Build Your Brand
You don’t have to be a big company like Macy’s or Burger King to benefit from having a strong brand identity. Think about people like Russell Brand, Sylvester Stallone, and Tucker Carlson. Love ’em or hate ’em, these individuals have crystal-clear brand identities that you visualized the second I mentioned their names.
Having a unique freelancing brand makes you:
- Seem professional and your business well-thought-out.
- Look larger and more impressive than freelancers without one.
- Become more recognizable, trustworthy, and relatable.
In this post, we’re going to examine the different elements to piece together as you build your brand.
What's Covered in This Post
What You Need to Build Your Brand
Your brand identity is a compilation of visual, textual, and psychological elements. The main thing to remember when creating or choosing each is to be consistent. Your brand elements will only be able to communicate what you want them to if they’re all saying the same thing.
Let’s go through them one at a time:
Leads and prospects will inevitably be curious about you and how you arrived at what you do. You’ll have plenty of room on your website to go into detail about this. For now, see if you can come up with a 30-second pitch.
Think about it like an audition, interview, or even a date. Can you quickly summarize the relevant high points?
“I lost my restaurant job in the middle of 2020. Rather than try to find another one in the middle of the pandemic and recession, I decided to put my love of driving to good use and become a delivery driver. Restaurants needed the help as did customers stuck at home. I enjoyed it so much that I decided to create my own fleet of drivers (while continuing to drive myself) to help safe-proof restaurants from any future restrictions that would limit how they do business.”
Mission, Vision, and Values
This is all about figuring out what drives you and then putting it into words.
Your mission statement is a sentence or two that describes why you do what you do and what the overarching goal is.
“I started doing pet photography because I’m passionate about pet adoption. My goal is to commemorate those special moments that pet parents have with their furbabies.”
Your vision statement summarizes your aspirations. This is different from goal setting in that this statement is public-facing.
“I build affordable websites for small business owners so they have a way of getting their solution out to a broader audience. This will enable more solutions (and better ones at that) to enter the market, so it’s not so dominated by greedy enterprises.”
Your values are the beliefs and principles that guide your every decision and action as a freelancer.
For example, your list of values might include:
- Honest communication
- Affordability and convenience
- Unmatched customer service
Whichever ones you use, just make sure they don’t feel forced. They should be as natural and honest to who you are as a person and freelancer as possible.
Personality & Voice
Take stock of your most identifiable personality and voice traits. This will help you identify the style to use in your branding.
Just be mindful that your professional style will likely need to be a toned down version of the true you.
For instance, I used to partner with a designer who would show up to our Zoom calls in her sweaty yoga gear and who would curse like a sailor as we hashed out the details of our upcoming jobs. Her client-facing persona had similar undertones. She took a no-nonsense approach to web design as well as project management. And while she was professionally dressed for client meetings and marketing videos, there was always an edgy, tomboyish edge to her style.
Pick out qualities that make you a unique and memorable person. Then, find a way to infuse them into your freelancing personality and voice in a client-friendly manner.
While it’s perfectly acceptable to do business using your own name, you want to choose a name now that you can use even as your business evolves. Having to change your brand name down the line will be costly — both in terms of money and time.
If you’re planning on becoming a solo freelancer and staying one, you could just run your business under your name. That’s what I do.
If you plan to hire people and run an agency in the future, it’s not a bad idea to operate under a brand name that has nothing to do with you.
Something to consider is whether or not you want to be the face of your brand. There are plenty of entrepreneurs — Gary Vaynerchuk, Marie Forleo, and Tim Ferriss, to name a few — whose brands are named after themselves. Their businesses are certainly not one-person operations. Even so, their name and image is their brand, which is why it’s named after them.
If that’s what you’re aiming for, keep that in mind.
Your logo should be attractive, professional, and relevant to what you do. That doesn’t mean you need to put a camera icon in it to let people know that you’re a photographer. However, using colors, a font, and layout that fits your style is important.
Both of these platforms have logo templates for different kinds of freelancing businesses. Use them as inspiration or as a jumping off point for your custom design.
Need Some More Help?
Want more guidance and tips on logo design? Prop and Plus membership includes access to a logo and branding video course. The Freelancer Toolkit includes a written ebook companion to the course, so you don’t need a monthly membership to get access to a step-by-step walkthrough.
Colors, Fonts, and Imagery
Once you’ve nailed down your brand style, it’ll be much easier to zero in on the visual elements that align with it. In terms of how to go about selecting each, here are some tips:
Color has a lot of meaning to people — consciously and subconsciously. For instance, choosing black and gold for your Pittsburgh-based business might elicit feelings of local pride.
On a psychological level, colors convey different meanings and emotions. For example, green can represent wealth or growth. Then again, it can also signify envy or greed in the wrong context.
Spend some time using Canva’s Color Meanings to explore the deeper significance and associations of the colors you want to use. Then, choose 1 or 2 colors to use in your logo and 2 or 3 more to use across your website. Canva’s Color Palette Generator and Color Wheel will help you do this.
A well-chosen font will be:
- Legible — This means that each character is unique and easy to recognize. Look at the way the lowercase “l”, uppercase”I”, and number “1” present. If they’re all different, then you have a legible font.
- Readable — This means that every user can read the words without having to adjust the size or color of the text.
- On brand — The style needs to convey your brand personality and voice. Just be careful about using experimental or cursive fonts, no matter how stylish and on brand they feel.
Choose no more than 2 or 3 fonts for your website and 1 for your logo.
Font pairing can be tricky as can finding fonts that are compatible with every browser and device. This is important because unsupported fonts won’t render for some of your users and they’ll be stuck looking at ugly system default fonts instead.
You don’t need to go selecting imagery for your site or marketing channels right now. All you have to do is choose the style of imagery you’re going to use.
Photos and videos tend to be the most popular — probably because there are tons of resources to find them. Pexels. Unsplash. Shutterstock. Photos also give you a chance to show off real people that are reflective of the work you do and the clients you serve, so they’ll be useful if you’re trying to appeal to people’s emotions and want to create genuine relationships with your clients or audience.
Illustrations are another option. That’s what I use since I tend to deal with technical as well as abstract concepts. Illustrations also stand out more since a lot of people don’t know how to use them or where to get them from. If you’re curious how I create mine, Canva Pro is the tool I use to create all of my graphics, logos, and branded elements.
You could always choose not to use any imagery. If you’re going to go this route, though, you’ll need to spend more time designing your text. Large, bold fonts. Asymmetrical layouts. Striking color palettes. And so on.
Your brand identity should put prospective clients’ minds at ease. With one look, they should instantly feel like they know you, trust you, and and want to hire you.
By the way, this is just the first step in building your brand. Before moving onto the next step, make sure you’ve fleshed out your brand fully. This will lay the foundation for the website you’re about to build.