Personal branding is the art of making everything you create uniquely and recognizably yours, from your name, logo, and color scheme to your voice, imagery, values, and the way in which you conduct your business.
Many people mistakenly believe that branding is only for large businesses, but branding is a valuable tool for everybody, including freelance web designers and small agencies. It’s a way of highlighting your values and personality while also controlling your message.
The importance of branding for web designers
Today, the web design industry is more competitive than ever. So, if you want to secure well-paid, interesting, and fun projects, you need something extra special to help you stand out.
You may think your skills are the thing that makes you shine. And yes, they play a part in drumming up new customers. But in reality, there’s no shortage of talent in the web design industry. The thing that sets you apart is the uniqueness of your branding. Because while it’s your skills that surprise and delight your clients, your branding is how they find you.
Essentially, personal branding represents your skills and experience viewed through the lens of your extra special sauce: the personality, image, and values that best express your unique, authentic self.
Here’s a guide to help you develop a powerful personal brand.
Choosing a name
It all begins with your business name. Many freelancers use their own name. This works for some, but what if your name is John Smith? Do you really think “John Smith” or “John Smith Web Design” is going to help you stand out?
How about if you’re establishing a web design agency, or would like to grow into a multi-person agency in the future? In those cases, you’ll need to pop your thinking cap on.
When choosing a name, bear in mind it has to be unique. Make sure to check the domain is available – preferably in a dot-com. Same goes for the social media handles. It may be worthwhile to check lists of patented and trademarked terms as well.
Brainstorm topical associations, keywords, and your values. Play with these for a while, until you hit on something that’s both memorable and fits your personality.
Your brand values are the heart of your brand. They form the core from which your image, voice, and personality arise, and they’re the compass that points to the true north of your business.
Think about what you want to be known for. Why are you unique? Why should people choose you? How do you want your brand to be viewed? How do you want customers to feel after working with you?
Aim for three to five words, and ensure they’re strong, powerful terms that tell people something about you. Everybody should be professional, organized and efficient, so those words will ring hollow. Instead, pick something that evokes an emotion and can’t be taken for granted.
Your brand voice is your brand personality. This isn’t something you choose; if you want your brand to be authentic, it should have a personality that reflects who you are in real life.
If your brand personality is so polished and perfected that it hides your real personality, your customers are going to find it difficult to relate to you and, therefore, to trust you.
If you’re having difficulty figuring this out, ask your friends what they think makes you stand apart. Are you quirky? Funny? Serious? Rebellious? Adventurous? Playful?
Consistency is key to building a brand, so you need to embody your brand personality in every communication you have with your clients, including face-to-face meetings—and it’s much easier to be consistent if you’re being genuine. If you’re faking it, you’re bound to be found out.
Your visual identity tells people who you are and what you stand for as soon as they land on your site. So your choice of colors, the type and size of font, your imagery, and your logo need to reflect this at a glance.
Your logo is an essential part of your visual identity. It can be a stylized image that reflects your work, a cartoon depiction of you or your business name, or it could be a unique font and color combination. Whatever you choose, it must reflect your personality and values—having an elegant, sophisticated logo when your personality is quirky and fun will only confuse people. If logo design isn’t one of your strengths, consider hiring a professional logo designer.
Your logo sets the tone for the rest of your visual identity. These visual cues should be repeated throughout your website and marketing materials in the color scheme, typography, and any media you use.
Many of your potential customers will have a little root around online to get a better feeling of who you are before contacting you for an initial chat. So your social media image and voice are a huge part of your branding. Once again, consistency is key.
Your profile picture should be the same across all social networks so people know they’ve found the right person. You have an interesting choice here. Using a profile picture is a great personal touch and helps to establish that you’re a real live human, whereas using your logo increases brand awareness. One way around this is to use one for the profile picture and the other for the banner—similarly, you can include a tagline that reflects your brand values and personality.
Post wisely. Keep your brand values at the forefront of all communications, and ensure you use your brand voice—social media is great for unleashing your personality, building trust, and engaging with your audience. It’s also a good place to demonstrate your knowledge of the web design industry, so get involved in web design discussions and post about current issues.
Owning your brand
Developing your brand isn’t something that happens overnight. It can take years before it’s fully established, and it requires constant maintenance and revision as your business grows.
Remember that consistency is the most important thing in establishing your brand identity. Maintaining a consistent image and voice makes your brand feel more dependable and it makes you appear trustworthy. Once you’ve created your personal brand, own it, protect it, and ensure that you project it consistently in everything you do.
What tips do you have for developing a personal brand? Can you add anything to our list? Tell us below.
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