Of course, certain freelancers create brand assets and identities for their clients, but fewer freelancers actually consider the necessity of building their own brands, or understand how effective branding integrates with business.
How about you? Have you made the effort to intentionally develop your brand as a freelance creative?
To grow a business, you need to market. To market your business, you need to develop a brand.
But what’s the difference between marketing and branding? How should freelance creatives understand and approach these business activities.
In essence, branding is the process of establishing who your enterprise is and what it stands for. There are a number of components that go into developing brand, and brand needs to be intentional and carefully crafted and managed.
Brand needs to be authentic. For a brand to be embraced, it needs integrity and consistency in messaging and visual presentation.
Branding is more than the visual presentation, though. Ultimately, it’s reputation. And that’s built on your values, vision, mission, personality, and other intangibles, Reputation exists in the hearts and minds of your audience, not with you. So branding is done to influence what others think of you.
Aspects you need to consider when developing your own brand include your values, the brand personality and approach, the mission and purpose of your business, what you offer and how it benefits your clients, who your clients are, how you differ from your competitors, and what value you bring.
Branding is a long-term process. You cannot build a reputation overnight. Everything you do in your business, including how you work with clients and your creative solutions, contribute to your brand.
If you’re in business, you also need to brand it. For freelancers and other solopreneurs, branding is both personal and professional.
What is marketing?
Marketing is basically the process of sharing your message. Every brand — every business — needs to market. It is an essential business skill.
Your brand needs to be consistent, but your marketing efforts can change. You’ll use a variety of no-cost and cost-based tactics to share your message with your ideal audience.
Marketing is a broad activity consisting of a variety of efforts. These can include social media, paid advertising, promo reels, guest posts, sponsorships, email, promoted posts, events, webinars, and more.
Advertising is a subset of marketing. It’s either traditional, such as tv spots, radio spots, print ads. Digital forms include sponsored content on social platforms, website banners, landing pages, search engine ads, and social media ads.
The word advertise has latin origins and means to draw toward. So when you advertise you are essentially drawing attention toward your brand. You’re making your brand known in order to make a sell or attract a client.
So you need to connect your brand to an audience by making it known to the most receptive audience.
With both advertising and markeing research is necessary. Once you decide on the best audience for your brand — audience is an aspect of branding — you then determine what are the best ways to share your message and attract that audience.
The entire world isn’t your audience. Not everyone needs what you do. So the concept of niching or specializing is a good idea. You define your audience — who is your best potential client and who is not — and put your marketing efforts toward becoming known to that ideal audience.
Selling is not advertising. Selling is the hoped for result of branding and marketing. While selling involves persuasion, branding and marketing need to happen before you can make a sale. Selling is the exchange of what you offer for money. Selling is an essential business activity, just like branding and marketing, and is the result of branding and marketing.
The word, sell, comes from Old English, sellen, and is related to the Nordic selja, and means to give up voluntarily, usually in exchange for something or by request.
While I’m an advocate for networking, which is an effective marketing activity, it’s difficult to network or do other marketing activities successfully unless you are building a brand. Both branding and marketing are essential, as I’ve mentioned previously.
The Freelance Road Trip Business School Program
includes a unit on marketing and branding, but I also have a full digital course titled Crafting Your Creative Brand
— a series of 13 on-demand video lessons that walk you through the branding process and provides background knowledge, worksheets and assignments. The course is online and on demand so you can complete it at your convenience. It’ll also give you skills to be able to work at a deeper level on branding projects with clients.
It’s important to understand that you can’t market without branding. Branding is the foundation for all your marketing and promotion efforts. It needs to come before any marketing efforts, because it is an expression of your reason for being in business, your uniqueness, and your value.
Branding also provides a basis for consistent messaging and outreach. It will prevent confusion and help you grow your freelance business.
Take a 3-prong approach
So, if you want to grow your freelance business attract your ideal clients and projects, you should implement a three-pronged understanding. Think of a triangle. At one point is the creative work. At a second point is the marketing. The third point is the branding. They all connect and integrate to grow a thriving creative business.