It’s never been more practical to make a living doing something you love, on your own terms, as a freelancer. But the rise of the gig economy also means increased competition; if you want to be successful as a freelancer, you have to go the extra mile to stand out and win clients. Freelancer branding can help you do this!
What is freelancer branding?
Freelancer branding is the process of creating a unique, recognizable identity for your business.
Branding includes your company’s visual identity, like your logo and website design, and the written materials you use to communicate with your target audience. It also encompasses intrinsic qualities like your brand values and your promise to your clients.
Branding is a strategic approach influencing how your customers and prospects feel about your company. It allows consumers to identify your brand among others quickly and gives them a reason to buy from you.
Just think of your favorite bottled water for a quick grasp on branding. They’re all the same thing, right–water in a bottle? But when you get to the cooler section of the convenience store, it only takes you a split second to instantly find and select your preferred choice for hydration. There’s a reason you can instantly tell the difference between Dasani, Fiji, Aquafina, and the rest: branding.
Your freelancer branding should work the same way. When a prospective client sees a message, post, or piece of work from you, you want them to be able to tell it’s yours instantly.
The importance of freelancer branding
You might think of branding as something reserved for bigger companies. But in fact, taking the time to craft a compelling freelancer brand can help you accomplish several important objectives even as a company of one.
Stand out from the competition
Your brand communicates what you do and how you’re different from freelancers who provide similar services.
This is extra important as a freelancer because you don’t have the giant marketing budget or the A-list portfolio of a big corporation to convince new clients to work with you. But, once you’ve made the initial investment to create an attractive brand, it will help you win new business continuously at no additional cost.
All those blogs you’ve been writing, and social media posts you’ve been creating won’t do much good without a strong brand to tie them all together. One of the biggest jobs your branding does is to help customers recognize you, just like the bottled water in the store we mentioned earlier.
Branding ensures that every piece of content you put out–from your marketing materials to your social media posts to your emails–looks the same, so your customers know it’s coming from you right when they see it. This is a crucial element in building trust and landing high-value contracts.
Connect with clients
Professional credentials aside, clients choose freelancers based on the connection they feel to them. Your branding helps you connect with your target customer in an authentic way. It demonstrates how you relate to them and builds their confidence in you.
With a strong brand, prospects feel like they know you, and you know them, which can help you win deals over other freelancers who provide the same service without that personal connection.
Brand confusion–where the customer unknowingly confuses you with another company–is a problem you want to avoid. Branding maintains a consistent look and feels among all of the materials you create so that there’s no question of their source.
Moreover, it ensures that everything speaks to the intended audience meaningfully and works toward the same goal, rather than having different assets competing against one another with conflicting messages.
How to build a unique freelancer brand
Here are the top things to consider when building your freelancer brand.
1. Visual identity
Visual assets like your logo, color scheme, and fonts are the most obvious elements of your brand.
A well-designed logo helps customers identify you and communicates important brand values. Certain colors can be used to invoke different emotions, while different fonts help strike the proper tone.
It’s best to work with a designer specializing in this area to create your brand’s visual identity. This type of professional can help you create a brand style guide, which is a formal document that outlines the visual elements of your brand. Once you have this guide, you can refer back to it and pull from it whenever you create a new piece of content.
As a freelancer, your website is arguably your most important marketing asset. You have complete ownership and control over it, unlike any profiles you might have on freelance job sites (any of those sites could shut down tomorrow, and your profile would be lost). No matter what happens, your website is yours.
Brand it with consistent color, font, and image choices as your brand style guide outlines.
3. Social media & freelance profiles
Your social media accounts and profiles on third-party freelance sites may be limited to those sites’ own specifications, but you can still infuse your freelancer branding into your accounts.
Incorporate elements that are seen on your website, like the same header image and tagline. This way, there’s consistency if a prospective client moves from your social media profile to your website or vice versa.
Instead of just listing your services, add a section of text that communicates your brand values. Why should a client work with you over other freelancers? How are you different? What type of relationship do you have with your clients? These are all important aspects of a freelancer brand that can help you differentiate yourself.
4. Language and tone
When you have a close friend or family member, you know their voice without them having to identify themself. They have a distinct tone, and a way of speaking that’s all their own.
It’s the same with your freelancer brand; you want to speak to prospects and customers in a way that’s distinctly your own.
Is your tone formal or informal? Lighthearted or serious? What about your language–is it technical, or more basic? Do you speak conversationally, or use more professional wording?
You should make these choices based both on your identity as a brand as well as the characteristics of the audience you’re trying to target. So, if you’re looking to reach small business owners in a blue-collar field, you might use an informal tone with basic language peppered with humor. If you want to target tech CEOs, you might use more technical language and keep the tone on the formal side.
5. Brand growth
A common trap that freelancers fall into is making their brand all about themselves. It’s easy to do–you’re the main thing that sets your business apart.
For some freelance businesses, this choice makes sense. However, it should be a strategic choice, and when making it, consider the future you envision for your business.
In the future, you may want to grow beyond a one-person operation. You may want to expand into parallel service areas, cater to additional target markets and hire other employees to take on key aspects of the business. If this happens, it’s neither practical nor effective to have a brand that’s completely built around you as a person.
While your freelancer brand should be authentic to who you are, you also want to build it with the flexibility to grow and pivot in the future if you decide to scale the business beyond yourself.
Examples of great freelancer branding
Daniel Doan may specialize in copywriting, but his branding is down to a science. At the center of his brand is a banana–yep, the fruit–and it’s incorporated into everything from his logo to his color scheme to the language he uses to describe his service (“Ready to make your conversions go bananas?”).
The screenshots below are from his website and LinkedIn profile–see how easy it is to tell they’re from the same person instantly.
Adam Collins is a web developer who specializes in building SaaS products. He incorporates his minimalistic design into all of his marketing materials, from his website to his rate card and project portfolio, tying it together with consistent font and color use.
He uses straightforward language that makes it easy to understand his technical services, simultaneously communicating that working with him would be a straightforward and seamless experience.
Gary Percival is a graphic designer focused on typographic design. His freelancer brand is big, bold, and unapologetic, reflective of his design style itself. In his communications, he uses a subdued tone with polished language that’s perfect for the respected brands he works with, like Adobe and Fortune Magazine.