Freelancers: Stop Feeling Guilty For Not Working!

Freelancers: Stop Feeling Guilty For Not Working!

When was your last vacation? When was your last weekday off? And did you actually allow yourself to enjoy that time away from your desk?

If you’re self-employed, chances are you’ve struggled with letting yourself take time off. It’s understandable! Time is money, after all, and when your income depends on having clients, it’s hard not to feel like there’s always something to do: if you’re not working on an assignment, you should be hustling for more work. Even when you’re operating at full bandwidth (maybe even above full bandwidth; more on that below), the pressure to “keep up” with industry news, opportunities, and your peers is real—and so is guilt of taking time off.

That guilt really has two sources. First, there’s the sense of doom that always seems to sneak into the back of any freelancer’s mind: “This could all be over at any minute!” Second, there’s the idea that just because you can be working, you should be working—a notion that’s especially prevalent in our always-on society. 

But the same guilt that’s preventing you from backing away from the computer is  also likely preventing you from doing your best work.

“You’re like a cell phone that needs to get charged up,” explains Julie Morgenstern, productivity expert and New York Times best-selling author. “That’s what time off is for. It’s in the interest of your business to rest. It’ll make you a much better, more creative, smarter freelancer.”

With that said, let’s unpack some ways to re-think where this nagging, problematic feeling comes from—and how to avoid it.


Re-Frame The Idea Of ‘Time Off’

Morgenstern’s suggestion of reframing time off is incredibly powerful. So many independent workers see time off as a personal comfort of sorts—as a “gift” you give yourself at the detriment of your business and your bank account. But that’s just not true. “Don’t think of taking time off as choosing between yourself and your work,” Morgenstern reinforces. “Rather, it’s your responsibility to your business—to your clients—to take time off. You need to recharge to be successful in your work.”

Consider this: Research has proven that productivity falls sharply after a 50-hour work-week, and that time spent working past 55 hours per week is essentially useless, to the point that there’s no difference in output between a 70-hour work week and a 55-hour one. And it’s not just about productivity. Regularly pulling ten-plus hour days has been shown to increase your risk of cardiovascular issues, cause relationship problems, and can mess with your hormones (more work = more stress = higher cortisol rate, which can cause a whole host of issues with your sleep schedule, immune system, and more).

There’s a Reason Companies Provide PTO

“Taking vacations away from work means you come back rejuvenated, relaxed, and ready to take on anything coming your way,” explains Courtney Glashow, LCSW and psychotherapist at Anchor Therapy in Hoboken, NJ. “That’s why most companies give their workers paid time off and sick time off—they want you to take a break from work and come back as your best self.”

“Knowing you’ve planned for time off can help ease the mental anguish of unplugging for chunks of time.”

As a self-employed worker, the idea of giving yourself PTO can be a tough pill to swallow. But Glashow has a helpful strategy: figure out your target annual income, and decide on how much vacation time you’d like per year. Divide your annual target income by the balance of weeks in the year after your ideal vacation time. “I try to really take off six weeks over a calendar year,” she explains. “So when I calculate the money I want to make in a year, I’m counting the year as having 46 weeks.” Knowing you’ve planned for time off can help ease the mental anguish of unplugging for chunks of time. 

Treat Your Work Like a Job, Even If You Love What You Do

Freelancers, especially creatives, often derive much of their personal identity from their work. So there’s not only a sense of guilt that comes from not working around the clock, but sometimes a crisis of self as well.

“This is a common mindset for freelancers, but not a healthy one,” explains Glashow. “Usually, as an entrepreneur, you’re a naturally hard worker and most likely love what you do, so it could feel like working outside of ‘work hours’ is not like work at all. But everyone needs work-life balance.”

“When you’re a freelancer, there’s no one telling you when you’re working too much. You need to realize it for yourself and set your own boundaries.”

On a similar note, it’s important to recognize the difference between self-doubt and feeling guilty for not working “enough.”  “Anyone can get down on themselves and feel like they’re not being the best worker. But for freelancers, this feeling can manifest as a sense of guilt if it comes across as feeling like you’re not doing enough. “This self-doubt could feel more like guilt in which you push yourself to want to do more,” explains Glashow. “When you’re a freelancer, there’s no one telling you when you’re working too much. You need to realize it for yourself and set your own boundaries.”

