As a designer, you've probably had the opportunity to create a brand identity for a client — a logo, a business card, a website. But have you taken the time to brand yourself? Building your own brand is in many ways more important than the work you do for clients because it demonstrates your strategic thinking and creativity.
The saying "The shoemaker's children have no shoes" can easily refer to designers or creative agencies that don't carefully craft and maintain their own brands. Like the shoemaker who doesn't have time to make shoes for his own children, a web designer who never finished creating his own website or a graphic designer who neglected to create a logo for her freelancing business carry through the analogy. When you brand yourself effectively, you're not only representing yourself well but also giving prospective clients and employers an idea of your level of professionalism and the confidence they need to hire you.
But what does it mean to brand yourself? Personal branding is loosely defined as a representation of your professional skills and experience, viewed through a lens that reflects your unique, authentic self.
Whether you're a freelance designer seeking new clients, or you're searching for full-time employment in a creative agency or in-house department, branding yourself should be Job 1 — even before polishing your portfolio and resume because your brand should be reflected in both.
Here are 10 tips on how to brand yourself:
1. Treat yourself as a client
Block time in your schedule, develop a creative brief for the "project" and gather information about your competitors and your market. Take your branding project through the same process you would use with a key client.
2. Study the brands you admire
How do the designers and creative agencies you respect present themselves verbally and visually? As you brand yourself, study other successful brands. Observing what they're doing right — and wrong — can help you enhance your own branding.
3. Start with words, not images
While it's tempting to start your branding process by sketching a personal logo, that's not the place to begin. To effectively brand yourself, make a list of your skills, experience and qualities. What do you love to do? Who are your ideal clients? Develop a list of words that reflect who you are, personally and professionally.
4. Find your unique offering
Thinking about your competition, consider what you bring to the table: a unique perspective, a specific skill or a way of working that's different from everyone else.
5. Make it authentic
When you brand yourself, you have to live it in every interaction you have with clients or prospective employers. When you're comfortable in your own skin, your authenticity shines through, which makes you appear more genuine and trustworthy.
6. Craft your story
Take a stab at writing your professional bio. If this is a daunting task, consider hiring a writer to help you.
7. Draft an elevator pitch
Distill that story into a single sentence that effectively (and interestingly) conveys your brand premise. As they say, it only takes a second to make a good (or bad) impression. When you inadvertently bump into a potential client, your elevator pitch can come in handy as a succinct, descriptive and accurate way to present your brand.
8. Translate words to images
Sketch design ideas to represent your brand. Whether it's a typographical treatment of your name or a conceptual graphic, find the best way to brand yourself so that your look matches your story.
9. Carry the brand through
Brand yourself with a full suite of tools and materials, from your logo to your portfolio and personal website to your business cards and invoices.
Your personal brand is a living thing, and it should evolve as your career develops. Revisit it every two or three years to see if it needs a refresh.
When you brand yourself effectively, you create a strong impression that quickly tells a prospective client or employer all the important things they need to know about you.