I get a lot of confusion when I talk about branding for people who are self-employed because most don’t understand it. This is a big problem since self-employment is on the rise and there’s more competition these days than ever before. While branding for self-employed businesses isn’t a complicated topic, it can be unintuitive. This has led many self-employed people to make mistakes that have tanked their businesses. With that in mind, let’s take a look at what these mistakes are and how you can avoid them.
1. Not Developing a Brand Identity
You shouldn’t think of your brand as a “what” but as a “who.” Your brand should have its own personality and story that’s distinct and instantly identifiable. The reason this is important is that people are psychologically programmed to connect with other people, not with faceless businesses. By presenting your brand in a more human manner, you’ll find your demographic more eager to connect with it and do business with you.
Many people who are self-employed neglect to do this. Sure, some may come up with a unique name and logo, but a lot of times that’s about as far as they go. This leads to their brand feeling inhuman, impersonal, and off-putting. This can be even worse when this lack of branding leaks into marketing and business communication.
One powerful way that businesses overcome this problem is by having a “face” of the company. In some cases, this is having a mascot like Chester Cheetah for Cheetos or Mario for Nintendo. When it comes to being self-employed, however, you’ll find that you will be the face of your business in most cases, especially if you’re a freelance worker. This makes it important to remember that every interaction you have with clients and prospective customers is a form of branding.
2. Off-Brand Marketing
When you’re self-employed, you’re marketing yourself as the product most of the time. This makes it important to ensure that all of your marketing efforts are always on-brand so that you build a reputation that will benefit your business. Off-brand marketing will not only fail to bring in new clients, but it can also lead to misunderstandings and disappointment for those who choose to do business with you.
To prevent this problem, it’s important to have a high level of brand awareness so that you know exactly what you’re capable of and not capable of. Don’t make false promises or present yourself as something you’re not. Getting a bad reputation as someone who’s self-employed can make it difficult if not impossible to find work.
3. Not Having a Unique Selling Proposition
A unique selling proposition is a statement that differentiates your brand from other brands. For example, one company that ships cars may be the budget-friendly option that targets people looking to save money while another might be the premium option that targets people who want the best service money can buy. This allows both companies to reach customers that are looking for what they have to offer.
I know that coming up with a USP isn’t always simple, but it is one of the most fundamental parts of your brand that you can’t afford to ignore. Not having a USP almost certainly guarantees that a portion of your demographic will go do business with someone else that’s both more memorable and offers services specifically targeted to their needs. This being the case, coming up with a USP is very closely related to both your skillset and the demographic you’re targeting.
In any case, your USP should answer the question of why a potential customer should choose you over a competitor. If you’re in a crowded industry and your demographic targeting alone won’t be enough to give you a unique USP, then you can come up with other ways such as special rewards programs or unique services. For example, if you’re a business writer you could offer a free consultation for the duration of your involvement with your client’s project. If you’re a dog trainer, you could offer a free item when the dog completes the training. There are many ways to differentiate yourself if you’re willing to give it some thought.
Making the Most of Self-Employment
I know that being self-employed isn’t always easy, but I’m confident that a solid understanding of how branding works will help you to connect with your demographic on a much more human level than a simple business transaction. Your customers will begin to instinctively feel that your brand is more approachable and likable, which will make it easier for them to continue doing business with you. Branding mistakes, on the other hand, can cause a huge amount of damage to your self-employed business in a very short amount of time which can be difficult to recover from. Understanding these mistakes and avoiding them will keep your brand healthy, marketable, and popular among your demographic.