Your brand values are how you show up as a business, a brand, a freelancer. They’re how you make people feel. And they’re how you make decisions in a business that feels—and does—good.
Your values make you stand out from all the other freelancers who offer the same product or service. Because you know it’s not the same—the intention and personality and point of view you bring makes what you have to offer special.
You’re able to claim your unique corner of the internet because of how you sound, how you make people feel, and how you amplify causes you care about. Aka your values at play.
When you clearly share your brand values everywhere your brand shows up, you’ll attract the exact types of customers and partners you’re wanting to reach.
On the flip side, you’ll repel people and brands who aren’t the right fit. Because when it comes down to it, good business—and especially business for good—is about solving problems and making lives better.
Establishing Your Brand Values
First, you need to establish your values. Figure out what’s important to you as a freelancer, the brand you represent, and the audience you serve. The sweet spot is where it all overlaps.
So, that begs the question: how do you choose your brand values? It involves lots of self-reflection and ideally some outside perspective. (Because we’re just so dang close to it all.)
- Ask yourself what injustices or problems (in society or business) get you fired up.
- Find a common thread between the biggest issues your customers face and how—and why—you’re uniquely creating a solution.
- Consider what you want to be known for when people think of your brand or when they interact with you.
- Reflect on why you started your business in the first place and how it’s evolved.
- Think about a time you’ve been immensely proud or deeply mortified.
Aim for three to five core values. Less than three isn’t enough to anchor you, while more than five can spread you a bit too thin.
And that’s not to say you only care about 3-5 concepts. These are the umbrella ideas that represent how you want to show up and what you want to be known for.
The goal is to get super clear on a set of values that feels perfectly aligned so that you can start living them out in every single one of your decisions.
Defining Your Brand Values
Once you’ve established your 3-5 core values, you need to define what those values mean to your brand specifically. Because “originality” or “community” or any other value could mean anything—and nothing at the same time. Instead, be explicit and descriptive about how you define each value.
For example, I’ve had multiple clients value “simplicity,” but the way they define it in our co-created brand messaging strategy—and therefore how it manifests in their businesses—is unique.
- Simplicity — We clean up messy finances and streamline complex processes so that business owners can make moves with clarity and understanding.
- Simplicity — Focusing on clear actions that are both simple and significant allows us to make progress toward what’s most important and ignore the rest.
Applying Your Brand Values
Finally, it’s not enough to say what your values are and what they mean—you need to actively apply them in your business. Embody them. Live them out across your brand.
Your marketing is the most obvious place to start. Everything from your website copy to your social content to your workshop topics and beyond.
Your operations—your pricing, your tech stack, your customer experience—is an overlooked and highly impactful place to look next.
And when it comes to values, no value is inherently good or bad. It’s all about how you define that specific value then apply it across your unique brand.
For example, “commitment” might be essential to how you show up, the causes you support, and the way you interact with your clients. But depending on your audience and the vision you have for your business, “experimentation” might be core to who you are as a brand—and in direct opposition with being committed to any one method or idea for too long.
And just know that you’re not “stuck” with any core value forever. You can pivot as you, your business, and your audience evolve. Your values sketch out the roadmap, but re-evaluate often to make sure the map still matches your ultimate destination.
Taking Confident, Meaningful Action
Your brand values are your gut check.
You can filter every decision in your business through your values and your ideal audience. As long as the choice is values-aligned, new opportunities and ideas become an easy yes or a quick no without wasting time, energy, or money.
Lead with your brand values so that you’re remembered for what you stand for and how you make people feel. That’s how you’ll stand out.
Download your free copy of “A Visionary’s Guide To Elevator Pitches” to talk to real people about what you do and why it matters.
Or go one step further and download the “Live Out Your Brand Values” Self-Reflection Workbook. It’s your guide to establish, uniquely define, and apply your brand values so that you can stand up for the things that matter most to you and your customers, and stand out in all the best ways.
About the Author
Ashlee Sang consults conscious and caring business owners so they can grow their impact and their revenue. Through Ashlee Sang Consulting and as host of the Purpose & Progress Podcast, she equips entrepreneurs to take confident, meaningful action in alignment with their values. She believes that business can feel and do good when it's rooted in values and propelled by purpose.
Before doing brand messaging strategy and marketing consulting, she worked with a variety of nonprofit organizations, including a human rights education NGO in Senegal and a local branch of Habitat for Humanity. The common thread has been sharing messages that matter.
Based in Central Illinois, Ashlee has a background in anthropology and a penchant for travel. She’s a fan of one-liners, happy surprises, and taking walks in the sunshine. Learn more at ashleesang.com.