In the competitive world of freelancing, creating a distinct and compelling brand is crucial if you want to stand out from the crowded marketplace. Freelance branding not only helps you establish your professional identity but also advances your career goals.
How? By empowering you to market yourself and your products consistently, build an audience, charge higher rates, and work with your dream clients.
But when it comes to personal branding, freelancers often feel reluctant to plaster their photos all over the web. The good news is that you don’t have to bare all or become an influencer to build a strong freelance brand. In fact, you don’t need to center your brand identity around your own at all.
In this blog, we will explore the significance of creating a freelance brand, the differences between personal and business branding, and provide practical steps to help you establish your freelance brand.
We also share a free Brand Strategy Workbook so you can dive in and start building a compelling freelance brand that showcases your unique skills and expertise. While you can download the workbook and read no further, we encourage you to scan the tips below first. Each step is designed to give you more clarity on who you serve and what makes your offer unbeatable so that the rest of your branding will fall into place.
Your brand is the way you present yourself (and/or your business) to the world and – perhaps more importantly – how you are perceived by others. As Jeff Bezos famously said, “Your brand is what other people say about you when you're not in the room.”
Freelance branding is essential for three main reasons:
But before you can begin, you’ve got to decide if you’re centering your brand around your own story, or whether you want to build a business brand from scratch.
When it comes to branding, one of the first decisions you'll need to make is whether to focus on a personal brand or a business brand. Both have their pros and cons and which one you choose will depend on your goals and preferences.
A personal brand is all about you – your skills, your personality, and your unique perspective. It can be a great way to stand out in a crowded market and build a loyal following. However, personal branding can also be limiting. If you ever decide to pivot your business or expand your offerings, it can be difficult to do so without confusing your audience. Additionally, personal branding can be difficult to scale, as it relies heavily on your efforts and reputation.
Business brands, on the other hand, do not necessarily revolve around one person's values, ideas, or opinions. They represent a team, organization, or – in the case of sole proprietors – the vision of a single entrepreneur. This can be a great option if you plan to grow your business beyond just yourself.
Business branding can also be easier to scale, as it is not dependent on any one individual. However, it can be more difficult to stand out in a crowded market. Additionally, business branding can be more expensive and time-consuming to establish, as it often requires the help of a graphic designer or brand strategist.
Ultimately, whether you choose a personal brand or a business brand will depend on your goals and priorities. If you value individuality and want to build a loyal following, a personal brand may be the way to go. If you're looking to scale your business and establish a more corporate presence, a business brand may be a better fit.
First things first: define your products/services and set your rates. Once you’ve laid that groundwork, it’s time to start building your brand.
Before you create your website, or publish your portfolio, or announce your new venture on LinkedIn, take the time to define the basics of your brand. Doing so will ensure that you create a memorable and consistent image that reflects your values and resonates with your target audience.
But developing a strong brand identity is not just about coming up with a business name or designing a logo. It's about telling your story and showcasing your unique personality. Here are some prompts that will help you hone in on your freelance brand:
Start by defining your purpose, your mission, and your vision. You might be wondering, what’s the difference?
Well, think of it this way:
These may seem like big existential questions but try not to get too hung up on them. Pay attention to the responses that first come to mind, then dig deeper to understand where your passions lie. This will guide your brand strategy and help you create a business that aligns with your values and goals.
Identify your ideal clients and understand their needs, pain points, and preferences. If you already have some clients, then think about what traits they have in common.
If you don’t have existing clients, think about the problem your product/service solves and who might experience that challenge. You may also consider clients who share your interests and life experiences. Try to get as specific as possible. For example, if you want to help people manage their social media accounts and you have a passion for social justice, you might try to target nonprofits in that space.
Use this information to tailor your brand messaging, portfolio, and marketing strategy to appeal to your target audience. You may even want to develop buyer personas to paint a crystal clear picture of who it is you’re speaking to.
