Why developing a Personal Brand is a must for every Freelancer

Personal Brnading

Personal Branding

Do you know what Mark Zuckerberg, Steve Jobs, President Barak Obama have in common? Well they wear the same outfit everyday. If you notice carefully you will see Steve Jobs wearing the same tee and jeans everyday and to almost every place. There are two reasons for this.

Number 1 is that they do not want to spend time every day to decide what to wear. Number 2 is that they are silently building their personal brand.

Do not think that personal branding is only about wearing the same clothes everyday or eating the same food. It is much more than that.  Building a personal brand takes time and work. You as a freelancer should always aim to build your personal brand since it will be one of the cornerstones of your success in life.

If you are a graphic designer and you have your own style of illustration or say packaging design then people will name that style of art after you. That is exactly what happened with Disney. We call a particular style of illustration “Disney style”.

Now let us ponder upon how to build your personal brand. The guidelines laid down here are tried, tested and are easy to follow so that you can straightaway use them to build your personal brand.

Start by creating your personal brand vision

If you are a freelancer then your personal brand vision is a no brainer. Your first aim should be to get more clients for yourself in order to increase your revenue. Your aim should also be to position your product or service in such a way that you can get paid more per job. There are only a fixed number of hours per day so if you do not increase your earning per hour then there is only a fixed amount of money that you can earn. So you have to develop your own niche.

You should also aim at growing your professional network so that you get more work for yourself. You should define a yardstick for your own success. You should be able to measure your success with tangible data. For example your goal should be something like “I will double my income in the next 6 months.” You should actively work towards achieving this goal and have a definite plan for achieving it.

Define who you are

If you want to define who you are then you have to be absolutely authentic. You can not brand your “fake” self. If you act in a certain way, behave in a certain way and say certain things, which you are not then you can not go far. You have to appear in a particular way to others in which you want them to perceive you. So you have to be always authentic so that you don’t have to act or remember things. But you can modify the way you are by practice. For example, you can become more sophisticated.

You have to nurture your values and prioritize your values. These values are what is most important to you as a person. Make a list of your values and then assign priority to them. This will help you to make important decisions in life.

Find out your passion

A passion is something that you find interesting. Something that draws you towards it. A passion is also a kind of hobby that you would pursue even if you were not remunerated for it. It is something that drives you. It is something you want to be doing in your spare time. If you can take this as your profession then you will not feel tired working. Rather you would not feel that you are working at all. There is a popular saying that goes like this : “If your work is your passion that you do not have to work for a single day in your life”. How cool is that!

Like if your passion is photography then you would not feel tired doing a photography assignment all day. If you are a graphic designer and if your passion is designing then you will definitely create awesome artworks that would surely win awards yet not making you feel overworked. But this will not come overnight. It takes practice. You need to give it time.

A passion is part of your vision. It will tell you where you want to be 5 years down the line.


Analyze your personality

This is like finding your strong points. Do a SWOT analysis. Are you a risk taker? Are you analytical? Can you easily make friends and mingle with people? If you can identify your character traits and quantify them on a scale they you can pick up the best ones from the list and hone them. The favourable personality traits will make an ideal personal brand.


Take the help of your family and friends

Now that you have identified your personal traits it’s time to take the help of your family and friends. People who are closest to you will be able to tell you if your findings are right or wrong. It is good to have a neutral opinion about yourself.

It will also be an eye opener at times. You might find that you might have had some wrong notions about yourself. There might be a strong trait in your character which you were completely unaware of. You will also understand how you can develop these traits even further.

So now that you have identified your strengths and weaknesses you can now look for opportunities and have a better understanding of what your threats are.


Deciding on a Roadmap

Now that you know your traits make a list of things that you love to do. The traits will help you to find this list.

Say you are working as an accountant in some company but you love to talk to people and solve problems. You might apply this trait of yours to help the HR head of the company. Befriend him or her and talk to him or her about the job related problems he or she might be facing. Then offer your service as a friend to help out. When this person sees that you are good in solving HR related issues he might offer you to do a switch of role in that company. If the HR head puts in a good word for you then I am sure something can work out.

So it is important to do an exhaustive list. Do not limit yourself. Make a long list. This will help you to identify your road ahead.


Think Deeper

You might be good in solving human resource related problems but you might also love art and design. Your first step to switch to HR department of your current company was just your stepping stone. Now that you have switched to HR and have some experience on your resume on the HR department you might think of switching to the HR department of some advertising agency.

This satisfies both your urge to solve human resource related problems and quenches your thirst for art and design.


What others did

Throughout the process of deciding your own career path you must have had people you admire in mind. They could be one of your parent, a friend, someone in the family or a celebrity.

It is perfectly alright to follow someone successful in life. In fact you can analyze their career path and find out the mistakes they made and then craft out your own career path devoid of those mistakes. Rest assured you will make your own mistakes but that is fine. Mistakes are those lessons that will help you to be that complete human being.

Position yourself Professionally

It is absolutely important to create a professional image for yourself. You are a business-of-one that must sell your own service to your prospective customer (a.k.a. employer). It is up to you to portray yourself as the right candidate possessing the right skills to fit your employer’s requirement.

Remember you are only what you want to show to the outside world. In other words, your outside world will perceive you in a way in which you want them to perceive you. So if you want to portray yourself as a freelance graphic designer then portray those skills of yours in your social circles both online and offline.

