Creating the Perfect Freelancer Profile Picture - Without a Photographer

Updated: Aug 21, 2019

Whether you want to show your real face or not, here is a guide to creating a great first impression as a freelancer with your profile image.

We all know it. Profile photos create a powerful first impression and can strongly influence whether or not you get hired for a job when using freelance job marketplace sites such as Conyac. In this guide, we’re going to cover easy to follow steps to creating the ultimate profile picture that gets you more clients faster.

The Good News

Relax, we’re going to take all the pain out of this experience!

  • No Photographers: As long as you have a smartphone, there’s no need to spend time visiting the studio of a professional photographer or paying their high fees.

  • No Expensive Gear: Your smartphone will be enough.

  • No Real Photos: You also don’t need to reveal your identity unless you want to. I’ll show you how to either use a free model’s photo or take one of yourself and then alter the appearance so much nobody would know it’s you.

  • No Smiling: Even professional models find it hard to smile on command. And, it can be hard if you're not happy with the state of your teeth. No problem - you can relax because we've got solutions for that too!

Research & Planning

It helps first to get a clear idea of the look you are aiming for.

  • Clients: Are you aiming to get corporate clients? If so, you’ll want a more conservative and business-like look.

  • Services: What kind of services will you be offering? If you’re an artist or coder, people expect you to look creative. If you’re offering accounting services, then you’ll want to look more serious.

  • Examples: Try searching for one or more freelance sites for freelancers who provide similar services. Putting yourself in the mindset of your ideal client, notice which profile pictures stand out and which make an excellent first impression.

Faking It

If you are adamant about not using your own photo, no problem! Go to a free stock photo site such as Pexels, Pixabay, or Unsplash and search for “faces” to find one that you like. However, don’t use it in its unaltered state because people can easily find it is fake by doing a reverse image search and tracking down the origin of the picture. Skip past the next section on shooting, and I’ll give you several easy to use options for altering the appearance to the point where you won’t get caught for using a stock photo.


The Old Ways

Getting a professional headshot done used to be about as much fun as visiting the dentist. First, you need to track down a nearby photographer, make an appointment, and then endure having to smile on command. If you didn’t have the time or money, the other alternative was going to a photo booth and rushing through to finish up while people lined up outside. Neither of these is necessary and more.

You also don’t need to be a Photoshop guru to enhance the photo. I’ll introduce several apps that can do in a few taps on your phone what would have required a photo editing expert to do in years past.

Setting Up the Shot

  • Your Arm: Since you’re just wanting a headshot, shooting yourself with your arm is fine in terms of distance. However, since the lens is so close, there will be distortion. This used to be a problem, but, later on, I’ll introduce an app which can fix that.

  • Selfie Stick: Not necessary, but feel free to use one if you like. They are quite cheap, and you can grab one on Amazon. Some even work as small tripods.

  • Tripod: Again, not necessary, but if you think you might get more use out of it beyond your profile picture, then, by all means, get one. In this scenario, you’ll be using your phone camera’s timer. A tripod can give you a bit more freedom since you don’t need to be holding anything, but you might need to experiment a bit to find the right position to sit or stand.


No need to spend money on lighting unless you want to start doing photography regularly. Find a window, sit or stand facing it, and take a photo with the camera between you and the window. Shooting outside can also produce excellent results. Aim for a soft light that illuminates all parts of your face.

Don’t worry about revealing all your imperfections - we’ll get rid of them all in the following steps! But, you want to be starting with a clear, high-resolution photo as the foundation. We’ll also blur or replace the background - no photoshop skills required! That said, ideally, choose a background that contrasts to a noticeable degree with the colors of your clothes, skin, and hair.


There are a lot of photo editing apps out there which work great on both real selfies and stock photos. Here are some of the best known.

  • Lensa: If you’re unsure of where to start, grab this app. It is super easy to use and gives excellent results. If you took a selfie with just your arm, it can fix the lens distortion. It can also help clean up skin blemishes, whiten teeth, and blur the background. It won’t give you any crazy edits that make you unrecognizable. It’s designed to provide natural-looking enhancements to an already reasonably good photo. Available for iOS now and an Android version is said to be on its way.

  • FaceApp: Another fantastic app with a range of simple one-touch edits. This one can do some crazy things such as de-aging older faces, changing the hairstyle or color, adding a smile, cosmetics or beards, and adding glasses. Available on Android and iOS.

  • BeautyPlus: It has a huge variety of possible edits that can allow you to go from just a few light touch-ups all the way to making a face look almost unrecognizable. It is more complicated than the other apps recommended but isn’t too hard to learn. Take some time to experiment. Available on Android and iOS.

  • TouchRetouch: An incredibly useful app that makes things disappear. Want to get rid of a mole? Easy! Is there something in the background that is distracting? This app can probably remove it. Available on Android and iOS.


If you love the look you’ve created and feel it’s appropriate, then skip this section, go ahead, and use it. If not, read on!

Sometimes it’s helpful to get feedback on a photo. Each of us is surprisingly bad at judging our own pictures. Friends are also not helpful. What you want is to get honest feedback on people who have never met you and only ever seen one photo you’re trying to evaluate.

While it was initially designed to give people feedback on pictures for online dating profiles, sites such as Photofeeler can also be helpful for the purpose of rating a photo for freelancing profiles. It also gives you a rating for how business-like the picture is.


Assuming that by this stage, you’ve arrived at a photo you like. If it’s a stock photo, you’ll want to avoid letting people find out. If it’s your own photo, then perhaps you’d rather not be recognized. The following apps can help. You may find yourself using a combination of two or more to get the desired effect.

  • FaceApp: Already mentioned above, this can create significant differences to make the photo unrecognizable.

  • Cartoon: Obviously, people will immediately know it’s not a photo, but most find these to be acceptable. There is a promising looking app available on iOS and a web service that does something similar.

  • Portra: Turns a photo into a stylish painting. Might work well for creative types. I’m a bit concerned because, as of the time of writing, this app hasn’t been updated in a long time, but hopefully it will still work on your phone. Available on Android and iOS.

  • Photo Lab: This app is known for its broad range of incredible artistic filters and special effects. It might be overkill for a profile photo, but it also does offer more subtle editing options. Available on Android and iOS.

One thing to remember is that your photo needs to clear even when shrunk small because potential clients might be trying to look at it via the mobile web.


It’s worthwhile putting effort into your profile photo because it’s often the first thing people see when browsing on freelance job marketplaces such as Conyac. They might not even read the text information you included in your profile. Whether you show your face or not, be sure to make the right impression with a photo that conveys the right messages.

The Xtra Freelancer Community Blog brings you inspiration and tips on how to get better gigs, earn more, and live a balanced life. Be the first to get our latest content by subscribing to our newsletter (scroll down to join). Or, if you're listening to this article off-site, visit (xtra-dot-blog) to sign up.

About This Blog is a resource for freelancers including tips and advice on how to earn more, improve your skills, get better gigs, and live a balanced lifestyle.

  • Facebook
  • Instagram
  • Twitter
  • YouTube
  • Freelancer Forum
  • Freelancer Jobs