6 Basic Social Media ‘No Nos’ that are Stopping Freelancers from Winning Clients

We all know that there is plenty of value to be extracted out of social media platforms as a freelancing hero. If you get it just right, you can use social networks as a solid source of wonderful long-term clients. Google+ for example, is one platform that has a lot of potential for finding new connections to turn into clients.

But let’s not get ahead of ourselves and ruin a smooth, positive and ultimately fruitful experience on social networks for yourself, as well as others through engaging in a heavy-handed way. From personal experience and having had a look around to see where people tend to be going wrong, I’ve compiled a little list of the big ones.

1. Being impersonal

I mean this in two ways. Firstly, incorporate some personality into your posts and your engagement. This doesn’t mean being bouncy and bubbly all the time, unless you want to and if that suits you, fine. It’s more about being human, and not appearing to be an automated robot churning out posts.

Secondly, I’m talking about when people substitute making a connection with a person for being more efficient. An example of this would be in copy and pasting the same message sent out to several people, or tagging many people in one message meant for all of them. This doesn’t show much care for an individual, and will most likely not mean much to them. So when you reach out to people, show them that the interaction is directed to them.

2. Always writing for yourself, not your audience

It’s ok to share things that interest you, but bear in mind, that, especially as you want to attract the attention of prospects and others, you want to be prioritising the sharing of information and updates that you know will be of interest to them. This is one of the major misunderstandings of social media. It doesn’t need to be about you all the time!

This is why circles on Google+ is so useful, because it allows you to share specific content to specific people.

3. Not interacting enough

Obviously if you have a large network with tonnes of people messaging you, responding to everything can be tricky. However, it’s important you maintain a good level of engagement with your connections, as well as responding to what people are saying, asking, commenting on, etc. Be the person who comments the most within your own discussion threads.

Showing that you care will demonstrate to others that you take your connections seriously and strengthen your network as a result.

4. Treating it as a space for advertising

You will vapourise your network by constantly promoting your services and products on G+.

Remember that it is a platform for building, expanding and maintaining relationships, so directly selling to people will distance yourself from them. Keep any ‘selling’ to about 10% and the rest to 90%.

5. Not listening

Social media is not a one-way system, so be aware of what people in your network, as well as those who could potentially be in your network are saying, what their needs are, what their feedback is, and what they are saying about you. I’m sure you’ve heard how listening is vital to any relationship!

6. Being brash, and marginalising people

Steer clear of sharing stuff that could be disagreeable, controversial or even offensive to people. You might feel passionate about something that stands you firmly in one group as opposed to another, such as a political camp, but be aware that you could be losing fans and followers this way, so better just stay away from anything that could be considered a ‘touchy‘ subject.

If you want in-depth guidance on using Google Plus properly, check out our new course on using Google+ tailored just for freelancers that we are launching…

Further comments will win kudos and compliments from me!



  1. Great tips, Alex. I think the key here is finding a balance between sharing personal info and portraying a professional persona. I’ve seen many freelancers divulge far too much, or regularly commit no no #6 …you never know where your next client is going to come from or who’s following your posts/tweets!

    • Thanks Kat, totally agree – sometimes you just gotta hold back. Poor reputation on social media and online is not easily scrubbed away…

  2. Alex; I really appreciate your tips. I use them in my Marketing and Self-Promotions class in the Graphic Design program at the college where I teach. Thanks for all the time and energy you put into sharing your expertise with us. Once again, with this latest post, you are dead-on! :^)

  3. You make a basic incorrect assumption in your article.

    Most of the people artists/freelancers come into contact with on social media are just more artists/freelancers trying to do the same thing. These are not clients.

    Clients, such as Art directors and editors and gallery owners aren’t hanging out in the social media circles of artists & freelancers.

    • Hi Stanna, that’s true if you build up a network that consists of non-clients. It is possible to create a network, especially on Google+, which allows you to put people into various groups, or sub-networks, that consists of prospects, clients, potential clients, key influencers, collaborators etc that are relevant to the work you do.

