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Personal branding for freelancers: The 5 most common questions (and answers)

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.

In 2015, I (finally) started to take my personal brand seriously, and the results have been magnificent.

Just to name a few, a strong personal brand:

● More than quadrupled my hourly rate from $40 an hour to $150+ an hour

● Positioned me to work with major brands like Fendi, W Hotels, WeWork, SodaStream and China’s International Institute of Education

● Landed me two speaking gigs for $500 and $750, and

● Scored me an invitation to write for Fidelity Investments’ freelancers blog, in which I was paid $250 for each article (it took me roughly an hour to write an article)

● Helped me get featured in all sorts of podcasts and articles — namely USA TODAY, Entrepreneur On Fire, Media Leaders, and Arianna Huffington’s Thrive Global

Here are the most common questions people have asked me since then:

1. What is a personal brand?

A personal brand is about developing a calculated, comprehensive and authentic image in the minds of a targeted group of people, in order to accomplish a definitive goal or set of goals.

People with the most effective personal brands utilize content, social media, email, networking, and other means of interpersonal and mass communication to creatively portray their tangible attributes (e.g. years of experience, education, portfolio, case studies) and intangible attributes (e.g. expertise, insights, sense of humor, inspiration, unconventionalism).

2. Who should build a personal brand?

Anyone who wants to create a legitimate competitive advantage in whichever career path they’re on or want to take. This includes: employees, interns, volunteers, executives, entrepreneurs, self-employed people, unemployed people, founders, business owners, freelancers, and students.

Sorry to be the bearer of bad news, but being great at something (e.g. a great software developer) isn’t enough anymore. Because of globalization and the ability to find many “great” freelancers in a matter of minutes, greatness is simply the cost of entry to being considered by a client.

3. Should I focus on becoming more successful / accomplished / skilled, and then start building my personal brand?

Before the modern-day Internet, I probably would’ve told you yes.

Today, however, you don’t need to be “successful” to start building your personal brand — because, assuming everything else is relatively equal, a personal brand is the most effective way to stand out.

To reiterate, being more successful, accomplished or skilled won’t automatically make you stand out, since there are hundreds (if not thousands) of other people who are just as successful, accomplished and/or skilled as you are today (or will be in the future).

Waiting to become more successful, accomplished or skilled until you start building a personal brand would be like saying 10 years ago: “Don’t create a portfolio until you have at least a decade of experience under your belt.”

4. How can I make my personal brand stand out if I’m not already super successful and well-known?

When you publish content (the backbone of a modern-day personal brand) at the intersection of your personal and professional attributes and experiences, your personal brand becomes inherently unique, since no one else has the same combination of your personal and professional attributes and experiences.

You don’t need to be super successful and well-known to stand out. You just need to be different.

5. What steps should I take to start building my personal brand?

To build the foundation for a strong personal brand, you need a “home base” (a website), a publishing platform (a blog built into your website) and channels to distribute your content (social media and email marketing).

To be truly successful with personal branding, you’ll also want to create a “compass” by determining specific and measurable goals; conducting a self-awareness inventory (an outline of your strengths, weaknesses, passions and pains); honing your “macro and micro” stories; and defining your target audience .

Josh Hoffman runs Epic Freelancing, where he teaches people how to combine financial success, creative freedom and lifestyle design. Get his exclusive video training: $570,000 Worth of Freelance Lessons.

Josh Hoffman Josh Hoffman is the founder of Epic Freelancing, where he shows freelancers how to develop a six-figure income and live life on their terms.

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