10 Steps to Creating Your Freelance Brand Personality
Remember those bad old days in the job world? When you had to check your personality at the door so you could be a good corporate droid?
Now that you've been freed from that jail, you're more than welcome to bring your personality to work as a freelancer. This article will show you how to capitalize on your uniqueness and develop your individual brand personality.
Along the way, you'll meet a photographer who's developed an international reputation for documenting the decay of a major American city, an award-winning logo designer who has added "clown" to his job description, and a radio deejay who is required to comply with station rules concerning self-promotion.
For many freelancers, developing your freelance brand identity is about creating brand you and injecting personality branding into your freelancer image.
Step 1: Decide what part of your personality you wish to showcase in your brand.
We freelancers are fortunate in that we're not one-dimensional people. We're artists, writers, musicians, gardeners, and parents. All at the same time.
Infusing your freelance identity with your unique personality makes for a sticky brand.
Choosing among all of our interests can pose a delightful challenge. Should we focus on the gardening? And talk about how we plant creative seeds that turn into wonderful writing projects for our clients? Or do we really go for the gusto and write songs about the artwork that we create for clients in the baby and child care industry?
Infusing your freelance identity with your unique personality makes for a sticky brand. Take a look at the various interests you have, as well as your personal characteristics. Then fuse a passionate part of your personality with your freelance brand. This makes for an enduring freelance identity and gives you ample ammunition to position yourself uniquely among your competitors.
Step 2: Make your brand personality memorable.
From Portland, Oregon, here comes Jeff Fisher, with his train whistle tooting loudly. He's the Engineer of Creative Identity at his one-man studio, Jeff Fisher LogoMotives. And, yes, his studio logo features a stylized locomotive.
As the studio name indicates, Jeff Fisher is a logo designer. The winner of more than 600 design awards, Fisher specializes in creating corporate identity systems and branding for organizations, businesses and products.
As a long-time user of the same personal brand, he has some unique insights. So, take it away, Jeff:
[Fifteen] years into using the Jeff Fisher LogoMotives identity, the design has aged well and is still in use. The world-wide exposure of the logo design make it an instant identifier of who I am and what I do. Many potential clients coming my way have told me that my own logo is the reason the have sought me out for their design projects.
With the logo and name has come many years of train-related marketing and promotion elements. I’ve been using my 'Toot! Toot!' press releases in 'tooting my own horn' as long as my identity has been in use. In many of my marketing efforts there have been railroad references to 'tracks,' 'staying on track,' 'tooting' and more.
Social media efforts on Facebook, Twitter and elsewhere have caused me to somewhat neglect my long-running blog, bLog-oMotives. In the next few months I want to give it an infusion of entries. I am also working on a book documenting my 35 years of logo designs.
What does Jeff Fisher do in his spare time? He clowns around. Literally. And it involves personal branding. Here he is again:
A secondary marketing effort for Jeff Fisher LogoMotives came into play in 2009, when I went to clown school to become a member of the Portland Rose Festival Character Clown Corps. I purposely designed and developed my clown persona as Toots Caboose, a train engineer clown, to somewhat subliminally promote my business while I am clowning around.
So, there you have it. A rootin' tootin' logo designer.
Step 3: Are you going to be "in character" some of the time? Or all of the time?
You've probably known people who are deeply introverted when they're out of the public eye. The late American television actor Johnny Carson was a notable example. He hosted the top-rated "Tonight Show" for 30 years, but his on-camera gregariousness was all an act.
Same goes for American President Barack Obama. You've probably seen pictures of him smiling and shaking hands with crowds of people. It's not something that he does easily or naturally.
If you're looking for the ultimate glad-handler President, that would be Bill Clinton. Media accounts note that Clinton still misses the heavy public contact that he enjoyed during his White House years.
In keeping with our gregarious theme, let's meet freelance artist and designer Ellie Leacock. Here she is in her home office, and, for all you fashionistas, that's a vintage Alfred Shaheen dress.
Leacock hails from Algonac, a small town located north of Detroit, Michigan. After studying at Eastern Michigan University and working in various cities in Michigan and in Los Angeles, she made her way to Tucson, Arizona.
Leacock makes no secret of her love for vintage fashions and home décor. She has built her entire business around the retro look and cheerfully proclaims, "It's what I am!"
For Ellie Leacock, the freelance branding choice is simple: It's all retro – all the time! Doesn't matter if it's on her ArtStuff Graphic Design website, her Behance Network profile, or her Ellie Mayhem's vintage clothing and housewares store on Etsy. Ellie's freelance brand personality is inseparable from her individual branding through her passion for vintage design.
Step 4: If you're going to play a part, what props will you use?
Sharing your freelancing brand may be as simple as creating a cool logo, putting it on your business cards and website, and sharing it with the world.
