A Guide to Utilizing Facebook for a Freelance Career

Facebook is often criticized for privacy holes, unstable API and proprietary standards, but in spite of that, everybody seems to be on Facebook these days. At least once a week this previously student-only network appears in the top news headlines on the Web and in print. Although it’s a common fact that Facebook can be used for business and every new feature causes much buzz in professional circles, the ways it can fit into a freelancer’s promotional activity are still not universally known.

A Guide to Utilizing Facebook for a Freelance Career


With this post we hope to give you a better idea of how to establish your personal brand on Facebook and what tools and features you might use to get the most from your networking experience. Tips, useful resources, code hints and inspirational examples are included.

Create a Remarkable Profile

Personal profile is a jumping-off point in your entire Facebook activity. Facebook doesn’t offer solid customization of user profiles, but there is always a way out when you think creatively, right? After all, your Facebook profile can be just as unique as you are. Below, you can see some suggestions on how to make your profile stand out from the FB mold having only basic tools at hand.

General Tips

Get an eye-catching profile picture. Facebook only gives you 200x600px real estate for visual self-expression (this is going to be changed to 180x540px in the future, according to Facebook). Try to make maximum use of it. This doesn’t mean you necessarily have to use the full-size image, but posting a 200x200 full-height photo of yourself is obviously a weak solution. Remember that it’s a social network not a portfolio website, so using a logo or a strange avatar instead of your photo may not be the best option either.

The well-known web designer and blogger Jacob Cass puts a rather small yet professional digital portrait of himself in his FB profile.

Jacob Cass Profile

A different approach to profile picture size is used by the graphic designer and photographer Mahmoud al-laham. He uses the full space set aside for the picture to place links and even call to action message.

Mahmoud Al Iaham Profile

Compose a descriptive yet crisp Info tab. Leave nothing out. However, don’t forget that modern web users don’t actually read - they skim and scroll and look through. Make it easy for them to familiarize themselves with you as a person by using bulleted lists, sub-headings and short sentences. Make sure your grammar is correct, a resume with typos is embarrassing.

Don’t mess up your profile with entertaining applications. If you want to use Facebook for professional networking, then forget about adding "Best Loved Quotes" or "Poker" to your profile. Pick only those apps that won’t suck your time and carefully read privacy settings before using any.

Game Apps

Don’t share your political or religious views. Yes, I know I just told you to leave nothing out when filling up your profile, but this should be an exception. By broadcasting your political and religious views you may offend someone and turn off potential clients. Unless these things are a part of your work, avoid these tricky subjects in your About info, status updates and comments.

Tools and Tricks

Automatic “linkifying” in the Text box. You may want to add some links to external resources in the short description box. Facebook makes it handy by automatically turning text URLs into clickable links.

Bio Box

Video/Photos/Notes sections. Shoot an engaging video about yourself. Now that the new iPhone and Android phones shoot in HD, you can do it with minimal effort. Think of the Photos section as not just a place for personal pics: create albums to show some work, reports from conferences and workshops and whatever else you think will be of interest to your audience. The Notes tab may work as an additional podium for copywriters and bloggers.

A backstage reportage or a video tutorial may be a good way for freelance photographers, make-up artists or filmmakers to present themselves on FB.

Facebook Video

Profile Picture Hacks. When thinking over your profile picture, check out this post. Don’t repeat the effects suggested in it, though, as the post has crossed the Web far and wide. Use the idea to make something original. Note, that you can’t upload images that are more than three times as tall as they are wide.

Choosing a picture for your profile, make sure your vision of creativity and conceptual imagery will be clear to at least ten different people.

Unusual Profile

After the Deadline. This spell-check extension for Google Chrome and Firefox works anywhere you can type in some text, including Facebook forms. It is more advanced than a built-in browser spell-checker so you could be sure your spelling and grammar is perfect whenever you contact a client or a potential employer via Facebook.

Presenting your brand: Pages or Groups?

The question may arise in your mind after you read this title: “I have my Facebook profile. Do I really need anything else?”. Well, it depends on what role you will give Facebook in your freelance working toolbox. If it’s just playing Farmville and communication with friends you are on Facebook for, then a profile will probably be all you need. In case you’d like to leverage Facebook for business purposes, then you might want to take advantage of specific products and features Facebook offers for this. Business Pages and Groups are among them.

