Personal branding is vital to the growth and success of any business, but it is not just for Fortune 500 companies – every independent contractor is a brand, and defining your brand is how the public identifies you and your services. As the professional marketplace continues to turn to freelancers for work, being able to quickly and easily differentiate yourself from the competition will lead to more opportunities. With the influence of social media rising in the workplace, it is also easier to drive brand awareness and promote yourself without having to drop a wad of cash. Investing in your personal brand may seem tedious or even unnecessary, but by figuring out how to answer the following questions, every independent contractor can increase their professional visibility and yield positive returns.
Who are you? Determining your description is the first step in defining your personal brand. Jeff Bezos, the Founder of Amazon, has said that “your brand is what people say about you when you’re not in the room.” Deciding how you want your clients and potential customers to view you will help determine your core values. Consistency is the key in driving awareness, so deciding what you want your public image to be and then building your brand around that image will help grow your reputation – not just your name.
What do you do? Determining your function is critical in articulating your expertise and service offerings. Not only will it build credibility and position you as a leader in your industry, it will also help focus your efforts at building (or growing) an audience and/or client base. Being able to explain what you do may seem simple, but establishing an inventory of core competencies, demonstrated abilities and existing level of recognition will let people know what position you are best intended to fill and set you up to answer the next question…
Why should we care? Determining your emotional appeal is important in setting yourself apart from the competition and will enable you to benefit from continued success. Being able to communicate the solution you provide to a problem people have lets them know exactly why they need you and your services. Continued learning and updating your knowledge is important and will continue to leverage your business as staying in tune with what your clients need. Additionally, it will also build the most valuable commodity you can have as an independent contractor – trust.
Once you have established your identity and brand, it’s time to start building some collateral. IProfessional, a financial and administrative service for independent consultants, suggests utilizing the following (free) tools to get your name out there:
- Blog/Website – Owning your own domain or having something as close to your name as possible is a great idea. Even if you can only set up a static website to start, enhancing it with a blog will improve your search engine rank and drive traffic to your page.
- Social Media – As an independent business owner/contractor, LinkedIn is a great social channel to network with other professionals, scope out jobs, and promote your services. Twitter is also a powerful marketing tool to have in your kit. It allows you to quickly and easily post business news, highlight success stories and link to any content you produce on your website. Having a company Facebook page is another way to promote coverage, blogs and interact with clients. Finally, any additional social channels (YouTube, Pinterest, Instagram, Vine, etc.) that you can optimize to promote your business and services are tools that will continue to create awareness and grow your audience.
- Attire – Showing up for a job dressed in branded gear furthers the message you are trying to convey – that you are a successful professional who is there to get the job done. IProfessional points out that your clothing should represent you and is a simple way to stand out, especially when used for pictures online.
- Email Address – You will use an email address for all of your social media accounts and it will most likely be displayed on your website; having one that easily identifies you or your company will further align your brand across all platforms.
Putting in the time to identify your brand, determine what your business is and what you want it to be known for, as well as building a repertoire of brand collateral will make it simple to maintain your identity in the long-run. Determining your personal brand will help grow your company and show the public why you are the only one with the solution to their problem – after all, the most important asset an independent contractor can have is their brand.