I get asked this quite a lot: How do you brand yourself as a freelancer or a service provider?
If you’re not a product-based business where the product does most of the talking for you, how on earth do you brand yourself? What’s the crux of the brand if not a physical product that someone can hold in their hands?
I’m going to reveal the secret to branding if you’re a service provider – are you ready for it?
Hold on to your hats, folks, this is huge:
The secret is… there is no secret.
Massive let down, isn’t it?
I get it. It’s like, surely there has to be a sweet, secret formulaic process to follow and do all the steps, doesn’t there?
Here’s the deal. There’s no formula, because it doesn’t have to be that complicated. But, because I too am a massive fan of listicles, here are 3 things you should consider for your brand as a service provider.
1. It’s all about your audience
Your product is YOU, so you have this actual, direct conversation with your clients every day. This is something brand managers of physical products kill for (trust me, that was me – wishing I could get inside the head of my customer and see first-hand what they were experiencing with the product). You get to do that! So, embrace it and use it to your advantage.
Consider every interaction with a client as a market research opportunity.
I’m not talking about turning every single interaction into a survey or in-depth, qualitative interview. That’d be bloody annoying!
Nope, I’m talking about a slightly subtler approach than that.
Are there common questions which keep coming your way that indicate how you could provide additional value? (ahem, like in say, a blog post perhaps?)
Is there a little quirk or nuance in the way your most amazing clients behave that might give you an insight into how to attract more like them?
Keep your eyes and ears open for any opportunity to learn something new about your audience.
2. Keep it simple, stupid*
It can all seem so damn overwhelming, can’t it? I’m so there. So many things to do to keep your business running and clients happy day-to-day, let alone having to worry about building your own frickin brand too.
It’s usually the case that those brand-building activities are the first thing on the list to get deprioritised and therefore the last thing to happen.
This happens in big companies too, by the way, so don’t beat yourself up too much, mmmkay?
But here’s the thing… building a brand doesn’t have to be difficult and time consuming. Sometimes when you’ve got a full plate, it’s a matter of prioritising what will have the most impact with the least amount of effort.
A blog or freebie is no good to you if it’s sitting in your drafts or waiting for you to download it from Canva (ammiright?!). But if it’s out there in the world, it has an opportunity to do something to help get your brand some exposure.
A quick follow up email sent a month after you’ve completed a client project to check in with them won’t take too much time. It’s a simple way to create a positive interaction with your brand that may lead to future work or that sweet, sweet referral we so covet.
Keep it simple and human.
Don’t do all the things. Pick that thing that most aligns with your overarching purpose and do that thing really well.
*You’re not stupid btw, you’re AWESOME ?
3. Stick to your brand principles
It’s a tough gig attracting client after client, and it’s tempting to change tack as soon as that shiny object syndrome takes hold. You see something that another service provider is doing and think “hey, I should be doing that too”.
If you’re trying to build a consistent brand, though, staying true to your principles needs to be non-negotiable.
Here’s how to keep yourself in check so you don’t feel tempted to stray:
- Write down your brand vision. Where do you see your brand in 5 years? 10 years?
- Write down your mission. What and who are you doing this for? What do you hope to achieve?
- Write down your values*. What are the core principles your brand holds most dear? Honesty? High Quality? Premium? Fun? Punctuality? These are the things that guide your brand along in everything you do, so they’re kinda fundamentally important.
(*Note for young players, this is also really effing important to do as a regular human too. Doing this exercise literally prompted me to change my life. That’s another story ?).
Now, knowing all of the above, what are the things you will ALWAYS do to stay true to your brand values and deliver to your brand mission?
What are the things you will NEVER do?
What are the things you MIGHT do one day?
Now you’ve got a playbook of sorts for how to stay on track to build a consistent brand.
If ‘honesty’ is one of your values, then always be open and transparent. If ‘punctuality’ is one of your values, don’t be late. If ‘premium’ is one of your values, don’t discount. If you know your audience as well as you should, then they won’t be attracted by discounting and will appreciate added value you provide in other ways, right?
You know it.
Having these outlined just helps you remember why you’re doing what you’re doing and keeps you on the path to build a consistent brand.
Meantime, let me know if the lack of a real secret really annoyed you, or if it actually relieved you because now you know you didn’t miss out on anything.
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