Wouldn’t it be amazing to be so respected in your industry that you could charge hundreds of dollars per hour?
To have a waiting list of clients that spans for months or even years?
This is actually perfectly possible, and the way to get to this point is to create a personal brand. In this post, we’ll explore what that means, and how you can go about achieving it.
What is a personal brand?
A personal brand essentially means that you’re marketing and positioning yourself in the way a company like Apple or Nike does. The only difference is that instead of having a company name, you’re using your own name.
Just as Apple has reached the point where people buy its products simply because “it’s Apple” and they know and trust the name, you’re going to ensure that your own personal brand generates the same kind of clout.
This might mean that you become an influencer who uses their own name. Examples of personal brands that work like this include Tim Ferriss, Tony Robbins, Gary Vaynerchuck, Ido Portal, or even someone like Marques Brownlee. These people have developed such a large social media following that they are widely recognized within their industries and even outside of them.
Alternatively, you can achieve a personal brand by separating your own personality from your business. For example, Virgin is a brand, but so too is Richard Branson himself. The same is true for Elon Musk, or even Bill Gates. You know about the company, but you also know about the colorful personality behind that business.
While these are some of the biggest and best-known examples of personal brands, there are countless smaller personal brands creating waves within their sphere of influence. For a freelancer/sole proprietor, developing a personal brand can be an exceptionally powerful tool for leveraging much higher fees, and ensuring a steady supply of work.
How a personal brand helps you charge more money
As a member of the gig economy, you will be competing with millions of other professionals located all around the world. Many of these professionals will be able to charge a lot less than as they’ll have lower costs of living.
How do you compete?
One answer is to make yourself stand out by becoming renowned in your industry.
Imagine for a moment that you are a manager at a small business and you need a website. For the past 5 years, you’ve been watching the YouTube videos of a web designer who shares advice and tips regarding great design, optimal load speed, and search engine optimization.
Now it’s time to create a website for yourself, who do you think is the first person you are going to turn to? Ideally, you’ll want to pay that bit extra to hire the professional who you know has an amazing talent, understanding, and passion for what they do. You’ll already know if you agree with their philosophy, and you’ll be intimately acquainted with the quality of their work.
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Likewise, think how much easier it will be for you to convince top brass that this is the right person for the job!
For another example, let’s consider someone like Ido Portal. I mentioned him in passing, but in case you aren’t familiar, this is a guy who teaches “movement.” He is a health and fitness influencer with an emphasis on mobility, flexibility, and calisthenics.
So, when MMA fighter Colin McGregor was looking for someone to train him for an upcoming fight, he was already a fan of Ido’s work. He already knew Ido’s philosophy, and whether it meshed with his own. Moreover, he knew that simply hiring Ido Portal would be a good move for his own publicity!
I don’t know how much money changed hands, but I imagine it was a lot!
How to build a personal brand in your industry
One of the best ways to start charging more for your services then is to create a blog, social account, or YouTube channel, and give some of your best tips away for free. Here, you will either use your own name as the title, or you will feature your own name prominently.
As well as providing value, you’re also going to be exhibiting your expertise, knowledge, and quality. To this end, it’s important to invest in high production values so that you come across as highly professional. If you’re going to feature videos, then those videos should be high definition, well-edited, and punchy.
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You’ll gain readers and followers, and many of those people will go on to become clients – or to recommend your services to others. This doesn’t mean you can’t also market in all of the other ways through freelancing sites and the like.
This doesn’t mean you need to build a social media account with millions of followers in order to start charging the big bucks. Even if you gain a few thousand subscribers, this will still serve as a kind of testimony to your skills and knowledge, and it will give you access to a huge pool of potential followers. And it still gives you a resource that potential clients can inspect before they decide to hire you, which removes a lot of the uncertainty and risk when hiring someone online.
Other methods for creating a personal brand
Creating a blog or social media presence is only one of the strategies you can use to create a personal brand. Below, you’ll find some other effective methods.
Another option that has worked extremely well for me personally, is to get published. Once you have published a book through a respected publisher, you’ll be able to command higher rates and more authority. Rightly or wrongly, people assign certain expertise to anyone with their name on a book, so being able to point to this as an example of your knowledge will help you to stand out from the crowd.
Better yet, you may even find you get quoted or referenced by other writers in your industry, which is a huge boost to your credibility.
Would you rather hire a life coach with no experience or renown? Or one who has written a highly successful book on the subject?
Likewise, wouldn’t you love to have your video edited by someone who had written a best-selling book on that subject?
On top of this, having a book published will once again provide a large amount of exposure, helping new potential clients to discover your services. It also offers a place to learn more about what you do and what you believe.
Building a superstar portfolio
Another way to make yourself a superstar in your industry is to take on extremely high profile jobs. When accepting work, it is useful to think not only in terms of short-term profitability, but also whether this will impact your CV in a meaningful way.
For example, being an “ex-Google employee” is practically a license to charge twice as much your services as a programmer/marketer/search optimizer.
Likewise, if you can say you have worked with other big names, then this will help you to gain clout by association.
In the era of the gig economy and working online, qualifications may carry slightly less clout than they once did. But at the same time, this can still help you to stand out and to demonstrate your knowledge and skills. For example, although I’ve been offering personal training as a side hustle for many years now, I recently acquired a personal training diploma, and I’ve found it has helped lend more authority to my ads.
The good news is that it is relatively easy these days to gain certifications online. In fact, you can even take entire online courses
Finally, getting positive reviews can also help to grow your influence and status. This will give you “social proof” and help build buzz around your services. You may even find that word of your business travels!
Tips for building a personal brand
One more tip is that it can pay to specialize and become the “best there is at what you do.” That “speciality” may in fact be a combination of different skills, but as long as you offer a unique package, you’ll find that it’s easier to become the only choice for certain types of work. Ido Portal stood out not only because he had built a social following, but because he was doing something different from everyone else.
So while you could work as a photographer, you might do better to become a shoe photographer. While you could be a programmer, you might do better as a mobile Unity developer.
Finally, recognize the value of accessory skills: the skills that are not directly relevant to what you are selling, but which help you to market whatever that thing is.
I have a friend and business partner who is an incredible martial artist. He’s so good, people come over to gawk when he’s hitting the bags at the gym. But as much as his skill, it’s his amazing videography and editing that has helped him to become successful. He’s able to demonstrate his pure talent in a way that is perfect for the internet and social media.
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Likewise, when I talk about functional fitness, I’m able to stand out because I know how to write. The same goes for my tech knowledge and programming. I’m not the best fitness coach and I’m not the best programmer; but there aren’t many people as good as me at those things who can also write really well. That puts me in a unique position to succeed as a blogger and author.
If you are a digital artist, then eventually you want to create a professional blurb that looks something like this:
“Jim Bean, MA: Digital artist with 200,000+ subscribers on YouTube. Bestselling author of How to Draw With a Tablet. Has worked with clients including Marvel and Pixar.”
Of course, the details will vary, and if you’re not a digital artist then it’s going to look completely different. But by building an audience, a stellar portfolio, and an impressive CV, you can make yourself stand out above the crowd.
The best part is that a lot of this stuff snowballs. Once you have a qualification, it may be easier to get published. Getting published will help you to build an amazing portfolio. And that amazing portfolio can help gain you access to more readers and followers.
If you take nothing else away from this, the key thing to recognize is that your reputation should precede you. If you want to truly thrive in the gig economy, it’s not enough to be just a “freelancer,” you need to become a rock star. And for that, you need to build a personal brand.