Banging Your Own Drum

We’ve written before about the importance of personal branding to freelance web workers. In these times of economic uncertainty, though, it’s a subject that’s worth revisiting. We’d all like to think that the jobs go to us because we’re the best in our fields – but sometimes, the work goes to the noisiest rather than the best.
If you’re a freelancer who isn’t completely buried in work, this is a good time to think about spreading your own personal brand (or marketing message, if you’d prefer to think of it in those terms) more widely. An investment in marketing today can pay off in more work next month – and it’s an investment that’s best made before you run out of work. Fortunately, there are plenty of ways to make yourself more visible online. Here are five suggestions.

1. Help out others. Offering online support is usually thought of as a “pay it forward” activity, helping others out as you were helped out by others. But it’s also an easy way to increase your visibility. Pick a Google group or online forum, and start making a concerted effort to answer questions (but only when you know the right answers, please!). Sign each message you post with your URL. Eventually someone who wants more help will follow up directly. I got my first consulting gigs this way, many years ago, by being active in CompuServe forums.
2. Buff up your web site. I’m assuming that you have a web site – but when was the last time you took a critical look at it? Does it accurately showcase your skills? Is it obvious what you can offer to other people? Is it reasonably modern in its look? Is your contact information incredibly easy to find? If you haven’t tuned it lately, now’s a great time.
3. Contribute to open source. If you’re working with an open source framework, don’t just be a consumer – be a contributor. “I’m an active contributor to the XYZ Framework, which proves I know deeply how to use it” can be a real deal-closer. And if you become a valuable contributor, the overall project maintainers may well be in a position to throw work your way.
4. Do some writing. Even if you don’t have the time or energy to write a book, you should be able to contribute to some project’s documentation, write blog entries, or put together a screencast, podcast, or ebook on some subject where you have expertise. This is another way to demonstrate to potential clients that not only do you know what you’re doing, you know it well enough to teach others.
5. Keep your resume up to date. In the web world, this involves more than just listing your skills and gigs. Look at our advice on building a social media resume, or consider a service like VisualCV to make yours shine. If someone were to express interest in your services today, would you have a knockout and up-to-date way to show them what those skills are?
What other ways have you found to stand out from the freelancing crowd?