Blog Post

First Impressions Matter

photo by woodleywonderworks
photo by woodleywonderworks

If you’re a freelancer, making a great first impression with clients is vital. Here are some of my tips for making sure that first impression is a good one.

Like many other freelancers, I dread hearing these words from a potential client: “Can you send me a copy of your resume?” Resumes will never be a great way for me to showcase my work, and I don’t think they make a great first impression. They also seem a little old-fashioned for those of us who work almost entirely online. My body of work is online, and that says so much more about me than I could possibly cram onto a one- or two-page resume. However, many people still ask for a resume, and you have to be prepared to send one to potential clients or employers. If you’re preparing an “old school” resume, FreelanceSwitch has some good tips.

I have a slightly sneaky technique that I use to get around the standard resume request and show off my online work in the process. I send the prospect to the “About” page on my web site. It contains my bio, my consulting page, blogs and other projects, current and past work, speaking engagements, places where I have been quoted, and more. When I send them the link, I let them know that they can download a PDF version of my resume under the “More About Dawn” section of the page. With any luck, they’ll click through a few links to see examples of my work while scrolling down the page to get a copy of my resume. You might also want to read Celine Rogue’s post about creating a social media resume for more hints about creating a more modern resume.

When potential clients don’t ask for a resume, I send them links to my “Consulting” page for more information about the services that I offer, and I send them a link to my “About” page to see examples of my work.

However, many potential clients find me through searches, referrals or other sources, so my web site also has to speak for itself. I try to write frequent blog posts to show potential clients that I have interesting things to say and that I take my own advice about blogging regularly. I use tabs across the top for navigation to important pages on my web site to make it easy to find key resources and information. My sidebar is prioritized with the most important items at the top, starting with consulting, information about me, contact details and subscription links.

As I was preparing to write this post, I realized just how long it had been since I had overhauled the content on these pages. You won’t make a good first impression with stale content, so I just spent a couple of hours taking a critical look at several pages on my web site and making major changes.

Here were a few things I focused on:

  • I moved my contact information to the top of several pages to make it easier for people to reach me.
  • I made sure that the most important content is at the top of the page and focused on strong first paragraphs to make a better first impression.
  • I removed some duplicate content. For example, I had my bio (several different versions) on several pages. I moved the full bio to the “About” page and put a reduced bio with items that rarely change on the other pages, with a link to the complete bio. This will make it easier to update and keep track of in the future.
  • I checked links to make sure that all of my links for older content (past speaking engagements, old work projects, places I have been quotes, etc.) were still live and updated or removed the ones that were no longer working.

How do you make sure that you make the best possible first impression online?

4 Responses to “First Impressions Matter”

  1. Saying the potential client can download your “old school” resume on your modern resume page is a really good idea. Thanks! It gives them the best chance of seeing you for who you are, while also giving them what they want. On top of that, it’s a a polite way to let them know they’re dealing with someone who works online and a resume isn’t the best way to understand them.

  2. Dawn,

    Great post – at Mavenlink, we’re building a better way for consultants and freelancers to present themselves to prospective clients. When initially thinking through our Maven profiles, we had a very similar list to the one you have presented above with the addition of “trust” as a major factor, which is why we’ve highlighted our Mavens’ real names and pictures.

    We have also integrated work samples and a previewer into the profile for Mavens to show off their previous work right at the top of their profiles.

    I invite you to check out a very recently launched Mavenlink and join our community of consultants who want to offer their services online through a collaborative environment. That also goes for all the other WWD readers!

    VP Products & Platform, Mavenlink

  3. Personally, I enjoy sending a single-page PDF file titled as my name and ” – Resume” with a very carefully kerned “Click Here” in the middle of the page (and nothing else) that links to relevant work. If you’re in the position to pick and choose, a little originality and creativity is a good way to weed out clients/partners who are able to see past the cubicle walls and laugh at irony. If you’re not in a position to choose, yeah, woe is you – woe has been all of us from time to time for sure.