Billable hours are tanking. Once dependable revenue streams have slowed to a trickle. Clients are postponing, or even canceling, projects you were depending on. Jobs that are scheduled to go forward are taking longer to get off the launching pad and cost containment is the phrase du jour. You are worried. How can you make clients realize that your contributions add real value to their organizations and should not be passed up?
Freelancing friend, I may be able to offer you some ammunition for this one. Respectfully, I suggest that it may be time for you to take a good honest look at your position in the marketplace and assess the value that clients place on your services. I submit to you that it may be time to analyze, clarify, strengthen and re-launch your brand identity.
Breathe, Focus, List
I recommend that you begin this process by cataloguing your strengths: years of experience, sought-after skills, client list, resourcefulness, positive attitude, work ethic, decision making ability, strategic thinking. List the reasons that clients hire you.
Catalog also a few key weaknesses. Remember that you are selling yourself and will benefit from being able to anticipate objections so you can formulate and practice responses to neutralize them.
So if you’re often late for meetings, slow to respond to emails, lack the advanced degree that many of your peers have obtained or freeze up when called to speak in public, it’s best if you acknowledge all that, if only to yourself (knowledge is power, lovey!).
In fact, you may even want to make a plan to remedy a few negatives. Maybe you can take a course or attend a seminar and deepen a particular skill set? Or perhaps you can join Toastmasters and learn to become a more confident and effective public speaker? What negatives do clients consider to be the deal breakers? If at all possible, that’s what you work on.
You might find that placing your lists in a SWOT matrix will help you to better analyze your situation. Remember that Strengths and Weaknesses are internal factors and are therefore yours to impact. Opportunities (e.g. lucrative projects you might obtain) and Threats (e.g. the weak economy) are external factors and less within our control. Nevertheless, examining all factors allows us to better position ourselves for successful outcomes.
Oh yes, you’ll also need to be very clear about who your best clients are, or could be, and why that is so. It will not be possible to effectively develop a brand identity and a good brand strategy without an accurate understanding of your target markets (i.e. clients and prospects).
Your Story, the Brand Narrative
Yes, this is all very similar to corporate branding. You are both brand manager and branded product. Your personal brand is your corporate identity. It is a very potent marketing tool and you are advised to consider it carefully and construct it wisely.
Your brand identity will be reflected in all aspects of how you do business and in major business decisions: where and how you choose to advertise; speaking engagements sought and accepted; professional associations joined; clients to pursue. Your professional choices must be consistent with your brand identity and strategy, so be smart about where you’re seen, how you may be perceived and the company you keep.
Your objective here is to enhance your perceived value in the marketplace. You must effectively communicate what you bring to the table– your professional chops, your value proposition–in a clear and concise fashion. Highlight the attributes and benefits that clients, prospects and referral sources value most and use language and terminology that is meaningful to them.
I’ll pause here and let you go to work on your self assessment and client analysis. Make your lists, maybe enter them into the SWOT matrix and make a first draft of your brand narrative. We’ll pick up the thread on this subject next week.