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Let’s face it: we always hear stories about people shifting away from 9-to-5 workday and transitioning to a full-time freelance schedule. These stories often include a person earning six figures while also enjoying the flexibility of working outside of the office and the freedom that comes with being your own boss.
However, it’s not all rainbows and butterflies.
Plus, success never happens overnight. It might seem like it does because you, as a spectacor from the side, don’t see all the sleepless nights or any proof of invested efforts; you just see the end results. The truth is, professionals who are looking to become independent workers face many challenges. It’s an uphill battle and only those who are truly devoted can survive the competition and build a name for themselves.
That’s what it comes down to, building a name. Or, should we say – a personal brand.
Building Credibility Through Strategic Personal Branding
Freelancing is a tricky business. You have to be proactive as you are responsible for finding clients and convincing them that you are reliable and that you will indeed bring value for their money. In addition, there are some prejudices about freelancers that you must not fall a victim to.
For instance, companies that are looking to hire someone project-based might perceive freelancers as too untrustworthy and irresponsible as they could disappear in any given moment. You should prepare yourself for the possibility that your clients maybe already had bad experiences working with freelancers, which makes establishing the delicate trust bond even more important.
This is why you need to build credibility through strategic personal branding.
Your personal brand is what sets you apart from your competition. It is your unique selling point, it’s the value you bring to the table, it’s something that cannot be found elsewhere and therefore – something you can leverage and monetize. It is everything you do online and offline, your work ethics and set of skills, and the overall quality you provide. It’s whether or not you follow up after working with a client to thank him for great business collaboration, and the price you put on your work.
Your personal brand should be well thought through and align with the career goals you’ve set.
So, what’s the first step? Creating a professional website for yourself.
Creating and Getting the Most of Your Website
Your website is the stronghold of your personal brand. Not only does it help you control your online reputation and build more visibility for yourself, but it’s also a necessary ingredient for showcasing your potential clients you mean business.
Regardless of the type of freelancing work you do, you have to showcase your portfolio and communicate what you are actually able to do. In addition, if you master the basics of content marketing and embrace the data-driven approach, you can investigate what are the relevant search terms for your profession, identify great keyword opportunities and produce blog topics that will help your website rank better while you slowly build a name for yourself.
Here are a few good practices that you can try to get the most of your website:
- Use blogging to build your personal brand
- Gather testimonials of satisfied clients
- Clip your professional portfolio and make it downloadable
- Define your target group and adjust the tone of your website copy accordingly
- Write a solid “About Me” page and don’t sell yourself short
- Do some cherry picking when listing your awards and accomplishments (e.g. you winning a chess tournament in elementary school is probably not relevant for your content marketing career)
- Aim for a combination of professionalism and warmth
- Add social media icons to connect different communication channels
Building a website doesn’t have to be a chore anymore. There are various website builders such as Dunked.me, Wix.com, Squarespace.com, and many others that allow you to create your own website using the drag-and-drop technique. Most of the services also offer fully managed hosting, which completely pushes the technical stuff out of the picture and lets you be creative and focus on other things. Website builders really shorten the path between imagining a website inside your head and actually publishing it.
Of course, first step towards creating your own website is registering your domain name. You should see your domain name as a branding tool as it is supposed to add more weight to your personal brand. Think of something memorable, recognizable, and original, like .ME!
Domain .ME has been recognized as the most personal domain name on the web that really supports your uniqueness and helps you stand out. In terms of SEO, .ME is being treated as a generic top-level domain, meaning your freelancing business can truly have a global reach. It is also advisable to set up a professional branded email that matches your domain choice.
Get Certified and Show You’re Constantly Learning
There’s hardly anything as dangerous as a skill rot for a freelancer. Especially if you work within the digital industry where everything is changing at a fast pace, you need to devote time to learning.
In sense of building credibility, it’s good to commit to finishing a certain online course that’s relevant to your profession or any other certification program of a reputable institution that has been recognized as an authority. Not online will you upgrade your skills, but owning a certificate will help you get perceived as someone who invests in his professional development and is truly an expert capable of doing his job properly.
Certificates mean objective validation for your work. Think about it: if you’re someone who’s looking to hire a freelancer, would you go for a person that owns a relevant certificate or for a person that has no proof of his expertise?
As a freelancer, you are never done with learning. You often have to think on your feet, follow trends, and snoop around your competition in order to ensure you’re not missing anything.
Depending on your area of expertise, you can find online courses on following websites:
Thinking beyond certification, you should also make a list of publications worth following and invest some time to reading and commenting on opinion posts or latest happenings. Also, TED talks are a great source of ideas that are currently trending and because of the video format, these talks are incredibly easy to consume.
Sharing posts published elsewhere, with your expert comment, shows you are sharp and capable of critical thinking. This is important for positioning yourself as a thought leader.
And where do you share these posts exactly? On social media, of course; especially Linkedin. Which brings us to – networking.
Network, Online and Offline
As we already explained, being a freelancer implies you have to invest your time and effort in developing your business, which means deploying a strategy for acquiring clients. Given the fact that you’re a one-man band and your income is completely dependant on your activities, you cannot rely on the “spray-and-pray” method and hope clients will come across your website.
You need to practice smart self-marketing. This doesn’t mean you necessarily have to become one of those annoying, sleazy individuals who are too aggressive in trying to get a paid gig. It means you should be well informed about the relevant live events such as seminars, conferences, and meetups, and attend them with a goal of gaining contacts, referrals, and job leads. Better yet, you can apply to be a keynote speaker or be proactive and organize a lecture or a workshop for free.
Bringing something back to the community is how you’ll gain recognition. By offering your knowledge and sharing your insights, you are actually promoting the goodwill spirit every solopreneur should nurture. Those are the type of people clients want to work with.
Shortly put, by mingling – you are actually putting yourself on the radar of relevant people.
Same goes for the online world. Writing eBooks and ultimate guides that are free for download helps you kill two birds with one stone: you are showcasing your expertise while you’re also building up your reputation as the cool guy/girl who’s a useful source of information. After you get that necessary traction, you can monetize your expertise and even publish a book you will actually sell.
Your social media profiles reflect who you are. Being active on Linkedin can do so much for your freelance career. It’s so easy to connect with big shots via this network. You should try to trigger discussions and respect the etiquette of the business community. Practice healthy dialogue, share your accomplishments, and don’t be shy to speak your mind. Use only logical arguments and help others see your will to learn and teach.
Over to You
By following the advice we’ve gathered in this post, you will be able to grow your credibility as a freelancer steadily. There is no shortcut here, but doing things right and with patience is what will eventually earn you a reputation of an expert.
Freelancing is no walk in the park, but once you survive through the first couple of months, it is very much rewarding. Set your career on the right course and create a website with .ME! You can check if your desired .ME domain is available here and browse through our blog to find additional advice for freelancers.