One of the challenges of being an independent consultant (building a brand, standing out from the competition, and communicating a unique value proposition) is also one of the biggest opportunities: as an independent consultant, you have the freedom and the ability to refresh your brand, expand your service offerings, and become known as an expert in whatever field or specialty you choose.
Haji Flemings, Founder and CEO of Brand Camp University, reminds independent consultants of the importance of storytelling. "It is important to tell a clear and engaging story about who you are and what you do," say Flemings. "It is really easy to say I do A, B and C, but people make an emotional connection with the story. Successful brands are really good at crafting the story that connects the people they are targeting. Your story is not just your bio, but every element that represents your brand, even your photo. Your storytelling extends to being able to craft sound bites of information for things like your Twitter bio."
Even if you've been in business as an independent consultant for a few years, there's no reason to become stagnant or let your brand grow stale. There are many ways that solo professionals can rejuvenate their marketing message and reach new audiences to grow their business.
Work with a career coach. Many mid-career professionals enlist the help of a career coach to find a new job or position themselves to transition to a new industry. As solo consultants, you have the flexibility to make a "new career move" whenever you like. Hiring a business coach can help you focus on your strengths, get objective feedback on how to manage your weaknesses, and how to choose the right opportunities to revamp your website, re-evaluate your sales pitch, and renew your zest for new business development.
Write guest blog posts. One of the best ways to develop credibility as an authority in your field is to get published on popular blogs and industry journals. Spend some time developing story ideas for your favorite industry blogs and journals - think about what unique expertise and success stories you have to offer, and think about how your story could serve a unique story angle that would be of interest to the readers. It often helps to build relationships with bloggers and editors on social media before you approach them with a pitch. You can also look for editorial calendars for each blog or journal to see which topics they want to cover during the upcoming months.
Speak to new audiences. Look for opportunities to get speaking engagements with industry groups in the field that you want to serve. Even if the speaking engagements are unpaid, the exposure can be valuable. Find a way to offer a unique pitch that makes your services relevant to the industry-specific challenges faced by that audience. Even if you're not an expert in the industry, you can show the industry why your consulting expertise is a good fit for them.
Start a tribe - and lead it. What is a broader community that is served by your expertise? What is a cause that you are passionate about? How can you expand your brand to serve a broader tribe of people who share your interests? Start a blog, start a Facebook community or LinkedIn group, and start sharing your stories and experiences with people who need to know more about what you have to offer. With some time and effort, you will have earned an "owned media" audience of loyal fans who will help spread the word about you to their extended networks of customers and colleagues.
Interview other experts in the field. Once you've started creating a "tribe," a great way to expand the audience for your blog and online community is to co-create content with other people who already have an audience of their own. Make a list of industry experts, bloggers and influential thinkers who you would love to get to know better, and ask if they'd be willing to do a 20-minute interview with you. You can conduct video interviews on Google+ Hangouts (which are automatically recorded to YouTube). The bigger your online audience becomes, the bigger the names of the people you can interview.
One of the most important ways to refresh your brand as an independent consultant is to constantly remember to reach outside your comfort zone. Many solo professionals fall into a pattern of doing certain types of projects for certain kinds of clients, but the lure of easy money can keep them from reaching farther to do work that they are really passionate about - work that is often more lucrative in the long run.
Remind yourself of all that you have to offer. Don't sell yourself short. Remember that you have valuable expertise and skills and experiences that can be helpful to other people - and it's easier than ever before to connect with like-minded people all over the world. The biggest part of renewing your brand is often a matter of creating opportunities to connect with the right types of audiences.
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