Ready to start freelancing or step up your freelance game? Build your brand! Branding matters because it helps you stand out from the competition.
It also matters because people feel more comfortable hiring freelancers who show they understand their customers’ needs—and smart branding does that.
Here’s how to create your freelance brand.
1. Identify your professional strengths
Listing your skills can be a confidence boost if you’re a new freelancer. Even if you’re already working as a freelancer, go ahead and make a quick list of all the skills you can offer your customers.
With this list, see what makes you unique. For example, are you a U.S.-based freelance website designer who’s fluent in Portuguese? You might be able to brand your services for Brazilian companies looking to expand into North America.
Or if you’re a photographer with a background in set design, you might be able to create some amazing backdrops for your clients’ photo shoots.
Whatever your skills mix is, keep it in mind as you develop your brand.
2. Define your ideal freelance customer
Your ideal customer is as important to your brand as your skills are. Why? Because your services plus your logo, messaging, marketing and pricing all need to line up with what your ideal customer is looking for.
Every freelancer’s ideal customer is different. For example, the ideal customer for a wedding photographer is going to be someone who’s engaged, has the budget for good photography, and has lots of connections who may also be getting married soon that can turn into referrals.
A freelance marketing consultant, on the other hand, will look for growing companies or startups with new funding who need to build, deploy and maintain a marketing strategy.
Even freelancers within the same niche may have different ideal customers. A copywriter that likes structure and predictability in their workday may seek out freelance clients who have their ad copy needs planned out weeks or months in advance. But a copywriter who thrives on adrenaline and goes with the flow might specialize in rush work projects for clients who pull their campaigns together at the last minute.
Once you have a clear picture of your ideal customer, you can shape your brand to speak to them. That will include messaging about what you can do for these customers.
3. Decide what problems you can solve for your freelance clients
When you’re clear on your strengths and your ideal customer, you can decide what you want to offer them. And you base that on the problems your ideal customer is looking to solve.
For example, wedding photography clients want great pictures, but everyone has a camera in their pocket now. What these customers also want—the problem a good freelance photographer can help them solve—is organizing posed photos at the event, helping everyone look their best in the shots, and delivering images the couple will enjoy for years.
In other words, these customers want someone who can handle all the photo stuff so they don’t have to worry about when to gather the families for photos, whether the lighting is right, or whether Cousin Ava will get around to uploading her 500 reception photos to Google Drive.
Likewise, a company that hires a freelance marketing writer wants someone who can write the copy they need, but the problem they’re trying to solve is not having enough people on their marketing team. A freelancer who can research and pitch copy ideas and work well with other stakeholders solves that problem for them.
So now, your branding might be shaping up like “I’m a freelance wedding photographer serving couples in the Atlanta area offering comprehensive planning, packages and presentation, so you can relax and enjoy your special day.”
4. Calculate your rates—privately
Wait, are rates part of your branding? Not explicitly, unless you want to go down the road of competing on price instead of value.
We don’t recommend that, BTW. For one thing, clients with money tend to avoid discount-branded services because they worry about quality.
For another, competing on price means someone can undercut you by a few bucks and steal your customers! Focusing on the value you offer is a better long-term strategy.
That said, you must know what you need to bring in to pay your bills. If you’re not sure about how to calculate this, The Freelancer’s Bible breaks it down so you can do the math easily.
This step can also help you refine your messaging to save time dealing with clients who aren’t right for your business. For example, a freelance writer with vague branding like “Have Project, Will Write!” is going to get a lot more inquiries from small businesses with tiny budgets than they are from companies with millions in funding who need “Content Creation for B2C Health Technology Startups.”
Bottom line: Aim your brand at customers who can pay what you need to earn.
5. Build your brand identity and messaging
Now it’s time to focus on the elements of your branding that your customers will see: your brand identity and your brand messaging.
Your brand identity includes your logo, your colors and your fonts. Use them consistently on your website, your social media profiles and your ads.
Your colors should stand out but not distract from your brand messaging.
Your fonts should make it easy for people to scan your brand name and message quickly, without having to figure out cursive script or other hard-to-read fonts.
What about messaging? Once you have your business name and your domain name registered, it’s time to write your tagline, your elevator pitch and your summary paragraph.
Your tagline: A one-sentence summary of what you do and who you work with, like “Residential landscape design for the Houston area” or “Custom web design for small e-commerce businesses.” Put it under your logo on your site and business cards.
Your elevator pitch: This is a bit longer summary of what you do, like “I bring 10 years of nursery and garden design experience to homeowners in Houston’s challenging climate” or “I create unique and effective WordPress ecommerce sites for companies in the beauty, fashion and jewelry verticals.” Add this to your social profiles.
Your summary paragraph is a little more about you, in terms that show the value your brand brings to clients. For example:
“After a decade of designing for home landscapes in Houston—including my own—I know what thrives and what looks great in our coastal climate. As a longtime nursery manager, I can quickly pull together lists of what will work best on your site so you can pick the look you want with confidence that it can handle the heat and humidity. And my nursery experience also means I know which wholesalers and farms offer the healthiest plants for your home landscape.” This goes on your “About Me” page.
You may have to go through a few drafts to get your tagline, elevator pitch and summary just right. Take your time and remember to proofread!
Now you have everything you need to start using your brand to promote your freelance business, connect with your ideal customers and start building your professional portfolio.
Machielle Thomas curates content for marketing professionals, small business owners, bloggers, and more.