Talent [R]evolution

Building your personal brand to generate quality leads

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The phrase ‘personal brand’ has been much bandied about over the years. From social media influencers to politicians, it seems almost everybody is crafting their image and controlling how others perceive them. As a freelancer, one of the most unsung but most important aspects of finding new business is how you market and advertise your services. Building your personal brand is a craft in and of itself and for many, requires a change of thinking. 

After all, every freelancer knows how good they are at what they do but sometimes they need that extra spark to help them stand out from the crowd. Selling yourself and your work isn’t such an easy feat, though. There is an art to it that is just as much about changing your state of mind as it is about constructing the best website

For this article, we spoke to Melisa Liberman, a private coach for independent consultants and business owners who has some tips on how to position yourself in the market and sell yourself in a way that brings out your best and makes you stand out.

What is a personal brand? 

In short, it’s who you are. Whether it’s you as a freelancer who’s just starting, someone who has had regular clients for years or the beginning of a small business, everybody needs to think about how they are perceived by clients and others in the industry. Your personal brand is, among other aspects, the way you talk about yourself to potential clients, the price point at which you sell them and the way you communicate on LinkedIn or other sites. 

When you are thinking about building your personal brand you need to consider how you are known in the market for what you do. It encompasses the way you communicate your personality and the unique features that you offer in an often crowded market. One useful way to begin building your personal brand is to start asking yourself the following questions:

  • How specific are you at what you do?
  • How well does the market know you for what you do?
  • Can you openly share your processes to differentiate yourself from the competition?
  • Why do you do what you do? 
  • What is your background and your story? How does that inform your work?
  • What makes you unique?

This point about uniqueness is one of the most essential elements of your personal brand. While it often may seem that many others are offering similar services, there will always be a unique angle that you provide for your personal branding to work that you should hone in and refine.

How to build a personal brand in 2024?

This coming year, we will begin to see greater personalisation being a hot trend. For example, we’ll no longer only see the words “Project Manager” sitting idly next to names on a LinkedIn profile, but “Project Manager specialising in green energy in the Middle East”. Finding what you do that sets you apart from the pack will be the name of the game over the next few months. Of course, there are many Project Managers out there and realising your specific skills and how they make you unique can be a difficult process.

You may wonder why this is important. After all, as freelancers, we have often been taught to say yes to everything because we don’t know when the next job will come in. However, with the skills shortage representative of 85 million people by 2030, now is the time to make yourself available in the right place at the right time. By leaving our titles open we think it leaves us open to more work. Unfortunately, the contrary is true.

When you are building your personal brand, start thinking about what it is that truly makes you tick. Was there a recent project you worked on where you were just waiting to get to the end, and another that felt like you were gliding along with all the pieces fitting into place? Try focusing on the type of work that makes you feel like you have something real to contribute, where your voice, opinion and expertise matter. This is the specialised work within your field that you need to start sharpening and selling yourself on. 

Why does your personal brand matter?

It’s all about getting more and better work. The first thing it will give you is increased long-term stability. Your personal brand aims to have clients seek you out for who you are, and for you to receive referrals from a specific market. When a job with specific outcomes needs completing, the aim is for those stakeholders to say “I know someone who can do this! Let me connect you with them.” 

With your personal brand being more specific, you will be able to generate more inbound leads and therefore more revenue. With clear messaging, potential clients are more able to find you and get in contact about potential projects. A clear personal brand means people understand you, what makes you tick and what you do. When they can see the value you bring to a project and the organisation, you become much more attractive. 

Becoming known for particular services doesn’t mean you have to refuse to do other things outside of your published remit, but it affords you the luxury of being able to choose what services you offer.

Furthermore, being able to specialise your particular skills means you can command a higher rate. If you end up being known for having special skills, you are narrowing your field of competition. The laws of supply and demand dictate that you are then in higher demand with a lower supply, and can charge clients accordingly. This creates more stability as you can have a clear line of sight with future projects waiting to be completed. Being successful at this affords you the freedom to disconnect time from money. You can begin to charge on a project basis instead of by the hour.

Beyond the potential for a higher income and increased stability, having a clear and successful personal brand can pave the way for more work fulfilment. By asking yourself from the outset what it is that makes you do what you do, and what makes you unique, you can be more selective about the type of client you want to work with and the work you do. 

Whether it’s as a project manager, a human resources consultant, or a data expert, having clearly communicated specialisations and skills makes you more easily findable than one without. A generic expert on these topics will be much harder to find, lost in a sea of search terms and formulaic profiles.

personal branding for freelancers
Finding what you do that sets you apart from the pack will make the difference in building your personal brand.

What should your personal brand include?

Personal branding for freelancers should consist of 12 different components to achieve these aims. 

  1. The first and most important part of building your personal brand is recognising your target market. Who is it? Look at the capabilities you have and how transferable they are across multiple markets. Being specialised and specific in your skills but allowing them to be transferable means you can be both known for what you do and more widely marketable at the same time. 

