Freelancer’s Guide to Building a Brand Identity from Scratch
As a freelancer, building a brand is one of the most important aspects of creating a successful freelancing career for yourself. If you happen to be a freelance designer, you will have many opportunities to create a brand identity from scratch, including, perhaps most importantly, your own.
In fact, you may have already given some thought to your own brand design and perhaps even created a brand logo and chosen the color you want or a favored font.
The importance of brand identity should not be underestimated. No matter where you are in the process of creating your brand identity and whether you are a freelance designer or in another field, your brand needs to be a strong visual representation for your clients, one that will inspire an emotional attachment each time they glance at it.
Here are numerous branding tips that will help you refine your thoughts on brand identity essentials. Learn how to build a strategic brand identity that will make customers swoon with satisfaction.
Step 1: Consider Your Audience
Item one is always audience. Your brand identity will be your unspoken proclamation to potential clients: make sure it speaks to the clients you want to have. Therefore, make sure you create an ideal customer profile.
Describe this ideal customer in detail. Research your target audience, their likes and dislikes, their lifestyle and needs. Then create your brand with this ideal customer in mind. Whether you have a particular affinity to carefree and irreverent or professional and neat, make sure that your brand personality will appeal to your audience. This may mean toning down a playful branding scheme or easing off on the austerity to create a neutral brand that will have appeal to a wider audience.
Step 2: Define Your Brand Personality
Item two on this list is the personality of your brand. Consider the aspects of your work that a client will most appreciate when they hire you. How can you project that in advance with your brand identity?
The core concept of a brand identity is to project the personality of your work to your audience.
Perhaps a tag line should be included in your logo. More than likely certain colors will be better at portraying your image than others. The core concept of a brand identity is to project the personality of your work to your audience. Again, their perception will play a role in how your brand look is processed, so keeping in mind the target audience is still of utmost importance.
This is also where you may decide you need a brand story to more accurately define your freelancing business. A brand story is simply the "About Us" of a company, and the core concept that every aspect of the brand rotates around. For instance, Starbucks has used their brand story to create an atmosphere present in every item in the public eye, from the actual cafes to the products sold in Walmart.
As a freelancer, your story will be about you, where you came from, your personality, your goals in your career, your mission as a freelancer, and definitely your passions. Write out your "story" and you may have a much clearer picture of what your brand needs to look like.
Step 3: Design Your Brand Logo
The next important piece of your brand identity is the logo, a simple representation of your brand through the use of an icon-sized image or mark. When your logo is seen by a current or previous client, it should convey an emotional response to your brand identity. A simple but unique logo will translate more quickly in the mind of your clients than will a complex, detailed design. Think Nike or McDonald’s – most of the big brands have very simple logos that are easy to remember and associate with the company.
Whether you or a hired designer will be creating your logo, make sure that your logo will be recognizable at any size of media you may place it upon, from billboards to business cards, which means it needs to be a created in vector format. Also create both a colored version (see the section on color below) and a black and white version, or at least make sure your design looks good whether in color or printed in black and white.
The best way to get your creative juices flowing for your own logo design is to do some good ol’ research on Google. Simply use a few search terms, such as "freelance writing business logos" or "best graphic designer logos" and you should see plenty of examples either in inspirational roundup posts or in the images search on Google. It is best to see what trends are common in your freelancing field and come up with your own, personalized twist on the look.
Step 4: Choose Colors Wisely
Color is an item that must be considered for both your overall brand identity and your logo. What color do you want to have associated with your freelance efforts? Red and orange are bold, brash colors but they are attention-grabbers. Blue and green can make a bold splash as well or be soft and calming and spa-like. Black or brown or gray tend to lend an ultra-modern, professional air when used with contrasting white.
Jason Athen has put together the most comprehensive post on color meanings in business that I have found to date. Stick with 2-3 brand colors at the most, unless you want to get specific and choose colors for, say, the highlighted links of your website design.
Once again, however, keep in mind your audience first and your personality second when choosing colors. You may be a freelancer based in the states, but maybe most of your clients live in the Eastern Hemisphere. In such a case, your color choices will more than likely portray different emotions to your clients than they do to you, so keep your intended audience foremost in mind. Choose colors wisely and you will be much more likely to create positive bonds with prospects.
Step 5: Decide on Typography
Fonts have a personality all their own so choosing the right ones to go with your brand can be a challenge.
To maintain consistency throughout your brand identity, choose or create two or three fonts to use consistently with your brand. You may need a customized font for your logo and website title, a purchased font for your headings, and an easy-to-read font for your body text. Fonts have a personality all their own so choosing the right ones to go with your brand can be a challenge.
Keep in mind that while there may be an advantage to using a font with a very striking playful, modern, or elegant look, it is more important to choose a font that is easy to read. If the name of your company or your tag line cannot be read in a passing moment, the most striking font in the world will not be of much help to your brand.
Step 6: Add Texture
Visual texture is another valuable commodity in brand identity. Color and font become part of a texture or stand out from the texture. Texture gives a solid feeling to any design but contrast is still vital and needs to be monitored during color and texture choices: a subtle, light colored texture with a dark colored font or a busier, darker colored texture with a light font. Texture can be a good option to tie together and bring continuity to the varied formats your brand identity will take on.
Step 7: Plan Your Presentation
With all of the individual factors that make up your brand identity in mind, you will need to consider the manner in which you will present your brand to your audience. A freelancer starting out will not require the same volume and range of branded items as a large company, but much of the following marketing media will still be essential:
- Your logo
- Your business card and stationery
- Your website
- A brochure
- Signage if applicable to your situation
- Social media accounts (ie, Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, etc.)
Each item that you choose to have in the arsenal of your brand materials should feature a common and consistent brand design appearance so that clients can quickly pick you out in a stack of business cards or a page of search engine results.
If you hand prospects business cards but then your website does not resemble your business card designs at all, your prospects may leave your site either due to confusion or the belief that you are not a legitimate company because your brand look is so inconsistent.
Step 8: Create Your Voice
In writing, a "voice" is the style of the writer, and a strong voice means that readers will recognize that writer no matter where they read his or her work. In your website copy, your marketing materials, your blog (if you have one), and your social media updates, your brand should have a consistent tone that is recognizable to customers.
If your website copy has a hint of humor woven in, feel free to use the same humor in your social media posts. Keep in mind that your tone may change a bit to fit the format, but overall it is recognizable as your brand.
The visual impact of your brand identity is built one element on top of another: an audience, your personality, a logo and design elements, your marketing media, your voice. Start strong with the first few steps in building a brand, and the rest of your brand identity decisions will be that much more clear.
Remain consistent with your brand and relevant to your audience, and your freelancing business will be one that easily stands out from your competitors and gains you the loyal clients you need to build a long-lasting career.