Guest Blog Article: Freelance professional or professional freelancer?
By Rebecca Lovelock
Remote working and flexible employment are within the DNA of Vario. But that flavour of innovation has now been tasted in many walks of life, and the emphasis on centralised collaborative working may not return for many more after Covid. To the surprise of some sceptics, flexible working works – and offers a previously untried option. Having had toes forcibly put in the water, what if many more choose to go swimming?
Flexible working will no longer be unfamiliar and distinctive, and personal branding to stand out
from the masses will be more important than ever.
In many environments we have learned that remote working relies more heavily on the resilience of strong interpersonal relationships than the more malleable day-to-day interactions. Trust and confidence between individuals underpin working relationships. Go one step further and shared values between employees (or contractors) and clients are what supports a commitment to mutually successful outcomes. Identifying those shared professional values requires an intrinsic clarity on who you are and what you stand for; in other words, a defined personal brand.
How to build a personal brand
In this globally connected working environment, a promoted unique skill set possessed by one in a million, will have seven thousand peers. There are just two things which can’t be found in anyone else. Firstly, where and how you work, and how seamlessly and effortlessly you personally merge that into the working relationship. Secondly, your unique background of experience. In short, it is not your skill set that will set you apart, it is how you make that capability accessible.
When defining your personal brand there are some key things to consider:
- To be authentic, honest and transparent (yet open to constructive adaptation), you need to know yourself and what you stand for. Consider what your core values are, what you’re passionate about and what experiences you’ve had that shape who you are.
- Be clear on what you want to accomplish with your brand, both personally and professionally. A good friend of mine once asked ‘do you want to be recognised as a thought leader, or to leave a legacy?’ Whilst not mutually exclusive, the questions definitely made me think about the steps I needed to take to achieve my personal goals.
- As with any brand – personal or business – identifying your target audience is key. Consider who would benefit from working with you, and who you are passionate about supporting.
- Next, write down your ‘unique value proposition’. This is a clear, succinct summation of what you do, for example: I help [target audience] to [achieve… X] so that they can [outcome]
- Finally, be confident in your position and spread that message. When asked ‘so, what do you do?’, don’t rely on your job title. Be ready to record not what work or contracts you have completed, but what each added to your experience and capability. What you’re passionate about. And why that sets you apart from others.Build relationships based clearly on function and effectiveness. The other person has a full schedule – they want to hear from you when the conversation needs an outcome. Differentiate between content and context, and don’t blur the edges.
So, are you a professional freelancer or a freelance professional?
The latter is easily ratified; you have evaluated and demonstrated qualifications, capability and experience which you have chosen to exercise in a modern and flexible way. But the former has facets all of which need to be polished. Project who you are, and what you want. Be confident in your skills and acknowledge your limitations. Use a mirror, metaphorical and real. What you think people see, may not be accurate.
The Covid experience questions traditional working paradigms for many of us. For those already experiencing the flexibility, self-actualisation and professional satisfaction that comes from freelancing, the landscape has nevertheless changed. Ensuring personal goals continue to be realised, may well require a more measured and planned self-promotion and considered management of personal branding. Economic uncertainty, change and commercial tension ensure a consistent demand for talent and expertise, but as your personal brand sends out its message, be ready to raise the volume.
Rebecca Lovelock, Founder of Bretom