Both Facebook Pages and Facebook Groups allow you to extend your network activity beyond just communication with friends and use Facebook to promote your business and build a community around some common interest, cause or hobby.

So what option is better for presenting a brand on Facebook? While Pages is definitely a winning solution for big brands, companies and public figures, the choice between Groups and Pages is not that obvious when it comes to freelance business.

Basically, a Facebook Page is for your brand or entity while the Facebook profile is for your person. Facebook Groups, in their turn, are spaces where small groups of friends and peers can connect, share and express their opinion on a certain topic or idea and where the group is controlled by the entirety of its members. Each option may work when it’s just you and your expertise that needs to be established on Facebook.

Here is a handy chart that should help you figure out whether to use a Facebook Page or a Facebook Group to promote your portfolio or broadcast your ideas.

Facebook Groups Pages

Learn more details concerning this issue:

While comparing opportunities Pages and Groups provide, a conclusion inevitably comes to mind. Although Facebook Groups have two solid advantages over Pages, such as mass messaging and membership restrictions (useful for building strong communities on the idea you spread), a Facebook Page appears to be a more universal and versatile way to present a business, even when it’s in a solo mode. When used wisely, it can work equally well for promotion and building awareness around various causes.

Pages vs Groups

Therefore, in Pages vs. Groups opposition in terms of better choice for a freelancer to present their business, Pages appear to be a winning solution. Groups however, especially, with the new functionality recently released by Facebook, may work well as a subsidiary connection platform, which you could use to create productive groups and collect feedback on everything that matters in your career (e.g. a book publication, product release, event you will speak at, etc).

Setting up Your Facebook Fan Page

A Business page, or better known as a fan page, is Facebook’s most effective and versatile tool for business promotion on the world’s fastest growing social network. Continue to read for some useful tricks and techniques on your way to an effective FB page.

General Tips

Get motivated before getting started. Don’t create a Facebook fan page just because you’ve heard it’s cool. It will be nothing but a waste of time if you don’t learn how to use a fan page before launching it. First, do research, find out the pros and cons of having a fan page and get to know the best practices. Here are a couple of resources worth checking out at this stage:

Once you decided to create a Facebook Business Page, here are two ways to do it:

1. Click the link on the Facebook home page as shown below. You can do it even if you don’t have a Facebook account.

Create Page

2. In your profile go down the page and click on Advertising. Then click Pages → Create a Page.
The following resources should give you some ideas on how to design and manage a Facebook fan page successfully.

Create a custom tab using Static FBML App. This is where Facebook gives you an opportunity to be different from others. With the Static FBML application you can design an attractive intro tab your friends and visitors will land on by default.

Webmaster Troi uses the space of his page to the fullest: the custom FBML tab is set as the default landing page and features a showreel and some examples of the author’s works at the end. Links and call-to-actions are put everywhere, including the bio box under the profile picture (the use of symbols makes it easy to scan through).

Webmaster Troi

A bold "Like me!" message on the Welcome FBML tab is a good solution too. However, make sure it’s eye-catching and clear.

Just Creative Design Page

FBM..what? There are lots of tutorials available to help you build a custom fan page with FBML. However, if it happens to be too much for you, or you just don’t want to poke into Facebook API tools, you may use fan page templates that have been commonly offered around the Web lately.

Get Vanity URL. You need 25 Likes to make your Facebook Page URL look like www.facebook.com/yourbrand instead of the long and messy address your page is assigned by default.

Use apps selectively. There are heaps of apps available on Facebook. Most of them extend the functionality of your fan page. Thus, using apps you can integrate your blog’s RSS feed, YouTube videos or Twitter stream right in your Page. However, by aggregating your data from your website and other social profiles on Facebook, you risk driving your audience away from your website or blog. There is nothing wrong with that as long as it’s a planned step (read Facebook Matters More Than Your Company Website). Otherwise, use selective apps to engage fans differently from how you do it on your website.

Applications

Think SEO. Facebook Pages are visible to search engines. Besides, Facebook plays an important role in social search, that’s why it makes sense to think about optimizing your Page content so that it could be better found by users. Do keyword research and when appropriate (people are your main target, not the search engine!) use top searched keywords in your Info tab and Page URL.

