Over 50% of the US workforce will be part of the gig economy by 2027. The reality is that becoming a freelancer, let alone sustain a steady income, in the future of work is becoming more difficult. And, as your particular field becomes more saturated, standing out takes on an even greater level of importance.
It’s never too late to build a stronger personal brand as a freelancer. From simply building a stronger network to earning more money, a strong online presence will, at minimum, help you remove barriers to building a sustainable business.
A personal branding guide for freelancers
For this guide, we’ve interviewed several freelancers that have found success in growing their personal brands over time, compiling the best tips and tactics that you can use to grow your own presence. Here, we'll cover:
- The benefits of building a personal brand as a freelancer
- How to build a personal website that reflects your specialization
- Why you should find what makes you unique to create a memorable personal brand
- Where to meet your audience and potential clients
- How to practice what you preach
- How other freelancers are approaching personal branding profiles and positioning
What are the benefits of having a personal brand as a freelancer?
The pool of talented freelancers is growing fast, which means standing out is critical. So, where does a personal brand fit into the mix? It can help you:
- Gain access to a support network or reduce imposter syndrome
- Showcase your skills and find new projects
- Build up your network and credibility in your field
- Find new side projects, open-source collaborations, or other gigs that will get your name out there
- Highlight your projects and accomplishments for more exposure
- Build a stronger path to side income and maximize your prospects of monetization by selling products such as courses or newsletters
- Reach financial independence and get away from any constraints (perceived or real) of full-time employment
Let’s dive into how you can make all of this a reality.
Lean into the skills that make you unique
When crafting your personal brand, it’s essential to showcase your distinctive identity in your industry.
Our interviewees recommended that freelancers start by identifying what sets your work apart, whether it’s a particular aesthetic, a signature technique, or a specific work philosophy. This will help you attract potential employers or clients with projects that match your expertise as well as your own personality and work conduct.
“Share the sources of inspiration that fuel your creativity. These could be drawn from personal experiences, cultural influences, achievements, relevant career experiences, and any ‘wow’ moments from your journey thus far.
Lindsay Kelly, Freelance Creative Director and Brand Strategist, recommends taking the time to write your career and life story, highlighting how your craft (design in Lindsay’s case) has shaped you:
“Share the sources of inspiration that fuel your creativity. These could be drawn from personal experiences, cultural influences, achievements, relevant career experiences, and any ‘wow’ moments from your journey thus far,” she says.
Strive for consistency across everything you create and do. This doesn’t mean being repetitive, but rather ensuring that your work possesses a recognizable thread that ties everything together, showing your unique perspective and style.”
Meet your audience (and potential clients) where they are
By far the most important thing to nail down once you’ve got your positioning is knowing where to be active.
For instance: I, the author of this guide, am a freelancer and one of the most exciting parts of my job is the opportunity to connect with a diverse range of people. The key to success, however, lies in meeting them where they are.
By understanding their needs and preferences, I can tailor my approach to effectively reach and connect with them. That includes being active on the channels where they spend most of their time and delivering content that speaks to them.
"Growing your personal brand means you need to find the right audience. It's not useful to have 10,000 Twitter followers if all your potential customers hang out on LinkedIn."
As Dominic Kent, Author of The Autonomous Freelancer, puts it, building a personal brand is pointless if it's in the wrong place:
“Growing your personal brand means you need to find the right audience. It's not useful to have 10,000 Twitter followers if all your potential customers hang out on LinkedIn. Likewise, if you've got 75% of your customers from a niche forum, that's a surefire sign you should double down here.”
Dominic also notes you should create content and talk to the people who match your target client base:
“For example, the majority of my clients are Microsoft partners. So I spend a good amount of time sharing content, the performance of that content, and the inner working of what goes into it on the platforms Microsoft partners check regularly.
The same applies to industry events you attend. I make the trip to Orlando once a year to attend Enterprise Connect. It's literally a room full of my target customers, so it makes sense to be there.”
Dominic further adds you don't have to attend expensive conferences. however, you do have to work out where your target customers are most likely to find you:
“If you work in B2B SaaS, potential customers may have a Twitter account, but they're likely doing "work" on LinkedIn. Explore mutual groups with existing customers, mine posts that match the topics you write about, and see what they're talking about. See what events they're attending and see what their problems are.”
