The Pros and Cons of the Profile Picture (Avatar)
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Most freelancing marketplaces allow you to put a small image on your profile, sometimes called an avatar. New freelancers take advantage of this opportunity, rightly figuring that it will make it easier for them to win bids; unfortunately, some of them do it so poorly that they end up actually reducing their chances of success. The truth is that profile pictures are very much a double-edged sword; if not done properly, they can do more harm than good. And sadly, there are cases where even a good picture can have a negative impact due to biases held by buyers that they may not even recognize.
Here are some issues to consider in making the decision about whether or not to use a profile picture, and advice to guide you on how to select and create one if you choose to do so.
A profile picture helps put a “face” on your freelancing persona. There are tens of thousands of contractors on these sites, and lengthy profiles tend to blur together over time, especially to busy buyers who just want to get their projects done. A profile picture helps you stand out—it says something about you quickly to a client who reads your profile. If your username is what makes the first impression on a prospective business partner, then the picture can help you make a good “second impression”.
Putting a picture on your profile shows that you care enough about that profile to make it as complete as possible. It conveys openness and a willingness to share information about yourself. Profiles that lack a picture may signal to some clients either a lack of care and attention, or a desire to play one’s cards closer to the chest.
It’s also a form of advertising, especially for freelancers using a company logo. It’s a way to get seen and recognized. It also helps clients who like your work find you when faced with a potentially daunting pile of electronic resumes.
There are two basic options for a profile picture: either a portrait of a person or a logo. As usual, there are pros and cons to both options.
The chief benefit of a personal portrait is that it helps humanize you in a milieu that is by its very nature impersonal. It immediately reminds someone reading your profile that you are a person, even if it is on a subconscious level, and helps you make an initial connection. Busy clients sometimes fall into a tendency to treat contractors like cogs in a machine, and a picture may help them remember that there is actually a person “on the other end of the line”, so to speak.
The main advantage of a logo is that it conveys an aura of professionalism to prospective clients. Assuming that it is of reasonable quality, a logo says that you are serious about your freelancing business. The logo itself can also give a buyer a quick idea of what it is you do and how you do it, in a way that they’d never pick up from a casual glance at your profile. As the saying goes, a picture’s worth a thousand words.
Keep in mind that some clients prefer individual freelancers, while others would rather hire companies, and many of them will judge which you are based on whether you have a portrait or a logo. This happens despite the fact that most sites allow individuals to use logos, and companies to put up a portrait of a person.
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Last Site Update: December 13, 2011
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