A brand isn’t something you create or control, but you can try and shape it with style, imagery and succinct messages (tag-lines). A brand is the perception of your company before they’ve spoken to you. And it’s important for a freelancer, because growing your business relies on people recommending you to others that have no idea who you are.
Branding usually includes a logo, colours e.t.c., but for a freelancer these are the parts that rarely matter. What matters is how people speak about you to others, and you can give them the tools to do that to your benefit.
A good brand for a freelancer is actually just the way you carry out your business. Knowing your values, and following through with them is the way you should be building your brand.
Here’s the 3 rules to help you think differently about it…
1. No logo
You should concentrate on the parts of your brand that will be shared and recognised by others. Most of your inbound leads should come from word of mouth referrals by other people and current customers. These people will not be sharing your logo. At most they will share your photo, but primarily they’ll be describing the reasons to work with you. Think about what those reasons should be. After you’ve worked with a customer, as well as following up with more ways you can help out you should also be asking for referrals. And giving them good reasons why they should do it.
2. No bullshit
First of all, don’t name your company anything other than your name. Even if you have wider aspirations, for a good long while you’re going to be building the company off your own back. Being honest about your size and concentrating on personal relationships will give you more credibility. Faking it until you make it might work for some people, but it’s much easier to be honest. Made up company names don’t help with your sales or your client relationships. It’s much more attractive to be dealing with you on a personal level than having some fake abstraction designed to make me think you’re bigger than you are.
The number one reason people refer services is because they were blown away by what they expected versus what they got. And the key thing to remember is they have to be blown away, not just happy. Go beyond the things in your proposal and do something unexpected and valuable. Start-ups and marketers sometimes call this the a-ha! moment in a product on-boarding cycle. In my experience, this isn’t just delivering great work — that should be, and usually is expected. Every-time I went further than just delivering great work, it helped me to grow my own business. This can be as simple as providing insight into another area of their business, or identifying and solving a different problem for them before they know it.
Put simply, branding isn’t what most people think it is. And for freelancers, it’s none of the obvious stuff like a logo or a colour palette. It’s the way your customers describe you to others. And putting some effort into thinking about this gives your customers a reason to not just describe your brand, but to love it enough to share it.