I don’t think personal branding for consultants is one of the first topics that comes to mind when you first think about “personal brands.” But for this group of professionals I think managing their branding is critical for long-term success. For anyone who transitions from employee to freelancer, these same principles will likely apply.
First and foremost, most of us are rarely great marketers when they first start. During your career, your employers were the reason you got to do your area of expertise. You probably even learned it while working for a large corporation. Someone else found the work and you simply had to execute.
How many talented professionals do you know that just struggle to find enough work to make they kind of money they should be making? After leveraging their professional network to get that initial surge of work, then what? Now they need to figure out how to meet new people that might lead to new working relationships. And that’s where having a strong personal brand pays off.
I was recently having a discussion with an excellent business consultant. He asked me about doing work with larger corporate accounts, and I described the type of company I would like to work with. He said “that sounds like Bridge Insurance Group.” It’s exactly who I was describing; I’m doing some work for them next week.
That’s a strong personal brand. Lynn Doehring has built an incredible independent insurance agency, and simply describing it in basic business and cultural terms brought her company to mind for this person. So as a consultant or freelancer, what description will bring you to mind?
Define Your Brand
One of the questions I ask my clients is “What THREE words would you like your clients or customers to use when describing your business?” Those three words can be used to craft the overall feel of your brand. Notice I don’t ask you what clients currently say – I ask what do you want them to say. If it’s currently reality, great. Let’s strengthen that reality and branding position. But you must focus on where you want to be in your branding.
The shoot we plan for someone that answers “Luxury, Concierge, Planning” will be radically different than the person who answers “Effective. Valuable. Accessible.” Those are completely different mindsets! When managing or building your personal brand, define what you’re trying to say first.
The word “Authentic” is simply overused. Authenticity has become a strategy to craft fake messages in a believable way to attract customers. But like my friend Vincent Pugliese said in one of his Total Life Freedom podcast episodes, most of those people are completely different in real life. It’s what we used to call “being a sell-out.”
I’m talking about the type of authenticity that might repel some customers, and make others love you. Everyone is not your potential customer. An example of this is when I was planning an upcoming shoot, the client wanted to do rooftop photos at one of the locations. Being winter in Pittsburgh, she felt that both her and her client that is in the shoot could wear their furs. Problem solved.
She is a luxury personal brand. It fits. It makes sense. Then she worried about if some people might be offended. But the authenticity comes into play because she WILL wear her fur if it’s cold to an upscale event. Does she want a client to be offended at the worst possible moment, or before they even consider working with her? Her ideal clients will embrace her style, and also know they can be comfortable being themselves as well. That’s being authentic.
You are Your Brand
I don’t care if you’re camera shy. Ultimately, you are your brand. If people Google you, check you out on LinkedIn or Facebook, and there are no photos of you, it’s a red flag. If your photo is your old headshot from 1997 or 2007, you might simply come off as not up to date and irrelevant.
So take control of your brand. Tell some compelling visual stories. If you are a consultant, consider getting some photos working with one of your clients. Maybe some photos in their facilities. How can you represent the type of client you work with?
Then, how can you portray what you do and how your clients feel because of the work you do for them? Make prospective clients think “I want some of that! I want to feel like that! I’ve got to work with this person!”
Personal branding applies to all of us. What does your personal brand say to prospective clients or employers?