Are You Rude Online?

So, you’re active online. You’ve got a blog, multiple social media profiles, an online portfolio–and you keep everything updated regularly. You’re doing exactly what a freelancer should do (or so you think), but you’re not getting any new clients. What could be the problem?

There might indeed be something you’re doing wrong, even when you seem to be doing everything right. Although having an online image is very important, it’s not enough to simply be online. You have to have a good reputation as well.

If you’re active online, but aren’t attracting new business could it be because others are perceiving you as being rude?

Just as talking loudly on your cell phone in a small restaurant might be annoying and even rude to those around you, some common online behaviors can also be considered rude.

Before you dismiss this thought entirely, realize that it’s easy to accidentally offend others (without even knowing it) when you’re doing business online. In this post, I’ll identify some online actions (no no’s) that might offend others. Then, I’ll ask you what you consider to be rude

Social Media No No’s

Most social media platforms offer a fun, casual way to interact with others. They can be a great tool for reaching out to new prospective clients and other freelancers.

The downside to social media tools is that it can be easy to get carried away by the casual atmosphere and make foolish mistake that seem rude to others. (This can be especially true if you are new to using social media for business purposes.)

You don’t get a second chance to make a good first impression, so it’s important to be as personable online as you are offline.

Here are some social media no no’s that will make you seem rude:

  • Not answering someone who addresses you directly. Whether it’s a mention on Twitter or a post to your Facebook wall, when someone reaches out to you directly you need to acknowledge them and respond. If you’re not online when a person makes contact, answer them as soon as you get back online.
  • Begging for work online. Naturally it’s okay to mention that you work and discuss work projects from time to time. Most people understand that you need to earn a living. However, there has been a growing problem with people who share nothing of value and use social media only to ask for work (or sell a product). Don’t be that person!
  • Bad language and obscenities. While you might feel perfectly at home on your favorite social media platform, you still need watch your language (and the language at the site you share). Too many cuss words and online swearing can create a bad impression and cause potential clients to pass you by.
  • Ranting about clients (or other freelancers) by name. No matter how tempted you are, it’s best not to rant about someone else publicly. Unless you are absolutely certain the other person is a scammer, it’s best to keep your disagreements private. A potential client who sees you griping about a current client may well wonder if this is how you’ll treat them.
  • Overuse or misuse of autoresponders. Some folks use an autoresponder to “greet” a new social media contact. However, this tactic can easily backfire and have the effect of making you seem less approachable instead of more approachable. If this is you, be careful not to make your autoresponse too impersonal.

These are just some of the social media mistakes that a freelancer can make online, but social media is not the only place where a freelancer can seem rude. Email should also be handled carefully.

Email No No’s

Email has been around a long time, but not everyone uses it to its full advantage. It’s just as easy to make a misstep by email as it is on social media tools. Here are some email no no’s to avoid.

  • Not answering a business email within a few business days. Not answering promptly is probably the biggest complaint that prospects and clients have about freelancers. You don’t have to check your email every minute, but it’s still important to keep up with it. If an email requires an action item that you haven’t completed, at least acknowledge receiving it.
  • Being too casual with a contact too soon. As a freelancer, you probably work from home in a fairly informal environment. However, your prospect may still be working in a formal corporate atmosphere. Unless you know the prospect well your first few contacts should be formal. When in doubt, follow the client’s lead.
  • Not addressing the client’s real concerns. To be effective, communication has to be a two way street. Read over what the prospect has sent you carefully and make sure that your return emails address all of their concerns. If possible, encourage them to ask additional questions to make sure that the two of you are on the same page.
  • Bad language and obscenities. Just as bad language and obscenities had no place in social media, they should not be a part of your email correspondence either. While not everyone is offended by salty language, many people are. There’s really no way for you to know for sure who will be bothered and who won’t.
  • Dissing other clients (or freelancers). This is another mistake that freelancers also make in social media. It’s just never really appropriate to put someone else down. Rather than making you look better, putting other freelancers and former clients down actually makes you look worse.

Your Turn

Ultimately, every freelancer has to decide for themselves what online behaviors are acceptable and how they will act towards others. However, keep in mind that how you behave online may affect how much work you get. First impressions really do count.

I’ve listed some of the mistakes that a freelancer can make online that might make them seem rude to others. I’m sure, however, that my list is not comprehensive.

Without naming names, what rude behaviors have you observed online? Leave your answers in the comments.