In a world that estimates that by 2020 more than 40% of the US-workforce alone will be independent workers, standing out from the crowd has never been more important.
For many consultants who have spent time working in larger consulting organisations, being able to function as part of a globally-accepted, reputable umbrella-brand has opened doors for them long before they’ve stepped foot in their client’s office. But for those consultants who have chosen a more independent path, their challenge is a different one. How do I build myself as my own reputable brand that will open the doors I need and award me with opportunity directly relatable to my own expertise and skill?
You don’t need to be a marketer to build your own brand. In fact, many of the consultants I’ve spoken to would probably shiver at the thought of dipping their toes into the marketing water. But one thing is clear, their recognition of the need to develop a personal brand that will set them up for success. And before we send you running for the hills – it’s important for you to recognise that building a brand takes simple common sense, a can-do attitude, and open eyes that recognise opportunity. There is no fool-proof recipe that will guarantee success, but there are several ways that you, as a now independently working individual, can build your reputation towards a successful career, with revenue-rewarding opportunities.
We’ve put together 6 of them for you.
1. Authenticity! Authenticity! Authenticity!
I read a great quote somewhere. It said, “Be yourself, because everyone else is taken.” You chose the independent consulting route because you have something unique to offer that your clients need. So, what’s the point of pretending to be someone else, or something you’re not? Your brand should reflect who you are. Indirectly, the way your brand is perceived is a message to future clients that reflects what it would be like to work with you. Don’t risk creating a vision that they buy into, only for them to be disappointed when the project commences because of the disparity with your constructed personal brand. This means that building a true brand is fundamentally based on an understanding of your true self: What you represent, how you work, what is important to you, what your definition of success is.
Never be afraid to be vulnerable. It may take a while for you to clearly identify what your personal brand looks like, but the more fake you take away, the truer the reflection of what the client will get, and the greater the chance for success.
2. Understand where your audience is
There’s no point in developing a brand for the wrong audience. Sounds simple, right? It’s not. Before you spend copious amounts of time building social profiles, designing websites, learning the latest jargon because “industry tells you so” – take some time to identify exactly who it is that you want to engage with. Understand where they are, what technology they use, what’s important to them – and then make sure that you are there. Create personas if you must. Understand what drives them. You may be looking to introduce your personal brand and service to an audience who is not on Facebook, who doesn’t understand what a ReTweet is, and who couldn’t care less about your latest Pulse article, but who do believe in the power of the Breakfast Networking session and a round on the golf course.
On the flip side, your target audience may only be interested in the immediate, the tech and the social networking bounty, and if you have any hope of building any sort of rapport, for you to not be adept in the same communication mind-set would be the first huge omission to building and establishing your personal brand. Remember, your audience goes beyond just employer and customer. Your audience stretches to peers, influencers, mentors – anyone that may just be that stepping stone you need towards your next opportunity.
3. Jack of all trades, master of One
A recurring comment I hear from many consultants I speak with is the notion, “When I started out, I tried to be everything to everyone. I spread myself so thinly that nobody really knew what it was that I offered”. Demonstrate, through your value through understanding exactly what it is that you offer your clients. And then build on that. If you are confused about the single (or few) driving solution(s) that you offer, so will your customers be. So take the time to really consider the characteristics, strengths and skills that you’ve developed throughout your career. And if you’re uncertain as to what that “one thing” may be, then ask those you’ve worked with. You’ll very quickly identify your master skill.
4. Excuse me, Mr Speaker
A great way to quickly amplify your expertise, is to speak about it. (No kidding). Think about it this way – now that you have identified your expert subject matter, you are in the unique position to share opinion and thought on that subject matter that others will be interested in. You understand your field, you’ve probably been in your field for several years, and no doubt would have worked with various clients and industries who need what you have to say, and as a result you’ve probably built your own working case studies of how to do, or how not to do, things. You now hold a purse full of valuable thought nuggets and insight that any event organiser (no matter how large or small) would be desperate to include for the value of their own audience. If speaking scares you – now is the time to start putting your fears to rest, and start practicing. And it may mean that you start small, through something like a little networking get-together – but getting your voice heard, in as many places (online or physical) as possible, is the first step to introducing your desired audience to a taste of the expertise that you have, and the expertise that they need and will pay for.
5. Get Active
Part of developing a personal brand is becoming a thought leader on a subject matter. Remember, you are looking to sell your ability to a potential client – based on the insight that you have developed as an independent consultant. But telling people how amazing you are simply won’t cut it. Sometimes, behaviour speaks far louder than any self-promotion ever will – and that’s when it’s time to get active. Whether you’re a keen blogger, or whether you simply love the immediacy of social comment and debate, setting aside time every day, to nurture your online community, create content (whether it be via LinkedIn’s Pulse or a personal blog on your own website), and share that content socially is a critical part to setting your brand up as a thought leader. Create a schedule that you can commit to, that allows you reasonable time to get active, and then stick to it. Remember – sharing your insight with relevant media is also a part of expanding your brand reach. Getting active is more about sharing value than it is about self-promotion.
6. Never stop learning
As much as you may be expert in your field today, tomorrow the entire industry can (and probably will) change. Maintaining a successful personal brand is not a static process – it relies on constantly learning, constantly evolving and constantly staying relevant. If you fail to stay relevant, all the effort you’ve put in to build your brand, will be useless. Subscribe to industry newsletters and blogs, magazines, articles and journals. Identify industry influencers and keep a constant check on the things they are sharing and shouting about. Expand your own skills to always keep developing yourself. If you’re growing, you’re not stagnating.
For more tips and tools about marketing yourself and building your personal brand as an independent consultant, make sure that you watch our next live broadcast.
About the Author
Katy is an independent marketing consultant and founded Fresh Brew Marketing out of her love for the cuppa. A seasoned marketer, Katy writes for several global publications and provides outsourced marketing services to businesses throughout the UK. She is a keen geocacher and rates running around in city centres dressed in Christmas lights as one of her most successful Social Media campaigns to date.More Content by Katy Roberts