For the aforementioned Ellie Leacock, that just isn't going far enough. She lives in a retro house. Wears retro clothes. Does retro design.
Her fellow Michigan native, Kevin Bauman, doesn't take things quite so far. But he has earned international recognition for his personal photographic project, “100 Abandoned Houses.”
Bauman's photos show urban decay in his hometown, Detroit. He began photographing the city's Brush Park neighborhood, which is near Wayne State University, in the mid-1990s. Many of the area's solidly built brick mansions are now uninhabited and crumbling. During his explorations of what was formerly one of Detroit's most affluent areas, Bauman encountered wild dogs, abandoned houses filled with garbage, and toilets piled 20 feet high.
Bauman is one of the pioneers of a photographic style that has become known as ruin porn. But, unlike other photographers who have published books documenting the decline of a once-great American city, the 100 Abandoned Houses guy makes his living elsewhere.
Step 5: What benefit does your personal brand offer to your clients?
Ah, yes. Those people. The ones who keep us in business.
Elena Acoba is one of those quietly dependable people who simply gets things done. As a freelancer, she invites others to call her "a content provider, copywriter, business communicator, freelancer or a writer and editor."
Acoba admits to being a bit uncomfortable with corporate implications of the word “brand.” She prefers to use another word, “reputation.”
Acoba admits to being a bit uncomfortable with corporate implications of the word "brand." She prefers to use another word, "reputation." She considers her personality and personal method of working to be key parts of her reputation.
On a writing project, Acoba puts the client's needs first. She's not writing for her own gratification. And she's a stickler for accuracy – to the point of verifying the correctness of all information. It's an approach that has earned her a global clientele.
Step 6: Seek kindred spirits.
When she lived in southern Arizona, Lynn Perez-Hewitt was known as a well-connected networking champion. So, it's no surprise that our sixth step comes from her.
Perez-Hewitt finds her kindred spirits in professional organizations and through volunteer work. When I spoke with her, she was in the process of moving to Colorado with her husband. She'd already joined the Rotary Club in their new city.
Lynn Perez-Hewitt's best tip? "Know yourself. And share that self."
Step 7: Watch how others react to your brand personality.
Is your branding personality endearing? Or is it turning people off? Does it feel natural to you? Or do you feel like a fake? If that's how you feel, others will sense that something is off.
Which naturally leads to our next step...
Step 8: Evaluate and adjust.
You might find that you're as fortunate as Jeff Fisher, in that your brand personality is one for the ages, and you can just keep right on using it. Or, like Ellie Leacock, you may find that what is old becomes new again.
Be prepared to make changes.
However, trends come and go. And, over time, people change. The brand personality you had two years ago may not work as well now. Be prepared to make changes.
Those changes to your individual branding may require sweeping new plans, such as a re-branding overhaul, especially if you shift directions dramatically in your freelance focus. Or they may only require slight adjustments as you refine the alignment between your changing personal character and freelance brand personality as you grow over time.
Step 9: Start a swipe file.
Okay, I warned you about being prepared to make changes. That's where a swipe file comes in handy. This is a file of ideas that you keep on your computer, tablet, phone, or even in a paper file. Whenever you spot a good idea, into the swipe file it goes.
Tip: Treat your swipe file as something that will inspire you – it's not there to steal from.
Ideally, you should be following the advice of Marketing Mentor Ilise Benun. She encourages all of us creatives to take the best from others – then make it our own. For example, you may have enjoyed the description of Jeff Fisher's work as a clown. So, go ahead and bookmark his Toots Caboose blog posts in your browser's swipe file folder. Then use those blog posts as inspiration for your forthcoming act as a juggler.
Step 10: Recognize that there's an appropriate time and place for your personal brand.
If you've read this far in the story, you're probably wondering who the radio deejay is. Well, it's me. I'm Deejay Martha Jean on Tucson's community radio station, KXCI-FM 91.3.
Am I allowed to say anything about my freelance life while I'm spinning tunes about Elvis, Dullsville, and dancing vegetables? In a word, no.
If I did, I would face a severe tongue-lashing from the station's general manager. Trust me, as someone who experienced such a thing while I was in training, it's not something I'd care to repeat.
Why would I be in so much trouble? Because I'm not allowed to promote myself while I'm doing a radio show.
It's not like KXCI is singling me out. Among the ranks of our volunteer deejays are a doctor, several attorneys, and a judge. No one mentions the day job. And the judge stays far away from the station during membership drives. That's because he's legally forbidden from having any involvement with fundraising.
In short, know your boundaries.
Over to You
How is your brand personality developing? How have you gone about creating brand you and your freelance brand? What freelance brand identity inspiration have you come across? What advice do you have for freelancers getting started with their personality branding?