As a freelancer, you need to showcase your skills and portfolio – as well as yourself. Here’s what to wear for headshots for your freelancing websites to leave the best impression with potential clients.
One of the best ways to attract high paying freelance clients is to create a professional freelancer business website, and a good profile page. Of course, you’ll need a nice picture with your profile so potential clients can put a face to your name (and business).
Seeing the person that they’re going to be working with helps clients get to know you, and it builds the “know, like, and trust” factor of your freelance business. This can immediately help you lift your game and get ahead of your competitors.
Of course, getting a good picture can be tricky, even if it’s shot professionally. And perhaps the biggest hurdle is deciding what to wear.
It brings up many questions: What is the best color to wear for headshots? What should you not wear in headshots? Should your clothes be formal or casual? Which colors and clothes really define YOU?
But fear not, dear reader. This article will break down everything you need to know about what to wear for headshots to ensure that your freelancer business website looks the best it can.
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Know Your Audience
The first step to deciding what to wear for headshots is to figure out your audience (i.e. who your clients are, and who you want to attract more of). Get clear on your value proposition and what sets you apart from your competitors as a freelancer before you start taking your headshots.
Although all headshots serve a similar role – to showcase your professionalism – there are specific conventions for different industries and audiences. Creative industries, for example, might have looser expectations for formality than technical industries.
To determine what your audience is expecting, you might connect with other people in your industry and note how they dress in their headshots. Alternatively, you could do a deep dive on LinkedIn profile photos, and take some notes on the visual conventions you tend to see.
Using other people to inspire and inform your outfit can be helpful, but it isn’t definitive. Ultimately, only one person can decide what outfit you look best in, and that’s you.
Keep it Serious…
As a general rule of thumb when choosing what to wear for headshots, you should keep things professional and semi-formal.
Even if your industry is creative and fun, such as copywriting or content creation, your photo should still be relatively serious. This is because, no matter what your industry is, your clients want to know whether you are a dependable person who can deliver results, and who is plugged into the same culture that they are.
Many employers and clients judge a book by its cover, so they will take your presentation as a sign of whether you will work well with them. Keeping things fairly neutral may get you more inquiries from potential clients and get you more great freelance projects.
With this in mind, avoid super casual clothing like t-shirts, jeans, athletic clothes, or casual accessories. Instead, start your search in the “business casual” category of clothing: nice blouses or button-downs, snappy sweaters or cardigans, smart skirts or slacks, and bright, fashionable accessories.
…But Not Too Serious!
On the other hand, dressing overly serious in a freelancer headshot can have pitfalls of its own.
Since freelancing tends to be a more casual industry, it’s often the case that headshots feature slightly more casual clothes than industries like corporate administration.
Overdressing for a headshot might convey that you take yourself too seriously and won’t be any fun to work with. If you’re dressed more formally than others in your field, it can give the impression that you are not in touch with current trends.
And as any freelancer knows, half the work of freelancing is being able to keep up!
Now, the formality of each industry will vary, but you can make some general adjustments to take a photo that is most true to yourself. Avoid excessively fancy outfits like tuxedos and evening gowns, and only wear a suit and tie or jacket if that’s common in your industry.
Experiment with clothing pieces that float between ultra-casual and ultra-formal. A slim, clean sweater, for example, is a great way to look professional and comfortable. You might even opt to ditch a tie and wear your top button undone (though don’t unbutton any more buttons).
Above all else, remember that you ARE your brand – so what you wear paints a picture of who you are, and who you want to work for.
Pick the Right Colors
Wondering what the best color is to wear in headshots? Well, there’s no single correct answer, but there are plenty of guidelines.
First, steer clear of loud, bold colors. There’s no need for neon pink, bright orange, or electric blue (unless that’s a core part of your branding).
Besides threatening to make your headshot appear informal, these colors will often distract from your face, which is supposed to be the centerpiece of the photo (it’s called a headshot for a reason!).
That doesn’t mean you need to wear dull colors. After all, a flat gray or rusty brown can look just as bad as bright yellow in a picture. Try to find a middle ground by selecting monochromatic clothes with subtle colors. Black works very well, as does dark blue, maroon, or even deep red. Just be sure that the colors emphasize you rather than washing you out.
Depending on the composition of your headshot, multiple articles of clothing might be visible, such as a shirt and a cardigan or a top and a bottom. If that’s the case, walk a careful line between contrast and consistency.
Balance is your friend in these situations. If your shirt is on the brighter side, pair it with a neutral-colored piece of outerwear. If your top seems too dark, brighten it with a more light-tinted bottom. As a general rule, try to wear a neutral or cool color in the piece of clothing that occupies the most space in the photo.
The key lesson is to make sure that the photo has the effect of emphasizing the best colors in your face without distracting from it.
As an extension of the other pieces of advice on this list, you should be discerning about the accessories you plan on wearing in your photo.
There are no hard and fast rules for accessorizing, but in general, try to choose pieces that are monochromatic and that tend to be on the smaller side. Try to avoid statement pieces or overly flashy jewelry like thick necklaces and funny or whimsical earrings. For the same reason, chokers, septum piercings, and eyebrow rings are a no-go.
And you don’t have to avoid jewelry altogether. Wearing jewelry or other accessories can be a great choice in some contexts. Subtle gold or silver jewelry, for example, can be a good addition if you have a darker skin tone. Similarly, a soft jewel tone can bring out the color in a paler face.
Get a Fit-check
Another key step when choosing your headshot outfit is to be mindful of how your clothes fit.
Your face should be the focal point of the photo, so pick clothes that help your torso blend into the background. This means wearing clothes that create clean lines around your body.
As with jewelry and color, there is no definitive rule for the fit of your clothes; the most important thing is simply to create a silhouette that complements the shape of your body. Try to avoid extremes. Remember that overly-tight clothes probably won’t bring out the best side of you, nor will clothes that hang too loosely.
Although this guideline might seem obvious to some, the most important thing is to pick out clothes that make you feel comfortable so that you look confident in your picture.
At the end of the day, the single most important guideline for choosing what to wear for headshots is to be yourself. Wear clothes that you feel natural in and that you feel represent you.
No matter how close you cleave to style guidelines, you won’t look good unless you feel comfortable in your clothing. When you feel uncomfortable, your pose tends to be more stilted, and the photo can look forced and unnatural. For that reason, you will look the best on the outside if you feel the best within.
This is especially important because stringent expectations for business clothing tend to exclude many different cultures, bodies, and forms of expression.
The point of a headshot, at the end of the day, is to express who you are, not to make you generic. As a result, if you feel most authentic while wearing a traditional cultural accessory, clothes that give your body a certain shape, or nontraditional jewelry, then by all means, wear it.
Frequently Asked Questions
Most freelancers fret when deciding what to wear for their headshots. Here are some answers to common questions that crop up.
What should you not wear in headshots?
Generally speaking, you should avoid informal or unprofessional clothes. These might include dresses with spaghetti straps, overly baggy clothes, clothes with loud colors or patterns, and whimsical accessories. However, there is no firm rule on what not to wear, so you should always wear what feels true to you.
What color should you wear for a professional headshot?
There are a variety of colors that might work in a professional headshot, but your best bet is to choose soft colors that contrast with your skin tone. These can run that gamut, from black and maroon to pale blue and white.
Final Thoughts – What To Wear For Headshots
Picking an outfit for a headshot can be daunting, but taking from these guidelines can make the task less stressful. Keep it balanced, keep it professional, and above all, keep it true to yourself.