Building a Credible Image When You Work in Multiple Fields

747814_threadHow do you sell yourself and your services online, when you work in two or more fields? Won't a potential client's first impression be that you lack focus, and perhaps don't excel at any of the things you do? Freelancers don't always have the luxury of concentrating on just one field. We have to be flexible. We have to be creative with our talents. We have to pay the rent.

I was dealing with this a few months ago, when I was thinking of putting together a portfolio site. I was feeling like my presence on the Internet was scattered all over the place, and wanted a single site to which I could send professional contacts who wanted more info. I was tired of providing links to multiple profiles and blogs that didn't tell the whole story, and I'm not wild about any of the "identity aggregation" services that are out there.

Given all the different things I do, my primary dilemma was to make a non-static professional site that gave a good overall impression of what I'm about, professionally speaking. Below are some of the issues and approaches I pondered. Maybe they will be useful to you if you're in this position.

Think Bakery

I attended a talk on personal branding at an e-reputation barcamp earlier this year. The speaker's suggestion for the Jacks and Jills of more-than-one trade, like me, was to think like a bakery. Her metaphor was this: Everyone knows what a bakery is and that you can get a variety of baked goods inside. So although you may have pumpernickel, cookies and eclairs to offer your clients, you should choose one item to put in the shop window when creating your personal brand, and everyone will know that you will likely provide the complementary services, too.

This can't really work for everyone, though. In my case, people who are interested in one of my services (translating, tech writing, project management, public speaking, to name a few) are unlikely to have any need for the others.

The Red Thread

If, like me, you can't really single out a specific thing, you could look for what the French call the fil rouge (red thread). This is the element that kind of ties everything together. Then that thing would be what you emphasize and promote to clients. This is a better option for someone like me. My red thread could be communication, since almost all of the things I do involve communication in some form or another.

What Would Big Bird Do?

You could also take an objective look at the various services you offer. If you have a unicycle, a truck, a bucket and a tractor, one of these things doesn't belong here. So you focus on the things with wheels, and downplay the bucket or even create a separate site/brand/identity for it. This approach also works well for someone like me.

What I ended up doing was creating a blog where I publish short articles related to some of my professional interests and activities. One column provides links to other my other sites and profiles. I highly recommend this post on how to make a blog into a professional tool by Darrell Etherington, this article about making blogging less of a burden by Dawn Foster, and Celine Roque's post about developing a content strategy for your blog.