In a world full of people and products trying to get their heads above the crowd, branding is essential.
It’s not just big companies that need to consolidate their brand, it’s you as a freelancer as well. Becoming a sought after brand could be the difference between getting, and keeping those clients, or becoming lost in the noise.
To get a great idea of how to take the first steps to become a freelancer and shaking off the chains of working for someone else, take a look at these great “How to become a” Web Designer, Web Developer and Digital Marketer articles.
But back to the next nitty-gritty of building your own powerful brand. By the time that you have finished this article, you should be able to create your own basic brand guide, brand strategy, and design direction.
Defining Your Own Brand
Your own brand represents YOU and what you can do for a client. Finding your niche will help to define who you are and in turn what your brand actually is.
The basics that your website needs to get across to your clients are:
1. Brand Strategy
2. Brand Design
3. Messaging & Copywriting
4. Call To Action
How will this help you? In short, without becoming a well-known brand you could very likely miss out on potential sales and clients. A well-known brand will get business by word of mouth and become sought after by the RIGHT clients. There is also no point in attracting the wrong people, this won’t help to increase your sales at all!.
So read on to find out EXACTLY how to implement this for your business.
About your company
The absolute first thing that you need to define, and get access to your audience is who you are. Create a very visible About Us, or About The Company section right at the top of your website. You can also have an About Us page that goes into more detail, but many people won’t go looking at that.
Your About The Company section should include:
- Who you are
- What you do: for example, if you design food websites it must state this. It must also define any subsections for example restaurants, professional chefs, or recipe sites.
- Why you do what you do. What are your driving points when it comes to working with your clients? For example: if you are in the pet niche, then a good WHY could be that you love animals, and want to improve their lives. When you can answer the why part of your business, you have the start point, cause, or purpose for being. This is the very reason that your business exists in the first place.
- Your mission statement, and what you want to achieve with your clients.
- How you go about achieving your mission statement with your clients.
- In summary: Why you do what you do, how you plan to go about it.
who you are, and what exactly do you do for your clients.
Here is an example of some great about us copy:
“Phil Keye facilitates online workshops, courses, and programmes focusing on guiding our audience down a path of purpose and sustainability. Living from our garden, we want to help others do the same and share in a thriving community that allows for individuality and expression. Using the core focus of sustainability, we show you how to build and live your passion project and break free from the broken wheel of society.”
Brand words are five or six simple words that you feel describe you and your company. They should express your goals, and be what you would like people to associate with your brand when they think of it.
These don’t need to be on your website, but they definitely do need to be in your brand guide. When you create your brand guide, keep in mind that you will be showing it to clients so it MUST look professional. The initial workings can be for your eyes only, but the final product needs to be polished and on par with the brand guides of the big names in your industry.
Your brand needs a set of goals to establish exactly what it is you want to do, and what you want to achieve for your clients.
Basically, you need to ask yourself the question
“What do you want your brand to be and achieve?”
To do this, you will need to figure out exactly who your customers are and what they want. Once you have this nailed down, you can begin to solve their problems for them. All customers come to you because they have a question or a problem that you may be able to solve.
Examples of customer problems could be that they do not have enough clients, or they do not know how to reach clients with their company’s message.
So, how do you do this?
What does your company do?
The first thing you need to know is what your USP is.
USP stands for Unique Selling Proposition.
What can you offer customers that other people can’t?
Or what can you offer customers that will solve their problem quickly and satisfactorily?
Here is a neat little diagram detailing where your USP may lie
Remember that there will always be competition. You are very unlikely to be the only one offering your service. This is why finding a niche is so important. It helps to nail down your USP much more easily than if you were simply a “web designer” or a “digital marketer”. Remember to check out our article on finding a niche here
To discover your USP, use this recipe:
“We help _____________(short client description) achieve/do __________________(ultimate goal) so that they can ______________(benefit/result) without _________________(pain point).”
Fill in the blanks in this sentence, and you will have a good starting point to get a clearer idea of who, and what your business is.
For example, a personal trainer who has picked new moms as their niche could say:
“I help new moms get their pre-pregnancy body back so that they can lose up to 10kg in a month, without giving up the foods they love.”
Using your USP in your brand guide is essential. Make sure that it is descriptive and clearly outlines who you help and what you help them to do.
For your website, you do not need to go into so much detail. A simple tagline will be fine. For example: “Mentorship and Resources For Small Businesses on Mars”
Next, we get to your target audience. After all, what business do you have without people to communicate with?
You may feel that this step is a waste of time, but believe me, it is not!
Simply going out there and advertising your services to anyone who will listen won’t get you very far.
Think of it like standing on a box and yelling at a crowd of people who are walking by.
Not very many will stop to listen, or even feel like you have something that they want. If you, however, are speaking to a room of people who you KNOW are interested in what you have to say, you are much more likely to get good quality leads and engagement.
Your target audience needs to be very specific. It should include their:
- Income level
- Personality traits
- Potential issues/problems
Who Needs Us?
Now that you have all of your target audience questions answered, you should know exactly who it is that needs you. You should know their basic demographics, age, income and where to find them. Now, you can look at discovering EXACTLY what your audience’s problems are, and how you can solve them.
