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Time Is on Your Side: How to Build Your Personal Brand

Our latest #WiredBrekkie supported our freelance members with debate and discussion on how to cope with the feast and famine of freelancing. One of our speakers, Hayley Maisey, a Freelance Marketing Consultant, shared her knowledge and expertise on how freelancers can be clever with their time to manage their personal brand and effectively market what they do. Here she provides some helpful recommendations and quick wins for anyone new to freelancing or those more experienced and looking for some fresh ideas.

When I first started freelancing, I was given a great piece of advice; I was told that time would be my most valuable asset.

As a freelancer, the way you utilise your time is very different to how you manage your time when you’re employed. Whether you’re a limited company or a sole trader, you juggle clients, paid work and travel/meetings. In addition, you manage your own admin/finances, accounts, leads and sales. You’re also your own Manager, Leader, Coach… and Marketer.

Your personal brand

Personal branding is the practice of building a brand around you and your career. Doing so is important and a valuable activity, whether you’re employed or self-employed. But, as a freelancer, the process of marketing yourself to people who in turn invest in you – and want your time – can make all the difference.

There are several definitions in that old Google when you search for “What is marketing?” I define marketing as effectively sharing what a business or person does and why their product or service is of value.

There are many ways to market yourself and raise your brand awareness based on time, budget, resource and your audience. With the Christmas break around the corner, and time more available, I offer five recommendations to kick-start your personal brand refresh:

1. It’s all about you

Set aside a good amount of time and review your LinkedIn account and anywhere your CV/profile is listed (Wired Sussex Directory, member organisations etc.) Is it accurate? Is it up to date? Does it easily communicate what you do?

Start at the top and work your way down. Ensure you can successfully showcase your clients and the work you’ve done to date, and that every role you’ve had has a good description of your responsibilities and achievements. Can you attach media?

Do you have any projects you can share? Similarly, do you have relevant and recent recommendations? If not, reach out and ask them to write a few words (most people are happy to do this).

Review your other social accounts as well as LinkedIn. Is your profile image a good resemblance of what you look like today? If not, update it. If you attend a meetup, spend time in a co-working space or go to an event, you want to ensure people recognise you, so you can connect with them online.

2. “Get on your socials!”

^^ I’ve heard them say this on Kiss FM. It means – use your social media channels and actively post. Having a good-looking profile is one thing but there is a real benefit in using your accounts to network, share relevant articles/news stories and contribute to the conversation.

Consider your audience for each account and post content that not only you find interesting but also meets their interests.

My three rules of thumb when it comes to posting on social media:

  • Don’t post anything your Mum wouldn’t be happy to see.
  • Don’t post anything you wouldn’t want a client/your boss seeing.
  • Don’t post for the sake of posting.

You can share updates throughout the week of things you’re doing – meeting a client (post a picture of the café, say, and ‘mention’ who you’re meeting), attending an event (take a picture of your badge, use the event hashtag and ask who else is going) or reading a book to support your L&D (post a picture of the front cover, ‘mention’ the author and what you’ve learnt to date, and ask if any of your network has read the book). These suggestions create engagement and provide you with fodder to reach out to your networks and raise your profile.

3. Post original content to market your expertise

What does content look like? What could you create? What is the best form of content to promote what you do? The word “content” in marketing is a big catch-all. As well as posting your thoughts/ideas, a discussion topic, news story or article, consider creating/sharing:

  • Videos
  • Podcasts
  • Your designs/sketches/storyboards
  • Photos
  • Vlogs
  • Articles
  • Blogs

At least one will appeal to you more than others. If you’re not sure where to start, begin with creating a blog. If you don’t have a website or an area to host your blog posts, LinkedIn Pulse provides a good platform. Don’t worry about SEO, keywords or any of that jazz (that can come later), work towards a 400-600-word blog post and a relevant image.

A blog post can be reflective, informative, emotive… You may want to reflect on an event you attended and what was great about it, what you learnt and how it supports the work you do (and how clients benefit from working with you). You may want to share a case study of how you’ve helped a client that in turn showcases your expertise or want to share thought leadership around a subject in your field of work.

4. Networking

Not everyone loves to network; it’s a bit like clothes shopping. But, as a freelancer it’s a great way of meeting people, building contacts and learning from others.

Meetups are plentiful in Brighton – Brighton Farm, a weekly meetup group for digital freelancers in the local area, is organised by Paul Silver (a highly experienced freelance web developer). There are also other meetups that focus on specialisms.

Wired Sussex runs several events throughout the year, from quarterly meetups to breakfast sessions etc and they promote independent events in Brighton and the surrounding areas by publicising them on their website.

If you meet someone at any of the above, connect with them on LinkedIn and/or Twitter and include a personal note with the request so they recall who you are.

5. Coffee and a catch-up

During the downtimes, contact your past clients and take them for a coffee. Use the time to find out what is happening in their organisation and share your other work/projects, if you have permission to. It’s a great way of retaining the relationship, keeping up to date on what is happening in your network and ensuring you’re at the forefront of your clients’ minds should they need you.

Your positive mind

There is an important parallel to keep in mind (no pun intended). Focusing on your personal brand not only promotes you and your expertise but it contributes to a positive mindset.

Consider days when you’re busy. You have structure, tasks ahead of you and a feeling of achievement at the end of the day. When you’re less busy you don’t have a framework and, in turn, you start over-thinking, doubting why you don’t have any work, considering your worth and feeling you’re not good at what you do, which leads to low self-esteem and confidence. This is more prominent if you work from home.

Yet by blogging, networking, meeting clients, posting on social and engaging with people online, you remind yourself why you do what you do, that you do know your stuff and you’re good at it!

Your time

How do you keep up with all this activity when you’re busy? How do you maintain a similar level of engagement online? How do you keep your personal brand looking fresh and consistent?

Here are my three quick wins to ensure your personal brand and marketing-led activity doesn’t fall through the cracks when you’re prioritising paid work:

1. Take 10 minutes to top-up

Carve out ten minutes in your working week to top-up your LinkedIn profile/CV. Can you update your client list, is there a piece of work you can showcase or a project you’ve undertaken you can share via your profile?

2. Schedule your social posts

Technology is available to help you post when you can’t; Hootsuite and TweetDeck are good platforms (free) to use. If you’re a busy bee but have an hour on Sunday morning to spare, schedule your tweets/posts for the week ahead.

In addition, at the very least be present on social media; re-tweet, like and share posts that you find of interest. Be clever with the time you have available – when you’re making a cuppa, queuing for a coffee, waiting for the train or going to the toilet (yes, I wrote that).

3. Don’t underestimate the ‘burden’ of blogging

It is often hard to carve out time and the mental space to write a blogpost after a busy week – I speak from experience. If copywriting isn’t your strength, even using your own words, start with a monthly round-up that requires you to blog once a month (what you’ve done, who you’ve seen, what you’ve learnt etc.) This way you can also break down the elements of the blog post and use them to feed your social posts and promote your content.

Hayley Maisey​ is a Chartered Marketer based in Brighton. She became self-employed in June 2017 having previously worked client-side in senior marketing and events roles for over ten years, including Marketing Manager at Brightwave Group, e-Communications Manager at The Chartered Institute of Marketing (CIM) and Head of Operations and Events at The Association for Learning Technology (ALT).

She offers honest advice and reliable expertise across the board and is experienced in marketing strategy, campaign management, brand management, digital marketing, event management/trade show strategy and logistical planning, and social media engagement. She specialises in creating meaningful marketing impact for small organisations, working primarily with professionals and providers in the learning technologies sector.

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