If you’ve built up a sweet freelancer profile but you still sound like a jackass, you’ll probably never break into that upper echelon of clients who want to hire you to do cool things you’ll actually enjoy.

If you’re okay with continuing to format health insurance newsletters, that’s fine. The rest of us will take the sports websites, Kama Sutra apps, and travel magazines, all because we know not to put this stuff in our bios.

The word “excel” (lowercase)

You can use Microsoft Excel? Great! You “excel” at Microsoft Excel? Don’t say that. Never boast; let your work samples and reviews do that for you. Replace this with the word “specialize” to show you are skilled in a particular niche.

The words “experienced” and “experience”

This should be obvious based on the rest of your profile. If not, rather than saying this, prove it: “I’ve been working in the ad industry since 1949 and designed the first Wheaties billboard. Here’s a picture.”

As for the noun, don’t say things like “I make it my priority to provide the best client experience possible.” This is how customer service representatives talk on the phone, and it always makes you sound like you hate your job. Find a way to talk about this without using the word, and actually evoke a genuine idea of what the experience of working with you will be like.

Adjectives like “motivated,” “professional,” “devoted,” and “reliable”

Know the phrase “Show, don’t tell”? Don’t use adjectives to describe yourself. At all. I mean it — zero self-referential adjectives should be on your bio.

Rather, use verbs and give specific examples or illustrative characteristics: “My philosophy is delivering work ahead of schedule for all my clients, including drafts-in-progress, to make sure we’re on the same page.”

The word “passion”

You have a passion for writing, design, editing, coding, etc.? So does everyone else in your industry. Why else would they be trying to freelance it instead of getting a job with benefits and steady income?

The phrase “natural gift”

I literally just read this in someone’s profile. She didn’t get the job. No one cares about your gifts. They care if you can do their job.

Anything about “exceeding expectations”

If you love what you do, this is implicit. People who care about their work don’t settle for mediocrity, and no freelancer wants to disappoint a client — it ruins a shot at a re-hire.

The word “value”

I mean this in both the noun sense and the verb. You shouldn’t have to tell people you offer a great value; let them judge this themselves based on your rate and reviews / work samples. Pointing it out also makes you look like you do shoddy work for cheap.

As for the verb, this goes with the whole exuberant over-pleaser thing. Phrases like “I value your time,” “I value clients’ needs,” “I value customer relationships,” etc., ad nauseum, make you look ridiculous. These values are always implicit unless you prove otherwise.

The phrases “industry leader” and “industry leading”

First of all, the second one is a compound adjective and always needs a hyphen. It’s in the Cambridge dictionary. Look it up.

Second, neither of these things describes you. Real industry leaders probably drink scotch all day from their agency office overlooking the Manhattan skyline, or they freelance for ESPN or Nike or Wheaties. If you’re one of these people, I don’t know why you’re even looking for job postings on freelancer websites.

Anything in passive voice

If you’re not familiar with passive voice, it’s a grammatical term for sentences / phrases in which the subject gets acted upon, rather than having the subject act upon something else. Example: “Personalized campaigns will be delivered to each client” vs. “I provide a personalized campaign for each client.”

See how the subject in the second sentence (“I”) is “active,” meaning it does something immediate and impactful? If you still don’t get it, look it up.

Incomplete sentences

I just read a profile comprising only incomplete sentences. I’ll paraphrase: “More than 15 years’ experience in design. Specializing in unique websites. Conversions to mobile sites.” Would you hire this person? I wouldn’t.

Emoticons

Yes, I’ve seen these, too. I don’t have to explain this one.

Exception: If you’re trying to brand / project yourself really intricately within your niche and market, know how to build that up with a certain voice / approach, and can back it up with top-notch work and service, by all means, colon-parenthesis away.

The word “satisfactory”

E.g.: “I provide satisfactory results.” Really? That’s it? Way to set yourself up for mediocrity. I’ll look for someone who can “exceed expectations,” thanks.

Succession of “I” sentences / statements

One profile I’ve seen reads something like this: “I graduated from X college. I held an impressive position there. I previously held a similar position somewhere else. I have knowledge of the things you need a contractor in my industry to have knowledge of. I run a company specializing in the service I’m freelancing for as an individual on this website.”

Cool, man. Nice to meet you. So what’s in it for me?

Anything you see on everyone else’s profiles

Would you hire someone whose personality seems to be based on a composite of self-help book jackets to blog for the brand you’re supposed to be representing? Would you hire a pompous, hyperbolically motivated yes-man to build your website?

Above all, remember to let your personality show through. Make a pun. Share an anecdote. There are hundreds, maybe thousands of others doing what you do. Don’t be one of them.

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