Freelancing websites include the likes of UpWork, Freelancer.com, and PeoplePerHour. These are platforms that seek to connect skilled workers with businesses looking for freelance, remote work (with a few exceptions).
That makes these sites perfect for web designers, copywriters, programmers, and anyone else looking for online “gigs.” Indeed, those looking to enter the gig economy will very often start here. UpWork alone has over 5 million businesses using the site!
But while such a huge market has its advantages, it also invites a lot of competition. And when you’re brand new to the gig economy, it can be extremely difficult to stand out and get noticed.
There is a big difference between a great CV, and a great UpWork or Freelancer profile. With that in mind, let’s consider some of the best things you can do to build a winning profile on freelancing websites.
Were you applying to jobs individually, then you would likely tweak your CV each time to suit the role that you were applying for. This strategy also makes sense when creating a profile on a site like Upwork. The only difference is that you can’t show different profiles to different companies.
The best advice when creating a profile on freelancing websites is to try and be as specific as possible. Don’t try to be all things to all people, but instead aim to be the very best in a very specific niche.
Don’t try to be all things to all people.
For example, rather than being a writer, why not be a health and fitness blogger? That is a FAR more specific job. Rather than being a programmer, why not aim to be a mobile game developer, specializing in Unity and C#?
By doing this, you will reduce the number of jobs that you appear to be a great fit for, but you will also ensure that when a job you do enjoy comes along, you’ll be ideal for that role and far more likely to be able to fend off the competition. Not only that, but you’ll likely enjoy the work you find more, and do a better job as a result.
This doesn’t just apply to what you decide to emphasize on your profile, but also the kinds of jobs and qualifications you pursue. When you find your career calling in this way, you can ensure that you are the very best at what you do.
A variety of profiles
Of course, narrowing your scope this much can have its disadvantages. Thankfully, there are ways for you to have your cake and eat it too. One such example is to create multiple profiles on different freelancing websites. This way, you can become the very best tech writer on one profile, and the very best fitness writer on the next. No one on UpWork needs to know how you present yourself on Freelancer, and vice versa!
Similarly, you also have the option of slightly skewing your profile in one direction or the other when you are applying for a particular role or position. For instance, if you are applying for a particular role as a self-improvement writer, then you might choose to move those related gigs to the top of your portfolio.
This is a concept that UpWork understands well, allowing users to create specialized CVs to show to specific clients. For sites that don’t offer that feature, consider keeping a document full of different “versions” of your profile sections. You can then swap them out easily by copying and pasting. (This is also useful when writing lots of proposals.)
The Right Photo
They say that a picture is worth a thousand words, and this is certainly true when it comes to making your freelance profile stand out. This is your “first impression,” and is just as important as how you present yourself to an interviewer.
A great photo should make you appear friendly and approachable, at the same time as smart and professional. The wrong picture, on the other hand, can do serious harm to your prospects, and make you seem immediately more amateurish.
Some pointers for getting this right:
- Use a good quality camera with good lighting
- Use a headshot – no zoomed out images. Your face should take up at least 60% of the image.
- Be the only person in the shot
- Be smiling – but not ecstatic.
- Choose a neutral and/or professional background. That means no selfies you took in your bedroom! An urban backdrop with a bokeh blur, a bright white background, or an office setting will all work well.
- Be well-groomed. That means a recent haircut!
- Aim for smart casual. If your profile picture is you in a stuffy suit, then you will look like a try-hard who has missed the mark. Likewise, though, a t-shirt isn’t going to inspire a lot of confidence. The common advice is to “wear what you’d wear to work,” but I disagree: wear what you would wear to your dream job.
- That said, being somewhat “industry appropriate” can still make sense. If you’re a creative type, then let a little more of that side of your show.
As well as a photo, many freelancing websites allow users to upload a video. This can be an excellent way to stand out from the crowd and set yourself apart. A well-edited and free video goes a long way, so make sure that you outsource this part if you’re not familiar with video editing software.
Great writing makes a huge difference to your success on freelancing websites. What you need to remember is that your profile is effective in an advert; you are trying to sell yourself. Just as a product will use sales copy to drive sales, so should you think about how the right description can make your skills seem even more appealing.
A few tips:
- List your main selling points early. Don’t expect employers to read through large amounts of text to get to the good stuff!
- Write with good English, free from typos and grammatical errors. If you aren’t confident in your skills as a writer, consider hiring a freelancer to handle it for you (you know where to find them!).
- Sell your value proposition: understand what your ideal “buyer” is looking for, and make sure they see that you can offer it.
- Back up your claims with concrete evidence.
- Consider excluding potential clients! Sometimes explaining who your services are not for can help to seal the deal with the right person.
- Finally, another sales technique you can use right away is to offer some useful advice within your description. This might seem odd for what is essentially an online CV, but it will help demonstrate that you know what you’re talking about and are capable of providing value.
This should go without saying, but unfortunately, some people do need this point hammered home. There is ultimately no point in being dishonest in your profile. Not only do you risk being exposed, which could get you completely removed from the profile, but you’ll also attract jobs that are beyond your capabilities. All that will result in is dissatisfied customers and bad reviews.
I wish you had a qualification that you’re currently missing? Then just put some time in to gain that qualification. This is easier than ever before thanks to the web!
Wherever possible, make sure that people looking at your profile know you’re being honest by including evidence. Anyone can claim to be a highly experienced programmer, but if you include examples of your previous work in your portfolio, it will help you to stand out.
Keep at it
Freelancing websites give back what you put in. As you complete more jobs through a given site, you will appear more in searches and will appeal more to potential clients. This is good news for those that have already built up some momentum, but it can be an uphill struggle for those that are trying to breakthrough.
The best advice I can give is not to give up. That first client is the hardest to land, and after that, things will start happening for you. That said, you can always help this process along by asking any existing or previous clients to order their next job through your platform of choice!
Another tip is to spend time filling out your profile as completely as possible. Some sites include online tests that you can complete to demonstrate proficiency in certain areas for example. While these can be a time sink, they’re very much worth doing as they help legitimize your claims.
As a rule, many of us have a habit of underselling ourselves. This is due to something called “imposter syndrome,” which is a tendency that all of us have to believe that we don’t deserve the success or position that we have accomplished. This lack of confidence has a habit of expressing itself in subtle ways though, and that can end up sabotaging us.
That’s why it’s important to know precisely who you are and what you have to offer. Find something that you are extremely confident you can do well, and then use freelancing websites to communicate that to potential clients. Don’t expect clients to believe you have what it takes until you believe it yourself!