Personal Branding for the Independent Contractor
Over the years personal branding discussions have been all over the web. Branding is vital to your identity and is a critical component to any client’s purchasing decision. For an Independent Contractor a solid personal brand goes a long way towards growth and success in your contracting career.
Every Independent is a brand. Many people feel that branding is for Fortune 500 companies and celebrities, but we can build brand equity by using similar strategies. Everyone goes through a process by which we market ourselves to others and with the rise of social technologies personal branding is within reach for all. Your potential clients should have no difficulty finding out who you are and what you can do for them.
There are four basic steps to personal branding:
Brand discovering is about figuring out who you are and what you do, while focusing on your strengths, passions and goals. How do past employers/clients perceive you? If you feel that those attributes pertain to you then it is part of your brand. Many contractors brand themselves as masters of a specific skill set or industry, and if your self-impression matches up with how people see you then you know your brand.
Once you are familiar with your brand, it’s time to create it on paper and online. Some traditional ways of doing so include business cards, resumes, cover letters, references documents and professional portfolios. Below are some non-traditional ways you can add to your branding kit. Just make sure that while building your brand all of the content is concise, convincing and consistent with how you decide to represent yourself.
Blog/Website: It’s certainly a good idea to own your own domain, such as yourname.com or something that aligns with your name. A static homepage is a good place to start, but if you have more time on your hands starting a blog is a great asset. Those with blogs usually rank higher in search engines and direct more searches to your interests and expertise in the long run.
LinkedIn profile: LinkedIn is a great place for personal advertising, searching for jobs, meeting new people and maintaining your network. Your LinkedIn profile combines three traditional tools: resume, cover letter and references documents. They are all helpful in connecting with an ever changing network of people.
Twitter profile: As a free social networking and micro-blogging service, Twitter can be a very useful personal branding tool. For branding purposes you’ll want to make sure your username represents you well.
Video resume: This should be a short video talking about the value or benefits you offer that set you apart from your competition. You can highlight your skill sets, past experiences, offer innovative techniques and a unique specialization or industry-leading expertise. Try to communicate your brand in about a minute or so. Once you upload it to YouTube you can send the link to potential clients.
Email address: Most of us use email across all social networks, so don’t underestimate your email address as it can be a noteworthy part of your branding kit. Your email address is a great way to display your brand, so it is a good idea to have an address that aligns with you in some fashion.
Attire: When it comes to standing out from the crowd, your personal style is important. Your clothing should best represent you and is important when taking pictures for online use, especially when expecting to meet people in person.
Once you have created your brand it is simply natural to want others to view it and hear about it. To properly and confidently communicate your brand you’ll want to have your self-promotion story down. This can be similar to your video resume script. However, you may need to make some changes to your marketing materials depending on the audience.
Lastly, maintaining your brand is an ongoing process. As you grow, so will your brand. Each new contract, skill set, course and so on changes your brand slightly. Maintaining all materials in your branding kit is key because as an Independent your brand is your most important asset.