However, some freelancers find that the market for what they are particularly good at doesn’t exist. In this case, you can attempt to create that need by convincing your clientele of the necessity of your services. After mastering this, this is when you can be more selective about potential clients and projects. You can ask yourself what is the kind of work that you want to be centred around? What kind of work is more valuable to you? Which type of client do you work best with? 

  1. The second part of your branding anatomy that you need to build on is your market positioning. Understanding your market means recognising that your positioning is very different if you are talking to an energy company in Texas versus a financial services organisation in London. The level of formality and the modes of communication will be very different, and you should work in the kind of environment that suits your personal brand. Being selective with the kinds of personalities you want to work with feeds into an experience-driven personal brand that stands the test of time.
  1. Service offerings: What are your services? Are you a fractional CEO? Are you a strategic advisor to companies in manufacturing? Do you work from a Sigma perspective? Agile methodology? Adding one or two service offerings is the initial key to opening that conversation about your personal brand, without the client realising you’re doing it.
  1. Go-to-market plan: How do you get yourself out there, tangibly? Next up should be speaking to people at 1:1 networking events. When speaking, you should always have the idea of your personal brand at the forefront of your thoughts and conversation. Events where ideal clients are likely to be are particularly recommended, as you can be more focused on the right people at the right time. 
  1. Marketing collateral: A website, LinkedIn, or one-pager are the first places that potential clients and collaborators will look for more information about you. Ensure that you’ve built solid material that reflects you and the value of your work accurately.
  1. Value-proposition leveraging: What sets you apart from others who do something similar? What is your background and how does it make you unique?
  1. Thought leadership: Writing think-pieces and articles, publishing, recording podcasts and doing public speaking all help infuse your personal brand into your expertise and vice versa. 
  1. Pricing: Depending on your market, your pricing might change. Financial institutions will command different budgets for green energy initiatives, for example. Be sure to set your pricing at a level that makes potential clients look at you and see you as an expert instead of the lowest price option.
  1. Results: How do the project outcomes support the personal brand and lend it authority and credibility? 
  1. Networking: How can meetings with others reflect your personal brand? When introducing yourself, think about how you are a reflection of your value. Think about whether you are making what you do very clear to your market and avoid confusion. 
  1. Reputation building: When building your personal brand, how much can you manage the way you’re spoken about? Put the right words in people’s mouths by communicating your brand positively and clearly. Soon, you’ll see past clients using the same language to describe you to others in their network. 
  1. Sales Process: Establish a clear process for making and keeping track of sales. The process should be aligned with your brand and your unique way of doing things, but it should also be well-organised and allow you to keep track of it.

Common obstacles that prevent impactful personal branding

One of the most common obstacles to clear and effective personal branding is telling yourself you can do anything. It’s easy to fall into the trap of taking any work and applying for everything. This is a skill taught in the corporate landscape. However, when building your personal brand the goal is to mould a reputation as an expert in a particular skill so companies have your name at the forefront of their mind. 

Another common obstacle to impactful personal branding is telling yourself that you’re not that unique. This only leads us to undervalue what comes naturally to us, the skills that we’ve spent months and years honing and crafting. Discounting and overlooking your expertise leads customers to think that way of you and pay you less than you’re worth. Be clear about the quantifiable outcomes of your work and why it comes naturally to you. Remind yourself of why you do what you do and your successes. 

A third obstacle that we regularly see among freelancers is an unaligned self-identity. Think about where you fit in relation to the organisation you want to do business with. Essentially, you’re a business owner. Think of yourself as equal to the owner of the business you’re partnering with. You’re providing a service to them as an equal, not as a subordinate.

Finally, don’t fall into the trap of thinking that building your personal brand needs to happen before you can get to work. Your personal brand is a constant, evolving process that is in-built into the routines you form as a freelancer. If you define, refine and test as you go along, the results will come to form what you make as your brand. 

Every six months, look at where it can be strengthened and flag things that don’t make sense. You can constantly build your reputation as you work, make connections and build a client base. Your personal brand should be in the essence of your language as you communicate with clients. Therefore, it does not make sense to expect it to be fully built before you have had the chance to make contact and build your work and thus your identity.

Building your personal brand is an ongoing project

The importance of personal branding lies in how it is communicated to others. Ultimately, this is the way you present yourself to the world and is what inspires confidence in your clients. You want them to know that you are capable of achieving what you offer, which is why a well-crafted and managed personal brand can take a long time to get right. 

A stand-out personal brand shows a genuine identity without any forced language or ideals. Showing the true face of your work, why you do it and what makes you tick are all possible, because these are all a big part of what makes you, you.

Connect with Melisa to excel as a consultant, and make your personal brand shine in the professional world here.

Melisa is a former software executive who helped build a software company from start-up to exit and mid-market. For the past 11 years, Melisa has been an independent consultant and business coach for consultants. As a business coach, Melisa helps independent consultants grow their businesses, so they can increase their income and impact without compromising their flexibility. Melisa is the host of the Grow Your Independent Consulting Business podcast.

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