Part of running a successful freelance business is knowing how to market your freelance services to the people and organizations who are most likely to need them. You can do that by learning how to brand yourself as a freelancer.
You can build your brand in a bunch of different ways, so in this post, I want to talk to you about nine effective ways you can establish, grow, and boost your brand to help you win more clients.
What Is a Brand?
Techpreneur Hajj Flemings says your brand is how people experience you. Your brand is the reputation that precedes you as you go, and like it or not, everyone will create a reputation for themselves whether or not they are actively working to do so.
That said, building your brand as a freelancer can offer you a slew of legit benefits such as:
- Simplifying the hiring process for clients
- Boosting your visibility so you seem more credible
- Helping people to understand what they can hire you to do
- Separating you from the thousands of other freelancers who provide the same kind of service
- Protecting you from having to reduce your rates to get the business
If you produce anything like articles or graphics, you’ll want to create a portfolio of your work. This doesn’t mean you have to build some fancy thing on your site, although many website templates today have built-in portfolio features.
For writers… When I first started out, I kept my free portfolio on Contently.com and updated my account regularly when I would publish an article to a new publication. That way, if prospects were to look at my Contently feed, they would see a ton of content on different topics that was published to different publications – Advisory HQ, Vibe Magazine, Profit Blog, The Shelf, my own blog, Upscale Magazine…
But Contently isn’t the only platform to use. Journo Portfolio and Muck Rack are also popular portfolio platforms for writers.
For designers… If you’re more of a visual producer, you can use a platform like Behance or Portfoliobox to house your creative assets.
A great place to start for photographers and illustrators is to submit content to free stock photo sites like Pexels, Pixabay, Unsplash, and Freepik. I use these kinds of sites A LOT, and you know what I notice, I’m often drawn to pictures that end up being by the same photographer or illustrator, and eventually, I’ll just go to the photographer’s page to look for cool stuff.
#2 Functional Resume
Next to a solid portfolio, the functional resume is the contract worker’s best friend. This is the resume of the Digital Age; it levels the playing field between those with book knowledge (degrees) and those with experience.
The functional resume spells out, in no uncertain terms, your professional value. It inventories the business challenges you have solved in the past and lays the blueprint for what your clients can expect from you. The functional resume is an important piece of branding collateral for freelancers, especially those who are just making a dent in the market.
#3 Capabilities Deck (also known as the Corporate Deck)
Your capabilities deck is the next step up. Also called a capabilities deck or a cap deck, this piece of multimedia content is essentially your resume translated into a targeted and engaging slideshow presentation (delivered as a PDF, of course).
Early in my career as a professional writer, I was at a Starbucks outside Atlanta when I met Kevin Jordan, founder of STEMPcp.com. His capabilities deck was the first I’d ever seen. And it effectively blew my mind.
A year or two later, I had the pleasure of working with Seek Research out of Cincinnati. I liked Seek, but even after several assignments with them, I could not put my finger on exactly what it was they actually did in that company. I knew it was something cool, but I couldn’t articulate what. Then I saw their cap deck and man, I totally understood what they did. Not only did I understand what they did, I understand how and why they did it.
Your cap deck serves the same purpose as your resume: It demonstrates your value, chronicles your past successes and insinuates a promise for what you will deliver. But the cap deck goes a step further because it wholly reflects your brand.
Seek’s cap deck was image-heavy and almost all the pictures were of people. The images were unbelievably powerful. There was nothing run-of-the-mill about the images they chose, the text they use, the tone they applied to represent the company. Their deck was… almost mystical, wise-old-grandfatherish. Totally on-brand for a company like Seek that helps global brands to see their customers as people and to see them differently.
While I would love to use those sorts of awe-inspiring images to represent my thing, it would be off-brand for me, and probably off-putting for my target clients. So I just stick to dry humor, hoping it lands someplace soft.Lets-Write-a-Book-by-Sorilbran
Take a look at this variation ?? on a deck that I created. It’s partially a deck, partially an ebook, and I’ve already lost potential clients with it… but then, if they don’t like the deck, they probably won’t like working with me.
