Building a Strong Reputation For You and Your Freelance Business
Today’s workforce looks radically different than it did even a decade ago. Many university grads are opting out of the corporate world and choosing to work for themselves instead, while mid-career professionals tire of the daily grind and choose a career path that offers greater autonomy and flexibility, or retirees look to supplement their pension with a side hustle.
Simply put, there’s a rapidly growing group of people who are choosing self-employment over traditional work. Our research projects that by 2020, freelancers, independent contractors, and on-demand workers will make up 45% of the Canadian workforce.
The rise of self-employment has notably led to more microbusinesses, as people are increasingly buying goods and services directly from another person, rather than through a business. This also means that self-employed individuals are facing more pressure than ever to stand out in a progressively crowded landscape.
One way to differentiate yourself from other microbusinesses is to ensure your online presence and customer endorsements demonstrate that your skills and services are up to snuff, assuring potential clients or customers that they’re engaging with a credible, competent and trustworthy professional.
How can you curate a strong online reputation to help you stand out and grow your self-employed business? Here are my tips.
Content is key
You may not always have control over what reviews say about you, but you can control how you present the work you do and the unique value you offer.
Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn profiles are an extension of your personal brand, and putting out compelling, original content on these platforms is a great way to start building trust and credibility.
You can share updates and also publish posts to LinkedIn related to your product or area of expertise, or enhance your reputation as an expert in your field by sharing observations, impressions, and advice for others based on your own experiences within your industry.
Whenever possible, include a visual component like an image, infographic, or video to make your content more memorable. People are only likely to remember 10% of information three days after hearing or reading it. If a relevant image is included, however, people retained an impressive 65% of the information within the same period.
By taking these steps, you can help build credibility for you and your business and expand your reach, as great content goes farther online.
Be proactive about online reviews
With that said, many businesses rely heavily on reviews and rating systems to give consumers confidence that the person they’re buying from is trustworthy, and it’s no different for freelancers or on-demand workers.
It’s common practice to turn to Google before or after interacting with someone new, whether it’s a personal or business-related situation. Reading reviews on key review platforms like Yelp, Google or Facebook is an everyday occurrence, and customers who read reviews before their purchase claimed the information did impact their buying decisions. This was true of both positive and negative reviews.
That’s why it’s more important than ever to make sure you’re asking happy customers to leave a review or impression of their experience. Especially if your given name is part of your business name, which is common for wedding planners, photographers and realtors, you can easily damage your reputation if you’re not proactively seeking positive feedback.
When you do ask for a review, make sure you’re personalizing every request so it doesn’t look like it’s coming from a bot and be sure to include a link to the review site.
If you encounter a negative review, the first step is determining whether the review warrants a response. If the language being used is overly aggressive or irrational, don’t engage. If the review describes a negative experience, consider talking to someone who may have been close to the issue before responding. Once you have the facts, reach out to the customer and offer to take the conversation to a private channel to resolve the issue, like over email or direct message. Most importantly, learn from the experience and move on.
Do your own part
Let’s not forget our own personal responsibility in this discussion. Now that we understand the value and impact our words can have on someone’s business, I encourage everyone to help the self-employed community by leaving reviews, ratings, and feedback.
Identify what the business did well with specific examples. If you had a negative experience, don’t make the review personal. A great, constructive review will include concrete examples as well as advice to help the business understand why the experience wasn’t great.
Most importantly, your digital footprint adds up – from your social media accounts to the reviews you leave – to create a picture of you and your brand, so manage your online presence thoughtfully. After all, the success of your business relies on it.
Jeff Cates is President at Intuit Canada