What are you doing to build your personal brand? Because if the phrase “perception is reality” was true 30 years ago then the equivalent today would surely be “Google is reality.”
The fact is, you are constantly being googled. Potential clients, competitors, employees, contractors — they’re all googling you. And what they are finding is your online CV. But is it the version you want them to see?
As a freelancer, it’s on you to determine how you want people to perceive you, and the best way to do that is with personal branding. Yes, the quality of your work matters, but you also need to gain name recognition. Just like any business, freelancers must rely on personal branding to secure a steady flow of gigs and to command higher rates.
As Gary Vaynerchuk, entrepreneur, New York Times best-selling author, speaker and internet personality puts it:
“It’s important to build a personal brand because it’s the only thing you’re going to have. Your reputation online, and in the new business world is pretty much the game, so you’ve got to be a good person. You can’t hide anything, and more importantly, you’ve got to be out there at some level.”
Another reason for managing your personal brand is that once you commit to putting the best version of yourself out there, you may well find that your ideal clients will start finding you.
Here are five data-backed reasons why freelancers should take the time to build a strong personal brand:
1. There’s a lot of competition, and your personal brand can help you stand out
With more freelancers than ever before, no matter what your niche, you’re going to be up against some stiff competition. And not just locally or nationally, but freelancers based in other countries who will undercut your rates.
The reality is, there’s nothing you can do about the number of competitors in your niche. What you can do, however, is to develop your personal brand to stand out above that competition.
Here’s the thing: Whether you’re a web designer, writer, developer, or have some other special skill, there’s a lot of pent-up demand from overwhelmed business owners who don’t have the time or talent to create a website, write a blog post, code a plugin. In other words, there’s more than enough work to go around.
So rather than waste time worrying about your competitors, think about what sets you apart when developing your personal brand.
2. Freelancers are often well-paid
There are a lot of freelancers out there earning top dollar for their work. How do they do it?
As Amanda Abella from Due Inc. writes, our mindset when it comes to money has a lot to do with how much money and opportunity we are able to attract into our lives, i.e. if you don’t believe there’s money out there for you then that’s how you’re going to act. The end result is you’ll be broke.
The reality is, there is more than enough money and clients to go around. No one person (or even a few people) could possibly handle all the work that needs to be done in your niche. Developing your personal brand can help you build your reputation over time so you can attract your ideal client and, in turn, charge higher rates.
3. Many freelance jobs aren’t advertised
Just the other day, a client who’s looking to hire a project manager asked me if I could recommend anyone. Two days prior, the CEO of a fin-tech company who I sit next to at a coworking space told me about how she’d hired her new designer after “stalking them” on Instagram — and after unsuccessfully advertising the job.
Moral of the story? Many jobs aren’t advertised, and often the best freelance gigs are found through word of mouth.
To tap into this hidden job market, you need to network and put your work out there. When you craft a personal brand that puts your work front and center, and you take the time to get to know people in your niche, you’ll make it easier for potential clients to find you.
4. First impressions count — and a personal brand can help
First impressions count, and when you work online this means controlling (as much as possible) what people find when they google you.
According to a Harris Interactive survey on behalf of BrandYourself.com, 75% of American adults have googled themselves, and half said they didn’t like the results . Thirty percent said nothing of relevance came up.
If you don’t like the way you look online, there’s plenty you can do about it. You have seconds to make a good first impression with your personal brand. The pressure’s on. Where do you start?
5. A powerful personal branding story can help you connect
What drives you to pursue the business you’re in? How did you enter your niche and what motivated you to start freelancing? What are you passionate about?
People want to do business with people they relate to, who they respect, and who they believe share their values. So weave your values into your personal story. Then, share that story on your website, in your blog posts, in your social media posts, and use the content you create to reflect the things that are important to you.
People love a good story. Stories are the reason we stay awake late to finish a book and binge-watch TV shows on Netflix. Stories engage us like little else.
When you tie your personal branding together with a compelling personal narrative, your story can cut through the clutter, get your message across, and help separate you from your competitors.
Ready to start building your personal brand?
In closing, build your personal brand with focus and passion. Personal branding is the single most powerful thing you can do for your freelancing career. Building your brand from the ground up is more significant than an MBA, more powerful than a millionaire father, and it’s more important than getting a celebrity endorsement.
What have you done for your personal brand today? Share your personal branding journey in the comments below!
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