So you’re ready to start getting paid for that thing you’re really good at. You’re going to start telling friends and former colleagues about your new role as a freelancer. You’re going to announce to the world that you’re taking on new project work and clients. In order to do that you need a basic digital presence.
Why? Because how people perceive you, your brand and the seriousness of your offering impacts your chances of closing their business. Now there are certainly some differences depending on your industry (which you should dive into in the FreeAgent Community Channels) but some things are just universal. Two easy steps are email and a basic website.
- Email: The easiest thing in the world to make good. The silliest thing in the world to mess up. Do not be the person who announces their awesome new business and then directs prospects and friends to a hotmail account. Or, worse yet, an AOL account. I get it, you maybe have acquired that very cute and funny handle at the dawn of your internet-ing but at this moment instead of conveying professionalism it shouts “HEY, WHAT’S YOUR FAX NUMBER SO I CAN FAX YOU OVER MY PROPOSAL?”
Luckily there are some super simple ways to fix this even if you haven’t picked a company name or incorporated yet.
- Best: Buy a domain name. It’s your brand and even if it’s a placeholder, it communicates that you’re here to stay. firstname.lastname@example.org VS email@example.com
You be the judge.
- Difficulty level: Pretty darn easy. You can search for domains to buy on Namecheap, or other services. Then, Google Apps will let you turn on and set up a custom domain with a few clicks
- Cost: FREE for first 30 days and then only $5/month each thereafter. Added bonus: you get to use the other Google Apps tied to this domain – Google Calendar lets you send cal invites from your domain, and Google Drive gives you the ability to create and share documents using your domain.
- Alternative: If you’re really intimidated by the prospect of picking out a domain, at the very least, get some version of your name (or company name) as a free gmail address. Have a super common name? No problem: add the word “consulting” or “services” to your brand name. E.g. firstname.lastname@example.org (not my real email)
Upside: Super easy. Completely free.
Downside: Still not quite as professional as having your own custom domain.
- Website: What’s it really for anyway? Actually it can serve a few different purposes. It can be a calling card, a portfolio, or a place to show off your functional skills. It can also be a powerful way to figure out what people are looking for when they find you. The good news is that you don’t need to figure that out right now. You should only put up as much information as you actually have about your new offering as a free agent. Should you pretend like you have a team? Should you use the royal “We”? That really depends on your goals. What you should NOT do is stress out about which platform to use (yet). If reading that made you feel relief, great.
- Best: Squarespace, Wix or Tumblr are good easy to setup options.
- Difficult level: Squarespace, Wix and Tumblr are fairly simple-to-use site creation tools. They have beautiful themes that you can choose from and Squarespace in particular has some really slick ways to let you add images, capture prospective client information and do other stuff. There are some great examples of hacks and ways in the web presence discussion channel but the bottom line is that you can get a site up in an hour on your own domain (i.e. www.YOURDOMAIN.com) with no coding necessary.
- Costs: range from free to $5-12/month
There are other ways to create an online presence. Check out Digital Basics Part II to get your social on.