The creative field is more competitive than ever. With an array of freelance websites available, there is no shortage of designers and other creative professionals to choose from to complete projects, worldwide and at rates that fit every budget.
Everyone is vying for the same piece of cake and freelance designers are constantly trying to market themselves and their skills.
What makes you stand apart from that crowd?
What makes you special and why should a client choose to hire you?
Personal branding is the way you communicate your services and skill set to the people who need them. Presenting a clear image of yourself and your offerings is what can make or break you in the competitive freelance market today.
Personal branding helps connect you with the people and companies who need your skills. It builds relationships and trust with clients from day one, making others notice you.
Personal branding and making your personal brand visible are the first things you’ll need to start building any kind of career in today’s market. Even if you’re an established freelancer, a visible online presence and portfolio help build and maintain interest in you as a professional, helping you grow your business.
1. Be “You”
The most frequent mistake freelancers in any branch make is trying to fit in and look like everyone else. As a first step to introducing yourself, you need to define what makes you unique and your business special. This is very simply called brand definition and is where every brand’s story begins.
Clearly define your specialty, your services, and the projects and people you would like to work with. Jot down a brief paragraph that sums up your story, what got you into the design, and what drives you and your style. To get the best answers to these questions, ask yourself what your values are, what the best skills you have to offer are, and what kinds of problems you can help a client solve.
Think about your unique perspective or any special skills you have that truly set you apart from most others. Every designer has a specialty that they want to be recognized for. Include any personal projects and tell your story.
Even if some of your favorite projects don’t have much to do with design or aren’t your best work, they could help tell your personal story. Perhaps you’ve done some community work or some free design work for a charity event for a cause that matters to you. Those designs may not be up to par with high-end design standards, but they will tell potential clients about the person they’re hiring. And, in the long run, clients hire people – not your degrees or portfolio.
This will all help flush out your unique selling point and develop your mission statement. This mission statement will be used as a roadmap in your professional life and guide you to success. Once you have identified what you want to accomplish and who you are among other freelancers, it will be much easier to tailor your communications.
Aim for an elevator pitch-style story – a short story that effectively defines and, in a single sentence if possible, conveys your mission and promise to clients.
2. Get Personal
Impersonal business-oriented language is a thing of the past. It just doesn’t work anymore. When branding yourself as a freelance designer, both your personality and your portfolio are your brand. The more you showcase your work and your passions, the more relevant you become for people who are looking for exactly your kind of special skill set.
Create a blog or website to showcase your work and include plenty of personalities. You want to come across as genuine and trustworthy. As you communicate your values, you will create an organic demand for yourself and your brand. Your website should also include a high-quality profile photo – people want to know who they are working with. Use your website to share your vision and values. If you are not tooting your own horn and telling your story, who will?
3. Be Social
It takes just seconds to make a good (or bad) impression. Review your public social media channels and take down anything that does not present you in a professional and positive light. We have the ability to impact our brand with every word, tweet, and image. Use those platforms wisely to share your story.
Besides the most commonly used LinkedIn, Twitter, and Facebook, expand your social media channels to include Pinterest and Instagram, perfect visual platforms that are great for designers and photographers.
4. Become an Expert
You want to promote yourself as an authority in the industry, or at least a certain part of your industry. Take part in industry forums and give your thoughts and suggestions in industry matters. Take part in industry competitions and submit your work to specialty magazines.
Creating authority means you have to prove your value. Prove to your clients that you bring value to them by offering useful information and helping them solve known issues.
No one gets anywhere without investing in themselves and putting in long hours. Training and experience matter. Without your strong expertise and knowledge, your success is impossible, and you must continue to grow professionally and improve yourself, every step of the way.
If you feel you want to get more academic training and hone your skills further, there are loads of options available when it comes to specialized courses or university degrees related to design.
As any freelance designer knows, working on your own projects is much tougher than working for clients. We tend to put aside our long-term successes in order to secure short-term work that pays the rent.
However, taking the time to create a clear personal brand is one of the smartest career decisions you will make. It will raise your game and bring a new level of professionalism – and a new level of clients. It might take some hard work and dedication but is critical for long term success.
Personal branding goes beyond a memorable logo and an image. Humans are drawn to the stories you tell. Tell a good story, make it authentic, and become more than just a vendor to your clients.