To combat this, look at your work patterns and how you’re getting stuff done. Are you just in a rough patch or are you truly not managing your time well?

Make Your Work Day Work For You

Relatedly, many of these guilty feelings stem from feeling unproductive because you haven’t properly managed your time. If that sounds familiar, try rethinking your idea of time management. “I define time management as managing your energy and brain power for peak performance in everything you do,” explains Morgenstern. “The best time managers are super tuned into their energy cycles: how long they can concentrate before they glaze over, what times of day they’re best at certain tasks, that sort of thing.”

“Your value is not in the number of hours you’re willing to work, it’s in the quality of the work you create.”

For example, you might know that if you sit down to write, anything over two hours is a waste of time because you’ll lose focus, and that writing first thing in the morning is when the words flow most easily. Or maybe you know that you need to start your day with a barrage of menial but necessary tasks while you listen to the news and run some errands before sitting down to create in the afternoon. If your natural sense of productivity doesn’t align with a traditional 9-5 work day, so be it. “That’s why you became a freelancer in the first place!” reminds Morgenstern. No need to feel bad that you’re not working the standard eight to nine hours a day. “Remember: your value is not in the number of hours you’re willing to work, it’s in the quality of the work you create. That’s what’s going to keep you in business.” 

from Adobe 99UAdobe 99U

How to Turn a Creative Spark Into Something Real

How to Turn a Creative Spark Into Something Real

Inspiration can be slippery it’s hard to predict when it will arrive and from where. So when creativity does strike, you want to be ready for it. Part of the artistic process is figuring out a way to turn these mercurial moments into something solid and real. 

Here, successful designers, artists, and writers share their strategies for catching inspiration and building on it, so that an initial spark evolves from an idea into a project or, just as often, a series of creative endeavors. 


1. Pay attention.

It sounds obvious, but it’s one of the most important tenets of continuous output. Inspiration is all around if you know how to look. Start by cultivating a state of mind “where you remain open to ideas from unexpected places,” says Adobe’s Kyle T. Webster, an illustrator who has drawn for The New Yorker, TIME, and The New York Times. The key is to keep one’s eyes open, process stimuli as they come at you, and then shape it into something original.

Webster has trained himself to continuously pay attention even on vacation. During a recent trip to the beach with his family, he stepped on a jagged seashell and cut his foot. It hurt, but also led to a new idea for a children’s book about pain and “all the ways kids hurt themselves when they are very young,” an age where the world is large, overwhelming, and full of “ouch” moments.

2. Write it down.

When inspiration does strike, write it down write it down write it down. The act of recording bridges the gap between the stream-of-conscious chaos that can generate creative ideas and the structure required to turn them into something real. 

“Keep a sketchbook,” says Kelli Anderson, a designer. “Your good ideas aren’t going to come on a schedule,” so make sure you’re prepared to capture them at all times. That way the next time you need a spark, either for your own project or for client work, you’ll have a trove of ideas to sift through. 

It’s the act of recording that’s important here a sketchbook might work for you, it might be more convenient to take notes on your computer or phone, or dictate them on an audio device. Whatever the medium, just make sure it’s accessible and on you, always. 

3. Put a stake in the ground.

Once you have an idea you want to develop, it can help to make the pursuit public, particularly if the project lacks clear-cut deadlines. Emily Spivack is an artist, author, and journalist. Nearly a decade ago, she decided to write a book. Knowing the logistics were going to be complicated, time-consuming, and, at times, discouraging, she started a website announcing her intent to become an author. “That was me putting a stake in the ground,” Spivack says, along with a platform that encouraged forward momentum. While the website was more for herself than anyone else, making her progress public prompted her to take the project more seriously and hold herself accountable. 

4. Create boundaries.

Many creative projects come with built-in deadlines and parameters, particularly if they are for a client. Sometimes onerous, under the right circumstances these constraints can be a boon for creativity: boundaries give you something to work within and against. 

