If you don’t already know, you are constantly being evaluated by everyone you meet. I’m not just talking about the quality of the things you design or the projects that you code, either, although that’s certainly important.
But you’re also being evaluated as a person; your attitude, the words you choose, the way you dress, and yes – the way you look as well, are all constantly on display to everyone you meet and form relationships with.
This can be a make or break issue to a freelancer looking to grow their client base. We’re going to look at some of the ways that nurturing your freelance reputation can mean the growth of a highly successful career, and how to go about doing it.
We all judge everything and everyone we encounter on a daily basis. When you meet with a potential client, you automatically judge whether or not they’re worth working with.
When you walk into a coffee shop, the barista is judging whether or not they should sell you a cup of coffee, or politely ask you to leave. They say that first impressions last a lifetime, so when you present yourself, or your work, to a potential client, take the time to put forth an image to be proud of.
One of the most vital ways you can show off your good side to potential clients is in your communication style. I once hired a designer on the spot based purely on how I overheard her speaking to others. She was authoritative, sincere, and polite, with exceptional social skills and a palpable confidence that permeated her posture and the way she spoke.
My first impression of her was that “here is a person who knows what she’s doing – if I hire her, I can relax knowing that she can do the job.” As a freelancer, you always want to strive to make this kind of impression on people. You never know who’s watching – it could be your next big client.
Ingredients for a Good Reputation
There are three things you should be striving for when building a reputation: being liked, being trusted, and being respected. These three things go hand-in-hand, and in no particular order. When people like you, they trust you. No one trusts someone they don’t like. And only once people trust you are you able to earn their respect.
As a designer, you must learn to cultivate a likeable, trustable demeanor, so that you can leap over your competition and get the clients you really want. This can be difficult, especially if you’re more comfortable in front of a computer than in the middle of a crowd, but you can get started by changing the way others perceive you.
You might not feel perfectly at ease, at first, but with a bit of observation and practice, you can be projecting an air of likeable, trustable confidence in no time.
Ask and Listen
You may be wondering “well, this is great and all, but how can I change the way I come across to others?” I’m not saying it’s going to be easy, but you can be strategic about developing better personality traits that will foster a good reputation.
Ask people you know for their honest opinion of how you come across, and – here’s the important part – listen to what they tell you with an open mind. Are you consistently hearing that you’re too pushy? That you interrupt others too often in conversation? That you come off as too arrogant, or too shy, or too eccentric?
We all have personality flaws, but only those willing to endure and listen to honest criticism can ever hope to overcome them. After all, you can’t improve on something you don’t even know is a problem.
Another great strategy, when developing things like posture and social skills, is to practice in front of a camera. Not just a mirror – it’s important to record yourself speaking, answering questions, etc. so that you can see what your weaknesses are in order to improve them.
It’s astounding what just a few hours of practicing can do to improve your communication skills. Playing back your recorded attempts may be painfully embarrassing, but you will rapidly improve.
Don’t Lose Sight of the Goal
It takes time and effort to change your reputation, so be sure to catch critical errors before they cause permanent, irreversible damage. Once your reputation drops below a certain threshold, it can be impossible to ever recover fully.
Celebrities are a great example. Famous people are often given a lot more chances to prove themselves than the rest of us are, but I’m sure you can all think of at least a few celebrities who have done something so heinous that even their well-oiled PR machines can’t fix the damage.
Oftentimes, these people don’t even realize that what they’ve done can forever alter people’s perception of them – and a celebrity’s entire career is at the mercy of public opinion. But when you’re rich and famous, it’s a lot easier to lose sight of reality and make fatal blunders that can spell the end of everything.
To conclude, maintaining your good name requires lifelong vigilance. Being a likeable person is the most important step in getting ahead, getting clients, and expanding your social network. If you consciously, consistently think about the way you’re perceived by others, you’ll always be prepared for anything that might make an impact on your reputation.
Be constantly setting goals and actively improving your personality traits. Get honest feedback and establish a systematic way to change your behavior so that you come across the way you want to.