SEO

Monitor with Google Analytics. (+Track user engagement). Facebook Insights shows some statistics on your fan page, but it’s limited to information about interactions with your fans. Webdigi studio founded and shared the way to track your fan page activity via Google Analytics and analyze both fan and non-fan engagement. Here are the links to exhaustive tutorials:

Include multimedia. Images, videos/audio files and flash content can be added to Facebook Pages by means of relevant FBML tags.

Add YouTube Video (or other .SWF files)

<fb:swf 
swfbgcolor="000000" 
swfsrc='http://www.youtube.com/v/xxxxxxxxxx'
imgsrc='http://img.youtube.com/vi/xxxxxxxxxx/2.jpg' width="340" height="270" />

Note:

Add .MP3 file:

<fb:mp3 src="http://www.website.com/file.mp3" title="Song Name" 
artist="Song Artist" album="Album Name" />

Add .FLV file:

<fb:flv src='http://www.website.com/video.flv' width='400' height='300' title='my movie' 
color='#000000' salign='r' img='http://www.example.com/test.jpg' />

Learn more about FBML embedded media.

Hide Content from Non-Fans. Give people an incentive to Like your page - make some exclusive content (freebies, discount codes, tutorials, etc) or entire custom tab visible to Fans only. Here is a code junk for that:

<fb:visible-to-connection>Content visible for fans only!
<fb:else>This part is visible for non-fans</fb:else>
</fb:visible-to-connection>

Here you can see a fan-only tab of the Teesey Tees fan page before and after clicking the Like button.

Tesey Tees

Add FBJS. With Facebook Javascript (FBJS) you can improve your fan page with some interactive elements, such as animated slideshows and web forms. The London-based web development company WebDigi posted a useful tutorial on using FBJS along with FBML for custom fan pages on their blog. Moreover, they generously shared the .fbml examples of a contact form, a carousel slideshow and sub-tabs that are in use on the company’s fan page. Use the source code to get a better idea of FBJS and experiment with your own custom page!

A photographer from Califronia modified the code provided by Webdigi to create a fine photography slideshow on his Business Page.

Embrace Life

Account Set Up. Now What?

Now that you know how to create a professional Facebook profile and engaging fan page, you are fully armored and ready to go. Here are a few tips and tricks to help you make Facebook an integral part of your web working toolkit.

General Tips for Using Facebook Professionally

Customize your privacy settings. Always control who sees what is in your Facebook profile. To set up your privacy preferences, go to the Account drop-down menu and click on “Privacy Settings”. Make sure potential clients and professional contacts can easily find you by setting the “Search” option under Basic Directory Information to visibility level “Everyone” and enabling Public Search (see the screenshot below). Pay special attention to “Contact Information”, “Profile Information” and “Application/Websites Privacy Settings”.

Public Search

Join the community. Become a fan of Pages and join Groups related to your business interests. That’s another source of useful info and professional connections on Facebook. Besides, it’s a chance to show your expertise, which a freelancer should never miss.

Search for jobs. Having a professional profile and attractive portfolio page on Facebook is important, but that alone won’t bring you job offers. If you’re on the lookout for a gig, make some steps towards it:

  • First, let people know you’re available for work by stating it in your profile and/or fan page (Easy CV application allows you to add a professional resume on your profile or page).
  • Use Facebook Search: if you’re looking for web design related gigs, start from searching for the relevant term on Facebook. You can narrow down your search to people, pages, groups, posts, events, etc. This way you can find like-minded people and communities to join, and continue your job search from there.
  • Use applications, there are plenty of apps developed for job hunters, we’ll get back to that later in this post.

Search for Jobs

Promote your Facebook Page. Within Facebook you can make use of several tools and features for page promotion, such as the “Suggest to friends” option, “Share” and “Like” buttons, and, of course, Facebook Ads. For external promotion of your Facebook fan page there is a solid gallery of social plugins available. The sky is the limit as far as how you can do make your Facebook page pop. Read the following posts for a head start:

The freelance designer Matt Ward put the links to his social profiles right in the header, near the freelance work availability note.

Echo Enduring

Don’t be selfish. It’s natural to post links to your projects on Facebook, but always give more than you take if you don’t want to pass for a spammer. Know your audience and post something you think will be interesting to them, share your friends’ updates and follow the conversation thread on pages where you posted your link. It’s simple - you will gain more being personally engaging, rather than blatantly promotional.