I enjoy a deadline,” says Stevie Remsberg, which is lucky because, as the art production director at New York Magazine, she gets a lot of them. Remsberg also thrives on thinking her way out of boxes: “I think my favorite type of creative work is being confined in what I am allowed to do.” Restrictions, such as having to work in black-and-white or using obscure photographs, can produce unexpected and compelling results. “I love a challenge,” she says.

For personal projects, Remsberg often creates her own boundaries. Recently, she began teaching herself motion graphics in Adobe After Effects. Knowing a blank screen is a recipe for inertia, she gave herself a clear-cut goal animate a spirograph drawing with built-in deadlines.

5. Ask for feedback.

Creativity is often portrayed as a solitary endeavor, in which an artist’s singular vision is the key to a work’s success. But creativity also thrives on collaboration. A sounding board can help you refine your vision, making the end product stronger. 

“Explaining what I’m doing to another human being” is part of Anderson’s process. Typically she tries to boil down the concept into a seven-sentence explanation so she can share it and then gauge people’s reactions. 

Remsberg also relies on feedback to inform how she approaches an assignment. In the beginning, she likes to jump in and move quickly. Early on, she’ll share the initial concept with a coworker. At this point in her career, Remsberg is “able to deal with the criticism.” In the end, negative reactions save her time, allowing her to recalibrate early and often rather than blazing off down a road that leads to a dead end. 

6. Map it out.

Waiting for a creative idea to hit can be like watching a pot boil. But while the initial creative spark might be difficult to add to your calendar, once the project is established, a schedule is your friend.

When Anderson embarks on something new, whether it’s for a client or a self-directed project, she sets a final deadline, and then breaks down the project into stages. “I draw it out visually,” she says, sketching out each phase in proportion to how long it should take. Next, she maps the visual sketch onto an actual calendar, translating periods of time into numerical blocks. Even the best laid plans can go awry, however. “The schedule is just a suggestion,” Anderson says, one she regularly refines. “If you are indulgent and you spend too much time on one part you can oftentimes make it up later at another stage.” 

7. Go down rabbit holes.

Creativity is fueled by curiosity and passion. So follow your interests and before starting something of your own, make sure the idea still genuinely excites you. 

Every month or so, Webster pores over the notes he’s made over the past few weeks to see whether he’s stumbled on anything worth pursuing. Most ideas, while intriguing in the moment, have grown stale. “My hit percentage is low,” he says. But a few still light a spark. These are the ones he invests time into a sense of excitement is a requisite for pursuing something beyond the idea stage. 

Spivack’s work has always been centered around obsessive interests. “Something will strike me, I’ll want to learn more about it, and I’ll go down a rabbit hole,” she says. As she digs deeper, one project often organically leads to the next. Sentimental Value, a collection of stories about vintage and second-hand clothing, began in 2007 when Spivack stumbled on a Playboy Bunny outfit while shopping for shoes on eBay. In addition to vintage high heels, a puff-ball tail, ears, and stockings, the costume came with a black-and-white ID of the woman to whom it once belonged. In contrast to the playful, suggestive outfit, she struck Spivack as understated and serious. 

“There was something in that moment that clicked for me,” Spivack says. What started as a hunt for shoes bloomed into the realization that every listed garment had a history. “What,” she wondered, “are the stories behind all the stuff that is being sold off?” The project began as an online library of people’s stories about the clothes they were selling, and evolved into a collection of the physical items themselves.

from Adobe 99UAdobe 99U

Design Debate: In the Age of Social Media Self-Promotion, Do Creatives Still Need Personal Websites?

Design Debate: In the Age of Social Media Self-Promotion, Do Creatives Still Need Personal Websites?

All creatives need a personal website: for many years, this has been considered a guiding maxim. What better way to flash your skills and previous projects than a custom design with your very own domain name? And what simpler way to connect with prospective clients than a clearly marked “Contact Me” page with a mailto hyperlink?

