As the world becomes more digitized, so does the people’s need for digital products. Apps, software, and other types of digital tools are evolving and becoming more sophisticated and user-centric. And it is their creators, the digital product designers, who are making all of that happen.
Unsurprisingly, this has created significant competition in the guild of freelance digital creators who need to find ways to be nothing like the other players in the field.
The game is no longer only about what you do. It’s all about who you are and why you do it.
And, as we can see in the shining example of Rafael Medina from RafaelMedina.me, the winning strategy is personal branding, both online and offline.
Online personal branding
The first phase of personal branding work for any freelance digital product creator includes setting up an online home. In most cases, this is the first touchpoint for a freelance business in general.
Your virtual headquarters need to both depict who you are as a person, what your story is, how you became passionate about design AND showcase your skills, talents, experience, and work you’ve done so far.
Personal branding involves presenting the big picture of your design journey and establishes a vital part of freelance work.
What’s that crucial element? (Dramatic pause)
When people think about hiring a freelance professional, they need to know that they can trust you and rely on you. It is creditability you build through design case studies and clients’ reviews. That is just one of the perks of having a personal website – it allows you to show your work in the best possible light.
Personal portfolio website
How do you achieve credibility and trust? By letting people see that there’s a real person behind your design. The best way to start building trust is by creating a portfolio website with a personalized domain name.
That’s right – there is no better way of telling the world that NameLastname.Me is the person behind the brand, just like in Rafael’s case.
Taking a closer look at his home page, you can notice several essential points of a personal website and advantages of having one:
- Elevator pitch, which tells us what he does.
- Tagline, which gives a short and catchy description of his values and work. Its goal is to connect him with his clients and, therefore, make him more memorable.
- About page, which gives visitors a chance to learn more about him.
- The portfolio, which is where Rafael presents his best work. When it comes to product designers, design case studies are probably the most popular way of sharing what you’ve done so far in a step-by-step manner. This shows your potential clients how you work.
- Links to socials (LinkedIn, Instagram, Twitter) and design community website profiles (Dribble, GitHub, Behance), which serve as additional contact channels and collections of your work.
- Contact information is vital. Having a personalized email can only reinforce credibility and enhances that first impression. This is particularly important when someone outreaches new clients and/or starts an email marketing campaign.
- .ME domain name which is personal, easy to remember, and says “Yes, it’s really me”.
In Readings section on his website, Rafael comments on some of the industry-related books that have impacted his career and life. This is a great way of telling people more about yourself, but also communicating your background.
Finally, there is a Resume section where visitors can find more details about his expertise and experience.
Build and engage with your community
A personal brand is not only created by building a designer website.
(Designer, get it? :piggygrunt:)
Freelancers need to look at social media as platforms where they show their personality, share expert insights and establish themselves as thought leaders. This is hugely important for building an online personal brand and reputation.
Rafael shares his work, achievements on social media too. Besides Instagram, Twitter, and LinkedIn, Rafael is a member of professional community websites like Dribble, GitHub, and Behance, where he connects with other professionals from the field.
This is a good strategy for building online credibility and brand. For one, you are in good company and on the pulse of trends, and second, you can find inspiration for your work.
Most importantly, he engages with his community on both social media and professional websites equally.
Respond to comments, likes and make sure you do the same as well. Rafael doesn’t shy away from complimenting others on their efforts, and why would he? Give compliments, where compliments are due, and engage with othersYou never know – you might strike a chord with someone and find that professionally you are the right match for their projects.
Last but not least, when you build your network organically and have a lot of followers, those numbers can make a difference. Believe it or not, having a large follower base could be a bonus when someone is looking to hire you as a freelancer.
We’re not saying that only product designers with thousands of followers nail the best jobs. But most people do tend to believe that any professional is good if they have a considerable following, right?
Offline personal branding
Online personal branding is worth peanuts if you don’t represent yourself accordingly in the real world. What you do in real life has to match what you do online because people can easily spot a fraudster.
Think of it this way – you need to provide the same, consistent experience for your customers, at every online and offline touchpoint.
In Rafael’s example, we can see that he often attends meet-ups and hackathons which are, alongside professional conferences, great places to meet like-minded professionals and prospective clients.
He also gives frequent talks about his work and product design and enjoys sharing his knowledge and experience with others.
This is such an important element of a personal brand because it says that a person likes to learn and apply what they’ve learned in their work. What is more, they do it so well that they can teach it to others, as well.
In the end, every freelancer can build a great personal brand by:
- being professional in their interactions with clients (and everyone else),
- always giving their best at work, and
- always delivering work on time.
In this way, the people you work with will be glad to recommend you to others. Or maybe leave a great review/comment about you on LinkedIn and other channels in the same way many have done for Rafel thanks to his good work.
Personal branding summarized
Rafael’s mission statement to “deliver happiness” will, without a doubt, help him go a long way as a freelance product designer. And as long as you stay motivated, take care of how you present yourself online and offline, and generally keep on evolving and delivering, I am sure you’ll have no problem succeeding as well.
Good luck! 🙂