Q&A: I don’t want to share my photo on-line. Can I still get freelance work?

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Dear Readers,

There is a lot of pressure in today’s social media environment to share photos and other personal information, and I have received multiple inquiries from Muslim women over the past year who are concerned about posting their pictures on-line in order to create viable freelance profiles. These women are wondering whether they can actually get clients without sharing their photos.

To answer such concerns, let me say that you absolutely do not have to publish your photo on-line in order to be a successful freelancer.

I can say this with 100 percent confidence because I have not ever used my own photo in my marketing efforts in more than a decade of freelance work with clients from all walks of life.

Alhamdulillah, I regularly write, edit, and translate for a variety of clients, including high-profile businesses, agencies, organizations, and individuals, and often have to turn down work when my schedule gets too busy. I have also hired and managed other writers (male and female) without knowing what they looked like. On top of this, many of the people who have hired me also do not publish their photos on-line. Although it sometimes feels like everyone is sharing their photos with the world, the truth is that many people are not.

To a certain extent, I am sure it is probably true that a photo can help build trust with potential clients, but this is not always the case. Some of this depends on the biases of the people looking at the photo. If you are young, for example, people might think you are inexperienced. If you are old, people might think you are behind the times. What if the person looking at your photo has a bias against Muslims or doesn’t like people of your race? How helpful would a photo be in this case (except to weed out the obvious bigots, which might actually be a positive thing)?

You know what I mean, though. My point is that photos can work for OR against you, for a variety of reasons—but if you are working with like-minded individuals, they will likely understand (and respect) your decisions concerning this issue.

Unlike some people, I am not necessarily “against” using photos and do not rule out using them in the future if I see any benefit.

In fact, I have occasionally considered using my photo to inspire younger Muslimahs to wear the hijab, or even to present a positive image of Muslims to others, but the introvert in me is not totally on board with this idea.

As freelance writers, we are selling our ability to write well and communicate—and I rather like the fact that I’m able to persuade someone to buy my product without being influenced by the way I look. This, too, can set a positive example for people who may be worried that they have to compromise a value or belief in order to be successful. And in my experience, what clients actually care about is whether you are able to get the job done. You establish this by producing high-quality, on-time work.

Over the years, I have probably been asked 2 or 3 times to provide my photo so that it could be published with some article I had written. In each case, I declined without any consequences, and the work was still published. It’s a little trickier these days since blogging clients in particular often want posts appearing on their websites to include author photos, but I would think that most are probably enlightened enough to consider alternatives. Some Muslim women use cartoon avatars, but other options might include business logos or even just your initials presented in a professional manner.

Religious considerations aside, people shouldn’t really be pressured to share their images on-line. People have other concerns as well, such as stalking or simply not wanting to disadvantage themselves if they don’t have that “corporate” look associated with successful businesspeople. It’s not only Muslims who have such concerns.

Working behind the screen can serve as the ultimate hijab if you desire, so don’t listen to those who say otherwise. Carol Tice of Make A Living Writing is widely considered an authority on freelance writing and is someone whom I greatly respect—yet she has stated that she will not connect with people on LinkedIn who do not display their photos and has said things like “No one takes you seriously without a photo.”

Today, I am telling you the opposite. People will take you seriously, so long as you, yourself, are serious.

I hope this helps a bit. On a practical note, this site lists jobs and freelance markets of interest to Muslim writers. I also invite you to visit my other site for freelance writers (Freelance Market Guides), which is still under development, but is dedicated to listing freelance opportunities that pay a minimum of 10 cents per word.

Work is out there in abundance, so be yourself, and don’t give excessive importance to imitating what other people do if it makes you uncomfortable.

In the meantime, may your freelance endeavors provide you with a steady source of income and open the door to new intellectual pursuits that bring you joy.

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Amel is an experienced freelance writer, editor, and Arabic to English translator. She started the Muslim Writers Club as a means of sharing useful information about the art (and business) of writing.
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