Your bio is the narrative form of your resume. While your resume is all facts and figures, your bio provides readers with a glimpse at the hero behind all the success.
I like to say your bio should make you look like the most interesting person in the world WITHOUT lying. Don’t fret. There’s a way to tell any story to make it interesting. But if your bio doesn’t make you look like Muhammad Ali or Shirley Chisholm, you worded it wrong.
#5 Company Profile
A company profile tells the reader about your business – how it started, your products and services, what you do, who your clients are. Think of a company profile as a bio or resume for your freelance business. It can be more narrative in its presentation or it can be laid out more like a resume for your business.
Either way you choose to construct it, your company profile is a mixture of the traditional bullet-point-punctuated resume and a narrative bio, only it’s strictly about your freelance business – its client roster, its performance, its market, and its assets (which includes the key personnel).
You can use your resume to create the company profile if you are a solopreneur, but at some point, your company will probably take on a life of its own, separate from you.
At The Shelf, we have an entire document dedicated to short and long company profiles that we use across the web or different things.
Our short profile basically tells who we are, what we do, and the value we bring.
While this mid-length profile (which we created to specifically target the readers of the publication where this profile will live) goes more into how we do what we do and who some of our clients have been.
#6 About Page
A crucial part of any website is the About page. It tells your readers what you do and what you are about and most importantly, tells them why they should listen to you and if they can trust you to deliver. Like your biography, your About page should be good at one thing: Making you look AWESOME on paper.
#7 Media Kit
When you put the above elements together, you build what’s called a media kit. The media kit is essentially reverse engineering, or deconstructing, your resume and taking the time to expound on the most significant points. You can tailor your media kit to focus on your freelance business when you have enough jobs under your belt to make the media kit compelling. Or you can build a media kit that’s a combination of information about your freelance service and about you as the freelancer.Press-Kit-Example
#8 Press Release
Okay. You may be thinking, “Girl, please… a press release?” But making announcements about your successes, new contracts, new partnerships, new product offerings, new key personnel and other important changes to your business helps to legitimize your business in the eyes of your customers.
Now, I would not tell you to tell all your business because sheisty individuals will try to swoop in and underbid you. But you can make general announcements like, “Katie Johnson Media Signs Six-Month Content Production Deal with Cleveland-Based Sports Team.”
That sounds IMPORTANT, right? Yeah, so… do something like that for your important announcements and publish them to LinkedIn. You’ll grow your follower base and give yourself instant credibility.
HubSpot published a great article on writing press releases, and you can download a couple of free templates to get you started.
#9 Online / Social Profiles
The final marketing tools you need to pretty much own for your freelance business are your social media handles for LinkedIn, Instagram, YouTube, Twitter, TikTok, and Pinterest.
Whether we’re dealing with social media profiles, Facebook business pages, or even inputting information into online business directories, you can expect every last detail that’s on your resume to find its way into one or more of your online profiles.
No two-page resume can contain the details I have listed on my LinkedIn profile. LinkedIn knows more about me than I even know about myself. In fact, I get recommendations from well-meaning strangers for skills I don’t even possess. But when you can build someone up in a single click, I suppose people are generous. And it seems every time I log into my LinkedIn account, it’s asking me to provide more information, more details, more insight.
I’ve said before (in this article on free ways to market your freelance business, actually) that grabbing up your social media handles is always a smart move for a few reasons. You don’t want someone else to get them first then try to sell them back to you, right? Or for someone else to get them and use them for their own thing.
But more than that, be findable on social media is one easy way to provide potential clients with transparency into your freelance business. If they find you on social media and you seem productive and trustworthy, they’re far more likely to be willing to give you money.
You’re Ready to Brand Your Freelance Business!
Because marketing is such an important aspect of running a freelance business, it’s important that you load yourself up with the marketing tools you’ll need to be able to build your freelance and grow your clientele.
Use these nine marketing materials to brand yourself digitally, and you can update them as you need to to make your big, bad business look better and better.