• Advice

Branding for freelancers: It’s not a dirty word

This is a post from a member of the Freelancers Union community. If you’re interested in sharing your expertise, your story, or some advice you think will help a fellow freelancer out, feel free to send your blog post to us here.

Almost every time I mention the word “brand” to a freelancer or author, I get a grimace in reply. No one wants to think of themselves as a brand. Well, almost no one.

Except for authors like Stephen King, J.K. Rowling, and James Patterson maybe. They are brands. When you open up a Stephen King novel, you know what to expect, the same way that when you order a Starbucks latte or buy a Pepsi. You know exactly what you’re in for.

The issue is that we often approach freelancing and other endeavors with a mindset of scarcity: there is certainly only a limited amount of freelance work out there, right? And if I am not all things to all people, I might miss an opportunity.

Wrong. There is plenty of work out there, and plenty more coming. Companies are increasingly hiring freelancers in place of full-time staff, especially for creative positions. The key is, they need to know who you are and what you do.

There are several key components to branding. It starts by first asking questions about who you are and what you do, and then asking some questions about your clients: who are they now, and who do you want your clients to be in the future?

Who Are You?

There is nothing more miserable as a freelancer than taking a job because you are desperate and finding out you hate the work you have to do. Whether you hate the subject or the niche the work is in, or you just don’t like who you are working with, the misery is rarely worth it.

For instance, I love cycling, and if a cycling magazine or website were to hire me to write content, it would be both easy and enjoyable for me at the same time. However, a golf site would be miserable for me: I know nothing about the game, I don’t play, and the research involved would be taxing at best. When seeking freelance work, consider the following:

  • What niches do you love/have knowledge in?
  • What do you enjoy doing that you can leverage for work?
  • What have you done in the past that you enjoyed?
  • What is your educational background?

You don’t have to write about tech, business, books, publishing, skiing, and cycling like I do. You can write about almost anything, and I guarantee someone out there wants content related to your interests.

Use this research about who you are and what you like to do to inform your branding decisions. Once you have determined your interest, what’s next?

Build Your Brand

Go to LinkedIn and search “freelance writer.” Go ahead, I will wait here. How many results did you find? Thousands? How are you going to stand out from that crowd? The answer, in simple terms, is branding. What do you put in your profile besides “freelance writer”?

While you can build your personal brand using LinkedIn, you need your own home: your own domain. Already have a website or blog? How is that working for you? It may be time to select a new domain name — one that really speaks to the brand you want to be. First, search for your name. If it is common, you share it with a celebrity, or it is really hard to spell, you will want to choose a different domain name.

Search for what is available in your niche using a domain search tool. Many popular names are taken, so be creative with both what you do, and how people search for what you do. Keywords are no longer king with search engines, but they are still important. If you don’t know much about them, learn.

Make sure the content on your site lines up with the domain name, and it clearly tells visitors who you are, what you do, and offers a clear hire me page. You need to be clear on your brand so your potential clients can be easily understand what you offer.

Who Is Your Target?

If you aim at nothing in particular, you will hit it every time. You need to have a clear target, or at least a clear target demographic.

To do so, it is often best to create a marketing persona, the same process that many other brands large and small go through. You need to think about who you are trying to reach.

  • What is their position at their company?
  • How much does this person make?
  • Where are they located?
  • What are their goals?
  • What is their level of education?
  • How can what you do benefit them or their company?

These are some really basic questions to get you started. You can go even deeper by analyzing the social media profiles and activity of your current clients, potential clients, and similar companies, and by taking a look at the client data you have gathered.

Once you have determined who you are and what you do, you can begin to build your brand and target the clients you want. These clients should be people who clearly have needs you are able and willing to meet, and, at the same time, those who can meet your needs as well.

Troy is a freelance writer, content strategist, author, and editor from Boise, Idaho. He lives there with the love of his life, his son, and two very talented dogs.

Troy Lambert By day he writes non-fiction. By night, he writes suspense novels. He lives, works, and plays in Boise, Idaho with his wife, son, and two dogs. He hikes, cycles, fishes, skies and golfs (horribly).