So we all know that what we post on social media can kill your chances of landing — or even keeping — a great job. We’ve all been admonished to keep the photos of drunken exploits off Facebook, to lock down our privacy settings to avoid being tagged in unflattering photos, and to be careful about what we say and do online.
As a freelancer, you might think that you’re exempt from those warnings. When you work for yourself, you can do what you want. Think again. Plenty of freelance writers inadvertently torpedo their own careers by the way they communicate and interact online, even if they don’t post photos of themselves doing naked keg stands.
Since social media is so important to building and sustaining a brand, before you post your next pithy status update, make sure you’re not making any of these mistakes.
1. Grammar and Spelling Errors
Social media tends to be a bit more forgiving of the occasional typo than most forums, but that doesn’t mean you should forget everything you know about spelling and grammar. When Autocorrect blunders consistently riddle your posts, it sends the wrong message about your abilities. How can you expect anyone to take you seriously as a writer when it looks like you don’t know the difference between their and they’re?
2. Not Establishing a Consistent Voice
The most successful social media accounts are those that have an authentic, consistent voice, whether it is funny, optimistic, controversial, or another unique angle. Trying to sound like someone you are not in your posts will eventually backfire on you, as you won’t attract clients who are a good fit — and turn off potentially great clients who don’t like what you’re portraying. Remember: You are a brand, and your social media voice should reflect that brand.
3. Responding to Trolls
Solid advice for anyone who uses the Internet, the importance of ignoring trolls cannot be overstated for freelancers. There are people who are going to be critical, nasty, and try to start fights just because they can. They are bullies who want to get a rise out of others, and when you react, it’s your reputation that suffers, not theirs. It’s fine to have a passionate, well-articulated, and respectful discussion with someone who has a different point of view — and doing so can actually improve your reputation — but ignore those who start drama just to see what will happen.
4. Badmouthing Clients
We’ve all had clients who have driven us to the brink and made us wonder why we wanted to write in the first place. No matter how annoying the client may be, though, resist the temptation to vent in a public forum. Even if you think your account is private or that no one knows for sure who you are talking about, you might be surprised.
Even if you could not care less if a client knows what you think of them, and you never plan to work for them again, keep it to yourself. Your reputation will suffer, and others who are thinking of hiring you may change their minds for fear of being the next target of your online diatribe.
Related: 5 Reasons Not to Burn Your Bridges
5. Being Annoying
Social media offers so many wonderful ways to irritate others, it’s difficult to identify them all, and there may be times when you inadvertently tick someone off. That being said, there are a few things you should always avoid:
- Using the platform incorrectly. Understand the differences between platforms, and develop a strategy for each.
- Share content that’s meaningful, not pointless. Constantly sharing quotes (and worse, getting them wrong), unverified information, or the same stories that everyone else is sharing is not going to attract an audience
- Constantly asking for follows, likes, or retweets. Occasionally is fine, all the time is annoying. In addition, don’t ask for a follow unless you have something worth sharing.
6. Taking More than You Give
Every writer on social media is there to expand their audience — and get more gigs. If all you do is promote your own stuff, though, you’ll not only be annoying (see above) but you won’t make many friends — friends who can get you more gigs and help you get more exposure. Share others’ work as much as your own, give kudos where they are deserved, and contribute to conversations
without the expectation of anything in return.
Social media is a minefield of potential mistakes, but if you take the time to think about what you’re doing and do it well, you’ll be surprised at how much it can help your career.
Derek Thompson says
All useful tips for how to behave professionally. I’d add an equally important factor – when. Treat your time on social media the same way you would any other business activity, and ask some pertinent questions: 1. How is doing this progressing my business? 2. Am I keeping track of my time? 3. Is this the most productive way of achieving the business objective I’ve identified? 4. Is my use of social media a way to avoid writing?