But with art directors and managers now trawling through social media streams for inspiration—and often finding collaborators along the way—a personal website may no longer be the best way for getting your name out there. A personal website takes substantial time to create and update, whereas social networks can quickly communicate what you’re about (and without the added burden of service fees). So, one might ask: is a self-designed online portfolio still required or relevant? We speak with designers working in different areas of the industry to explore how the function of a personal website has shifted in the age of social networking.


“It’s not just work that attracts new clients but your personality. Social media communicates both what you do and how you do it”

—Amanda-Li Kollberg and Siri Lee Lindskrog, co-founders of Studio jetzt-immer 

Social media has become a natural extension of in-person networks, and for us, it’s been very effective for getting clients. 

People we met at some birthday party ten years ago, or people we went to high school with, follow what we’re doing because we post our work on our personal Facebook pages. And then some of these people we thought we’d never talk to again end up in positions to hire designers and they reach out to us. When you post your work online, you remind people of your existence and what you do. If they happen to be looking for a designer, they might remember having connected with our work, prompting them to reach out.

“On Instagram, we don’t just upload our final work but also behind-the-scenes glimpses of our process.”

Social media has the added potential of highlighting not just what you do but how you do it. On Instagram, we don’t just upload our final work but also behind-the-scenes glimpses of our process. Our stories show us traveling to teach workshops and printing posters, for example; they have a huge role in communicating who we are as people and how we work. We think that’s really important because a design team doesn’t necessarily get chosen by a client only when they have the best work. Often it’s because they’re nice people to work with. A client is going to think about what kind of people they want to spend time with if they have to be around them for eight hours a day. Instagram shows the human side of a studio.

Instagram stories of Studio Jetzt-immer

Behind-the-scenes look at Berlin-based work of Studio jetzt-immer.

We’ve definitely had clients who have followed us closely on social and understood our personality before hiring us. A school in Denmark recently got in contact with us regarding a project and said, “you have the perfect personality for this.” It was putting on an event with typography and animation but also a performance and dance. We were like, “Dance? How did they know that Siri is a dancer?” It’s because they follow our Instagram, of course.

When we graduated years ago, there was so much emphasis on creating your studio website. But now, when we ask people how they found us, it’s always via another channel. Websites have become a second step: First, you have the personal connection, then the website legitimizes you. But in a time that’s so personality-driven, we can imagine that the generation below us—who are growing up only on those mediums—won’t need a website any more.

“You have freedom and control with your website. It stands out far more than a 3 x 3 grid of expandable pictures”

—Ben Wegscheider, creative director and founder of Bureau Cool 

On social platforms, everything is very unified and uniform: grids make all content appear similar, which doesn’t necessarily showcase your work in the best and most effective way. 

A website, on the other hand, is your portfolio, and the portfolio’s design can be just as much a part of the portfolio as the rest of the content. It can set the tone for your work and it shows your direction—and if you’re a web designer, it can show off your abilities, too. A lot of my clients will reference my site when they approach me; they’ll mention that it’s how they picked up on my name. They remember it as it sticks out a bit more than others. I designed it to communicate the atmosphere of my studio, and I think of it as a sculpture—as a world that encapsulates Bureau Cool’s tone and energy.

You ultimately don’t have control over your own content and work [on social media], and could potentially even lose ownership.

You limit yourself if you don’t have a website, because every social or portfolio platform has its limitations. On Instagram, for instance, nobody writes long descriptions of work. People don’t read on Instagram, they just look at things. With a personal website, you have your own space so you can work out how to put all of your content together and display it in the most suitable way. You’re not confined to small image sizes. And if you’re only visible on social media, what happens if they change their algorithm or the design of the content’s presentation? You ultimately don’t have control over your own content and work, and could potentially even lose ownership. 

Work by design studio Bureau Cool

Web design work by digital creative studio Bureau Cool.

If designers only consider how their work is going to be presented in a grid because of the layout of social media platforms, then that’s also having a homogenizing effect on design itself. I’ve noticed that a lot of design is starting to look so similar on these platforms—there’s a lack of design that breaks from the rules, or experiments with new treatments, because people are designing for the grid and the “like” button. The blank canvas of a website pushes you to do more; it gives you the space to play in a very flexible way.

“Illustrations tend to live well on social media. But for more complex design projects, personal websites might be better.”

