Being professional online comes down to a lot of the same behaviours as being professional offline: showing up, courtesy, and a robust sense of empathy. These days, freelancers are increasingly starting to think of themselves as ‘brands’ — a useful term that encompasses your social profiles, email manner, blog, and anything else that you project to the outside world. And, whether you feel like a brand or not — you want to make sure that you’re putting your best foot forwards online. Here are five personal branding faux pas you should avoid if you want to make it as bigshot freelancer.

Not having a professional headshot for your social profiles

TLDR: Cropping a grainy, pixelated picture from a night out for your LinkedIn profile is not advised.

Instead, you need a friendly and approachable picture that builds trust with your network. Filters may have landed on LinkedIn, but it’s advisable that you hire a professional to take some headshots of you. Your headshot is often the first thing that headhunters and business owners see of you — so make it a good one! It’s your chance to make the right sort of first impression.

Have a think about what you want people to feel when they come across your photo. Do you want to appear approachable? Perhaps you want to be taken more seriously? Is there something about your personality you want to convey? Many people in the web industry go for quirky and intriguing headshots, but that might not be OK in corporate finance! Think about your industry, and how influencers present themselves.

Talking about yourself too much

Me, me, me, this one time I, me me. Sound familiar? If your personal brand never includes a thank you or any sort of dialogue with your network, it’s time to cease and desist.

Your CV is where most of the bragging and ego stroking should be done. Your online presence should focus on what you can offer to people who come your way. Think about your value propositions: what makes your expertise, products, or services so exemplary?

Rather than focusing on your personal qualities, you should showcase results from all the great work you have done for clients — and get other people to do the bragging for you!

Neglecting (sales) opportunities

If your site is attracting business enquiries, then you need to warm up those leads to turn them into long-term clients. Keeping your lines of communication open is a sure-fire way to always have clients on the books, even when some leave you.

Even if you have too much work on your plate, you should never let those leads fester away in your inbox, or not follow up with that interesting comment on LinkedIn.

You can find work, opportunities, and places to pitch everywhere online — social networks, groups, forums, blogs. Don’t be coy — go out there and start sharing knowledge with your network. If someone seems keen — follow up with them.

Feeling unsure on how to toe the line between friendly and ‘too keen’?

Criticizing too freely

The internet is a public domain. If someone criticizes you and your business, you should address it with grace, and always apologise or offer a solution if you or your business are to blame. Whatever you say on the web, or social media, can be screenshotted, print screened or quoted forevermore. Respond only when you’ve fashioned a suitable and valuable reply – anything rushed could end up with you getting into trouble later on.

Being polite and courteous online is generally good practice. After all, anyone you encounter online may well be a business opportunity in the future. It’s best not to burn bridges unnecessarily as you may miss out on relationships, or build up a bad reputation for sniping.

Also, you should watch out for internet trolls and not get sucked into unnecessary arguments with them online. Trolls are a relatively new phenomenon, and here’s how to deal with them.

Being everywhere at once, nowhere properly

Joining online communities and attending industry events are highly recommended for networking purposes. All of your online actions, like leaving comments, liking posts,. participating on community forums, and re-tweeting will leave a digital footprint behind — so be active.

However, it’s best to select a few online communities and events to religiously participate in, rather than spreading yourself too thin and not really engaging. Choose the places you 100% need to be seen, and leave the rest for another day. Don’t stress yourself out by trying to be everywhere at one.

Managing your freelancer personal brand can be tricky at times, but it’s worth investing time and effort into how you come across online; after all, it’s where a lot of us get our business from. Be authentic, but be mindful of how you come across — and remember that some things cannot be so easily ‘deleted’.