Are You Guilty of T.M.I.?

Freelancers go to great lengths to build strong relationships with clients, so it should come as no surprise that they are sometimes guilty of sharing too much information (T.M.I.) online.

While it’s important to be authentic and genuine online, it’s also possible to overshare. There are some things that clients, colleagues, and potential clients didn’t really need to know about you.

Yet, oversharing happens all the time. I’ve seen it on nearly all of the major networks, and I’m sure you have too. In fact, some social networks have recently encouraged oversharing by suggesting that you use their network to document nearly every aspect your life.

While oversharing might be okay if you limit your fans/friends/followers/circles to a small group of individuals who are well-known to you, it flies against good sense if you are using social media to interact with clients and prospective clients for your freelancing business.

In this post, I’ll identify some bits of personal information that are better left unshared. I’ll also invite you to discuss online reputation and social media.

Information You Don’t Need to Share

Does everyone really need to everything about you? Check the list.

  1. Relationship troubles–This information is best shared only with a small group of trusted confidantes, preferably offline. Yet, some persist in announcing breakups and other relationships online. Besides, what if the relationship mends? Your rant will still be out there in someone’s cache memory, even if you delete your original comments. From a business perspective, airing relationship problems publicly makes you seem hard to get along with.
  2. Regular updates on your location–Many would disagree with me on this one, but unless you are attending a conference or other large gathering where you plan to meet up with others, regular updates on your location are unnecessary. From a personal perspective, such sharing might even be unsafe–especially if you are alone.
  3. Detailed descriptions of what you ate (or drank)–Unless a meal or beverage was truly exceptional and unique, there’s no need to share it (let alone share a photograph of it). Really, I’ve seen a salad, burger, french fries, steak, etc… The exception, of course, is if you are somehow tied into the food industry (restaurant reviewer, food blogger, cookbook editor, etc.). Trust me. Don’t bore your clients and prospects with this.
  4. Graphic details of every one of your physical ailments–Yuck! I can’t believe the details people share on social media about their illnesses and physical symptoms. While I understand it’s no fun being sick–it’s no fun reading about vomit either. Besides, do you really want your prospective clients to think that you’re sick all of the time? I thought not. One exception might be if you are a medical writer, but even then I’m not sure it’s always a good idea to constantly write in detail about your own ailments.
  5. Griping about clients and past clients online. It can feel good to rant about a bad client. You may even justify your actions by telling yourself you are warning other freelancers. However, if you constantly gripe and complain a potential and perfectly legitimate client may be scared off. Besides, there are non-ranting ways to turn in a bad client. In the U.S. these methods include contacting a state’s attorney general’s office, filing a complaint at the Better Business Bureau, and even hiring an attorney.

As you can see from the examples listed above, there really can be such a thing as sharing too much information. Of course, all of this ultimately impacts your online reputation.

T.M.I. and Your Online Reputation

As a freelancer, your reputation as a professional is probably your greatest asset. Because most freelancers rely on the Internet find work, your reputation as a professional must also be maintained online.

Your website or blog may not be the very first thing that your prospective client reads about you. (That doesn’t mean you don’t need to have a strong business site, though.) More and more frequently, clients are meeting freelancers through social media and then turning to search engines to learn more about them.

It may seem nearly impossible to control your online reputation, and it’s true that there are elements that are beyond your control. For example, someone may tag you, write about you, or otherwise share about you without your permission. However, there is still much about your online reputation that you actually can control. In many cases, it’s just a case of setting boundaries between your personal life and your professional life.

Your Turn

Did I leave out any examples of information that doesn’t need to be shared? Do you think oversharing is a problem for freelancers? Why, or why not?