The first step to nailing down how you are going to help your audience is to answer these three questions. Every client has an external, internal, and philosophical problem.
For example, if you are a freelancing web designer working in the pet product niche, your pain points may look something like this:
External problem: Your clients want a website specialized to their unique needs that communicates their love of animals
Internal Problem: Your clients aren’t sure what to ask for or how to ensure that you are actually who they need to solve their problems.
Philosophical problem: Improving animals lives should not have to cost a fortune.
How will you go about solving these problems that are unique to your audience?
Your messaging is what your audience will first encounter when it comes to your business, so it needs to resonate with them instantly.
Here, it is important not to make yourself out to be this all knowing-ego-trip company. They don’t really want to hear about YOU, they want to know how you can help THEM.
To attract audiences and show them that you not only understand their problems and questions but that you can also solve them, you need to show two main things in your messaging:
- Show empathy
- Show authority
Let’s use the example above of the client wanting to sell good quality food ingredients.
- Do you spend a lot of your time trying to reach the right people to buy your ingredients, and don’t really know how to get it right?
- We know what it is like to try to get your product out there and become a brand yourself with a good following.
- We have helped XX businesses to reach their markets, engage with them, and grow their business successfully.
- We have XX years of experience in doing exactly what we do, successfully.
- We have helped some of the big names in your industry to get to where they are today.
3 Step Process
Your potential clients have registered their need for you. Now, they need to be able to get hold of you and work with you, in the easiest way possible.
On your Website, you should have a three-step process for working with you.
Make this its own section, with very clear instructions.
An example could be:
- Complete our simple contact form
- We will contact you either via telephone or email or chat, depending on which option you have selected on your contact form.
- Begin the journey to building your business with our roadmap for success.
One Main Call To Action
Once they understand the process of working with you and have acknowledged the need for you to solve their problems, they now need a One-Click call to action to reach you. Make these in the form of buttons on your website, interspersed at various points. Don’t oversaturate your site with too many, but three or four calls to action buttons, one after each section, should suffice.
Your buttons should be instantly recognizable. Make them a different color to the rest of your site, and position the first one in the top right-hand corner of your site.
These should be VERY simple. For example:
- Get in touch
- Contact Us
- Shop Now
- Book Now
- Sign Up
- Free Call
The final part of your messaging should cement all that has come before. It should answer the question:
What are some POSITIVE OUTCOMES your customers can have after working with you?
- They will grow their business
- They will feel more secure in their business
- They will feel less anxiety about whether their business will succeed.
Next, you need to make clear
What are some RISKS if they don’t work with you?
- The potential failure of their business
- Not reaching the correct clients that they need to engage with
- Potential financial stress and increased anxiety
Lead Magnet Ideas
Creating lead magnets will help to ensure that you keep in touch with new and existing clients. Lead magnets are long-form resources that you offer in exchange for a lead’s contact details. These are offered when someone enters your website or blog and can be instrumental for gathering leads.
The content of lead magnets needs to be interesting to clients in your niche. It should catch their eye and really make them WANT to download it.
Some examples or ideas could be:
- Ultimate Guides
- The resource guide, for example, “Best SEO Links that you need!”
- Beginners Guides
- Items of the week, for example, “Recipes of the week”
- Bonus packs
- Workbooks, for example, “The best blog writing workbook to rank in Google”
- The Secret. Kind of like a blind ad campaign, it could be something along the lines of “Want to know what the best SEO technique that REALLY works is?”
The next big step in establishing your brand is to decide what it will look like. This includes all the visual bits like colour, logo, look and feel, fonts, and imagery.
Your design direction needs to reflect who your business is, and what your personality is.
If you are a vibrant, young, and energetic company you could use bright oranges, yellows, and greens.
If you want to look more professional then beiges, blues, greys, and blacks could represent you better.
Colour psychology is a very real thing. It can most easily be seen by the way a room makes you feel when you walk into it. A yellow room will immediately lift your mood, and make you feel more cheerful. Blue’s and greens improve calming and are often used in doctors’ waiting rooms for that exact reason.
In branding, colour psychology has been extensively researched and is still a bit of a contentious topic. What you do need to know is that colours will impact how a consumer or client views your brand and will affect how they feel about you.
Choosing the right colours for your brand is something that only you can do.
There is no neat answer to the question “What colours will work best for me?”
The best thing for you to do is to research as much as you can about colour psychology, and how it can apply to your individual message.
The first step to setting up your design direction is to create a mood board.
A mood board is a collection of images and colours that best represent the direction of your brand. It can be any images that you find and like.
You don’t have to make your own images.
It’s basically a collage of what you want people to think about when they look at your brand.
If you have a bright, young and energetic brand, your mood board could be full of bright colours. Images of flowers, young people jumping into water, brightly coloured food, empowered people or remote working could all fit. You could also include examples of typography that you like.
Look and Feel
Your look and feel is how your clients will experience your brand. In the world around us, look and feel is everywhere. It’s in the restaurants that we eat, on the TV shows that we watch. Setting your look and feel needs to be consistent over ALL of your branding. This means that your eBooks need to have the same look and feel as your website.
