When You Start Out In Freelance Work, You May Worry About Branding (As You Should). But, Over Time, Branding Must Transform Itself Into A Solid Reputation
If you are a freelancer, chances are that your name is your brand, and people will recognize and resonate with you better if you are a person rather than a logo. If you find yourself fretting about getting your logo just right, think about that.
At Solohacks Academy, our roundups usually pick topics that most people would consider a question that begets inspiring answers. On a topic like branding power for freelancers, there are lots of freelancers out there succeeding in big and small ways, who are willing to share their success tips.
If you go through a roundup like the one below, though, you’ll find that most often freelancers stress on personality, professionalism, portfolio, and personalization as the keys to building not just brands but also a long-term reputation.
Our picks for this Solohacks RoundUp include 10 great quotes from the blog posts of Charli Day, Barin Cristian Doru, Uwe Dreissigacker, Wes McDowell, Kyle Prinsloo, Diana Adjadj, Lissete Lanuza Sáenz, Carol Tice, Amna Shamim, and Erin Sturm.
1. If you work under your own name, everything you do will be linked to your professional persona: Charli Day
Charli Day in the article “Branding For Freelancers: The Essential Guide”:
Creating a brand name can provide a little distance between the “real” you and the professional you. Some find this to be a good thing. If you want to register your company name, create a logo, build an on-brand website and maybe even register your brand as a company, you’ll have an easier time if you have a brand name.
The other advantage is that you don’t need to be a “one-man band” forever. With a brand name, you have more potential to grow into an agency that employs freelancers later on.
Using your own name is easiest, as you’re creating a brand around yourself. If you choose this option, you need to understand that everything you do will be linked to your professional persona. That means no drunken Twitter selfies and no angry political rants. If your name is long or difficult to spell, this option might not be the best idea—especially if you’re looking for international freelancing work.
You’ll also need to grab a URL and matching social profiles.
I went for option three and created www.charlisays.com, which is linked to www.charliday.com. This was the easiest way for me to manage my freelance business. I’m also linking my name with my brand and making it easier to check out my credentials on sites like LinkedIn.”
2. An online portfolio is the blood in a freelancer’s body – if it’s not fresh, you’re dead: Barin Cristian Doru
Barin Cristian Doru in the article “6 Ways To Establish A Brand As A Freelancer”:
Keep an updated portfolio and blog. An online portfolio is the blood in a freelancer’s body. If it’s not fresh, you’re dead. Keep it updated and only showcase your absolute best work. Be sure to invest at least as much energy as you did in your logo. It doesn’t matter how awesome your work is if you’re still on that free .wordpress domain with the default theme.
Having a blog is a great way of sharing some of your thoughts. Make sure to post at least once every few weeks, and don’t confuse it with Facebook or your high school yearbook. These posts will be read by potential clients so off-topic rants or quirky pictures without context don’t make sense.
People like a good story. If you have one, please share it with the world. If you don’t have one, then get on it. This means you should show you’re an individual with certain beliefs, a sense of humor and a personality. Clients will appreciate some personal insights so they know they’re not dealing with a brainless zombie that has nothing interesting to say. As always, keep it short and simple.
I love creating freebies for the design community (for example, tutorials or educational posts like this one) since I’ve used others’ a lot in the past and I have always appreciated the people behind them. I also keep a bunch of Photoshop tutorials on my Youtube channel so people can learn quick techniques they can use immediately. This is how I choose to give back and it also helps to boost awareness and build a public image.”
3. Personalization and producing a cohesive appearance is what your branding is all about: Uwe Dreissigacker
Uwe Dreissigacker in the article “How to Brand Yourself as a Freelancer”:
Once you define the essence of your brand, and the key touchpoints and buyer personas that will impact your identity, the next step is designing the creative elements. Personalization and producing a cohesive appearance is what it’s all about.
