Branding Yourself as a Successful Freelancer
Most freelancers often misunderstand the concept of branding.
Some think it’s enough to have a simple logo design. Others think way over the top and assume this concept only applies to large companies.
The truth is, branding is composed of nearly every aspect of your business. This includes your logo, how you engage with customers, and the overall image you portray to the public. And branding is not just for the big boys in your industry. Oh no, it’s for businesses of all sizes, including freelancers who want to grow and develop a strong reputation for themselves.
As a freelancer myself, it wasn’t until I defined who I was and what I could offer to my clients that I became truly successful. In this article I’ll show you the steps I made, and if implemented correctly, they will work for you too.
The Importance of Branding for Freelancers
Good branding has the power to make your business unforgettable. Believe it or not, talented freelancers are the ones who can benefit from it the most. Many creative professionals are becoming freelancers these days, so they are the ones who need branding the most. They need to do something to stand out from the pack.
So whether you’re just starting out on your freelancing career, or have been doing it for years, here are some tips to make your personal brand unique and memorable.
“I’m a Business, Man”
Jay-Z said it best in the song, Diamonds from Sierra Leone (play the video).
I’m not a businessman, I’m a business, man.
As a freelancer, you are your very own business.
So the first step is to define who you are as a person.
Although this can be applied to all businesses, as a freelancer, this impacts you the most. A larger company starts the branding process by trying to nail down the personality of the overall brand. Think about companies like Apple, Virgin America, and Trader Joe’s. They all have very distinctive personalities. But your business is all about you. You are the face of your company, just as I am the face of mine. It only made sense for me to model my branding on my own personality.
Here’s how you can define the personality for your brand.
On a piece of paper (or on your computer or phone if you’d like), write down three positive adjectives that:
- Describe you
- You want your clients to think about you
Mine were: quirky, strategic and helpful. Now it’s time to use your intuition.
There’s a difference between understanding who you are versus who you wish you were.
Just because you think of yourself in a certain way, that does not mean that other people will think the same. So, in order to solve this problem, gather your closest friends and make them do this same exercise, so you can figure out what they truly think about you.
After they have completed this activity, show them what you wrote down. Compare your answers and see what fits. If they happened to use closely related words to describe your personal brand, then you’re on the right track. If not, then maybe it’s time for you to reflect on the image you portray to other people, and use the feedback you received in order to better align yourself with the three adjectives you wrote down.
Your Name vs. Company Name
Many freelancers choose to use their own name and the service they offer, such as “Mike White Photography.” Some find it better to use a separate company name. If you are thinking long-term and wish to grow your business, then here are two reasons why a company name might be better:
- You may have a common name
- Your business may grow and you may need a team.
Common names can have their setbacks. It’s tough to get a domain name, a social media username, and your brand will forever be revolved around yourself. This is why we decided on the company name, The Deep End for our web strategy startup. Founded in 2011 by Wes McDowell, he knew he didn’t want to be a solopreneur for long. Up until then, he had been doing business under the name “Wes McDowell Creative,” but he saw the limited potential that name carried with it.
On the other hand, I wanted my branding to be a bit more personal, so I opted to go with my own name. I still use it for my freelance projects, and it has served me well. While I do utilize outside services for certain aspects of my business, the bottom line is that my clients deal only with me, and using my own name is indicative of the level of personal attention I give them.
But if you see yourself growing from a freelancer to a business owner with employees working for you, then branding with your name might not be a good idea. Unless you want to be a one-man-show, then it makes sense to pick your brand name soon and start working on it.
Develop Your Online Funnel
If you want to become an in-demand freelancer, then you need to develop a strong web presence that sells your services for you 24/7. Since many of your potential customers will be communicating with you online, the words you choose will have a big impact on whether you get the job or not.
Think of your online communication channels as a funnel. Write the biggest piece of content first and slowly condense it into smaller versions for other mediums. Here’s how I do it:
- Start with your bio. Start with the three adjectives that describe your brand and tell a story about who you are, what you do, and how this adds value to your clients lives.
- Shrink it down to a couple hundred words for you Linkedin and Facebook pages.
- Distill it down to 140 characters for Twitter and an elevator pitch. Be sure to include the most important benefits from a client’s perspective.
- Simplify it even further for your tagline. This should be straight to the point and no more than a few words.
Many people confuse branding with logo design. However, developing your logo is just one small part of the process. Your logo should represent your personality in a visual form. You want people to associate your logo with your values, so once again, start with the three adjectives. If you are fun and playful, your logo would look very different from someone who is serious and sophisticated.
Remember, there’s no right answer in the way you brand yourself. The only thing that matters is if your brand resonates well with your customers.
Own Your Brand
Starting today, you have to live up to your name. Since your branding is based on your personality, then this shouldn’t be a problem. Remember, you’re in charge of your image. Be sure to manifest what you represent through every client interaction and maintain consistency in your actions.
Every freelancer knows how scary it is to go out on their own. But with the steps we’ve covered throughout this article, you should be able to take this information and apply it to your own situation in order to make your freelance business stand out within your industry.
Have you engaged in branding activities for yourself?
Do you have any other tips or stories from this process that you would like to contribute to our readers?
If so, then be sure to place them in the comment section below so others can benefit from your wisdom.