Your Online Reputation: You Are What You Share

How do your prospective clients learn about you? More importantly what do they know about you?

Well, unless you happen to have met your client face-to-face, your client learns about you from what you’ve shared online. You are what you share–at least to your client.

In this post, I’ll discuss the importance of your online reputation.

Your Client Is Watching

If you’ve been freelancing for a while, you probably already know that you should research a client before you commit to working for them. At the very least, you probably know to at least type the client’s name into the search engine to find out what is being said about them.

Well, guess what? While you are doing your due diligence on your prospective client, they are doing their due diligence on you.

Among other things, they want to know:

  1. What kind of person you are.
  2. Whether you’re good at what you do.
  3. If you can be trusted to deliver when you say you’ll deliver.
  4. How difficult you are to work with.

After all, when they hire you for a project, they are making an investment in their company. They want to make sure that you are a good investment. Having a good online reputation can mean the difference between getting the gig or not getting it.

So, if you’re concerned about your online reputation, what do you need to worry about the most?

What You Should Worry About Most

Most freelancers worry the most about what someone else says about them online. Their biggest fear is that someone else will get online and trash their reputation maliciously and without justification.

While it’s true that a stranger could sabotage your freelancing brand, that doesn’t actually occur very often. It’s more likely that your online reputation will be harmed by your own online actions.

After all, for most clients who have never met you all that they really know about you is what they can find out online. That means they are looking at your website, your blog, and your social media profiles to learn about you. You are what you share, but fortunately you can control what you share.

Not buying into this discussion about online reputation? Do you think that your online information is private? Watch this YouTube video from Duval Guillaume Modem about a “mind reader” who gets all his information online.

The bottom line is if it’s posted online, someone will find it. It’s important to learn how to be careful about your online activities.

When to Be Careful

So, when do you need to be careful?

My answer is that you need to be careful every single time you share something online. Even if you are posting in a private forum or sending an email, there’s a chance that someone else will share it. And material stays online for a very long time. It can be difficult to take something back once it is posted.

Keep an eye on your privacy settings on social media sites as well. Here are some specific privacy tips you may wish to follow to protect your online reputation:

  • On Facebook, change your privacy settings under Timeline and Tagging so that no one can tag you without your approval. Put an end to old friends sharing those embarrassing college photos.
  • Use Google Alerts and Yahoo Alerts to routinely search for mentions of your name and the name of your freelancing business. This will let you know whether your freelancing business is being discussed online.
  • Be careful about connecting Twitter or Facebook to other applications. If you do use third party apps, make sure that they use OAuth so that your password information is kept secure.
  • Always log off of social media when you are done, especially when you access it from a public or shared computer. If you don’t, someone else may come along and post to your account either as a joke or maliciously.

As a freelancer, you can and should manage your online reputation through tools and through smart sharing.

Your Turn

Were you surprised at how much the “mind reader” could learn about his subjects online?

What other online reputation tips have I missed? How do you protect your own online reputation?

Share your answers in the comments below.

Image by Zanastardust

Comments

  1. says

    Important post, Laura.
    Like doing regular backups, security is one of those things we know we should do but always put off until some unfortunate event snaps us out of our complacency.

    Especially glad your mention accessing sites with third party apps – especially Facebook.
    We’re not only allowing the Trojan Horse in, but helping them build it.

    Have a great week!
    Ray

  2. says

    Ray Hiltz (@newraycom)

    Thanks for your comment. I have to admit that I was guilty (at one time) of allowing a lot of apps to access my Twitter account. Fortunately, I’m more cautious these days.

    It still makes me nervous when I see that an app wants me to use Facebook or Twitter to sign in. In some cases, it’s totally turned me away from the app.

  3. says

    These are great suggestions, Laura. Perhaps it’s because I’m *ahem* older and wasn’t brought up on 24/7 connections that I am often amazed at what’s shared online. But, I also understand we are all human.

    When someone doesn’t know us, our online “profile” contributes to their picture of us, no matter how misrepresentative that may be.

  4. says

    Cathy Miller,

    You make an excellent point about generations.

    Even if a freelancer is of the generation that is accustomed to sharing anything and everything online, their prospective client may not be.

    I think it’s helpful to look at your social media activities objectively and try to figure out what they might be telling a client about you.

  5. says

    Thanks Steve.

    It’s not really thoughts that freelancers need to be careful about, though. ;) It’s what they publish online to social media (often without thinking) that could possibly do the damage.

  6. says

    Great post, Laura!
    Too many people live in the world of Polyanna with regards to what they post online. You brought out some very spot on suggestions. We are truly in a global environment now. People do business with those they like and trust. They will research potential partners prior to a business relationship. They want to know who you are.

  7. says

    Your right by saying that you’ll most likely harm yourself before someone else takes the time to ruin your reputation. This is particularly true for companies that focus on B2B Lead Generation because they have more to lose and will try to cut corners to save money.

  8. says

    Thanks Laura for another really true article. For freelancer contractors in the UK (who work on fixed contracts, but find assignments via recruitment companies), this advice is very welcome. Many agencies now use pre-screening software (and third party firms) before selecting candidates for interview. It’s a bit like ‘Big Brother’, but for anyone with a shady past, there’s no time like the present to clean up their online profiles!

  9. says

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  10. says

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    as you wrote the e book in it or something. I think that you can
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    An excellent read. I will definitely be back.

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