Branding might not be the first thing you think of as a freelancer. Many people presume that this is the preserve of large companies with huge marketing budgets. But, in reality, branding is a vital task facing any freelancer or small business owner.
Freelancers need to consider branding from the very beginning. By thinking about the way you are perceived by potential clients you can help to boost sales and secure your long-term business future.
Is it about you - or your company?
Freelancers and ‘one-man bands’ are faced with a major marketing problem. Do you market yourself as an individual, or as a company?
It is common for freelancers in the creative industries to market themselves under their own name. This is understandable; clients want to know that they are getting your personal skills and input.
In other areas, though, entrepreneurs often choose to use a trading name in order to give the appearance of a larger organisation. This has both advantages and drawbacks. Some clients will prefer to deal with a company than an individual; there is a sense that this arrangement provides more security. If operating in this way helps you to secure more sales, then it is probably a good thing.
But it is important to remember that branding yourself as an individual rather than a business means that you will always be expected to be ‘at work’. Clients will want to speak to you personally, and this can make delegation very difficult. You will therefore need to think particularly carefully about the way in which you manage your workload.
How can I brand myself?
Personal branding can be a challenge. Many freelancers find it difficult to brand themselves – to the point where many simply do not bother at all.
If you choose to market yourself as an individual rather than an organisation, there are a few simple tips you can follow from the very beginning to help maximise your brand value.
1. Be unique
This is perhaps the most important task facing any entrepreneur. You know you want to be a web designer, or a copywriter, or an accountant – but how are you going to make yourself stand out? You need to offer something unique
2. Become a ‘thought leader’ This is one of the most effective ways of developing your personal brand and increasing your online reputation. It is also, however, a long-term goal and one that requires time and effort.
Thought leadership is about being at the forefront of your field, whatever that field is. It is about being the go-to person for information in your niche. You can help to achieve this by positioning yourself amongst other trusted individuals. Set up a blog and interview some of the high flyers in your industry. Make yourself available to the press. Compile lists of great content and share them with readers. Over time, techniques like these will help to boost your personal brand.
3. Use social media… Social media is a vital marketing tool. At the very least, make sure that you are signed up to Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn. These services help you to connect with people of interest, and make sure that you can be heard by your peers and potential clients. By interacting with relevant individuals on social media you can glean valuable new information – and drum up interest in your services.
4. …but be very, very careful It is important to remember, though, that social media has some significant dangers. You need to be very careful what you broadcast on Twitter on Facebook. For example, it is probably best to avoid complaining about a client on a public forum of this sort. Similarly, tweeting about how hung over you are is unlikely to inspire confidence amongst potential customers who may be following you.
5. Make yourself accessible You should make sure that you are as accessible as possible to potential clients. If you want to stand the best possible chance of securing business, you need to be easy to get hold of. This means prominently displaying your email address, phone number and Twitter handle on your website and all other marketing materials.
6. Think about your address It is extraordinary how many freelancers and one-man-bands use Hotmail or Gmail addresses that look like they were chosen by their kids. Make sure that you stay away from convoluted addresses that involve anything other than your name. Better still, register your own web address and do away with Gmail and Hotmail for good.
7. Maintain your message
Finally, it is important to remember that your marketing message needs to be consistent across all channels. Whether it is your website, your Twitter feed or your answerphone message, you need to make sure that the image you are presenting is standardised and in keeping with your brand.
Branding is an important concern for freelancers. Ignoring it is not an option. Instead, you should be constantly considering ways that you can make yourself as attractive as possible to potential clients.