Recent research undertaken by ‘The Association of Independent Professionals and the Self Employed’ (IPSE) has highlighted the exponential growth of freelancing in the last decade. Between 2008 and 2016 the number of freelancers in the UK increased by 43%, and there are now in excess of two million freelance workers. This growth was even more pronounced amongst mothers, with the number of mums working as freelancers increasing by 79% over the same period.
With more and more of us choosing to eschew traditional employment in favour of freelancing, it is becoming even more difficult to stand out in a highly competitive employment marketplace. Building your own brand can separate you from your contemporaries, giving clients a reason to work with you over a competitor.
But what does ‘branding’ really mean for a freelancer? The ultimate goal of branding is to create a unique and differentiated presence for your organisation (i.e. you) in the marketplace to attract clients. Put simply, it’s the process of creating a clear and memorable image for yourself. To quote Steve Jobs, the pioneer behind arguably the world’s most recognisable brand:“This is a very complicated world, it’s a very noisy world. So we have to be really clear on what we want them to know about us.”
YOU are your brand
The first step in the process is to find and define the unique personality of your brand. As a freelancer you will be the sole person behind your brand. This means that your own personality and that of your brand are intrinsically linked. Your brand should not only reflect your uniqueness as an individual, it should also convey positive messages about your services. For example, if your creativeness sets you apart, your branding should reflect this by being artistic and inventive.
Ultimately, there isn’t a ‘correct’ way to brand yourself. Your brand should connect with your intended consumers, and if it does, you are doing the right thing. If you find yourself struggling with where to start, then asking yourself a series of questions may help to start shaping your brand identity. For example, what are my skills and experience and how do
they relate to the services I offer? Why should clients choose me over someone else? What do I want to be known for?
Names – To me, or not to me?
A small yet significant part of creating your brand is deciding on a name. Many freelancers simply choose to use their name, followed by the service that they provide (i.e. Connie Anderson Motoring). However, this option is not without its drawbacks. For example, if you have a common name, you may find it difficult to obtain your desired domain name for your website or social media account. Furthermore, you may be harder to find amongst search engine results.
The other option available is to trade under a ‘doing business as’ (DBA) name. If you do choose to trade under a DBA, be sure to pick something that reflects your brands aims and goals.
Digital Strategy – Getting digi with it
Contrary to the thoughts of some business owners, your digital footprint is integral to the perception of your personal brand. Being the first place where many of your prospective clients will encounter you, the image you choose to convey online could be crucial to your prospects of gaining work.
Having a full biography on your website will provide others with the most exhaustive insight into you. A good biography should cover who you are and what you can provide to clients. When drafting your biography, be sure to align it with the messages you intend to convey with your brand and try to make it as compelling as possible.
Your biography can also be reformatted for use across various social media platforms. For Facebook or LinkedIn, consolidate your biography to a few hundred words, focussing on what clients can get from you. For Twitter, consolidate to 280 characters or less – keeping your most essential benefits for a client. You can even condense it to just a few words for a tagline – this should convey your brands key messages whilst remaining succinct.
Social media is one of the most effective ways for your prospective clients to discover you. Using social media platforms to communicate with customers allows for you to display your own personality, setting your brand apart from competitors. It is also a good idea to distribute content relevant to your sector via social media. Doing this advertises your expertise on a topic and will increase the likelihood of attracting customers.
You are the guardian of your own brand. As a freelancer, you are the one who is solely responsible, so ensure that you are authentic and consistent in all forms of client interaction. Ultimately, positive branding will help to highlight the value you can bring to a client, and allow for you to build relationships, and for organisations of all kinds, that’s a positive.
*Tamsin Isaacs is Head of Trends at AndCo.