Invest your time wisely. Facebook can suck your time more than you can imagine. Allot specific hours to read news and friends’ updates and use multi-account social network clients, or browser extensions to update status and get notifications throughout the day. Think of taking care of your profile while queuing up or on public transport (or whenever you can’t work anyway), luckily mobile phones make that possible. Monitor your Facebook activity and analyze the results. Don’t be afraid to quit if you see your effort is not repaid - people can live without Facebook, you know!

Facebook Addicted

Tools and Tricks

Lists option for friends. Using this feature you can successfully combine professional and personal communications on Facebook. To create a list, pull down the Account menu and click on “Edit Friends”. Press the button “Create a List” and sort out your friends based on specific parameters (“People I’ve met”, “Former co-workers”, “Clients”, etc). You can then use lists to create privacy settings, so that info you share would reach out to necessary eyes only.

Lists

Selective Twitter. If you are not a lazy social media user, you probably already know that merging Facebook status updates and Tweets is not a clever idea. If you didn’t know that, well, here are at least 5 reasons why. However, sometimes you may need to post the same message both on Twitter and Facebook and that’s where Selective Tweets comes in handy. This app allows you to update your FB status from Twitter selectively by adding #fb to your Tweet message.

Selective Tweets

Schedule your updates. The ability to send status updates and messages ahead of time may be quite useful sometimes. For example, when you need to address people living in another time zone. Sendible is probably the ultimate solution for that: you can schedule Facebook Status, Facebook Post, Facebook Pages and Groups updates with link previews. Although, scheduling messages is a nice feature to make use of, be careful with it. People can smell bots miles away, so think twice before setting your updates on autopilot.

Tagging with “@”. You can mention users and pages in your status updates. To do this, start typing the name of a person or business with “@” symbol. A pull-down list will then generate suggested names. Hit the one you need and it will become a hyperlink in your message. You could use this trick to refer to your business page and show love to your friends and fans by tagging them in your updates.

Tagging

Applications for job search. The following resources provide explicit listings of Facebook apps to help you find a regular or freelance job.

10 Facebook Pages and Groups for Freelancers

Here is a list of 10 Facebook Pages and Groups to help freelance professionals to find jobs, stay connected with peers and get updated on various aspects of freelance business.

Freelance Writing Jobs
Joining the page you can get news from a popular freelance writing community featuring daily job leads, informative tips and articles.

Freelance Writing Jobs

Writing Gigs Community
This is a closed group (you must request to join), which unites professional writers and bloggers so that they could help each other to find paying gigs. Members can view all content and post job ads to the Discussion section.

Writing Gigs Community

Freelance Switch
A Facebook page of a well-known freelance resources Freelance Switch. By pressing the "Like" button you can have updates from Freelance Switch right in your Facebook newsfeed. You might also make use of the job board integrated in the Notes section of the page.

Freelanceswitch

Mediabistro.com
The fan page of Mediabistro.com is another place for editors, writers, producers, graphic designers, book publishers, and other creative minds to meet, showcase their work, share experiences and become informed on interesting projects and job opportunities.

Mediabistro

Onextrapixel
Join Onextrapixel on Facebook to stay aware of latest posts and updates on everything web design, development and freelancing.

Onextrapixel

Fresh Web Jobs
Join this page if you'd like to receive fresh info about who's hiring in the web industries.

Fresh Web Jobs

Get Photography Jobs
As the title of this Facebook page suggests, it's a space for photography professionals to look for jobs. Besides, by joining the page you can show off your work by posting it to the Photos section.

Get Photogaphy Jobs

oDesk
The official page of one of the largest global employment platforms oDesk. By becoming a fan you get the possibility of addressing the audience of 17K people via the Page Wall.

oDesk

AllFacebook
To achieve the best results with Facebook, you should have a thorough knowledge of all the capabilities it has. AllFacebook.com is one of the best resources to look for Facebook news, educational materials, tips and best practices. Another reason to become a fan of AllFacebook page - by hitting "Like" you get a free ebook "How to Attract Millions of Facebook Fans".

allFacebook

Media Match
A Facebook community of professionals occupied in TV and Film Production industries.

Media Match

Share Your Experience!

Have you already succeeded in utilizing Facebook for your freelance career? Great! Share your experience with us by commenting on this post.

Opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and not necessarily those of Onextrapixel.