Personal branding is essential for a freelancer. If you want to succeed, these freelancer personal branding tips can help.
Last month, I moderated a panel devoted to freelancer personal branding. The venue was the FinCon Expo, where I've presented before. The panel was aimed more at what editors are looking for in freelancers, and I think we were able to provide useful information. At least one person found our panel enlightening — and used it to his direct benefit, although his application was more about pitching than personal branding.
Now that I've had a little more time to process the panel and think about personal branding a little more, I thought I'd share some of the freelancer personal branding tips that have served me well in the last 10 years:
1. Know What You Offer
Your first step is to figure out what you offer. As a personal brand, you need to know who you are and what you do. I've been able to distinguish myself from the hundreds of “freelance journalists” and “freelance writers” out there by focusing on the financial niche.
Now that I'm doing more in-person local networking in my community, I'm making it a point to be clear that I provide online services related to money when I introduce myself.
Being able to distill the essence of what you offer into a short elevator pitch is vital when building your personal brand. Take the time to think about what you offer, how it's different from what everyone around you offers and the way you express it.
2. Professional Image
One of the freelancer personal branding tips offered during the panel was that it helps to have a professional headshot. I have professional headshots taken every couple of years in order to keep my information up-to-date, but also to make sure that I project the image of a competent professional.
Not only do I have someone take professional images, but I also pay for someone to do my hair and my makeup. It's important for me to ensure that I look the part of a professional. As a freelancer, it's important that you do your best to show your professionalism. That picture of you in a wedding party with others cropped out just doesn't cut it.
3. Use Proper Grammar in All Your Communications
Don't relax your standards when you send emails, or when you post to social media. While I sometimes shorten words on Twitter (damn that 140-character limit), I try to maintain proper grammar, whether I'm composing an email or sharing a Facebook post.
Proper grammar is especially important when sending emails to potential clients. I try to present myself as a professional in all my interactions. This includes talking on the phone. When I'm meeting with a client, whether it's in-person or over Skype, I pay attention to my grammar and usage. Even my chat messages include proper spelling and punctuation.
As a freelance writer, you want to ensure that your potential clients can see your ability no matter the medium.
4. Consistent Profiles
Another of the freelancer personal branding tips we focused on at the panel was the importance of consistency in your online profiles. I try to use the same avatar (or similar pictures) for my professional profiles. While I sometimes change it up for my personal social media, I do try to project a consistent image. I send the same headshot to all of the places I write so it's easy to identify me online.
I also aim for consistency in my descriptions of myself. I'm always tweaking my bio, but I try to use similar keywords, such as “freelance financial journalist,” “financial writer,” “specialty topics include …” and other descriptions that make it clear that I write about money and that my specialities include investing, financial planning and home business, and I'm well-versed in topics including homeownership, insurance and credit.
Don't forget to let your personality show in a consistent manner as well. You want to be the same basic person on LinkedIn as you are on Twitter and on your blog. While there are times that you need to show different sides of yourself, it's important to be generally consistent overall so that your personal brand is recognizable — and you appear trustworthy.
There are plenty of other ways to build your personal brand as a freelancer, including offline networking and focusing on keywords. What are your favorite freelancer personal branding tips?