Your website as well other platforms are your spaces for your branding to shine. Things like social media platforms, product packaging, invoices (and just about everything else you can think of) will depict your brand identity./p>
So the first step is to settle on your desired visual look. Start with your logo and signature color schemes. These are what people see every time they visit your website or receive an email from you. Branding yourself takes a lot of time but if done well, it can solidify your shining reputation for a long time to come.
How well you communicate content will also have your clients coming back to you or providing word-of-mouth referrals. When starting out, try focusing on just 1 or 2 primary content types such as blog posts or videos in conjunction with 1 or 2 primary content mediums like YouTube or Facebook. Once you start getting good results, you can start expanding into other content types and mediums to increase reach.
If you take the time and build actual relationships with your clients, they’re going to actually enjoy doing business with you and be more likely to refer you to someone else down the road.
Another option is forming partnerships with other people and companies. These can lead to a number of mutually beneficial opportunities, including customer referrals or affiliate programs.
Branding yourself is how you share who you are with your target audience. It’s done in an effort to increase reach, boost brand awareness and in turn, enhance your reputation and attract more clients.”
4. The first step to building your personal brand is defining your unique personality: Wes McDowell
Wes McDowell in the article “How To Build A Powerful Personal Brand For Your Freelance Business”:
Whether you’re just getting started on the road to building a freelance career, or you’re a seasoned pro, here are some actionable steps to taking the guesswork out of what makes a memorable personal brand, and how you can start putting them into practice today.
The first step in the process is defining the unique personality of your brand.
This goes for all businesses, but when you’re a freelancer, guess who’s personality you get to use? That’s right, it’s one of those rare occasions when your business can be unabashedly all about YOU. After all, you are the brand, so to present a false front to the world would be unnatural, and ultimately very difficult to keep going.
Here’s my quick process to defining the personality my brand’s going to adopt. On a piece of paper, write down three positive adjectives that:
- you think describe you
- you want your clients to use to describe you
Now it’s gut-check time.
Just because you think these words describe you, doesn’t mean other people will agree. So, gather a few of your closest friends that you can trust to be completely honest with you. Ask them to do the same activity, giving you three descriptive adjectives based on the personal brand they feel describes your freelance business.
After that, show them your words, compare, and see if they agree. If they also used similar words to describe your freelance personal brand, then you’re already on the right track. If not, it’s time to take a hard look at the forward-facing image you’re currently giving off, and get feedback on how you can better align yourself with your three adjectives.
These three words will be instrumental in determining all of your personal branding efforts, so it’s important to get them right.”
5. Remembering why you decided to become a freelancer is powerful in building your personal brand: Kyle Prinsloo
Kyle Prinsloo in the article “10 Tips To Brand Yourself As A Freelance Developer”:
Revisit your why. Remembering why you decided to become a freelance web developer is powerful in building your personal brand. It gives you a broader purpose than just making money. It fuels your passion for what you do and it keeps you motivated and focused.
More importantly, it’s your “why” that will help you connect with your potential clients and set you apart from the rest. Simon Sinek said: “People don’t buy what you do. They buy why you do it.” Here are some questions to ask yourself:
- What are the goals you want to achieve as a freelancer
- What made you choose freelance work?
- Why are you doing this? For freedom? For money? What is it?
Share your story. This is probably the most challenging because it means you’ll need to become transparent, honest and vulnerable. At the same time, I will say that it’s not a requirement to do, but it can be beneficial in some cases.
Humans relate with stories, especially those that are similar to what we might be experiencing. Telling your story also helps you show your personality to your target audience and you connect with them on a deeper level.
When writing your story, don’t just focus on your successes, milestones and achievements. Be willing to share your struggles, challenges and failures.
The more real you present yourself, the more your target audience will be ready to trust you enough to start building a relationship.”
