21 Freelancing Social Media Faux Pas

You’ve heard how wonderful a tool social media is for freelancers. For little to no cost and a minimal time commitment you can find exposure for your freelancing business that used to be beyond the reach of most solo professionals.

But don’t take social media too lightly. To get results, you need to learn to use it effectively. Sadly, many freelancing professionals fail to get the kind of results they would like from social media. That’s because they make embarrassing mistakes.

In this post, I’ll list twenty-one embarrassing mistakes that I’ve seen on Twitter, LinkedIn, Google+, and other social media sites. You can use this list as a handy checklist to make sure that your social media presence is all that it should be.

Avoid These Social Media Faux Pas

Are you getting any results from your social media participation? If you answered “no,” then check the list below to see if you’re making any of these common mistakes:

  1. No image–Not having an image on your social media profile flags you as a spammer for many people. Studies have shown that most social media participants prefer a photo of a person. If you’re too shy to share your photo online, try using a scaled down version of your logo. Just don’t let the social media platform’s default become your image.
  2. Unprofessional image–Another problem that I see all the time is inappropriate images. Remember that your social media presence represents your freelancing business. You shouldn’t share images or use an image in your profile that you wouldn’t want on your freelancing website.
  3. No bio–One of the first things I check when I decide whether or not to follow/friend someone through social media is their profile. A good profile should be a brief description of what you do. Don’t make your prospective clients guess (they won’t spend the time anyway). No bio = no follow.
  4. No link back to your website or blog–This is a huge mistake that I see a lot of freelancers making. They have a strong social media presence, but their profile has no way to contact them. I’ve even seen Twitter profiles that link back to the user’s Twitter page! Make it easy for people to find you and link to your site.
  5. Sending a direct message that can’t be responded to–It can’t be responded to because you’ve sent the message to someone you haven’t friended. This is annoying habit that I blame on auto responders and similar utilities. The first impulse that most of us have when receiving a direct message is to reply.
  6. Not answering when someone addresses you directly–You wouldn’t ignore someone in a room if they walked up to you and said “hello,” would you? Of course not. You shouldn’t ignore people on social media who address you directly either (unless, of course, you suspect they are a spammer).
  7. Not thinking before sharing–What you share should have value to your friends/circles/followers. Unfortunately, too many of us share impulsively without considering whether the share has any real value. If you really want your social media marketing to be effective, make sure your shares count.
  8. Not reading what you shared–After a while on social media you may find yourself tweeting material from the same sources over and over. You may be tempted to set your account up to automatically share whatever these sources produce. Don’t do it! Read what you share before sharing.
  9. Sharing junk–Make sure that you are sharing something that your followers (and especially your prospective clients) will appreciate. Humor, in particular, is tricky. Remember that what’s funny to one person could be offensive to another.
  10. Sharing only sales pitches–One of the quickest ways to lose friends and followers is to share nothing but sales pitch after sales pitch. Yes, you are on social media for marketing purposes–but what you are going after is relationship marketing not a hard sell to a bunch of strangers.
  11. Getting into an argument online–Keep your arguments with other users offline and private. If someone tries to bait you into a fight, ignore them. That’s usually enough to get them to quit. In particular, don’t get into personal disagreements with friends and family members on social media.
  12. Sharing personal rants–A related topic is ranting about clients and colleagues. It may feel good to rant about a client online, but if you do so you may be hurting your freelancing business. A prospective client who reads your rant may fear that they will become the subject of one of your next online rants.
  13. Sharing URLs with no headline or explanation–I can’t figure out why anyone would do this on social media, yet I see it all the time. I can only assume that a button or automated feature somewhere is broken. Sharing a link without any explanation makes you look like a spammer (even if you’re not).
  14. Sharing information that is so obscure nobody can relate–No one wants to guess what your post or tweet means. Sharing obscure references doesn’t make you intriguing, it makes you foolish. If it’s based on a private joke that only you and your fourth grade best friend know keep it offline.
  15. Using obscenities–Another faux pas that I see all of the time. While some freelancers may disagree, think of your prospective clients. Will they be offended if you use bad language? If you answered “yes,” then you probably already know to avoid using it.
  16. Begging for work online–Social media marketing is a form of relationship marketing. The core thought behind social media marketing is getting to know people. That means interacting. Once someone knows you and you have built a relationship, you may approach them privately to see if they can use their services.
  17. Obvious typos in your online profile–Typos in a profile are especially bad for freelance writers, but they can be distracting in anyone’s profile. A prospective client reading your profile may interpret it to mean that you are not careful enough to trust with their project.
  18. Having an unused social media account–Having an unused social media account isn’t necessarily embarrassing. Lots of individuals and companies create profiles and then let them sit for whatever reason. However, an unused social media account doesn’t benefit your freelancing business either.
  19. Not sharing your social media information–Social media is a great excuse to stay in touch with people that you meet and former clients. Yet many freelancers fail to use their social media accounts in this way. Be sure to include your social media profile on your website and business stationery.
  20. Not meeting new people–Just like with any other group of people, it’s tempting to find a group on social media that you feel comfortable with and stick to interacting those folks only. However, if you want to really use your social media presence to grow your freelance business you need to branch out and meet others.
  21. Being too automated–Make sure that some of your social media interactions are personal and real time. Automation tools are convenient, but your clients can sense when your only interactions are automated shares.

