Should Freelancers List With Online Business Directories?

Q: As a freelancer, is it worth having business listings like Yelp and YP?

A: It depends upon what directories you choose and why you choose them. There are advantages and disadvantages to being listed.

Reasons for listing a business include:

  • to increase exposure to potential clients
  • to communicate your presence and what you offer
  • to acquire more clients.

Online business listings can increase inbound traffic to your web site, establish your presence in your local community, and provide leads on which to follow up. If you focus on finding clients in your own locale, local business listings may help.

Because it’s a local business listing, your presence in an online business directory will assist you in being regarded as a legitimate business and creative professional. That’s important for a variety of reasons.


List for the right reasons

You want to be intentional about creating a listing on Yelp, YP, Manta, and any local business directory. If the clients you want to work with are looking on those platforms for service providers such as yourself, it will be worth setting up at least a free listing.

The use of online business directories should not be your primary means of finding clients. Make it part of your marketing mix, but don’t rely on it as a major source of client acquisition.

There are downsides to listing that are not always apparent when you sign-up.


My Experience With Yelp

On the advice of a trusted colleague, I set up a listing for my freelance business on Yelp and a few other online directories. At that time I was expecting to increase my exposure to potential clients near me. I chose the no-cost level on each of them.

Fairly soon after I set up my listings, I noticed a marked increase in spam emails, telemarketing calls, and requests from offshore enterprises. I received email requests from individuals outside the USA asking me to hire them so that they could come to the States on a work visa. I began receiving a higher percentage of Nigerian-type money scams. And I received a series of project requests from scammers asking me to create their web sites. I have no evidence to directly correlate my presence on online directories with the increase in junk and spam emails, but I don’t believe that the increase was merely coincidental.

Since I listed on Yelp, I’ve received 3 legitimate project inquiries. I received 4 from, and zero from the other 2 directories. None of the inquiries were gigs I wanted to accept, whether due to budget, type of work, or caliber of client.

Yelp representatives call and email several times each year to ask me to upgrade to a paid listing and to create special offers that will entice Yelp visitors to go to my web site. Since I don’t offer discounts and I don’t have walk-in customer traffic, I am not interested in upgrading. Although I have not paid to be listed in online directories, being listed has not helped me reach my goals. Inbound traffic to my web site from Yelp is minimal.

I have cancelled my other director listings, and would like to remove my Yelp listing, but cannot. Once listed on Yelp, I cannot leave unless I go out of business. They consider it a public service to the consumer to not allow a business to cancel a listing. So there it sits.

Based solely on my own experience, I have not found online directories to be useful in building clientele up to this point, and I cannot recommend it to fellow freelancers. Online directories work well for enterprises with storefronts, walk-in traffic, and posted business hours.

In my opinion, if a freelancer is targeting his marketing to a specific audience or industry, a listing — paid or unpaid — in a generic online business directory will not add anything. And it may, as I experienced, cost time in fielding unwanted solicitations.


An alternative to online business listings.

A better way is to use online creative directories where potential clients are looking for qualified designers, illustrators, or photographers. These directories provide display options for your work, and some offer marketing features:


Workbook is self-described as an artist portfolio and creative contact database. You can set up a free listing in their online directory. To include work samples, you need to advertise in their print and/or online portfolios. As a workbook advertiser, you receive some useful side benefits that will aid your marketing efforts, including Yodelist. It’s a creative directory rather than a standard online business directory, and it’s well-known among agencies and design firms looking for creative providers. Workbook is an affiliate of Dripbook and owns Folioplanet.

Another advantage to Workbook is its online directory of agencies, design firms, publishers… people that buy creative. With a membership to Yodelist (about $99.00/month), you gain full access to contact names and emails. Without subscribing, you can view mailing addresses and web site URLs. To my understanding, the contact information is updated regularly throughout the year, so it’s accurate.

Creative Hotlist

Creative Hotlist is part of Communication Arts Magazine. It’s not only a portfolio site, it lists work opportunities. Creative Hotlist is free if you subscribe to Communication Arts Magazine. You can explore job listings and freelancing options, and view the work of fellow members. To utilize marketing features such as a downloadable tear sheet and portfolio uploads, it’s less than $9.00/year. That’s quite a bargain.


Behance is a popular online portfolio community to showcase your creative work. You can upload groups of images as a “project”, or single images. You can show work in progress. You can “like” and follow other creatives and projects. Behance is used by businesses and organizations to locate creative talent. It’s owned by Adobe, and syncs with Creative Suite. There is no cost to join and begin uploading your work.


An affiliate of Workbook, Dripbook is a portfolio marketing site for designers, illustrators, photographers and other visual pros. It allows you to customize digital portfolios based on who you are targeting, and offer apps and marketing services to easily share and sync on your social media platforms. Dripbook has a social component allowing you to follow other creatives listed on the site. It boasts a worldwide audience. Cost of a standard membership is about $10.00/month, and less if you pay quarterly or annually.


Folioplanet is an international online directory exclusively for illustrators. Art buyers, agencies and firms looking for illustrators and stock image licenses utilize the site. It does not sell stock images but provides a means by which illustrators can license their work. It does not represent illustrators or do any marketing for them.

Folioplanet is a juried site. Illustrators earning 75% or more of their income from commissioned illustration work may apply with a $99.00 application fee (refunded if you don’t qualify). Once accepted, a listing is free. To add a thumbnail image to a listing or set up an online portfolio requires additional monies, and appears to be about $100.00/quarter as a base. Folioplanet is owned by Workbook.


Stick with your marketing plan

The key to any marketing activity is to use the platforms and channels that are a good fit both for finding the kind of clients you want to work with and your budget. Make good decisions that will keep you on track with your goals and not distract you with unexpected hidden “costs” and interruptions. Just because something is free does not mean it’s the best thing for you. So I am not saying to not use online business directories. I am saying to use them if they fit your marketing goals.