6. Your personal brand as a freelancer isn’t all about you. It’s what people say about you when you’re not in the room: Diana Adjadj
Diana Adjadj in the article “How To Build Your Personal Brand As A Freelancer”:
While it’s easy to think that building a personal brand is sharing your epic life story, it’s not exactly like that. In fact, let me surprise you a little bit: Your personal brand as a freelancer isn’t all about you. It’s really about the way people perceive you, so your main purpose is to create and maintain a certain reputation (a reliable and skilled freelancer, for example).
But don’t just take my word for it. As Jeff Bezos famously explained, “Your personal brand is what people say about you when you’re not in the room.”
I couldn’t agree more. A personal brand is a perception. For example, if sports fans think about people like Kobe Bryant, it’s not just that they don’t just know the name because you also have some feelings associated with this person (relentlessness, competitive spirit, dominance). The reputation associated with him affects his business as well.
So, to become a well-paid freelancer, you need to work on creating and maintaining a reputation. Just like big companies, you’re going to rely on your personal brand to ensure a high hourly rate and a steady flow of projects.
The best way to build a personal brand as a freelancer is to be authentic, honest and promise only things you can deliver. No two people do the same job in the same way, and many people will definitely sense a disingenuous act from a mile away. That’s why you should try to design and write everything yourself where possible, as your distinct style of work and communication is something that sets you apart.
The freelance economy is booming and the number of talented individuals you have to compete with gets higher every day. Even the best skills in the world won’t guarantee a steady flow of projects if your name is unknown. So gaining some recognition to let the world know about how unique and awesome you are is a way to make that happen.
That’s why building a personal brand to stand out from the ever-increasing pack could be a game-changer for your freelance business. It’ll be a lifelong project that constantly changes, but the outcome is so worth the effort.”
7. A brand is like your little helper. It’s the face of your business and the first point of contact: Lissete Lanuza Sáenz
Lissete Lanuza Sáenz in the article “How To Brand Yourself As A Freelancer (+ Why It’s So Important)”:
Alright, so why do you need a brand? A brand is like your little helper. It’s the face of your business and the first point of contact people have with your services. Basically, it’s dang important.
It makes marketing easier. When you have a solid brand in mind, it’s so much easier to know where to market your services and who to market to. You can stop wasting time marketing in places that aren’t working for you, and instead focus on platforms and methods that are bringing in the cold, hard dollar time and time again.
It makes it easier for clients. When you have a solid brand, you’re basically putting yourself out there and saying “this is me, take it or leave it.” While this might seem counterproductive and like you’re fending off potential work, it actually helps clients figure out whether you’d be a good fit.
If you know exactly who you are (which is what branding is all about), potential clients will be able to make quick-sharp decisions on whether they want to work with you or not. Cue less time wasters and more ideal clients – great, no!?
It streamlines everything. Having branding guidelines in place (which we’ll discuss in a moment) means you can streamline all your systems and processes – a.k.a. it speeds up and makes the whole admin side of freelancing a helluva lot easier.
It helps you stand out. Let’s face it, there are millions of freelancers out there trying to tread water and keep their heads above the surface. So many, in fact, that it can be difficult to stand out. Having a solid brand can really help put you head and shoulders above the rest and help people remember you.”
8. No matter how you call out your strengths, your branding should quickly convey what you offer: Carol Tice
Carol Tice in the article “12 Steps to Building Your Stand-Out Freelance Brand”:
Develop a Unique Selling Proposition (USP). Before you dash off buying up any Website URLs or anything, let’s start at the beginning. What makes you unique as a freelancer? For some, it might be an area of knowledge — you’re a designer specializing in WordPress, or a healthcare writer.
Maybe your edge is that you’re both a writer and photographer. Or perhaps you’ve been at your trade for more than 20 years. Another angle is that you might want to emphasize where you’re physically located to help attract clients based in your area.
No matter how you call out your strengths, your branding should quickly convey what you offer. For instance, Stefanie Flaxman is Revision Fairy — which tells you right away she specializes in proofreading and editing. Another approach: freelance writer Emily Suess simply has her name and “Freelance Writer | Indianapolis” as her branding tagline (and she ranks highly on a wide-open search for “freelance writer”).
