How to Make Your Small Business Brand Stand Out and Get Noticed
As a freelancer, you have the skills to solve problems for clients and deliver value. But how do you stand out from the crowd and attract and keep customers? Branding plays a significant role in helping solopreneurs gain recognition, develop relationships and grow.
Julie Cortés, freelance rockstar and founder and president of The Freelance Exchange of Kansas City, has over two decades of entrepreneurship experience. At one of the organization’s events, she shared her tips for branding and self-promotion to help self-employed people present themselves well and enhance their business success. (By the way, if you’re a freelancer, be sure to get involved with FX of KC, which strives to be the best resources for local agencies and businesses of all sizes and industries to find quality, affordable talent, quickly and easily.)
“To build a strong and effective brand, you need to know your strengths and weaknesses and surround yourself with smart and talented people,” Julie says. “Think inside and outside the box about how you can make people remember you in a positive light.”
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Understanding branding and self-promotion
Your brand is more than just your logo and colors. It’s a comprehensive package that also encompasses your business name, tagline, fonts, voice, tone, mission and values.
“Brand is how people think about you and your business,” Julie says. “Think about the reputation you want presented to the world.”
Once you’ve landed all the components of your brand, you’ll want to ensure that people see and remember it. That’s where self-promotion comes in.
“Show your brand everywhere,” Julie says. “Brand your website, social media platforms, emails, invoices and business cards. You can even wear your brand by using your colors and your logo on your laptop bag, your ‘padfolio,’ your phone case, stickers, etc.”
Most importantly, you want to center the client in everything you do.
“The key to self-promotion is that it's not necessarily about you,” Julie says. “It’s more about the clients and how you can solve their problems.”
Building and maintaining a digital brand presence
Want to connect with potential clients and showcase your brand? Websites, social media pages and email marketing are essential to accomplishing those goals.
“Clients are everywhere, and that's why it's important to have your presence on multiple platforms,” Julie says.
Creating a website might seem overwhelming but it doesn’t have to be. Companies like Squarespace, Weebly, Wix and GoDaddy offer free and paid tools to help build and host sites. An alternative (or better yet, addition) to a full website is a portfolio or profile that’s part of a searchable directory, like the ones on The Freelance Exchange, Behance and Creative Hotlist.
“A website is integral. You can use it to attract people and convert them into paying clients,” Julie says.
Your website or portfolio page should include these elements:
● About me section
● Explanation of what you do and why people should hire you
● Work samples
● Client highlights and testimonials
● Contact information and links to your social media on every page
● At least one call to action on every page that directs visitors on what to do next
● Intake form to find out more about potential clients, such as how they found you, their needs and their budget
● Calendar widget that allows people to schedule appointments with you
From Facebook, LinkedIn, and Pinterest to Instagram, TikTok, YouTube and many more, there’s no scarcity of social networking options. No matter where you choose to engage people, it’s important to stay consistent with your branding. You should also post regularly (Julie recommends once a day) and offer a variety of content types to see what resonates most with your target audience. Social media management tools like Hootsuite and Buffer offer free and paid services to help you organize and publish content across multiple platforms.
“If you’re struggling with coming up with content, don't overthink it,” Julie says. “The algorithms favor consistency and engagement. Your content doesn't have to be a long written out post, it could be a quote that inspires you, a testimonial from a happy client, a picture you took while out and about in the community or even sharing someone else’s content and saying why it struck a chord with you.”
Finding ways to humanize your brand will also help you nurture relationships with current and potential customers.
“Social media is a great place to market your business and to sell, but people also want to see that you are a real person they can like and trust with a real life that’s relatable,” Julie says. “Post about things you’re passionate about outside of your business like your pets or philanthropy that you do.”
Sharing parts of your life on social media can also be beneficial for in-person networking.
“Show your face every so often,” Julie says. “It could be a selfie or a headshot. If you're doing a video, show your face while talking to your viewers. If I meet you at a networking event, I want to connect your name to your face and your great work.”
To better represent your brand visually across your website and social media pages, consider booking a professional branding photoshoot to get images of you, your office space, your colors, your products and your process. If you can’t afford to pay in cash, offer to trade business services with a photographer.
Email marketing is another important piece of branding and outreach. You can get people to opt into your email distribution list by offering a newsletter or a free download. Just like social media, consistency is crucial. Free and paid email marketing and automation services like Mailchimp and HubSpot can help you create dynamic campaigns and build your audience.
“I email the people on my distribution list about every 30 days,” Julie says. “Email has a much higher conversion rate than social media, so don’t discount it. Make sure you have a call to action in your emails and send people to your website or portfolio page.”
Advance your brand offline
In addition to online efforts, there are many opportunities to carve out your business identity in the real world. Julie provides these ideas to consider as part of your freelance branding strategy:
● Purchase a print ad in a newsletter or a magazine, a TV or radio commercial or a banner ad on a website or e-newsletter.
● Take prospective clients out for coffee, lunch or drinks to form an authentic relationship. Even if they don’t become a client, they could be a referral partner.
● Submit your work for contests such as the annual “Best of Kansas City” awards hosted by local publications like Kansas City magazine, Ingram’s and The Pitch.
● Book public speaking gigs.
● Write your own blogs and articles to establish yourself as a subject matter expert.
● Host an event like a client appreciation party, an anniversary party or a happy hour.
Thumbnail photo by Rubert Britton via Unsplash.
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