Some freelancers who hear that it’s essential for them to develop a personal brand may think that’s marketing gibberish, or a concept reserved for large companies with PR firms and massive followings. Or, they might see the term “personal brand” as an ill-fitting wrapper, something artificial and tacked-on, that doesn’t reflect the real dimensions of their craft or their labors.
They would be wrong.
Freelancing work can seem like a commodity: build six cabinets for a kitchen, write 300 words for a web page and use six instances of SEO terms. Many freelancers work on one-off projects like those, or they do repeat jobs for clients to fulfill specific requests. Sure, getting work like that is good, but you have the opportunity for so much more: You can be recognized for having a special gift or flair for what you do, a personal statement of quality or breadth in your work.
Understanding at a deeper level what sets you apart from other freelancers is the path to becoming a recognized brand, noted for specific and unique talents, whether it’s a writer’s voice or a designer’s style or a cabinetry flourish that could have only been crafted by one person alone.
Remember: Building your personal brand can help to increase your confidence and boost your career. Recognizing and developing your unique skills — and knowing how to sell them to clients as part of something special — will land you more work (and better-paying work at that).
Define Your Special Something
One of the first things you should do in your “what makes my work unique?” quest is to define your business and personal values and clearly understand your special abilities and inclinations. When you’re working, what aspect of your work lights you up? In some ways, your personality is your brand, and that should come across in your website, your marketing materials, your social media profiles and your logo.
Know first that this brand-building business isn’t just some cosmetic, surface polishing you do for image enhancement. Trust in your brand is trust in your product: Clients and customers who have faith in your brand will act on that confidence. (And reinforcing that faith delivers escalating brand value in the future.)
Of course, shiny marketing materials don’t mean a darn thing if you haven’t got the chops to deliver on the promise. You need to provide quality work every single time, and continue investing in the improvement of your skills. Also, let your beliefs be a part of your work. That doesn’t mean spouting or spreading the latest political tirades, but rather exposing the strengths of your character through your work.
Match those special talents you’ve got with what’s missing in the market. Also, for the good of your own workload and for improving the freelance market for everyone, don’t accept work just for the dough alone — the work that you feel good about will be work that is strong.
Draw From a Deep Well and Spell out Your USP
There are a variety of ways that you can define your unique selling proposition (USP) — the composite of things that you and you alone can offer a customer. From a signature style to outstanding customer service to extreme specialization, USPs others have found success with can inspire you to plumb the depths of your makeup, temperament and skill set to designate what sets you apart.
Need an example? On his home page, freelance copywriter Shawn LeBrun claims the following: “I guarantee I’ll outpull your best sales letter by at least 10% in a split-run test. If I write something for you and it doesn’t pull at least 10% more responses, you won’t owe me a penny for any work I’ve done. I’ll even refund half of your ad costs, to cover my half of the test.”
Through this declarative USP, LeBrun is able to stress that he delivers the goods, and that those goods deliver the dollars. That’s the type of selling proposition that will likely attract a lot of potential clients.
Remember: There are things about you and your work that set you apart from anyone else, and there are business techniques that can set you apart from other freelancers. Besides understanding your USP and refining your skills into desirable concentrations, you could use something like alternative pricing to distinguish your brand. And I definitely don’t mean pricing lower than the market. Go high, my friend — get what you’re worth.
And don’t think that establishing and promoting your brand has to be some arduous, expensive undertaking. Take some cues from this Forbes guide: Consider rewriting your author bio page to expressly capture the essence of your brand and what you do. Keep your social media profile up-to-date, and don’t forget that an expressive, professional photo goes a long way toward building trust in your audience. You should also consider seeking opportunities to speak at local business events to give voice to exactly what makes your business stand out, and how you are best-equipped to serve your customers’ needs.
Your Brand Is Your Bond
What if you have a diamond-shine brand, but your company is still lost in the dark? Presenting your best (and branded) face on social media can put you in the catbird seat. Note: I have yet to see an actual catbird seat, but it is touted to be the one you want to be sitting in.
You don’t have to rush madly about, posting like a maniac on every platform about how your business is so super cool that it’s hot — instead, be real. Get to know the tone of the platform you post on and don’t spew candy-coated jive about what you do. Be helpful. Let the quality of your expressions and the value of your posts let people know you’re a force to be reckoned with.
There’s a saying that quality is the best business plan. Do work you’re proud of — that expresses who you are and what you stand for the best — and customers will listen up. Express what’s special about your work in human terms and reveal your honest empathy with your client’s needs. Once that’s covered, you won’t be struggling for success. And that personal brand thing? It’ll fit you like your favorite pair of socks.