Tala Safié, art director at The New York Times 

I’m both an art director and a freelance graphic designer. And so for me, social media—especially Instagram—has a very different function depending on which hat I’m wearing. 

As an art director, Instagram has become integral for finding new people to work with. Illustrators sometimes find and follow me there: they know I’m an art director because other illustrators that I work with tag me when they upload a new piece. If I like their work, I’ll often follow them back. Or I’ll use the save tool so that I can find them again later. 

Instagram makes sense for illustrators. I have a giant Google Doc where I put all the names of people that I come across online along with their website and handle. I’ll go to their website to understand a bit more about how they divide their personal, editorial, and client work. That can be important as I usually want to see how they work with an article and whether they’re good at responding to text. But I find that it’s on Instagram that illustrators post most of their recent work, and increasingly, I’ve noticed that they don’t regularly update their websites. So if I want to get a good idea of how an illustrator currently works, then Instagram is the place to go. 

Instagram gives exposure to illustrators far more than websites. I wouldn’t hesitate to hire someone if they didn’t have a website and it wouldn’t bother me at all. In fact, a couple people on my Google Doc don’t have websites and only use social media. But I don’t think the same idea holds true for a graphic designer. I definitely don’t use Instagram like an illustrator uses it.

“If I want to get a good idea of how an illustrator currently works, then Instagram is the place to go.”

A website is important for graphic designers because it allows them to divide and present their work however they see fit, without being bound to Instagram’s timeline, grid, or image specs. I use Instagram more as an informal blog or diary rather than a portfolio. I’d rather display my work on my website where I have room and freedom to organize my projects and provide more context around them.

My work as a graphic designer doesn’t follow a particular aesthetic; it’s often context-specific and responds to the specificity of a brief. Unlike illustrators, posting images of all of my work doesn’t necessarily increase my chances of getting hired: the diverse nature of the projects I work on doesn’t reflect one distinguished polished aesthetic that is appealing to someone who is quickly scrolling through my Instagram feed. It might appear as inconsistent and a little confusing. 

Ultimately, what platform you choose to showcase yourself on really depends on the nature of your work, how you want to talk about it, and how you want to show the different skill sets that you have.

from Adobe 99UAdobe 99U

Why We All Need a Personal Website – Plus Practical Tips for How to Build One

Why We All Need a Personal Website – Plus Practical Tips for How to Build One

The best time to make a personal website is 20 years ago. The second best time to make a personal website is now.

There are numerous benefits to building and maintaining your own personal website. It’s good for you (you can build your own audience and own your own identity), your personal data (own your own content), and your career (build your own reputation).

It’s also good for the web. As more of us make personal websites, we collectively get to create the web we want: a web that’s open, free, and trustworthy. A web that inspires.

Relying on social media, on the other hand, means giving your content to a third party — and giving up control and security. Your personal data has probably already been compromised, and there’s very little you can do about it. If you’re not paying for a platform, you’re on especially shaky ground. Social media platforms, and particularly startups, can change as they please, come in and out of fashion, or disappear completely. When one of those things happens, you’ll likely have to start over from scratch when you move onto the next thing. 

Longevity matters. Those who have had a personal website for many years are more likely to have a strong reputation, a large audience, and a trustworthy identity (not to mention strong search results for their name). The sooner you get started, the sooner you’ll enjoy the benefits. So, let’s start now.


Define the purpose of your site

To rough out the goal for your website, ask yourself these questions: what do you want your site to accomplish? For example, are you hoping to land a job or freelance work? Or is this just for fun? What’s important to you? What do you want to share with other people? 

As you’re thinking about these things, make a list of the content that supports your goal. For example, if you’re hoping to get work, this list should include your portfolio, and maybe your resumé. If your site is just for fun, you might want to share your blog or personal photos. Here are some other things you might consider: a paragraph or two about yourself and/or your work, your contact info, a side project, links to your e-commerce store, your portfolio, articles you’ve written or talks you’ve given — you get the idea.

If this list starts to feel unwieldy, ask yourself: what do you need to share to accomplish your goal? Limit yourself to just that. 