If you have more than one niche or emphasis point you could use here — say, you’re a freelance Drupal site developer based in Dallas — you might want to brand your business with both identifiers, or pick the one you think will be most effective in drawing clients.
While the Internet has made freelancing a global business and clients could be anywhere, many companies and publications do prefer local freelancers. You’ll have to weigh where you are trying to find clients in deciding whether to mention your location in your brand.”
9. Asking for referrals is not begging for work. It’s letting people who already love your work help: Amna Shamim
Amna Shamim in the article “How to Make Money Blogging in 2020: 12 Proven Ways I Made $451,238+ Blogging This Year”:
If you’re like most people, you don’t love singing your own praises. So don’t. Let your happy current and former clients sing them for you. All you have to do is make it easy for them to tell your potential clients how amazing working with you is and how happy they are with the results you provided.
You can do this by sending an email asking how they felt about working with you and how they feel about the results you got. When they write back with lots of praise, you can then go “gosh, that’s so kind of you to say. May I use that as a review on my website/portfolio?”
You can also ask for LinkedIn testimonials or reviews on your social media pages. If you have recorded video calls, you can ask for feedback on the call and then request permission to use the video snippet as a video testimonial.
Right after a client has given you a glowing review is a great time to ask for referrals. They may not know anyone offhand, but letting them know you loved working with them and would love working with anyone they recommend is smart. It allows you to share some love back and could lead to more work for you, now or in the future.
You should also ask your friends, family, colleagues, and former clients for referrals. If you don’t ask, they may assume you’re too busy for more work and won’t share your information. Some people offer finders fee to the people who refer them new business but you don’t have to do that. If you do decide to offer a finders fee, be sure to pay them out as fast as you say you will. Don’t make people wait for their money.
Remember: asking for referrals is not bugging anyone. It’s not begging for work. It’s letting the people who already love your work help the people they know have a chance at the amazing results you provide.”
10. Personal branding will be different for everyone. But, I would not recommend using these three methods: Erin Sturm
Erin Sturm in the article “How To Develop Your Personal Brand As A Freelancer”:
Excessive or unnecessary swearing: This seems to be the most popular go-to for adding edginess or “uniqueness” to a brand. Unfortunately, swearing is not uncommon and most Americans won’t bat an eye at the occasional swear word. When swear words are thrown in for flair or drama, it just looks cheap.
Swearing is a shock and awe tactic that works wonders for Tony Robbins, but doesn’t always come off as well for everyone else. I don’t think excessive swearing has a place in copywriting. If you’re leaning on it as a way to differentiate yourself, it may be time to rethink your strategy because there are literally hundreds of people and brands doing the same thing.
Overuse of slang and emojis: Almost everyone uses the occasional bit of slang in their branding. Some slang, like the word ‘cool’, has become so culturally ingrained that you may not even realize you’re using it. Even though I regularly hear new slang, I rarely use it in my personal brand.
Emojis are fun to use, but can be easily abused. Using emojis gives a brand a playful image and adds an element of humanity to the message. However, using too many emojis or using them too frequently can look unoriginal and juvenile. If you can’t fully express yourself without an emoji then you might want to work on tightening up your writing skills.
Writing in one sentence paragraphs: It has become very popular to write blogs entirely in one sentence paragraphs. While breaking things up into paragraphs does make your copy easier on the eyes and keeps the reader more engaged, having an entire page of 1–2 sentence paragraphs is becoming cliche.
This can’t be considered anyone’s particular style because, just like random swearing, it has been adopted by too many people.”
So What Are Your Thoughts? Do Share!
This post is incomplete without your input. The community of Knowledge Commerce solopreneurs would feel galvanized to hear from you … so do share your thoughts on this topic with us, in the comments field below this post.
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