Freelancers: Practice what you preach
One core step in building a personal brand is to define your values, interests, and passions. Think about how these intersect and what you wish to create or change within your industry.
You'll also want to:
- Be consistent in what you say and how you work
- Know when something (like a project or achievement) is ok to share or not
- Be transparent about who you are as a person and an expert
All this will help you build a memorable brand so people will think of you when they need help that matches your expertise.
Freelance Web Developer Ash Duckett says you should stick to your own values when crafting your personal brand. You’ll later have to ensure this is reflected in both your hands-on work and your interaction with clients:
“I believe in being fair to clients, I believe in helping them for nothing if it's an easy job. Sure, it’s controversial, but there's no sense in taking money for five minutes of work. It's only right to tell them where they can save money.
Advertise yourself like that and make it clear that that's how you behave. By showing people you actually care about them rather than just taking their money, you’re amplifying who you are and what you stand for.”
Freelancers can build a personal website that reflects their specialization
Creating a personal website is a great way to stand out and showcase your work.
Anna Burgess Yang, Freelance Fintech Writer, is aware that potential clients are "checking her out" before they contact her:
“Therefore, I try to give them a good sense of what I'm like as a person, not just my client work. I post regularly on social networks and also share long-form content I've written. I think it's really important for potential clients to understand my personal writing style and the topics I'm passionate about.”
Anna takes things further and reuses the content she already has throughout her online profiles:
“The long-form content I write also serves as a basis for some of my social posts. In addition to sharing a link, I can later repurpose the content into a few sentences for a social post.”
1. Set up a free Polywork account for a quick setup and easy profile maintenance
2. Add in the basics like your headline and profile while making sure you’ve got a unique positioning that will help differentiate yourself
3. Prepare a portfolio with work samples and case studies
4. Make sure your website has a clear focus (e.g. if you take on website copywriting work for D2C brands, state that and include a collection of your work in that space first)
5. Be clear about what kind of work and side projects you’re open to by listing out some of the gigs you’re interested in
Freelancer personal branding examples
Why this profile works: Ben is clear about the services being offered. His expertise in 3D designs is clear from both his profile description and portfolio samples.
Takeaway from this profile: Don’t try to do it all! You want to pick a niche and specialize yourself in areas where you can excel. If you do want to offer a wider range of services, make sure to include that in your list of services and portfolio too. Just don’t let prospects think you’re a jack-of-all-trades and a master of none.
Why this profile works: Ramón is a developer by trade, but he’s not afraid to do more than just that. He speaks at events, guests on podcasts, does live streaming events, and diligently highlights all of the times he’s been featured. He’s also clear about being open to taking on new gigs like this that will get him in front of a new audience.
Takeaway from this profile: Getting yourself out there helps expand your personal brand’s reach. Generating these engagements outside of your normal work is crucial if you want to connect with people and build a following.
Why this profile works: Tabs embodies the multihyphenate ethos, live streaming on Twitch, showing off their side projects, managing three other communities, and still finds time for mentoring on top of all that.
Takeaway from this profile: Tabs shows that there does not need to be random acts of polywork — their different projects all relate to personal and professional pursuits. This gives audiences a clear idea of Tabs’s unique point of view and how they can work together.
Why this profile works: PG’s profile is straightforward about the things he likes doing: designs in Figma, Webflow websites, Notion projects, and coding. His portfolio collection on Polywork also highlights part of this work so companies interested in working with him will know exactly what he’s best at.
Takeaway from this profile: Position yourself for the clients and projects you want to get. Give top billing to projects that match the work you enjoy doing most or simply make sure that’s the “headline” of your personal site. You could mention your main industry, the tools you work with, and even client profiles.
Why this profile works: Annie is working in-house alongside her freelancing gig. She uses both her full-time work and extra projects as case studies that showcase her expertise and achievements.
Takeaway from this profile: Prepare case studies for past projects. We recommend choosing diverse clients or project types so you’ll have a wider array of examples to showcase for potential partners.
Where to start with building your own personal brand as a freelancer?
Make sure you’re considering all facets of building and improving your personal brand by going through the items on this checklist:
- Identifying your unique value proposition so you can stand out and create a memorable personal brand
- Learning where to meet your audience and potential clients
- Consistently practicing and sticking to your core values whether it’s in terms of the work output you deliver or simply the way you communicate with clients
- Creating a personal website that reflects your unique talents, interests, and specializations