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The Importance of Having a Strong Online Profile

20 August 2018

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┬ęTom Barnes

We partnered up with Computer Arts Magazine to bring you a series of features - First up is 'Strong Profile'. For self-employed creatives, it’s more important than ever to have a powerful online presence in order to keep work coming in. We catch up with two AOP members, photographer Tom Barnes and stylist Emma Lightbown who both have an excellent online presence and oodles of great advice on building and maintaining a profile that will work effectively for you.  

Hello Emma and Tom, tell us what you do to make sure your online profile works hard for you? 

Emma: Personally keeping everything up to date is the most important, even if this means only using one platform it’s better than spreading yourself over too many and not being able to keep them regularly updated. I update my website with new images as soon as I receive them and ensure I post daily on social media.

Tom: It’s the cornerstone of your business, it has to almost work harder than you in some respects. To break it down in to parts you have your portfolio and your social medias, they should all echo the same voice - if you know your brand attributes then this shouldn’t be hard - if you don’t then look into what your attributes are - this will help you create a cohesiveness in everything you do. When it comes to the portfolio it should be simple and easy to navigate - if you cause any frustration to your viewer they will leave - you could have the best work in the world but if the site is hard work they won’t stick around, I always make sure people never have to go more than two clicks for anything on the site. With regards to social media I always think real recognises real, people can spot a fraud (harder than it sounds on social media but still) All my posts are written by me and I try to include little personal bits from the shoot or about the work - it helps people connect to the post and hopefully ups those likes, more likes means more dollars in the bank… or not, but still it’s good to have.


Which platforms do you think creatives should use right now? 

Emma: Aside from my website, Instagram is one of my biggest sources of client referrals and despite the frustrating recent algorithm changes its probably my most used app! I recently became listed as an associate on The AOP which has helped boost traffic to my site and I also have Google sponsored ad from which I get a high proportion of my new client enquiries.

Tom: I quit Twitter and facebook - I focus now solely on my site and Instagram, everyone has their own thing but I’m not the greatest with words, I’m very much more of a visual guy and of course that is my line of work so Instagram seems to be the ideal format really, more pictures/less words!


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©Christian Couzens - Stylist Emma Lightbown


How do you measure what works effectively? 

Emma: I try and ask all new enquiries where they found out about me and also check my website’s analytics to see where the traffic and in turn bookings are coming from.

Tom: The more you post the more you can gauge what your followers like, DO NOT change for them, be your own person. The obvious measure is likes but I prefer to see interaction, I post some images and they get a great conversation going, some don’t - it’s interesting to see what gets people talking. I like drilling down and seeing effectiveness of posts at different times on different days, it also pays to know where the majority of your followers are based as time zones can really come into their own here - there are plenty of advanced analytics for social media - choose one and study it!

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©Christian Couzens - Stylist Emma Lightbown

What are your top do’s and don’ts for creating a strong profile?  

Emma: Working in a visual field I think your online profiles should reflect this, they should show your creativity and style - your profiles not only showcase your work but your personality. I think its great to get a balance of self promotion but whilst giving an insight to who you are is really important. Also I think its wise to keep any strong opinions (especially political!) to private platforms ranting on social media is always going to be a turn off to clients! 

Tom: Be honest, people smell a fraud. Don’t try and be someone you’re not and live the life you lead, if you think your life is dull then change your life - not your social media personality. Don’t try and cultivate a following based on a faked persona - try and engage with your followers and post genuine stuff, like I said, real recognises real.

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©Tom Barnes

What attracts most traffic?

Emma: On Instagram I find posting relatable content such as quotes / memes (particularly about freelancing) always draws a lot of engagement and in turn traffic. Video content also does really well. I find any posts that share knowledge or expertise without asking for anything in return also generate lots of traffic.

Tom: I’ve never truly figured it out, for me personally the portfolio pieces and pieces of recent work tend to do well, I post some behind the scenes stuff from time to time and that goes well. I’ve already covered the fact I’m not a writer so I don’t tend to do thought pieces (they can come off as arrogant I’ve seen) competitions wise, I don’t tend to bother - I’m a photographer pimping my skills, I’m not really trying to sell products directly to followers, come to think of it I don’t think I’ve ever got [what I would consider] a ‘good’ job through social media - I very much think of it as secondary to my main marketing.

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©Tom Barnes

What’s your view on newsletters? It seems every brand has at least one now, is it an authentic way of communicating or should we be thinking of better ways to communicate our messages? 

Emma: There are very few newsletters I subscribe to and even fewer that I actually read. I think with the new GDPR brands will need to find better ways of communicating with customers, many have already caught on to the idea that social media is way more effective than any newsletter will ever be - how many times have you ever forwarded a newsletter compared to how many times you’ve retweeted or reposted a brand? I prefer to read newsletters that deliver exclusive content / offers, providing something in a newsletter than I’m not going to be able to access anywhere else is more likely to get my attention. 

Tom: I’ve been working on these for 18 months, I try and do 4 a year but I’m busy so it ends up being 2 or 3. I think they are good for just staying on peoples radars, that’s why I do it, I talk about the work I’ve found interesting as that’s what I want to get hired to shoot - whenever I put out a newsletter it’s great to see the analytics of it and who you can follow up with etc - if someone has opened your e-mail multiple times you would hope they would be a little more receptive to seeing those whole portfolio over lunch or in the office over a coffee! 

When it comes to the authenticity of it - this is very much down to you – mine’s authentic - I don’t bother trying to talk it up or create a persona, you get what you see with me, if people don’t like it they might like the next one, you can’t please everyone all the time but if you can please some people some of the time you’ll be doing considerably better than someone who never does any marketing whatsoever. 

We hope that’s given you food for thought! See Emma and Tom’s profiles here


Emma Lightbown


Tom Barnes

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