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By Lynne Gowers on 16th June 2015
There are many liberating things about going freelance and starting your own business, but anyone going down that path should be aware that they will also face all manner of unavoidable challenges that are unique to this type of working.
Being independent and free to choose your own career path is a key element of the appeal of self-employment for many, but a major downside of this is that when it comes to branding and communication, you’ll essentially be on your own, facing the often difficult task of building a profile and reputation for yourself and your business that clients will recognise and trust with essentially no outside assistance.
This can be a daunting task, but one that can be accomplished with the right approach to planning and execution. Once your brand and portfolio have been established properly, they will become a vital tool in generating new business opportunities for you, thus setting you on course for lasting success.
The first and most important part of creating a strong brand comes from within. Becoming a contractor and starting your own business means building a service and company identity around your own strengths, weaknesses and individual style, so it’s essential to make sure your brand identity reflects that.
Have a good think about your passions, your specific mission, your style and your unique skillset, and then create a business identity that plays into those strengths. Remember, in the world of self-employment, it’s no longer good enough to be a follower – you need to proactively demonstrate why prospective clients would want to come to you, and that’s not going to be possible if you don’t have a strong, personal vision for your business.
Once you’ve established a clear direction for your business, it’s time to create a brand identity that reflects and communicates it across as many channels as possible. On the most basic level, this should consist of developing a company website, business cards, a resume and a social media presence that showcase your branding in a consistent way.
For many, this might involve the creation of a logo or other graphic design elements, but it ought to go further than this: a robust brand identity will inform every detail of how you communicate professionally, including your language choices and the sorts of topic you address when you communicate.
Don’t overlook the importance of minor aesthetic elements of branding, either; even your choice of wardrobe and email address can inform your personal image in subtle ways.
The most successful small businesses are proactive, rather than reactive. Combing job boards is a decent way to look for business, but diligent freelancers will want to go beyond this by reaching out to their contacts and actively seeking out opportunities that their rivals don’t even know are available.
This means making full use of your existing professional relationships, speaking to local businesses that might be interested in your service or, in some cases, spending extra time on personal projects that aren’t specifically for a client, but can demonstrate your specific skills and expertise.
People who are used to the world of offices and employers will likely be accustomed to the idea of their CV playing a make-or-break role in landing them professional opportunities, but in the world of freelance, your portfolio can play a much more influential role.
It is vital to keep your portfolio updated and curated to showcase your very best work, with a prominent position given any relevant details about the growth of your business over the years or any positive testimonies you’ve received from past clients. It’s far more likely that prospective customers will be interested in tangible evidence of your proficiency in the type of work they’re looking to hire you for than they are in a dry list of references and credentials.
The age of the internet has made life easier for self-employed people in a number of ways, and brand-building is one of the tasks that has become immeasurably easier. Not only can small business owners create their own easily accessible websites to represent themselves, they also have more opportunities than ever to network with contacts and reach out to potential clients on a personal level via email, Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn and other services.
It’s also worth looking into the wide variety of portfolio creation tools available online, as this makes the process of creating an eye-catching, appealing and shareable portfolio easier than ever before.
By following these steps, small business owners will be able to build a strong brand for themselves and their companies; in doing so, they can create a tangible sense of momentum around their fledgling organisation and put themselves on the right path towards sustainable growth.
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