If you are a freelancer, a contractor or generally self employed, you might be asking yourself whether it is necessary to brand yourself. After all you are not trying to create a branded empire, you are just trying to get by, do your work well and be someone your clients can count on. So why should you spend the time and energy worrying about your own personal brand? Here are a few reasons why and how to go about it
No brand is still a brand.
Do you feel like everyone and everything around you is branded (too branded) and that's just not your cup of tea? Well exactly. And as a result whether you have a brand or not, your clients will think you have one. Let me explain: let's say you decide not to go for this whole self branding thing and instead choose to have your name simply written in black and white on your business card in Times New Roman. Well, guess what? That's a brand in itself, whether you like it or not. Those very choices (or non-choices) become your image.
First impressions count.
You might have guessed it whilst reading the previous paragraph but first impressions count. When your potential client sees your brand (or lack of brand) they will form an opinion - for good or bad. You are an IT specialist but your brand says 1990 - ouch! You're an accountant and you write your name in a cursive handwritten font - really? You're a photographer and your logo is pixelated - come on! These might seem like extreme examples but you'd be surprised what your brand might say about you. Make sure it paints you in a good light.
So how do you go about to make sure you have nice classy brand that avoids contradictions. Be yourself! Be yourself? I can hear the sigh of disappointment from those of you who were hoping for a quick fix solution. Yes indeed, figuring out who you are in terms of branding is not an easy task. And you might need a few trusted advisors to help. But one tip I can give you is that your brand should make your heart sing! How is that for hard evidence ? Seriously though, your brand should feel like a perfectly well fitted shoe. Not an intimidating, far fetching, not-quite-my-style one, but a well fitted just-right-for-me one.
I think that for a small brand (i.e. brand of one or two), what is almost as important as the brand itself, is the ability to be consistent with it. When you have a new brand, it is absolutely crucial that you apply it to all the different platforms you are communicating on. It is key to have the same logo and branding on your website, business cards and social media. And of course if you are create flyers, banners and other printed materials, it must absolutely be the same branding. That might seem like an obvious statement to make but you would be surprised as to how many people I see have outdated branding on some of their communication. That kind of faux pas says you are not detail-oriented and therefore don’t mind cutting corners. Whether you are a personal secretary, a chiropractor or a construction contractor, I doubt that’s what you want your brand to say about you.
My final tip is to start simple. Choose a logo, a couple of colours anda font. Don’t go overboard and create a complex brand that is hard to implement. It might be tempting to start thinking big - too big - as you wish your business to grow. But by all means, resist that temptation. You don’t want to look like you are too big for your own shoes or even worse, give yourself a ton of work by having a complex brand that is hard to implement. You can always tweak it at a later date and have it adapt your growing business’s needs. I guess it takes us back to tip #2 about being yourself.
So now you know that even if you are “just” a freelancer or a one-person company, it is essential to put a brand in place. Your brand is the first impression potential clients will have of you and as you know, firs impressions are huge. Don’t try to go too big too quickly but rather keep it simple and above all, be yourself!