Don’t be afraid to let your look and feel evolve over time as your business does. Maybe the logo that you created right in the beginning doesn’t really represent you any more, or your colours need to be toned down just a tad. Whatever you do, you have to make sure that everything connected to your brand has the same look and feel.
Imagery is a visual representation of your brand. It will end up being used on your website, in any communications such as emails, and publications such as ebooks. Setting boundaries for your imagery will help to ensure that your look and feel stays consistent throughout everything. The correct imagery can deepen your audience’s attachment to your brand.
For example, you don’t want to have bright and vibrant imagery of young people jumping off cliffs on your website, and then boring images of people working at boardroom tables on your emailers. Consistency is always key to helping your brand become instantly recognisable.
When setting your imagery you need to consider and take these points into consideration:
- Colours (bright, muted, blues, yellows etc)
- Temperature and feel (warm or cool)
- Age group of people in your imagery
- Ethnicity and representation of people in your imagery
- Activities of people in your imagery
- Type and colour of objects in your imagery (Mercedes for example usually uses silver cars in all of their imagery)
- Whether you allow only photography or animation and illustrations as well
- The style of the animation and illustration that is used
- Fonts and typography that can be used on your images, and where the type is allowed to be situated.
This is an example of typical Mercedes imagery. Note the colours, design style, and typography.
Your colour palette needs to be exact. Dark green and kind of gold colour is not going to cut it here. You need to choose exact Pantone shades, and use them throughout your branding.
Deciding what colours you should choose has been covered a bit earlier in the article. When you have decided on your colours, you now need to pin them down to exact shades. Every brand has a seasonal personality, either Spring Summer, Autumn or Winter.
Choosing your colour palette should reflect what season your brand is.
Spring season: These colours are bright, cheerful, and friendly. Your brand is reflecting the new life and energy that bursts forth in spring. Think bright greens, delicate blues, pinks and oranges.
Summer season: Summer is all about long afternoons and lazy days. Summer brands have slightly muted warm colours with a less energetic vibe than spring. Summer colours are not on the warm spectrum but on the cool one. Think greys, dusky pink, muted blue, purple and yellow. Colours should be subtle and elegant, with no excess vibe or energy.
Autumn/Fall season: Autumn is all about grounded colours, like those of falling leaves and fresh earth. On the warm spectrum, autumn or fall colours are desaturated, loyal and friendly with good energy. Autumn is always a good time to start a new business and should reflect that hopeful, friendly, home-made type of energy. Think warm browns, reds, coppers, greys, burgundy, greens and oranges.
Winter season: Winter is a season of starkness and extremes. It conjures up images of freezing snow-covered lands and driving rain. A winter brand is cool, authoritative and bold. Think blues, navy, dark grey, ice green, silver, deep purple and black.
Colour palettes should include:
- Primary colours: choose three
- Secondary colours: choose three
- Warm accent: choose two
- Cool accent: choose two
Finally, we come to font selection. Fonts represent who you are in a much more subtle way than colours or imagery. A carefully selected font can show elegance, or project a childish vibe. There is no point in going through this whole branding process only to choose a font that will immediately make people wonder if your company is run by a 12-year-old.
Take for example, Comic Sans. A wildly popular font, Comic Sans has the reputation of only being used by those uneducated in correct design principles, or under the age of 16 for school projects. Choosing a font such as this will immediately devalue your brand.
Imagine that a font is your outfit. If you are going to a business meeting with a whole lot of corporate types, you wouldn’t wear sneakers and slashed jeans. The same goes for a font. Take into consideration your brand’s personality, and who it will be talking to. Use your chosen font as a dress code for all of your communications.
Using your brand strategy and design direction
Now that you have your brand strategy and design direction laid out, you can begin to design a logo. Logos should be as simple as possible, while still conveying your personality. Some of the most famous logos are also the most simple. Look at the famous Nike swish for example. It’s as simple as it gets, and yet is instantly recognisable, and gets the whole brand’s look and feel across.
Your logo needs to be:
Remember to use your USP (Unique Selling Proposition) across all of your platforms. Whether it is your website, your logo, your social media or even your lead magnet content, it all has to keep driving home why you are the BEST choice for your client.
Your tone should also be consistent throughout your platforms.
Don’t get all familiar with slang language on your social media and then be all correct and distant on your website.
Every piece of communication from your brand should follow the laid out in your brand guide, so that your audience instantly recognises and feels familiar with your brand.
Your brand is who you are. It is who you want to help, how you are going to help them, and why they should let you help them.
It is what your company looks like, feels like, and comes across as.
Sorting out all the details of your brand and creating your own basic brand guide, brand strategy and design direction may seem like a huge chore, but it is absolutely essential to the success of your business.
After all, how can you help others if you don’t know who you are?
To get an even better understanding of how to become a freelancer, have a look at these “How To” articles on Web Design, Web Development and Digital Marketing.
Web Courses Bangkok also offers superb courses, handcrafted to helping you get started on the journey to your own freelance success.