“Freelancers Spotlight” is a bimonthly feature that highlights the work of Freelancers Hub members in NYC. In honor of Black History Month, we’re excited to share the stories of Black women who are making incredible strides in branding, marketing, film, and entertainment. This week, we’d like to introduce to some, and present to others, Naya the Creative. With a background in digital production and advertising, Naya has taken her experience and turned her style of consulting into “brand therapy.” We asked her why she decided to focus on brand marketing, what it means to be a Black creative, and what advice she has for new freelancers.
You have recently become Freelancers Hub's resident Brand Therapist. How did you come up with the concept "brand therapy," and what have you learned in navigating the world of branding and marketing?
I’ve done design, web development, copywriting, video production — just about anything that helps a brand thrive in front of large audiences. In both my 9-5 jobs and in my side hustle gigs, some clients would expect to showcase their entire brand through a particular project (i.e. a promo video, a website, a bag of rice (yes, that happened)). However, they almost never had a strong handle on who their brands were or who their brands should be targeting.
My clients didn’t understand that a brand doesn’t live entirely in its visual identity, just like who we are as people doesn’t stop at our faces or the clothes we wear. So, I found myself taking a more intimate approach with clients to get us both to understand what they were trying to express about their brands by drawing out of them why they were in this business in the first place.
This turned into a habit of me asking deep questions, to which my clients couldn’t just fire back quick answers. It’s funny, even though my style of consulting people has always been “therapy” like, that idea didn't really sink in with me until multiple clients said to me, “Talking to you is like talking to a therapist! I’m usually feeling so stressed and overwhelmed when we start talking, but by the time we’re done talking, I feel so much better and energized and ready to work!”
What three important things should freelancers know about branding their services?
First, you are not, and should not, aim to be everything to everybody. But you are the best person to help a specific type of person. Find that person. Be the best for that person. Brand your business for that person. Second, if you’re afraid to focus on a niche because you might lose work, chances are you’re already losing work. Someone out there is looking for a person, who is unique in the way you are, to solve their problems the way you can solve them.
Finally, don’t worry so much about your name or how your brand looks. Those things are important too, but your clients won’t be working with your logo everyday — they’ll be working with you. Focus on creating and delivering a stellar service. Getting your clients the results they want is why you’re in business. Spending months “brainstorming” your logo before you ever attempt to pitch a potential client is a waste of your time and your gifts.
What does Black History Month mean to you as a Black creative?
Black History Month, for me, is a time when people are empowered and supported to tell amazing stories that amplify incredible achievements of old and new, sung and unsung, trailblazers. I love that through the power of information sharing I’m exposed to the stories of inspirational people who I’m proud to share an identity with. It’s such an exciting time to celebrate who I am, who I come from, and who’s right along with me on this journey.
Where's your favorite place to get work done in the city (aside from Freelancers Hub, of course)?
I love working outside when the weather is nice. Even when I work from home, I try to get outside while the sun is up, but that doesn’t always happen. So, if I can work from a rooftop or balcony (or even a park), I feel really accomplished. If I also have immediate access to food all day, then I’ve basically won the day.
In the age of social media, there are a lot of strategists constantly sharing their thought leadership on timelines. How have you learned to stand out and be confident in your brand and what you offer your customers?
I learned a lot from thought leaders who communicate on social media and, for a while, I wanted to be just like them. I used to feel that I had to keep up with their likes and follows and it was brutal when I felt like I’d never get there. While chasing social media fame, I was overlooking some of my best social qualities — my ability to listen and connect. Social media, when I got started in business, wasn’t the best way for me to use those qualities to be useful.
Once I figured out how I could usefully communicate my value and make real connections, I focused more on chasing that than chasing likes. Not only do I now feel more confident—and ambivalent about my own social media stats—I no longer feel icky when I think about using social media to make connections.
Naya will be holding Brand Therapy office hours at Freelancers Hub next month, so stay tuned to register for your one-on-one session with her! In the meantime, you can follow her on Twitter and Instagram.