      This is something that many freelancers have a problem with, and is something I address in my Google+ course. Thanks again for the point!

  4. Stanna makes a good point, if the creative is trying to recreate the sort of traditional freelancer/client relationship found in the real world. I’ve struggled with this myself for a long time – the wish that social media would provide a 21st century replacement for the sort of marketing I did very successfully in the 20th century. For instance, I’d send out a thousand postcards to every AD in Canada and get maybe 4 nice jobs out of it. Doing this every quarter, in a few years I had a nice network of clients I could count on to send me assignments on a regular basis. But that’s not how it works now, is it Alex?

  5. Alex – Thanks for the response.
    In Twitter, Facebook, Linkedin and I am sure Google+ (do not have an account there), one can not choose who “follows” or “likes” them, they can only choose who to “follow” or “like” or whatever.
    So, the real world effect with social media is that artists and freelances end up “following” artists and freelancers – not clients “following” or “liking” artists & freelancers.

    If I could just have potential clients ” follow” or “like” me I would dump all the 1,000s of artists and freelancers that follow and like me.

    Other than people that were already personal friends, I have yet to have any of my Social Network competition (other artists and freelancers) give me a tip for a freelance job or art show to apply for.
    As Leif noted, it is better to use traditional media methods; mail outs, in person visits, set up one’s own art exhibitions than rely on Social Media.
    Social Media is nice to keep up with the competition and hear what is new – but not a very effective or time efficient way to find new creative work.
    The one concrete thing that many people do not keep in mind: No art director, editor, creative director or gallery owner has the time to spend surfing the web or social networks looking for new artists.

  6. Thanks for the comments guys.

    @Leif Well I think whatever works, works :). But there are ways that I’ve seen that can greatly improve the experience one has in promoting their work and seeing results. Sure advertising can work, but as you’ve seen it’s a numbers game. The alternative is to work on getting to know people one on one, and sites like Google+ allow you to do this.

    @Stanna see above, and see that it is possible to have prospects like, follow you and so on, if you are someone that is of interest to them, whether that be in providing expertise to them, interesting and relevant content, and simply being good at what you do that is of potential value to them.

    Google+ allows you to engage with the material of potential clients (without them following you back) so that they notice your engagement, and then begin to engage with you. It’s more of a gradual process, but it works, and it is the future of online self promotion.

    See you on Google+!


  7. Alex – thanks for the reply.
    For many, being a freelancer and artist is my fulltime job. We live solely off the money we make with our creative talents. No living at home, no income from a spouse, no part time job.
    We do not have the luxury of, as you say, the more “gradual process” of using Google+. We need work today, tomorrow and the next to pay the bills.
    Social networking can not do that. A more direct, person-to-person approach is needed.
    If social networking was the end all of selling techniques then every company could fire their sales forces and have some computer Tweeting all day. 🙂
    If you had to bring in a few thousand dollars this month (and every month) in freelance illustration work – you think you could do that by social networking on Google+???

    • I know what you’re saying Stanna, and time is of course a luxury that is lacking for everyone.

      I think what you are missing is the fact that social media / social networking is not simply a gimmick; a passing fad technology that’s a bit of fun and maybe a cool new way of sharing and absorbing media. Social networking is a word that describes something human beings have been doing for thousands of years. Social networking can be in the form of Twitter, it can be in the form of Google+ and it can it can take the form of meeting someone at a conference. All of this is social networking, regardless of the means through which it is conducted.

      What is important is how you make use of these technologies (that are evolving and improving everyday) in ways that build and nurture relationships with people over time, perhaps people who you met the day before, or someone you connected with via Twitter.

      As the above article, talked about, it is about how you engage with people that is important, not what it is you are using to engage with them.

      Google+ happens to be one of the better mediums through which to make these all important interactions with people in a more professional environment (in my view) than either Twitter or Facebook, and with more capability to engage than on LinkedIn, for example.

