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Every piece matters!

When you work with a larger company, you can use that company’s reputation to build up your own. Surely, since that company is amazing, you must be amazing too, right?

At the same time, when you contract through a company (or work as an employee), you have the luxury of being able to create some distance should the company do something to embarrass itself or if some potentially harmful material surfaces. You can take a step away. Yes, the marketing department’s graphics on that campaign are disturbing, but you had no control over that—you just wrote the copy placed over the image! It might not win you any friends, but it is possible.

When you freelance, all you have is yourself. Everything you do matters. Everything you say has the potential to influence a potential client’s decision to work with you (or not). There is no cushion. There is no buffer.

This is why internet reputation management is important! The last thing you need is to be caught by surprise if something embarrassing or potentially damaging turns up.

Monitoring your reputation is important for the following reasons:

People Talk

Nowhere is this truer than the Internet. And because the Internet is widely un-policed, people can say pretty much whatever they want with very little fear of repercussions. What are they saying about you?  Is what people are saying true? Is someone spreading false rumors about you?

People Steal…Er…Borrow

Is your work being used only for the purposes for which it was originally intended? Or is it turning up in some surprising places? Is it turning up with someone else’s name on it? How will you know if you don’t take the time to monitor the situation?

People Want to Seem Bigger Than They Are

Build-a-Reputation

This can go both ways. Is someone using your name to promote something they are working on? Is someone telling others that they are your friend, your colleague, your client—even if they aren’t?

It’s flattering to know that people want to be associated with you, but that doesn’t mean that your being associated with them is necessarily in your best interest. Yes—that sounds hideously snobby, but it’s true. Who you choose to associate with says a lot about you.

People Impersonate

All of those fake celebrity profiles on Facebook prove this. This doesn’t just happen to Hollywood A-listers. It happens to prominent personalities from all walks of life. It might be happening to you.

People Mean Well

Your best friend from high school probably doesn’t have nefarious intentions when she posts that embarrassing (though hilarious) picture of the two of you from that one party that one time. Still, you don’t want a potential client to see that and get the wrong impression!

Is this what you want a client to see when they want to know more about you?

People Are Busy

Sure, every once in a while, a well-meaning friend might send you an email when they stumble across something about you online that seems off. If you sit around and wait to be notified, though, you’re doing it wrong. This is the big wide wonderful Internet. You need to be proactive!

Being proactive doesn’t have to be time-consuming. When you are just starting out in the world of freelance, a few Google and social media searches done each morning will usually suffice. As you grow your business (and reputation), though, it might be worth it to enlist a professional. There are a variety of different programs and companies out there that specialize in helping people with their online reputation management. Hiring one could save you a ton of time (and bad press)!

Try not to get too bogged down by the possibilities we’ve talked about here. Remember—even if someone online has decided to become your personal troll, everything you find is a potential to show off just how awesome you truly are!

Look at reputation management as a series of opportunities instead of damage control and you’ll do just fine.

Check out more freelancing articles!

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Posted by Erin Steiner

Erin Steiner is a freelance writer from Portland. She covers topics ranging from pop culture to entrepreneurship and civics.

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