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How to develop your freelance brand

Branding is a marketing term that includes elements that go towards how you present yourself professionally – your image.

As a freelance, in many ways you are your brand; the quality of your work, your personality and the way you get on with your clients all leave an impression. Assuming this is a good one, this will help you establish long and fruitful working relationships.

While global organisations spend huge amounts of money developing their brand (think Coke and Nike), individuals can use the same brand building principles to create the right impression and feeling about what they do at little cost.

Getting started

Ask yourself how you want to be perceived? What perception is going to get you the most work now and in the long term? What are the defining qualities of your work and your attitude that make you stand out from the competition?

The world of business refers to this as your USP (your unique selling point – that which distinguishes your business from all others). For example, your brand values might focus on being fast, efficient and innovative.

However, your brand should be authentic. You’ll need to deliver what you promise so if you miss deadlines and haven’t come up with a new idea for a decade, you’re on the wrong brand track (and possibly in the wrong industry!).

Be honest with yourself – your brand should play to your strengths so decide what these are. Once you’ve decided what you want to convey, it’s time to create your image.

Conveying your brand

You need to communicate your brand consistently. Your branding tool kit might consist of:

  • You: The way you present yourself in professional situations will have a major impact on your (brand) image. This might include your communication skills and the visual way you present yourself through what you wear.
  • Your name: If you’re choosing a company name, think about what it conveys to your clients. Also, try to keep it short so that people can remember it.
  • Your logo – the mark of your brand identity, which might be wordform (e.g., your name or a company name) pictorial (a picture that perhaps you think represents what you do), letterform (a group of letters – perhaps your initials) or symbolic (a symbol that perhaps you think represents what you do – or you think looks contemporary).
  • Straplines/key messages which convey key brand values and are often included on all marketing media along with your logo. For example, some famous strap lines you should recognise if the marketing millions spent on creating them was money well spent include: “Beanz, Meanz, Heinz’ (Heinz Beans); ‘Vorsprung durch Technik’ (Audi) and ‘The World’s Local Bank’ (HSBC).

Luckily, you don’t have to have a big budget to come up with a suitable strap line and it doesn’t need to be too catchy or clever. It needs to be short, snappy and convey a positive impression of what you deliver. For example: ‘Creative copywriting, on time, every time.’

Design tips

Be clear

Your logo appears on all your literature from business cards to websites so it needs to be clearly defined even in miniature.

Be relevant

If you’re going to use a symbol with your logo, try to align it with something that has meaning to what you represent. However, avoid picking a logo that’s cheesy. If in doubt keep it simple.

Create the right impression

Colours, fonts, headlines, sub-heads and straplines help draw in the eye and form the overall impression of what you’re aiming to convey. Less is usually more in this instance. Rather than being eye-catching, too many colours and fonts can be messy and distracting.

Be consistent

In part, successful brand building relies on repetition of key visuals and messages. So, make sure your brand design elements (e.g., log, strapline, colours and fonts) appear in every communication, including email (e.g. in your signature).

Be contemporary not trendy

Trends come and go so don’t just pick a colour, shape or font because it is fashionable today – try to get something that will stand the test of time.

This may sound a bit like hard work but if you’re looking to present a professional image, it needs thinking about. What image are you presenting currently? What could you do to improve this?