Screenshot of writer, editor, and content strategist Nicole Fenton's website

Nicole Fenton’s site,, is well organized and includes lots of nice details.

Organize your content

A quick and easy way to organize your content is to write each item on a sticky note or note card. Make note of the content you already have and the content you need to create. Move your cards around to group your content as it makes sense to you and as it might make sense to someone else visiting your site. For example, a paragraph about yourself might go with your contact info. The groups you end up with will give you a sense of the pages you need and the structure they might take. Take a photo of your cards and keep it handy when you start building your site.

Look for inspiration

Spend a little time browsing the personal sites of people you admire, colleagues who do a great job of explaining what they do, or any old bosses or mentors who have a strong online presence. Click through the links on Twitter and Instagram bios of people who are good at owning their own narrative. Look to people at various stages in their careers and across disciplines to get ideas for telling your own personal and professional story.

A screenshot of artist, designer, developer Lynn Fisher's website

The illustrations on Lynn Fisher’s website impart a sense of humor. (Don’t miss the dancing burger GIF.)

Own your own domain name

Before you start building your personal website, you need to decide on a domain name and register it. Owning your own domain name is important, and if this article can convince you of only one thing, let it be this.

Once you own your own domain name, you have complete flexibility. You could set up a simple blog, use a content management system (CMS), or build a custom site that you self-host on Amazon Web Services (AWS) — all on your own terms and on your own timeline.

Choosing your domain name can be a hard decision. Naming things, in general, is incredibly difficult and more so when it’s something you care about. Try to choose a name that reflects the purpose of your personal website. 

Lettering artist and author Jessica Hische's whimsical homepage

The TLD for Jessica Hische’s site,, lets her create some fun URL sentences.

Even the TLD (top-level domain, i.e., the .com part) signals intent. For any website, .com is going to be the most recognizable and have the most business value, but it’s also the most popular, so you might not find the name you want. A good alternative is .co. Traditionally, .org was the preferred TLD for a personal website, but new TLDs like .name and .me are going to have more names available. 

I use for my personal website and for my coworking studio. We use for our design and development studio, Faculty. What you ultimately decide is a combination of the purpose you defined earlier and what’s available. Choose carefully and try to come up with something you’ll be happy with for a long time.

Once you’ve decided on a name, you need to decide where to register it. There are many domain registrars to choose from, and which one you choose isn’t permanent; you can always transfer your domain later. At Faculty, we have a few favorites, one of which is Hover. Their customer service is great, and they have a helpful article on how to register a domain name. Other favorites include Gandi,, and DNSimple.

For more information, you can read my post on domain registrars, but take it with a grain of salt — the research was done a while ago.

Screenshot of designer Frank Chimero's personal website

Frank Chimero’s website,, lets his design and writing skills speak for themselves.

Build your website

Now that you own your domain name, you can build your website. Luckily, there are numerous tools and services to help you, and what you choose tends to be a balance between flexibility and convenience.

If you’re a web designer with solid HTML and CSS skills, you can code your own site. If you’re a writer and just want a blog, using something like Svbtle or Ghost makes sense. Svbtle’s drafting, editing, and reading features are thoughtfully designed and backed by a promise to keep your content online forever. Ghost’s software is open source and the organization is run as a non-profit to ensure independence and longevity. Your skillset and the content you’ve collected and organized will help you figure out what is best for you.

Join us

If you’re reading this and don’t already have your own personal website, I hope you feel inspired and excited to make one. There’s no better time to start than now.

Let’s make the web we want — together.

from Adobe 99UAdobe 99U

How to Write a Better Bio

How to Write a Better Bio

Every freelancer has had to tackle the ever-dreaded “professional summary.” Now, we’re not talking about the “About Me” page on your website, nor are we referring to your LinkedIn bio. The professional summary is a beast of its own—and an increasingly popular one at that, especially on the many new platforms aimed at matching freelancers with work opportunities. It’s what you’ll get asked for countless times by mentors, former bosses, and other professional contacts when they offer to forward on your resume or portfolio.

