Branding is a hard word.
Everyone understands and knows what it is – but not at the same time. It’s not very often that we sit back and deconstruct, what exactly, a brand is.
So what is branding? and why do we need it?
Deconstructing the meaning of branding
A brand is a commercial entity that exists to generate revenue. Sometimes it’s linked a name. Sometimes it’s linked to a particular person.
If you’re looking to make a living online, you’re going to need a brand.
So what is a brand?
A brand is a representation of something or someone. For freelancers, content creators and entrepreneurs, branding is a vital component for financial growth. This is because an audience can immediately identify what you are, what you stand for and what you can do to potentially help them when a relevant issue arises.
A brand is a culmination of every output you create. That’s every Instagram snap, every tweet, Facebook and blog post.
But a brand is more than just creating content. It’s how that content comes together in its presentation, how it portrays the message and how it communicates with its audience.
There is a misconception that a brand’s success is defined by the number of followers – but it’s not. Rather, it’s defined by how well it can convince the audience – that is, the reader and followers – to perform a particular action.
Why we need to create our own brands
When we start off trying to make money online, we often worry too much about the money-making process and the final dollar gained, rather than focus on building a brand.
However, making a living on the Internet is a long game and building up your own personal brand means you are building up a portfolio of work that is very public in nature. With a brand, you are allowing yourself to construct a particular persona that’s easy to understand and identify with.
A personal brand is a curated display of knowledge – that you are an expert at what you do and therefore can help others achieve a particular goal. It is a cohesive message to prospective clients and a particular audience group about your skills, your abilities, and expertise.
This opens up the opportunity for client work and partnerships. People are more likely to work with you if they understand and trust you – and branding is a method to achieve this, especially as freelancers.
Focus first, then expand
Often times, when we try and work on our brand, we quickly become unfocused on our output. This is caused by being unclear about what it is you want to achieve.
To create a strong online presence, you need to decide what exactly you want to do and why. Making money is not a good place to start. Rather, select something that’s external to making money – something that matters to you.
If you put making money as your priority, then you’re not going to get very far. This is because most people don’t want to just give away their hard-earned cash for free.
To make money, you need to offer up something valuable. You need to figure out what this value is and work on materializing it. Businesses exist to provide services and goods in exchange for cash. Branding works on creating an image for that particular business.
So what’s your business? What’s the trade you’re offering up? In the online world, it’s often expert knowledge. Figure out what your value proposition is and you’ll be on your way to figuring out your brand.
When you have a brand, the money will quickly figure out a way to follow and make it sustainable.
You need to be platform agnostic
It’s good to start off on a platform where there is already a pre-existing audience. It’ll help you gauge feedback and what kind of content attracts the audience you want.
But you shouldn’t limit yourself to just one platform. This is because platforms often change over time, their algorithms may love you one day and blitz your reach the next.
When your brand is platform agnostic – meaning that it’s not reliant on a single source for your audience reach – you become resilient to changes made by the platform owners.
It also ensures that your audience still has a method of finding you, even if you’re not doing too well in a particular space. Different platforms also have different expectations and demographics.
Things you’d post on Twitter can be very different from the kind of content you’d put up on LinkedIn. The same goes for Pinterest, Facebook, TikTok, Instagram, Snapchat and whatever else is out there in the wild currently – each having their own reaches.
There is a misconception that to build a brand, you have to be an expert at everything. The truth is, you need only be the expert in your area and be able to present it in an effective way.
We often stop ourselves from creating content because we’re unsure about ourselves. To present yourself as an expert at something, you need to hold yourself up high and be proud of your abilities.
Own your niche – because that’s how brands are built – by taking charge of the knowledge showing the world what you know about something.