The Spot Light is on You

The Spot Light is on You

Sacha Cohen writes for – a Ms.Money partner.

If you’ve visited eWork Exchange or any other independent professional site recently, you’ve probably noticed that independents are flocking to the Web in droves. But with so many people looking for work, how can you stand out from the crowd? Try the following tips and become a freelance superstar.

Create an online persona. How can you make sure your skills, great personality, and humor shine through online? First, consider how you present yourself in email, on your professional and personal Web pages, and on discussion lists. Believe it or not, it’s very easy for employers to do a little detective work to find out how you’ve been behaving online-and even posts from way back may still come up in searches. Also, if someone didn’t know you but only knew you online, what type of person would they think you are? Do you get into flame wars on discussion groups? Does your Web page include your interests and hobbies (generally, online portfolios and professional Web pages shouldn’t)?

Sell thyself. The Web is now home to dozens of sites that help you sell yourself and your skills to potential clients. On eWork Exchange, for example, you can create a detailed Web-sume and online portfolio to showcase all your talent. Realize, however, that developing those sales tools takes time-don’t expect to throw something compelling together in 15 minutes. It may take closer to two hours, but it’s time well spent. The first part of the Web-sume asks you to select a work activity. That means, you better know exactly what type of work you’re looking for, what you’re good at, and how to describe yourself to hiring managers. Start with a “um, like, I’m into Web page stuff,” and you’ve already lost your audience. Be specific, explain what you do (Web designer, database developer, Web project manager, etc). Then, know what type of projects you’re looking for: long-term, short-term, on-site, off-site, etc.

Before you post your Web-sume, personal Web site url, or your portfolio, you may want to ask a friend or colleague to read it over first. What was their first impression? Was your online portfolio clear, concise, and easy to navigate? Did they get a clear picture of who you are? If not, time to do some fine-tuning.

Build your reputation. Want to be successful in the brick-and-mortar world? Then, it’s location, location, location. For independent professionals, however, it’s more like reputation, reputation, reputation. From day one, make sure you develop honest and professional relationships with your clients. Turn projects in on time, do the best job possible, keep the lines of communication open, be willing to be flexible and make changes, and never, ever, skip out on a job that’s not finished. This is all part of building a reliable, top-notch brand: Yours.

Set competitive fees. Oh, the delicate art of setting fees. Go too high and employers won’t be able to afford you; go too low and they’ll think you’re a novice. To avoid being eliminated from a potential project because of your rate, make sure you do some research first. A good place to start is with professional organizations that target others in your field. For example, writers can go to the National Writers Union or a dozen other sites for journalists to look up standard rates broken down by region, specialty, and experience level. Also, skim the other postings and find people who are doing similar work. It may sound obvious, but a little competitive analysis can help in the long run.

Admittedly, it’s not easy to stand out from the competition, but with some careful planning, a little creativity, and perseverance, you may find yourself strolling down the freelance red carpet and fending off paparazzi!