Freelancers face a challenging landscape of competitors who are all trying to stand out in their field. It’s easy to become lost in a sea of faces when there are so many vying for business. This is why it’s critical for freelancers to develop a brand personality that can buoy them above the rest.
Branding can make your name and your reputation into a palpable, powerful asset. Cultivating a strong brand can raise your business from the depths of obscurity to the heights of customer loyalty. Here are some tips I’ve found helpful when trying to make a name for oneself in the wild.
Perfect Your Website
Graphic and web designers should look at their websites as a playground- a place to try out new ideas and show their creativity. Along with looking good and presenting your forward thinking, it also needs to work impeccably (no broken links, no redundant pages). Your reputation is at stake.
Of course, it isn’t just graphic freelancers who need to worry about a squeaky clean website. Photographers, painters, and all other guns for hire all need to have a functioning site that showcases your best works and broadcasts your specs.
Using a website to foster a brand should be easy. The “About Me” page should demonstrate your personality and give clients a taste of what you’ll be like to work with. Some personal information is often encouraged as it assures readers that you’re a real person with experience. In design, adhere to the general tone of your brand (easygoing and humorous or businesslike) as well as the color palette you’ve elected to use in your logo and promotional materials.
Don’t Neglect Your Offline Presence
Once you’ve got them interested via your website, it’s important to be polished and professional offline. If at all possible, you should meet your clients in person- you’ll have a much better chance of reading their position and of establishing a personal connection with them. Even if you’d like to add your usual artsy or bohemian twists to your outfit and manner of address, try to reflect the fact that you’re an entrepreneur and that you know how to move in business circles.
While meeting up at a coffee shop is a good way to foster a personal relationship with your partners, you should have a professional space where you can bring clients for meetings and presentations. The most important thing, above all else, is to brand your space professionally so that you can present a unified front as a business. Make the space your own by displaying design ideas and your logo on your door with custom stickers or etching. For larger displays, try designing a custom wall mural to put up, even in rented space. Clients should be able to recognize your workspace as yours immediately upon walking in. Developing a distinctive style or color scheme for your brand can carry your business towards being recognizable.
Stay Active on Social Media
Reputation management is a big part of branding- the biggest, according to some. Keeping your name fresh in the minds of clients can make you the obvious choice for future projects or recommendations to their compatriots. Social media has been a boon to reputation management for those who are savvy and a detriment to those who are not. Think carefully about your words before you send them into the ether.
Post often enough to make an impression, but not enough to pester. 3 to 4 posts per day is sufficient, especially if you’re posting about things relevant to your industry. Comment on news stories or make observations about trends- these updates and tweets are useful to clients and won’t make them regret friending or following you. It’s also a good opportunity to offer sales or specials. Making your messages personable and relatable will also remind existing clients how pleasant you’ve been to work with.
Being conscientious with how you present your brand is an investment in the future. Increase awareness of your business by using your personality and creativity to generate buzz online and off. Your actual work will speak for itself, but improving its visibility to gain clients is half the battle. Let your brand do the work.
Chris Garrett is a branding specialist and designer with many, many years of freelance work under his belt. He knows exactly how important it is to develop a strong brand and hopes to inspire young freelancers to ensure their success through diligence and smart marketing moves.