You may call yourself a freelancer but your clients will always call you a professional. You always answer the phone during work hours and respond to emails as soon as you see them. Deliverables for your clients are never late, and your invoices are as professional as any fortune 500 company. The appearance you have created allows you to appear to be much larger than you really are, and charge fees significantly higher than if your clients knew you were a “freelancer”.
That is the effect of appearing as a professional. When companies have to choose between someone who appears professional and someone who looks like a freelancer who are they going to choose? The obvious answer is the professional. Companies cannot risk hiring a low quality freelancer so they will hire the person who looks professional.
Appearance does not always equal reality though. A professional appearance does not always mean a better final product. However if you look unprofessional you won’t get a chance to prove yourself because you won’t be hired for the project.
The freelancer to professional ingredient list
As a freelancer you are a business that provides a professional service. Every business needs a website even if it’s a simple 1-page website that describes your services and has your contact information. Obviously it’s an added bonus if you add a page about yourself, a portfolio of work, and an FAQ page but these are not necessary.
You don’t need to know how to build a website from scratch you can do it with WordPress and use a professional theme. I recommend checking out the themes over at Studiopress, their Business Pro Theme and Kreativ Pro Theme are great options for Freelancers. For domain registration I recommend using Namecheap, and for web hosting I recommend Siteground. The beginner’s guide to starting a website provides a step-by-step guide to starting a website.
A branded website email
It is incredibly important to have an email associated with the branded website you own. If you have a website for your web design company but you are still using a @gmail.com email address you are doing something very wrong. This looks unprofessional even to people who are not tech-savvy. If you are building your website with Siteground there is a guide to creating an email for your domain in the beginner’s guide. Below is the simple way of doing this in the Siteground cPanel.
This can be easily done with cPanel as well. Under the heading “Mail” click the option called “Email Accounts”. This will bring you to a very simple interface to create an email account. You can then connect it to your primary email address so you can send and receive emails from ONE inbox. Very convenient. Simply Google “Connect domain email to MyEmailProvider” and include your email service in the place of MyEmailProvider.
As a professional you will need to have an email signature. An email signature is like a domain specific email address, it is a necessity when you own a business or provide professional services. Everyone has a unique opinion on what needs to be included in the signature.
- Name, title, and company. Your full name lets the reader know who the email. Include your freelancing company name and your position with the company.
- Contact information. This will always include your business website and at least one phone number. You should include a physical address as well if you work out of an office, this is optional if you work from home.
- Logo. If you have a logo I recommend putting it in your email signature, it looks nice and adds a professional look. If you don’t have a logo don’t worry it’s not a necessity for a freelancer.
- Legal compliance. Some countries have specific laws relating to email communication from businesses. If you live in a country that has these you will need to comply with them, consult with an attorney for more information.
Professional invoicing software
Some freelancers will hire an accountant to create an invoice for them. Other freelancers will spend hours creating custom invoices in Microsoft Word. The easier option is to use an invoicing and accounting software such as Freshbooks. Freshbooks has easy to use invoicing with customizable templates and they also has easy to use expense tracking. Their software allows you to take automatic deposits so you no longer need to collect checks and etransfers. The shocking thing is how few people know about how cheap and easy to use accounting and invoicing software is. We are well into the 21st century, stop invoicing like it’s 1995.
A LinkedIn profile is another sign that you are a professional. Business owners use LinkedIn and if they are hiring you as a freelancer the will often search you or your company up. When they do this search you should pop up in the results page as an employee for your company. Being active on LinkedIn can also be a good marketing strategy. If you can learn to create posts that are seen by potential clients then it can lead to more business for you.
LinkedIn also has group features which can help you build a network of other freelancers and clients to work with. I also recommend you add you clients on LinkedIn to beef up your professional presence there.
Since you are running a freelancing business you should be taking advantage of the local SEO (search engine optimization). Google provides advantages in search to local businesses for queries their algorithm believes to be focused on a local region. These would include queries such as “thai restaurant” or “San Fransisco web designer”. To learn more about local SEO I suggest you read this Ahrefs article.
It’s also advantageous for local SEO, and client acquisition to submit your freelancing business to local business directories. Every town and city has multiple business directories you can submit your business to. Most of these directories will be free but there may be some that require a fee.
1-800 number (optional)
If you are freelancing for long distance or international clients it can be advantageous to have a 1-800 number. If you are only focused on local businesses a 1-800 number is probably unnecessary. Everyone uses email, but phone calls will always be much more efficient for discussing project requirements and clarifying possible misunderstandings. A toll free phone number also has the advantage of making your freelancing business seem larger and more prestigious. Who would have a tool free number if they weren’t making a lot of important phone calls, right?