      The biggest danger I think that freelancers face today is in relying on quick-fix advertising, over working on knowing relevant people, online or offline.

  8. I think following creatives on social networking can turn out to be beneficial. There are a lot of creatives, art directors and agencies on social networking sites. I have had agency work through Twitter and I have had direct client work through Vimeo, Linkedin and Twitter as well. However i have never had any work from Facebook.

    I may hav try out Google +, your comments make it sound like it could be even more effective than other social media sites.

    For myself social networking is great for getting work, In fact all of my work since going freelance in May 2011 has come through social networking, though maybe it’s about time I tried out some other approaches!

    Thanks for the tips, I enjoy reading your site.

  9. Alex; Don’t get me wrong – I firmly believe in social networking as a valuable self-promotional tool… I’ve benefitted from it in more ways than I can describe and in ways I never imagined. But I also think Stanna V’s point is valid: how does one get quickly and effectively to the goal of connecting with paying clients who are buying our creative services? If I understand your description, you’re talking about a slower process of gradually developing a meaningful relationship with a client. I get the value in that — those are clients who come back to you again and again. The best kind of clients. But many freelancers need to connect immediately to pay the bills this month. In your opinion, is that possible via social media self promotion?

    Again, thanks for all you do – I consider your expertise invaluable :^)

  10. Alex – Thanks for taking the time to reply to my many comments. 🙂

    I am a bit puzzled.
    I was given a link to your freelance illustration web site:
    But I can not find any links on your site to any social media. No Twitter, Google+ or Facebook links on your Freelance illustration site.
    Did I miss something?
    How do you promote your freelance illustration work to potential clients?

  11. @Leif it’s a gradual process but you are investing time to reap benefits in the future. Say you’d been developing relationships on social media from two years ago, you’d have clients today.

    By all means find clients in other ways, but use social media to stay connected with those past clients over time, and find new ones too.

    @Stanna the site lists all my social media links (about to add Google+) at the bottom of the about page.

    I’m on twitter as @moonape and @redlemonclub , I have a Google+ account as my name, I’m on Linkedin and Facebook and others.

  12. Thanks for the tips Alex! I am currently in the process of organizing the launch of my portfolio, blog, and creating a presence online.

    My idea for my blog will not only be updates of projects but also a source of inspiration for aspiring artist, who happen to stumble onto my site, and potential clients who share similar interest.

    • Excellent to hear it John, it sounds like you’re approaching it in the right way. Good luck with it. Let me know if you have any questions.


  13. I agree with all but #6. There is a difference between body slamming someone in comments and trying to have a legitimate conversation. I believe we need more discourse in this country between factions, not less. Its a balancing act and I fail at it sometimes, but we need more gentile back and forth instead of avoiding subjects like religions and politics altogether.

  14. Time and again I’m amazed at how frivolous people are with their opinions on Twitter. Especially since it’s a social media outlet that doubles as a business and social outlet. I am a chop-buster extraordinaire but the lack of tonal inflection that usually accompanies is removed on Twitter. So therefore I just leave the snark out all together. I never know who is going to see my postings.

  15. Thanks for these excellent tips. Your argument in favour of Google+ is very convincing. I was extremely excited when I heard that Google was launching a networking tool, and hoped that it might bring about a sea-change of social interactions; not just of who was connecting, but *how* they were interacting.

    ‘Circles’ are an excellent idea; they allow users to share in more realistic ways, so why does it feel lifeless?

    Google’s “+1” is a rare and endangered creature, one that is outperformed by its rival alphas. Even after it’s had time to grow, G+ feels like it’s floundering instead of increasing velocity. Shouldn’t a new platform benefit from its novelty to capture the imagination of its users, and garner popularity?

    To clarify, I agree entirely that G+ is a more elegant tool than Facebook or Twitter, but what use is it if it fails to convert, and recreate people’s existing networks?

