If you are a soul trader, a freelancer working for yourself, then thinking of yourself as a ‘brand’ is a tricky proposition. You may think you don’t need a ‘brand’, you may think you are too small for proper branding, but, in reality, YOU are you brand. You don’t need to be Apple or Microsoft, but you certainly do need to think about yourself as a brand. Put simply, your brand is how you are perceived by others, what they think about you, how they describe you to other people and what emotions they have towards you. You may not actively work on it, and some people can do a great job without putting in the effort, but everything you put out into the world adds, or detracts from you as a brand. There is no getting away from it, whether you like it or not, you are you brand.
Brand On The Run
At a base level, you can look at your brand as your logo and your website. These are certainly the most obvious parts of it, but it’s so much more. In the same way a website and a logo should crystallise and summarise a company to make it easily identifiable, social media should expanded on that, and its very important to think about what you are putting out under your business name, as it all becomes part of your story. We are all told we need to use social media in our marketing strategies, but we are not always clear on what the message that we are putting out says about us as a brand. It’s not as simple as avoiding photos of you drunk on a holiday with your friends, although clearly, don’t do that. I am talking about the tone of the material. If you’re are a fun company make sure your social output reflects that, but if you are very corporate you need to keep that tone constant, from logo, to website to social and beyond.
If you can define who you are and who you are talking to, you message, and tone follows on naturally. The simplest way to brand yourself is to be yourself. Focus on things that interest and exciting you, and your content will be its most authentic and people will respond to that. The old phrase, ‘People buy from people’ is corny but its true. Its much easier to net a new client if your ‘brand’ speaks to them and gels with their own outlook on life, and business.
By extension, branding should also be thought of as how you are in person. What language you use in meetings, what references you use, how you dress and your actions. This isn’t to say people won’t work with you if you don’t dress smartly and speak the Queen’s English, but that if your website, communications and social scream corporate professionalism, you damn well back that up in a face to face meeting by wearing a slick suit and knowing your business jargon, as it is what the client will expect. The same goes the other way around. In my field, people won’t expet a graphic designer to dress traditionally smartly, and if you have put out a cool, hipster vibe in your outward persona, then they won’t be surprised to see you rock up in torn jeans and covered in tattoos. If that’s your authentic life, then live it, don’t hide it, and you will attract the type of people you want to work with.
If you take Steve Jobs as an example, the way he dressed became part of his brand. Not Apple’s brand, but Steve Job. True he was part of Apple’s branding, but he also worked on his own brand, and a big part of that was his role neck jumper and glasses. The same goes for Mark Zuckerburg, he almost always dresses like its dress down Friday at the office. He claims that it is so he doesn’t waste time of deciding what to wear, which may be true, but the times he has worn a suit, he looks disingenuous and out of place, because being the nerdy genius is his authentic brand, that’s what he is, that’s what he puts out into the world, and that what people think of when they think of him.
Brand Is A Four Letter Word
There are some caveats to this, however. In resent years, it has become more acceptable to use swearing as part of you communications. 20 or 30 years ago, it was only punk bands that could get away with that sort of thing, because it was all part of the scene, but now any company that wants to seem edgy or ‘alternative’, it’s a go-to strategy to show that with little effort. I get it, but I don’t love it. Its something you need to be very careful with in my opinion. I’m no someone who shies away from swearing in days to day life, and for the most part it doesn’t really offend me, at 34 I have heard more than enough to desensitise me. However, from a branding point of view, being the guy who swears a lot is not a good look. And if it doesn’t work for you, and you decide to try something different, then you can’t always shake the label. By all means, do it, but just think carefully about if that’s how you want to be seen in business. But if it is a good fit, go for it.
Essentially what I am saying with all this is if you are work on your own, everything is focused on you and that is very important. It boils down to what people think you are, and if that is different to what you think you are, then you are going to make life very difficult for yourself. In the end branding is just communication, and you need to communicate the right story to your clients.
I’m Alex Dyett
I am a freelance Graphic Designer and Photographer, and Flickering Light Studio is my company. I live in York, UK, with my wife and daughter.
Hopefully, this blog post has given you some inspiration to go out and tell your businesses story with great design and eye-catching images. Take a look at the other blog posts to get some more ideas, and if there is anything that you feel I could help you with, please feel free to contact me, and I will be happy to work on a project with you.