Your Turn

What social media faux pas have you noticed online?

Share your answers in the comments.

Image by opportplanet


  1. says

    Great post – I know I think about almost all posts I put out there into the interwebs; sometimes I blank and post something left-of-centre… One question I have for you Laura is – what is your opinion on posting media releases to Journos on Twitter? Faux Pas?

  2. says

    Dear Laura:

    Good article!

    I think the only point I would slightly disagree with you is #11. I believe that there are some situations that warrant responses. It happened to me when I recently had to stand my ground against someone who had stolen some of my content.

    With that said, the freelancer should remain professional and polite at all time.

    Thank you for writing the article!

  3. says

    Great comments!

    Yvette–More than any other social medium, Twitter has been used for broadcasting. However, if a freelancer is really to get the most of a social media they should also be looking to develop relationships. That means interacting.

    Cendrine Marrouat–Good example. My main caution is against getting into an unprofessional flame war with name calling, etc., on social media. I’m sure you’ve seen this. It’s good that you had the self-control to remain professional. :)

  4. says

    Fabulous list, Laura. Some seem obvious, but it’s amazing how many times you see them.

    I’ll admit I have a few unused accounts. I started them, partly for exploration, and decided it wasn’t my cup of tea. This tells me I need to clean up my accounts-either cancel the account or schedule time for its use. Good advice, Laura.

  5. says

    Cathy Miller–Thanks for your comment. I also have unused accounts. :)

    In my opinion, unused accounts is one of the lesser mistakes. It’s just that you can’t benefit from social media if you don’t participate. However, if you know for sure a particular social media platform is not for you, it probably is a good idea to cancel your account.

    You’re right, though. I see these mistakes all the time. But we have to remember that new freelancers are always jumping onto social media for the first time and may not understand what works best.

  6. says

    I see people in every industry making mistake number 13 all of the time, sharing links with no headlines or information! Why would anyone want to click on a link if they have absolutely no idea where the link is taking them?

  7. says

    Related to your #9 and #11 about content , I think it’s a big mistake for professionals to share their political views — especially in these divisive times. Doing so not only often results in nasty debates, but also may offend potential (or existing) clients.

    If a person wants to express her political thoughts, I think she should create a separate, personal account for that kind of content — and not risk alienating clients and colleagues.

  8. says

    I have to make one point about #15 Using Obscenities: I do occasionally curse on Twitter. It’s rare, but it can add needed impact or humor to a tweet. My pet peeve is the folks who insert a curse word in the tweet but censor themselves (ex: 6 Ways People Talk $h*t on Twitter).

    If you’re going to swear than stand by it and use the actually curse word. Own it.

    Plus, If a potential client is so uptight they get mad I used a PG-13 word in my Twitter feed, than I likely don’t want to work with them anyway.

  9. says

    Very good article, thanks.
    No one doubts about the value and importance of social media for freelancers. Something that i doubts is that sometimes I do not know for sure whom I am communicating. In social media I have friends, clients, potential clients, professional colleagues, family, etc: what may be interesting for some people certainly is not for others. It is very interesting to learn to use social networks.

  10. says

    Hi all, I will like to introduce everyone to freelance domain marketplace, it’s a freelance jobs marketplace where service buyers post jobs that they need to be done and freelancers submit bids to win the job. It’s totally free to post jobs. Our services include web designing, programming, writing, translation, software development, engineering, seo, marketing, advertising, copywriting, proofreading, data entry and more

  11. says

    NIce list of ideas. Too be honest, most are fairly obvious. And I would say that I follow most of these rules already in my social media sites etc. I personally do struggle with social media though and dont find it as helpful as some. Ive been facebooking my site for years with no real progress through it. Some friends if mine though get great results using it though through competitions etc. Thanks for another great post.


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