Building a Social Media Presence

Building a social media community is not easy. It takes time and considerable effort and work. So you need to work hard and work intelligently. Working intelligently will require a good strategy and here are some of the guidelines that will help you.

The first one is a no brainer. Create a facebook page. It is the best and the perfect way to reach your target audience. Research shows that people spend most of their time on facebook compared to all other social media channels.

Post regularly on relevant topics which complement your brand. Comment on posts and respond to people who comment on your posts. This is a great way to engage audience.

You have to figure out where your target audience is. The best place is to check out competitor brands or groups and to analyze and find out what strategy they are employing to get their audience.

Find the area of interest of your audience. What they care about and want to know more about. Apart from Facebook you can also target Twitter, Pinterest, Quora, LinkedIn, Yelp and YouTube.

Build your own Website

Designing your own website is always beneficial and establishes you as a brand in the digital space. If you are a graphic designer then you can put in samples of your work. You can even go more specific. Say you are a brand identity designer. You design digital assets like logo, brand identity, presentations etc. In such a case having your own website will establish your credentials and trust in the minds of your prospective clients. They will not feel that you are just any graphic designer. They can also judge the quality of the work you did for your clients. If they like it then there is a great chance they will hire you for their next project.

Also make it a point to design your website really well and have good content in it. This will make you sound like an established brand. Even better try to incorporate a blog in your website.

By having a blog you can get in direct contact with target audience and they can also communicate with you directly via the comments section and connecting to you via your facebook page. You can drive traffic to your facebook page via your blog and vice versa.

If you are in such a trade that you have nothing to talk about (though I doubt if there is any trade like this at all) then just build your website with your contact details and links to your social media pages.

Build valuable connections

A man is known by the company he keeps. Just like that your brand will be known by the brand you associate yourself with. Associating yourself with strong brands and having reputed clients will strengthen your position.

Now the question is how will you associate yourself with strong brands and why will they associate themselves with you. Here you will have to apply a little intelligence. You shall have to find out if anyone in your family or friend circle is associated with a big company or a strong brand. You can leverage this contact to get some work from the big brand they work in. You can also do a complementary job to get into the big league. It will pay for itself in the long run.

I would suggest you to read a great book Reinventing You by Dorie Clark. It is acclaimed highly by Forbes.   


Speaking engagements

Public speaking is a great skill. It is identified among one of the top important communication requirement for success. If you want to be a leader you have to hone and master your communication skills be it on the stage, one-to-one or to the press. You have to command your audience. Commanding an audience means speaking with confidence and standing tall so that when you peak people listen to you. If you phrase your speech well and emphasize your ideas then it is bound to grab the attention of the audience.

Assertiveness is another thing to master. It means emphasizing on your ideas without being very stubborn or confrontational.

You also have to make your audience feel valued and understood. Empathy and eye contact evokes positive feeling in your audience.

Humour also engages the audience. Humour is known to break down barriers between two persons. You can influence a person piggybacking on humour without the person knowing it. Humour can always help us to approach a threatening subject in a non-threatening way. Humour makes it more acceptable and makes the listener adaptive to new ideas.

Also speak in a crystal clear voice and make it a habit to read. Reading helps one form their thoughts well while communicating. Spend time watching speeches, debate, presentation of great communicators.


Remain a student forever

Things are changing at a very fast pace in every field. Everyday new innovations are taking place. Paradigm shifts are more common now than they used to be hence you have to stay updated with the changes and trends.

Since it is hard to build your personal brand you have to stay relevant or all your efforts will be wasted. It is also good to learn new skills in order to expand your horizon.

The position at the top is not static. Either you are going up or you are going down. So in order to stay at the top in your game : LEARN.


Provide value

You must have seen how thought leaders like Neil Patel and Gary Vaynerchuk provides value through their blog posts and videos. So if you want to build your own brand and become a thought leader you have to add value to the life of your audience.

You can also talk about your mistakes and how people who are new can avoid them. Whatever trade you are in, you are bound to commit mistakes. So when you talk about your mistakes it will resonate with people in similar trade and it is highly likely your content is going to be shared more and more. This is the secret behind viral contents. It is not that you always have to talk about your mistakes. You can talk about your success story as well.


Honesty is always the best policy

It’s better to expose the harsh truths than to sugar coat anything. Neil Patel and Gary Veynerchuk tells their stories exactly how they are in reality. Neil openly admits that he was from a very humble background and that he worked his way up bit by bit. He worked hard because he did not want his parents to work anymore. That was his life goal. He talks about his failures with the same amount of pride. He admits that they made him a stronger and a better person.


To sum up…

In order to build your personal brand, you have to be honest, straightforward and upright. You have to learn constantly and hone your public speaking skills. You have to add value and enrich the lives of your audience. You have to make friends with influencers in your field. You have to be active on social media and build engagement with your audience.

As you can see that there are so many tasks to be accomplished and it is not an easy job. But then again anywhere worth reaching is not easy to reach…

At the end I would like to say that I would love to hear from you since I constantly want to learn. If you have something you want to share on this topic please leave a comment below.

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Priyankar Mukherjee is a freelancer turned entrepreneur who is passionate about helping other entrepreneurs and bloggers. He is running his own web design and development company and also a crowdsourcing platform www.shopfordesigns.com

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