“A professional summary is your ten-second elevator pitch,” explains Dana Leavy-Detrick, director and founder of Brooklyn Resume Studio, a firm that specializes in personal branding and resume development. “It’s your best opportunity to convey a quick branding message: who you are, what you’ve done, what your expertise is—and, importantly, what you can bring to the table.” 

While we can all agree that writing about yourself can be awkward (if not straight-up horrifying), it doesn’t have to be. Here are some tips on how to tackle this challenging yet important aspect of your professional life. 


1. Provide a Taste of What You Have to Offer

If your About Me page is designed to introduce yourself, a professional summary is designed to pique the interest of a potential client.  

“Clients want to know who you are, what you’ve done, and get a feel for your personality and what makes you uniquely qualified for the role,” says Jenny Galluzzo, co-founder of The Second Shift, a platform that helps female freelancers find work. 

“The professional summary shouldn’t be a copy of your resume,” says Leavy-Detrick. “It should be an introduction that sparks a conversation.” To that end, don’t list out all your experience—just a few of your most relevant, recent projects. “Keep it targeted and top-level, to the last ten years or so. And in general, the further back you go, the less detail you should give,” adds Leavy-Detrick. 

Takeaway: Shine the spotlight on your most relevant experiences and skills.

2. Don’t Get Overly Personal

While it’s acceptable for an About page to blend personal and professional, a summary should focus solely on your professional value. 

“I’ve seen summaries that try to be cute or funny and that always runs the risk of seeming immature, or having the humor fall flat,” explains Galluzzo, who vets many of The Second Shift’s members. “Also, stay away from personal details and focus on what makes you a superstar.” 

That means highlighting your core competencies as they relate to the work you’re seeking in a clear and concise manner.  How? Try this trick from Leavy-Detrick: “Ask yourself, ‘What do I want potential employers to know about me as a candidate and as a professional in my field?’” 

But remember: Getting personal and showing personality are two different things; being professional doesn’t mean you can’t have voice! “Tone is driven heavily by industry,” says Leavy-Detrick. Employing common phrasing, cadence, and tone demonstrates an understanding of your field’s communication norms, which may be equally as important as your hard skills. After all, sounding clinical in an industry that’s more casual can be a liability in its own right.

Takeaway: Don’t risk jeopardizing your first impression—make sure your professional summary reflects the standard tones of your industry.

3. Name Dropping is Okay

“It’s important to throw in names of companies that will immediately lend you gravitas and get clients to look deeper at your work and resume,” shares Galluzzo. 

Don’t overdo it by listing every single company you’ve worked with—save that for your portfolio—but sprinkling in a few blue chip brands or industry darlings will help you stand out. Just make sure you’re allowed to list specific names, as some contracts might forbid the use of brand name in your personal marketing. You don’t want to violate any NDAs! 

Also: Don’t share numbers or figures—save those for case studies or your CV. 

Takeaway: Shout-out big names that have benefitted from your work, but be prudent when doing so. 

4. Go Ahead and Show Off

“I work with a lot of people who do branding professionally, but who can’t do it for themselves. It’s something that even the highest level of people struggle with,” explains Leavy-Detrick. But while writing about yourself might seem boastful, that’s the exact point. “Remember,” she adds, “If you don’t promote your skills and talent, no one is going to do it for you. Clients want to read your summary and come away with a sense of confidence that you can do the job.”

Not sure where to start? Check out your peers. How are they offering their services? What are some of the common terms and phrases you see? What sort of tone do they use? Job descriptions in your industry can offer inspiration, as well. Try writing in both the first person and the third person—either is acceptable, and some folks are more comfortable with one or the other. 

If you’re really struggling, there’s no shame in bringing in an expert. “If writing a professional summary is hard for you, hire someone to write it for you,” says Galluzzo. “Sometimes it’s easier to tell someone your story and let them make you shine.” Think of it as an investment in your success. And if you’re a cash-strapped freelancer, you could always find a professional contact looking for some kind of help and barter a swap.

Takeaway: Even the most successful individuals struggle with self-promotion. Give it your best, but if it’s truly not your thing, outsource the job to an expert.

from Adobe 99UAdobe 99U