Pick 3-5 competitors in your same industry or niche. Try to find freelancers/businesses who serve the same target audience or even geographic region. Then comb through their websites, social media profiles, etc. to analyze what they are doing well and where they are falling short. This will help you identify gaps in the market and opportunities to differentiate yourself.
You can also use this information to develop a unique value proposition (UVP) that tells your ideal customer why your solution is the best option for them. A simple way to determine your UVP is to answer these 3 questions:
Once you’ve got your answers, simply plug them into this formula:
I help ____________ [insert a fitting active verb like achieve/gain/build] _____________ by ______________.
And there’s your elevator pitch. This UVP will help you highlight your strengths and unique offerings throughout this freelance branding process.
Humans remember stories 22 times more than mere facts because stories are processed in an older part of the brain. That’s why brand storytelling is so critical. However, your story isn’t really about you at all.
The reason we enjoy stories is because we see ourselves in the characters. We relate to their struggles, emotions, challenges, and victories. This is why we get so emotionally invested. So, if you can craft your brand story with your customer in mind – by speaking to their struggles, aspirations, and the success they’ll achieve with your aid – you can gain your customer’s trust before you even discuss pricing.
As StoryBrand eloquently explains in this pamphlet, using the “hero’s journey” framework can help you craft communications tailored to each stage of the customer’s journey.
Your brand’s voice and visuals should reflect your personality and values – as well as those of your target audience. You can find free tools – like brand archetypes or coolors color palette generator – to help you develop your brand voice and visuals but if you’re not good with words or don’t consider yourself “artsy” it might be worth consulting a professional.
Whichever route you choose, pay attention to details. Pick a color palette, fonts, and layout design that aligns with your brand positioning and appeals to your ideal clients. Use your visual identity consistently across all your marketing materials, website, and social media. Similarly, make sure that your voice remains consistent in all your messaging. Don’t use slang and pop culture references on social media if your website copy is very formal.
Congratulations! You’re 90% of the way done…for now. Once you’ve laid your foundation and established your brand identity, it’s time to put your freelance branding to work.
Think about which “customer touchpoints” – social media platforms, email marketing, blogging, etc. – you want to invest in. More importantly, consider where your audience spends their time, and what strengths you can leverage to sell your service. For example, if you’re a food or beverage brand, Instagram will probably be your strongest platform because you can curate a feed of photos of mouthwatering food.
If you go the route of personal branding, LinkedIn can be a powerful tool to establish your authority as a thought leader and build an audience. Ensure your LinkedIn profile is up-to-date and includes a professional headshot, catchy headline, and summary that highlight your skills and experience.
Regardless of which channels you choose, commit to posting regularly so you can boost your brand’s visibility. Remember: most customers view or engage with 5-7 pieces of a brand’s content before taking action. Don’t be afraid to put yourself out there.
The good news is, the hardest part is over. The not-so-good news is that branding work never truly ends. You have to stay apprised of industry trends, listen and adapt to your audience, and audit your brand to remain relevant.
What’s a brand audit you ask?
In short, it’s an analysis of your audience’s perception of your brand and the brand’s performance in the marketplace. It’s an opportunity to assess your digital presence and ask questions like:
Try to conduct a mini-audit every quarter. If you’re planning a pivot or rebrand, it might be worth investing in a proper brand strategy. In any case, try to observe what others in your industry are doing and learn from the brands you love and use every day.
Building a strong freelance brand takes time, effort, and dedication. It is not just another task to cross off your to-do list – it's an opportunity to showcase your unique approach, personality, and skillset.
Whether you choose a personal or business-focused brand, introspection and strategic decision-making are crucial. Once you’ve done the research and reflection, stick to your plan and gauge its effectiveness. Remember, you can always finetune your brand over time or pivot altogether. Nothing is set in stone.
Regardless of the path you choose, defining an authentic brand identity will help you attract clients who resonate with your story and trust in your abilities.
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