your Twitter profile (e.g. your website or your LinkedIn profile).
- An impressive pinned tweet. An important part of sealing the deal with new followers is immediately delivering on the value you promise in your bio. So, if you’ve had a successful tweet or one that shows the caliber of content you share on Twitter, pin it for all to see.
Strategies for growing on Twitter
Let’s move on now to 3 ways to grow on Twitter and, by extension, build your online presence and business.
1. TWEET VALUE
One of the best and fastest ways to attract attention and build a following is to educate people. How can you do it and what should you avoid?
- Pay attention to your writing. Sure, you may be a little more relaxed because you’re on social media. But the way you write still reflects on your professional capabilities. That said, try to use proper punctuation, spelling, and grammar.
- Share what you know. Even if you don’t feel like an expert or if some information seems obvious to you. Tweeting about what you know even if it’s new to you will reinforce your knowledge and help others in the process.
Also, remember that there are many things you know that other people don’t know or have forgotten. At best, your “obvious” tweets will teach them something new and, at worst, they’ll be a helpful reminder.
- Focus your tweets on 1-3 topics. Most of us follow people who tweet about topics we’re interested in. And what happens when they start posting stuff that’s not relevant or interesting to us? We unfollow.
To gain and keep engaged followers, stick to one and no more than a few core topics. Are you a SaaS content writer? Tweet about SaaS and content writing. Do you specialize in email copywriting? Tweet copywriting tips, the best email marketing tools, etc.
Of course, it’s okay to tweet about other things occasionally but, in general, your followers should know what kind of content to expect from you.
- Tweet consistently. Whether you can commit to a couple of helpful tweets per week or 1+ per day, being consistent can take you far.
Recommended Twitter Resources
Check out Blake Emal’s thread detailing seven proven idea generation methods for threads. It can also teach you a lot about writing solo tweets.
And, if you need a tool for drafting and scheduling, give typefully.app a go. (There’s a solid free plan but, if you’re interested in a paid plan, you can grab a 20% recurring discount using my link.)
- Just lurk or only comment on, retweet or quote tweet other people’s content. Your followers will want to see your content and hear your perspective as well.
- Worry about sounding repetitive. Talking about the same topics over is not a bad thing. Your followers want to be able to count on a steady supply of content related to your core areas of expertise so.
Plus, as your following grows, there will be people who haven’t seen your tweets on certain topics yet. The info will always be new to someone!
2. Engage often
Just as you can’t be successful without putting out valuable tweets, you also can’t be successful if you don’t engage with others. Check out the rules of engagement.
- Engage with people you’re not yet connected with. Going beyond the circle of people you already follow and vice versa will expand your network. Even if you don’t necessarily want to follow them, like, comment on, and retweet tweets that you enjoy from people who may be interested in your account.
- Develop and engage often with a small group of the same people. Five meaningful interactions per week with five Twitter friends will have more impact than a single interaction with 50 people that you never engage with again.
While it can be helpful to engage with many people, you need more than passing interactions. Build relationships with people who will support you and who you can support.
If you need to, create a Twitter list of your highest-quality Twitter connections and pin it next to your main feed so that you can remember to keep in touch.
- Reply to all comments on your tweets. Twitter shouldn’t be a one-way conversation. In addition to encouraging people to converse about the content you post, reply to them and further those conversations. By doing so, you:
- Build relationships
- Make yourself and your brand memorable
- Have more opportunities to show your expertise
- Encourage people to keep engaging in the future
- Make it possible for your tweets to be shown to more people
- Open up potential work opportunities
- Post low-value comments in response to others’ tweets. Rather than simple, non-specific statements such as “I agree”, try to add to the conversation by sharing your perspective or experience. And even when replying to people who’ve commented on your tweets, look for opportunities to continue the discussion and show interest in their thoughts and experiences.
- Be disrespectful or start drama. On a professional level, it’ll ruin your reputation and cost you opportunities. And, on a personal level, it’s just not cool. It’s fine to disagree but, if you must make it known, do so respectfully. Even better, just keep scrolling.
3. Start convos in the DMs
Along the line of engaging with others, don’t just interact with people publicly on Twitter. Use direct messages strategically.
- Personalize your messages. Even a simple line about something you enjoyed in their bio or their latest tweet can warm people up to the idea of conversing with you.
- Thank people for supporting you. Not only is it polite but it can encourage them to continue supporting you in the future.
- Be interested in what others are up to. Most people like to talk about themselves or, at the very least, appreciate people taking an interest in their work. You never know what doors your conversations could open, especially since people will naturally be curious about what you do once you start chatting.
- Check back in with people you’ve chatted with in the past. DMs aren’t a once-and-done activity. If you enjoyed a nice convo with someone in the past, check in with them periodically. Ask them how that project went or what’s new in their professional life. Not only will you have a stronger support system as a freelancer, but you’ll come to mind quickly when your connections (or their connections) need your skillset.
- Ask what you’re doing right or what people would like to know more about. When people respond well to your content, it’s helpful to know why so that you can stay on the right track. And asking what people would like you to tweet about more can make topic generation easier, giving you an idea of what content will perform well before you spend time creating it.
- Be confident. Don’t lead with statements like, “Sorry to bother you but…” or “I know you’re busy but…” They both waste the recipient’s time and make them more likely to view your message in a negative light. Get to your point without apologizing for it or downplaying its importance.
“The magic happens in the DMs”
DMing people can be uncomfortable at first but, when done right, it can be a phenomenal growth tactic. Check out Blake Emal’s thread on 18 ways to use DMs (and why they work).
- Just say “hi.” Be respectful of the other person’s time and let them know why you’re messaging them.
- Write 20 paragraphs in the first message. Especially when you’ve had little to no interaction with a person in the past, there’s not much of an incentive for them to spend time reading and replying to a long initial message. People’s time is limited so keep your messages short, at least until you’ve established a rapport.
- Cross any boundaries. Don’t pry into people’s personal business or use Twitter as a dating app. Be respectful at all times.
If you commit to tweeting valuable content regularly, engaging with others often, and using the DMs to build individual relationships, you will grow on Twitter. And that growth will support your freelance business.
Start building your online presence
With just the 3 tools we’ve talked about—a website, a LinkedIn account, and a Twitter account, you can move mountains. It’ll be easier to find potential clients, their quality will be higher, you’ll be able to charge more, it’ll be easier to secure work when you need it, and so on.
That said, the sooner you start building or improving your online presence, the sooner you can start enjoying those results. Why not start today with one simple action? Shoot me a DM on Twitter, tell me your biggest challenge as far as online presence goes, and I’ll give you a personalized tip! Sound like a deal?