    I can’t help feeling that Google will lose interest in G+, as they have with so many of their experimental social tools.

    In short, I don’t trust Google+. Do you think these fears are misplaced?

  16. @Judson I’m all for discourse and conversation, but there’s no denying that you have to be more careful about what you share in a public social media space. Some things are simply not worth mentioning when you have the whole world able to see what you share. Think of social media as a cocktail party in the real world. There’s a certain level of etiquette involved, just like in the real world. Talk about what you feel would be accepted in a real-word public environment.

    @Michael Marsicano you’re right – it’s just not worth being snarky. Once it’s out there, it’s out there, and so is your public image. We’ve all seen how a simple Twitter comment can ruin someone’s reputation, and even career.

    @thewordspring In my view, it’s not about the numbers of people that are on there; it’s who is on there that matters. Google+ is proving to be attracting a certain kind of information sharing, and seeking crowd who view the network in a much more professional sense.

    I’m not sure where you are getting your figures on conversions and +1’s as surely it’s based on talk from people who don’t work at Google and are probably pro-Facebook?

    I’m also not saying that Facebook will be trumped by Google+, although it might do. They just serve different purposes. Facebook is for close friends, Google+ is attracting a crowd for a different sort of interaction, and it is this type of interaction that is working and will work for freelancers and businesses and other professionals.

    I also think it needs more time to really see its potential. As with Twitter, the more time people used it, the more uses and benefit people found for it. Introducing a new platform for social media is an organic thing, and takes time to be accepted properly. As more and more people realise it’s use, the value of Google+, particularly in a professional sense, will increase. Check back in a few months!

  17. My thoughts about +1s are, admittedly, only based on my own observations; looking at any website that offers a “+1” reveals that far fewer pages are “+1ed” than “Liked”. I do take your point that G+ is used differently, however.

    It’s great to hear someone Championing the G+ model, and I am certainly willing to take your expert advice and increase my G+ presence.

    It does frustrate me that G+ doesn’t have a dedicated iPad support.

  18. Totally agree with this, just in the last week I had a conversation with someone how runs their own business and they were saying that Twitter didn’t work for them. When I looked at their stream all it was full of links to their own products, just links, no info, nothing useful to people and pretty much nothing else!

    My mission this week is to take a serious look at G+, I signed up fiddled a bit and got distracted so will spend some time this week getting to know it a bit better – I like the idea of sharing different info with different groups of people.


    • Thanks for this comment Sam. There’s so much more people can do to make use of social media in a way that can really benefit them.

      Good luck!

  19. Alex you are a machine! I mean that as an ironic compliment to how youve just shown you can humanly and personally engage your audience as friends.

    Always love reading your stuff.

  20. My comment is directed towards the discussion Stanna, Leif and Alex were having earlier:
    My policy (and I’m mostly a twitter person but I also use fb and g+) is to separate accounts into 3 camps: “Personalities” “Advocates” and “Partners”
    Advocates would be press and bloggers SPECIFIC to your campaign (design publications for example if you are a furniture seller), Partners would be likeminded events/companies, and finally Personalities, who are the famous writers/comedians/journos/celebs etc etc etc.

    Basically the view is to follow and be followed by the first two groups within your scope and engage with them on a professional level.

    But as you argue, this is preaching to the choir, it may be effective networking but it is NOT effective marketing (despite some mentions and minor press) The final group is the important one- Personalities that you can openly engage with online in a way that THEIR followers can see and notice. The personalities create the clients, you choose a personality inline with your company ethos and you make them notice you and in turn get exposure to thousands of potential clients. it doesn’t have to be Justin Beiber big, just big enough for the fish you are trying to catch.

    But that’s just me!

    As a social media accounts manager I 100% agree with every point you have made here Alex. I have moved companies several times as I didn’t appreciate the old school ad campaign lacklustre approach many social media services advocate (even though they hire people their tweets sound like machines) and these 6 points are the exact kind of insight I adhere to.

    Well done!

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