Build Your Personal Brand in 6 Easy Steps
By Julia Borgini
Several months ago, I contacted an online publication about writing some guest posts for them, and I was pleasantly surprised when the editor said, "Oh yes, Julia, I've seen your writing elsewhere online and I'm so glad you reached out."
While it's always nice to be recognized from a personal perspective, as a solopreneur and freelance business owner, it's good for my business. It means the time and effort I've been taking to build up my personal brand is working.
I take the time because I know that creative freelancing is competitive today. There are so many talented writers, designers, and marketers that it can be hard getting heard above the noise. I've got to show the world why I'm more special than everyone else. Branding helps me do that.
Let's take a look at ways you can create a memorable personal brand for your freelance business.
Find Your Voice
The first building block is to convey the overall personality of your business through your branding. Your personality has to shine through your brand, giving you an easy way to differentiate yourself. It's authentic, sincere, and makes it easy to sustain because it's the truth!
Here's a quick exercise to uncover the personality of your brand. Write down three positive adjectives that:
- you think describe you.
- you would want your clients to use to describe you.
Then ask some of your closest friends (or people who will answer honestly) to review your words and give you feedback. Once you've gotten consensus, use these three adjectives as the foundation for every single element of your branding.
Decide on a Name
This next step is always a challenge for freelancers. Do you use your own name as your brand, or do you create a business name and "doing business as" (DBA)?
For the moment, the only reason you might consider a DBA is if you have a very common name, or you'd like to grow your business into a multi-person operation in the future. For most people, creating a brand around your own name is fine.
If going with your own name, then you're good to move on to the next step. If you're creating a business name, make sure your three adjectives are reflected in your business name. You don't have to use them AS your business name, but as long as the name captures the spirit or essence of those adjectives, you're good to go.
Use the Right Words, Hashtags, and Taglines
In today's digital economy, chances are your potential clients will find you online, either through your website or social media accounts. It's these words that'll make the first impression for you, so make sure you're using the right ones to project a consistent image and brand.
Take a look at these:
These are my profiles from LinkedIn, Twitter, and my website. You'll notice I've got the same avatar on the two social media channels, use the same Geeky language on all three, use the same color palette, and also feature "spacebarpress" prominently. You should do the same for your personal brand.
The long version: Your official bio
The About page on your website is often the first stop for your prospects. Think of your three adjectives and tell a story. Let everyone know who you are and how you can improve your clients' business.
The short version: Your social media bylines
Take your bio and condense it down into a shorter, 100-200 word byline you can use on your social media profiles. Dial down the story aspect, and dial up the value you bring to your clients. Don't forget to let your personality shine through!
The super-short version: Your tagline
Many freelancers struggle coming up with a tagline for their business. Why not use your three adjectives and a distilled version of your bio for a tagline? You'd be surprised what you come up with: a super-focused, super-short tagline you can use anywhere and everywhere.
Question: Should you create a logo now or later?
When I say "branding", do you immediately think "logo"? You're not alone. So, should you create a logo for your freelance business right now? Is it absolutely necessary for your personal brand?
Yes and no.
Having a logo is part of your personal branding, but don't let its creation stop you from moving forward with your branding. You may have a logo idea right away, or develop one after starting this branding exercise, but it's not entirely necessary to create one. Especially if budget is a consideration right now, as working with a designer can add another cost to your efforts.
Ultimately, it's up to you whether you create something now or later, but a logo needs to be a visual representation of your business personality. It should give potential clients a sense of your personal style.
You may choose to work with a designer to create something, you may choose a stock image from any number of online resources to modify yourself, or you may just go with a purely typographical look and use initials or a letter as a logo. So decide what works for you and go from there.
Be Social with Your Personal Brand
You've defined your voice, written some words and taglines you can use consistently online, so now it's time to showcase your new brand on social media.
Choose an avatar and stick with it
Regardless of the social media channels you decide to use for your freelance business, use the same avatar for each one. It could be your new logo or a picture of you, just keep it consistent.
- Using a picture of you shows the person behind the brand, and instills confidence in your prospects as they see the real you.
- Using your logo can be useful to build brand awareness for your business.
- One other idea: Use your picture as your avatar with your logo as part of the header on social media networks.
Always add value to the social conversation
Now you're ready to post regular updates on social media. You can start by joining in relevant conversations in LinkedIn groups where your prospects may hang out, or sharing content on Twitter and Instagram that your prospects may find useful. The point is, always make sure to add value to the conversation, wherever you're talking to prospects.
As you do this over time, your prospects will get used to hearing your voice, your personality, and recognize that you're the one to call when they need help.
Showcase Your Brand IRL
(IRL = In Real Life for those of you not familiar with the term.) Once you've set up your personal brand online, it's time to display your brand to real-world situations too. After all, you don't always meet prospects online, right?
Use your personal brand on every channel you use, whether it's doing up new business cards, putting your logo and website address on a smartphone case, stickers, or even T-shirts you can wear or hand out to prospects.
I didn't always used to carry business cards with me everywhere I went, but I do now. Why? Because I met a prospect while working a sporting event here in my town. I wasn't looking for a prospect, but I got to talking with someone I met, and it turned out she was a web designer. She referred me to a client of hers who needed copywriting and proofreading services. And I've heard stories of people meeting prospects in line at the coffee shop, in airports, at the dog park, at their child’s ball game, and more!
Level Up Your Brand
Once you’ve completed all of those steps, or you have been at this for a while, it’s time to take your personal brand up a few levels.
Writing articles in publications that your prospects read is a great way to level up your branding. It associates your brand with another reputable brand that prospects are already aware of, giving you more credibility. Brandon Seymour has been guest posting on sites like Moz and Search Engine Journal for his SEO, CRO, and content marketing freelance business.
Add your brand to all of your administrative systems
That means adding your logo/branding to your invoices and estimates, and using the same fonts and language on all of your correspondence. This way, you'll create a consistent experience for your prospects and clients.
Focus on a specific niche
Whether it's a particular market or industry, or a particular kind of deliverable/service, niching your freelance business can be another way to level up your personal branding. For example, Casey Hibbard only writes case studies, while Tsahi Levent-Levi focuses on the WebRTC communication platform (that's a very specific open-source real-time communication platform, for you non-Geeks out there).
Own Your Personal Brand
There you have it, your very own personal brand. You started with three words that reflect your personality, and infused them in your online presence. You chose and use consistent images, avatars, and language. And you're using it all consistently throughout your business.
You have become the Guardian of Your Personal Brand. Now get out there and spread the word!
PS. For inspiration on brands and ways you can share yours with the world, check out these awesome examples from Moo.com.
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