Asking for help? Make sure you’re make a good impression first.

Everyone knows that freelancers pitching for business need to make sure their sites and social media presence look sharp and professional.

But have you considered that, as a potential client of a freelancer, you need to curate your own image, too?

How I vet potential clients

Two things:

First, freelancers like me hate to waste time. I’d rather be working with deserving clients than wasting time on the phone with people who are a bad fit for my services.

Second, I am happy to spend time on the phone with potential clients, even if it doesn’t work out . . . provided they’re the kind of people I can normally help.

Here’s what happens if you contact me on my contact form, in LinkedIn, on Facebook, or by email.

  1. If you’re pitching things that my site makes clear that I reject (advertising, contributed articles, link swaps), I mark your email as spam. (If you think this isn’t fair, consider that my contact form requires you to check a box that says “I am not soliciting for advertising, contributed articles, or links on this site.” And yet people check that box and pitch me those very things.)
  2. If you’ve been referred by someone I know, I’m almost certain to take the meeting.
  3. I carefully review what you say you’re looking for. If it’s “help with a book,” I’m likely to be interested. If it’s anything else, or if you haven’t said what you’re looking for, I’ll ask for more information before I set up a meeting.
  4. I review your presence on LinkedIn to see if you work for a company or for yourself. If you’re self-employed, I see if you describe yourself as an author.
  5. I check Amazon to see if you’ve published any books and, if so, how many reviews they have.
  6. If your email comes from an unfamiliar domain (for example, I’ll check out your site. If your email is from AOL, Yahoo, or HotMail, I’m likely to be suspicious; few professionals use these email addresses.
  7. If your email signature is elaborate and salesy, that’s another red flag.
  8. I do a Google Search to see what comes up about you.

There are lots of other things I could check, but we’re not going on a date; I just want to quickly vet you to see what I might be getting into.

This takes about five minutes. And it helps me avoid wasting time with you if I’m unlikely to be able to help because you’re confused, just “picking my brain,” or are actually pitching something and trying to disguise it.

What this means for you

Whether you’re asking for help from me or from someone else, this means you need to get your act together.

Make sure your LinkedIn is up-to-date. Include not just descriptions of your work but a photo. Faceless = fake. And that photo should be professional-looking, too.

Google yourself. If you’re a freelancer, you’d better have a professional-looking site that comes up near the top of the rankings.

Set up email from your own domain or Gmail. Both are cheap and easy. You can even get your previous email address forwarded there without difficulty.

In your message, be clear about the type of help you’re looking for. “I think I might need an editor” is good. “I think I have a book idea worth publishing but I want to hear from someone who can judge” is also good. “I think I could learn a lot from you” is bad.

If you’re an author, curate your author presence on Amazon, including your author page and the descriptions of your books.

You’ve got five minutes to prove you’re worth working with. It’s not about the money. It’s about the impression we make on each other.

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