• Advice

How to build a great reputation as a freelancer

Freelancers often want to know the best way to get more work.

Often the answer you'll get is: Referrals.

Over time, developer and Freelance Union member Xavier Fan has built a good reputation with clients and grown his client list. His reputation gives him the power to pursue better clients and projects. Here is his advice on to develop good reputation in your industry:

1. Share your results

A freelancer’s past performance is actually a pretty good guarantee of future results -- which is why portfolios are so powerful.

“Clients want to be impressed by the quality of your work,” Xavier says. “Your portfolio, a successfully executed piece of work -- anything you can point to and be proud of -- this is tangible proof of what you can do."

He recommends building a simple website that lists your background, services, and contact information. As your good reputation grows as a freelancer, so will your visibility and you'll have a space to showcase your work. After each project, it's important to watch out for items that can be incorporated into your portfolio.

2. Remember everyone is watching

Your reputation is affected by every interaction you have while you're working (or trying to get work). Assume that people are always watching, because they are. You never know what effect your actions will have. Things that you think are no big deal can matter hugely to other people -- for good or ill.

As Warren Buffet says, "It takes 20 years to build a reputation and five minutes to ruin it."

"When you finish a project, it's not just a line in your resume or a page in your portfolio,” Xavier says. “Your reputation is also being broadcast by people who have seen how you behave under pressure and in moments of success at your best. When you work with someone enough, their true nature always shows through, and people will remember and take note."

That's why personal referrals are so valuable. Sure, you can shape your reputation somewhat through your personal and professional marketing (social media, website, networking) - but it's hard to beat other people who are willing to put their reputations on the line by vouching for you.

3. Practice goodwill

A good reputation is not only about delivering quality results on each and every project -- it’s also about how you got there. The truth for who you are and the way you work is always out there: so make sure it's something you're proud of.

"If you leave a trail of goodwill after you with every project, there will be clients and team members who will refer you without you even knowing! This really pays off when you ask someone to be a direct reference - and they're happy to sing your praises, because they were so psyched to work with you, and want other people to have that same experience. That leads to more work and a chance to deliver quality results."

The best referrals come from those who have worked with you, have seen what you're about, and are excited to connect you with the next opportunity that's a great fit for you.

Xavier Fan is a freelance Intuit QuickBase developer and improv & stunt actor based in Brooklyn, NY.