Coco Chanel said, “In order to be irreplaceable, you must be different." And one way to show how and why you are different is through your online presence, which is part of your branding. In my book, Creating a Freelance Career, I write, “creating an online presence doesn’t mean just doing one thing, like putting up a website or creating a Facebook page, and being done.” These are just parts of our online presence. An online presence needs to be built strategically, mindful of the critical question, “How do I want others to see me and know me and my business?”
Take a moment and think about Taylor Swift since she’s the queen when it comes to online presences for entrepreneurial and freelance businesses. Swift “shows her audience her talent instead of telling them about it” through the content of her website and social media.
An effective and strategic online presence needs four components: a website, a blog, active social media accounts and regular activity on professional networking sites. All four of these components need to work together to build a strong online presence so let’s explore them (and how to get them) a bit more in-depth.
1. Build a strong website.
The purpose of your website is to be the primary face of your business 24/7 so that anyone, anywhere can visit at any time and get to know you and your business. The best website URL to have is either your name or your business’ name (depending on the type of freelance business you have). Websites are important because you get choose the image you want your business to have. You can pick the colors and the layout and the tone. It can be fun and engaging or informational and more serious, or somewhere in between.
Your website may include your personal mission statement as something that helps differentiate you from other, similar businesses, and it may contain your portfolio. It needs to have an about section so people can get to know you and a page listing services offered, as well as a way for people to get into contact with you. Testimonials or referrals are optional (as these are actually more powerful when on professional networking sites and review sites, as opposed to websites). And your website may have a way to make you money through sales of merchandise, affiliate advertising or similar often passive income generators. Your website may also contain your blog (or links to your blog, as well as links to your social media accounts).
2. Create a blog.
Blogs can seem like—and be—a lot of work since to have a successful blog, you must update it or add to it at regular intervals. But Fairygodboss.com helps you get started in five simple steps. Simply put, a blog post is a short article (usually 300-1000 words) that provides usual tips about a given topic. The importance of a blog or vlog (video log) is that it helps you be seen as an expert in a particular industry, and updating it regularly helps your rankings on search engines (since one of the key SEO metrics for Google and others is fresh content that links to other reputable websites).
Kate Peters, of Vocal Impact, started a blog called Kate’s Voice, about voices: “using them, hearing them, and freeing them,” she said. In Creating a Freelance Career, Peters said that after three years of blogging, she became aware of analytics and found her blog on a list of “Public Speaking Blogs: The Definitive List”. She began writing guest posts for other blogs on the list and those bloggers wrote posts for her, and they tweeted and gave “shouts out” on social media to each other, increasing traffic to the all of the sites, and, ultimately, landing additional clients.
3. Leverage social media.
Your social media accounts need to mirror your website in its look, branding and messaging (meaning don’t publishing something on social media that is incongruent with the image you want your business to portray). Posting every day on social media for your business may not be necessary, as it could be a major time-suck, but updating your social media accounts in regular intervals, like two to three days per week every week, is important.
The beauty of social media is that it is a multi-faceted and multi-channeled approach to telling your story, and it is through storytelling that we attract clients and find work.
4. Get active on professional networking sites.
The fourth part of your online presence is having active professional networking profiles on places LinkedIn, Alignable, the app LAMA and industry-specific places (like Academia, if you work in higher education, for example). On professional networking sites, you may want to think about including a personal mission statement as a way to set you apart, or to create a banner for your profile so that behind your photo is an eye-catching display that explains who you are and what you do at a glance (see mine if you need an example).
And once again, all of the content on your professional networking sites should reflect the same tone and style that is on your website, your blog and your social media accounts so that they all create the same brand experience.
Creating a strong online presence will instantly let people know who you are and what you do, and will help you find new clients or customers who resonant with your brand and your business.