Brand is an important part of the identity of any self-employed professional. Your brand is a representation of your business—it is how the public, and future clients, know and recognize you. A strong brand establishes who you are, explains what you do, and embodies what sets you apart from your competition. Whether you’re just getting started or you’ve been in business for years, dedicating time to branding efforts will help you build credibility, reach new clients, and grow your business.
In her webinar, Independent and Empowered: What Does BRAND Have to Do With It?, Lynn Miller discussed why brand is so important to the work of independent professionals, how to develop a brand identity, and how to refine your current brand or reach your aspirational brand.
As a Senior Faculty Member at the Center for Creative Leadership (CCL), Miller designs and delivers leadership solutions for clients on a daily basis. In her role, knowing what she stands for and what she delivers has helped her build her reputation as a valued contributor at CCL. A brand is what you are known for and how you deliver it, Miller says. It’s not only about the results you get, but how you deliver those results. We spoke with Miller about the importance of brand management, how to start building a strong brand, and the questions you should ask to grow the business you want.
1. Why does brand matter for independent professionals?
Miller: Brand is extremely important for entrepreneurs and single owners of companies. Most of your business comes from word of mouth, so your brand of what you deliver and how you deliver it is really important in securing both your next opportunity as well as continued opportunities.
2. Where should you start when creating your brand?
Miller: The first thing you want to do is define what your brand actually is. What do you think you are known for? What are people saying about you and is that what you want? In order to validate those questions, talk to previous clients and review information about yourself online and on social media.
3. What else is important to keep in mind when building a brand?
When crafting your brand, you have to decide what you are going to deliver and what you stand for. Some organizations will stand for quick service as their unique selling point; for others, it will be high quality. Stand back and think about the results that you want to achieve. What does the service you’re providing look like? What do you want it to look like in the future?
Then, consider the outcomes you want to achieve. Think about your business—who are your clients and what do they need? Be very particular about the outcomes you will provide and think about what’s in it for you besides making money. Consider the unique skills, behaviors, and knowledge you bring.
4. What mistake do you see people making when it comes to branding?
Miller: People often look at me and say, “I thought if I just did good work I’d be okay.” The most common mistake is that people don’t manage their brand. They don’t think about it and how important it is in terms of their career opportunities and in how it affects their reputation. People understand that they have a reputation, but they don’t necessarily understand that they need to manage it.
For example, if you’re particular about managing your brand, you don’t accept every job that comes along. If you know a job has high-risk (in that you may not be able to deliver up to your standard), but it also has a high monetary reward, do you really want to take it and risk your brand? It may not be worth it—the jobs you accept are what you’re going to be known for.
5. How do you know when you’ve built a strong and successful brand?
Miller: Take a look at where your business is coming from. How often are you asked for? How much influence do you have? Do people come to you for advice or specifically hire you because they’ve heard about you? Your brand is really what you are known for. Answering those questions will give you a hint.
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