Personal branding amid covid-19: how freelance creatives can stand out
It may have eased a touch, but coronavirus lockdown is still the perfect time for creative industry freelancers to stand out with personal branding and content, as so many larger businesses have gone quiet.
Personal branding has always been that one area that neither resource-rich corporates nor other single-person empires like yours can ‘get over’ on you, the individual freelancer. Now though, COVID-19 is really bringing personal branding into its own, online and offline.
Before the great leveller that is this pandemic lifts (lockdown continues to affect the vast majority of businesses), it’s time for self-employed creatives to step up and stand out, writes Laura Tejada (pictured on FreelanceUK's frontpage), a strategist in recruitment and retention, and the founder Start-Up School.
To that end, you’ll need my three-part formula:
- Create a content plan
- Organise your professional and/or LinkedIn profile; and,
- Use my ‘tried and tested’ 4-pillar approach.
All these steps and more I’ll share in this three-part series exclusively for FreelanceUK.
Branding: my own trials and tribulations
But first, my story. Or is it my attempt to squeeze in my own bit of personal branding?! Actually, it’s just to reassure you how ‘tried and tested’ each part of my formula really is!
Just over six months ago, I moved to a new consultancy. Working in a sales position, this meant I had to build all my clients entirely from scratch. Which was a tad daunting after five years in a very comfortable position working with big companies, such as Microsoft and HP, as a Recruitment Lead.
It’s about how hard you can get hit and keep moving forward!
So, I wanted to work out a fast-track way to build up clients, without having to make various sales calls and send out hundreds and hundreds of messages! It seemed personal branding was a good place to start. I realised it was a sound way to attract my ideal clients; show them who I was and what I could do, as well as evidence it in various ways. Then over time, they would see me as the ‘go-to’ person to work with. That -- at least, was the plan!
I started with the odd post here and there about what I did and could do on various social media platforms. Sadly, this was not very efficient; it was time-consuming and engagement on my content was exceptionally low. I think we have all been here at some point!
So, I decided to purchase some books and even took some online courses. I then followed some guidelines (broadly the three-part formula I’ll outline here), which gave me structure and an easy way to manage, day-to-day.
Well, after just two months of following the formula, I had FIVE companies trying to offer me work! That was on top of FOUR fantastic clients I’d acquired, and a little but still GROWING network who have come to be like my own personal brand ambassadors!
From the doldrums and hardly any ‘Likes’ on my posts I’ve come -- to today, with people standing by me, my content and my personal brand.
So here’s what I did.
Part one: Create a content plan
It’d be just plain braggadocious of me if, at this point, I just ended the article without even disclosing part one of the formula!
So, fundamentally, you begin by creating a content plan. To get started, you should first think about:
- who you want to appeal to;
- the areas they struggle in; and
- how you personally can help give them tips, advice or inspiration around that area.
First, design your ideal client avatar
In effect, you will need to create your ‘ideal client avatar’ – so think about their pain points; identify which ones you can help with and envisage the advice you can provide in response.
Stuck? A great way to get going is to remember that the content you’re seeking should be able to teach your customers how to do something for themselves.
The ones who can and want to save money (by just taking your advice and disappearing off over the hill), will. But the ones who have the money to pay someone to do it for them will very likely want to come to you.
This is a good way to save time potentially, consulting with clients who will never want to actually pay for your freelance service anyway. So fine, give it away! Albeit just via microcontent.
Remember, you are essentially proving that you know what you are doing or talking about.
Second, get creative on some categories
Now you have come up with your ideal client avatar, the next steps are simple but creative:
- create categories for areas you could help them with
- identify sub-categories
- envisage the content, so actual posts/ blogs/ videos (depending on the platform), that you could create in and around these categories and subcategories.
Confused? Ok, here’s an example, based on what I know of Microsoft and did for the software company, to help you understand this part of the plan:
Categories: Recruitment (N.B. With a giant like Microsoft, which has many different products, services and divisions, the categories could be numerous. But do what I’m doing here -- ‘stick to what you know’).
Subcategories: Talent Attraction, Retention Advice, Organic Recruitment Strategies, Job Advert Advice, Dealing with Recruiters, Hiring Methods, Retainer VS Pay as you go.
Content I envisage: ‘Revealed: 2020’s top 10 company benefits sought by employees’ (N.B. This post I would create for Talent Attraction, my first sub-category, above. You should then continue, coming up with one post/video/article/content piece per sub-category).
Third, keep an ideas-log
When you start to do this, your content will over time start to flow. It may be slow at first, but once you open that tap, it keeps running! A good tip is to make sure you keep hold of all your ideas in one place! How you do it doesn’t matter -- even if it’s just a post-it note on your fridge, on the ‘notes’ app of your smartphone or, if feeling formal, a Word Document.
Phew, you’ve done it! At this stage, you are now not only ready to start creating this content. But you’re also on the cusp of the next steps -- the 4-pillar approach, and your professional/LinkedIn profile. Both of these are inextricably linked to each other and I will say how, plus give you bags more tips to get your personal brand primed for life after lockdown, in parts two and three. Until then!