How to Brand Your Freelance or Consulting Services

By Bill Chiaravalle, Barbara Findlay Schenck

If you’re a solopreneur — a freelancer, a consultant, or a one-person business dynamo — building a personal brand, essential as it is, may not be enough to fuel your success. You might also want to turn your talents into a branded business that others know and trust.

This stands true especially if you want to compete with established businesses or if you have plans to grow your one-person business into a larger enterprise you can someday sell to a new owner. In that case, you need to build two brands at once.

Benefits of a one-person business brand

By most forecasts, one of three people now work as freelancers or on contract, and over the next decade the contingent of self-employed is on track to include nearly half of us. If you’re aiming to succeed selling service or talent, full time or as a side gig, you’re up against stiff competition that’s only going to keep getting more intense.

That’s why freelancer or one-person business brands are advantageous. They prepare you to convince the person you’re trying to sell that you’re serious about what you do, that your offerings are different and decidedly better than other choices, and that you can be counted on today, tomorrow, and well into the future to serve as a supplier and to stand by your work.

Think like an entrepreneur

By turning freelancing into a branded business, you turn yourself into an entrepreneur, and freelancers who think like entrepreneurs work more hours, make more money, are more optimistic, and enjoy more success than freelancers who provide services without an entrepreneurial or business-owner mindset. Those facts come from findings in the 2012 Freelance Industry Report, based on responses from 1,500 freelancers worldwide.

Brand to win business

Participants in the Freelance Industry Report survey were asked to name their most effective method for finding and landing clients. The leading answers: Referrals (27 percent), word of mouth (26 percent), and networking (17 percent).

By building a trustworthy brand for your one-person business, rather than treating your work as a series of assignments or side activities, you develop the trust and confidence that inspires referrals, positive word-of-mouth, and networking success — online and in person.

One-person brand-building steps to follow

Branding freelancing or consulting services tends to differ from branding any other kind of business in one big (and dangerous) way. People who set out to build multi-person or high-growth businesses know they need to establish their businesses as trustworthy brands from day one, whereas people launching one-person businesses too often think they can wing it for now and develop a branded business later.

As a result, they get off to a slower start, make weaker first impressions, command lower prices, and compete at a lower level than competitors who appear more structured, professional, and established.

The minute you decide to turn your freelancing into a business, pave the foundation for a business brand by taking the following steps:

  1. Define your business.

    Include its point of difference, target audience, and competitive position.

  2. Define your business brand and how you’ll present it online and in-person.

  3. Formally establish your business.

    Choose and register a business name. Also, establish business accounts that separate your business and personal finances. (It’s hard to develop a credible business brand when you’re paying business expenses with personal checks.)

  4. Prepare to market by developing your business brand identity and making your business findable online through a website and social-media pages.

Especially if your business serves businesses rather than individuals, realize that clients prefer to work with credible professionals they can count on well into the future rather than with individuals who work on a piecemeal basis and may leave to take a job or pursue another opportunity on a moment’s notice. Branding your one-person business gives it the necessary edge.