Five Steps to Creating a Compelling Personal Brand as a Freelancer

By Pamela Webber, COO & CMO of 99designs

It may feel a bit uncomfortable to think of yourself as a brand. But the truth is that everyone already has a personal brand: it’s the story that’s told about you when you’re not in the room. What do people say about your work? What adjectives do they use to describe you? You have a choice to actively manage your brand or leave it to chance. Building your personal brand intentionally will allow you to tell your story as you want it to be told.

And as a freelancer working on a project-to-project basis, a personal brand is even more critical. Your personal brand will help raise awareness that you exist and will build credibility and trust so that more clients seek out your services. Ultimately, a strong personal brand means that clients will come to you instead of you having to hustle to find them.

Ready to get started? Here’s how:

1. Define Your Brand Strategy

To make it easy, we’ve broken down an effective brand strategy into three areas. Take some time to reflect on how each of these areas apply to you, and how you can optimize them:

Unique Value Proposition. In non-marketing terms, why should your clients hire you instead of someone else? Is it your work experience? If so, then be sure to highlight your background in your profiles. Is it your style? Then put your profile front and center and make sure it’s easy to access from everywhere you’re visible online. Everyone’s UVP is different, so knowing yours is half the battle.

Personal Brand


Social Proof. For freelancers especially, past references and successes can be the deciding factor when it comes to landing a client. If you have an impressive resume, flaunt it by displaying other clients’ logos on your site (with permission). You can even request testimonials from regulars you have good relationships with.

Visuals. The images you choose to associate with yourself can communicate even more than what you say. Make sure you have a strong logo and use flattering profile/avatar pictures. Think about what you can communicate underneath the surface, such as choosing the right colors to match your personality.

2. Make Your Profiles Searchable

You could have the best online presence on the web, but that means nothing if no one can find it. A large part of branding for freelancers is making yourself searchable — and for the right reasons.

For example, 99designs just launched a new search feature that allows people to filter designers by all sorts of criteria. Prospective clients can search for designers who excel at book covers, or who frequently work in the pharmaceutical industry, or who speak Chinese. If you’re not displaying the right skills, you’ll miss out on these opportunities even if you’re perfect for the job. In that case, you and your would-be clients both miss out.

Personal Brand


This harkens back to our earlier point about knowing your best selling points. Whatever makes you stand out should be easy to find by anyone searching for it.

3. Branch Out

Part of making yourself searchable is branching out to new areas: social media, graphic design sites, job sites, anywhere. Show up at networking events for industries you’d like to design for - it just might land you a job.

In addition to sites like 99designs that connect you directly with clients, branch out to others, too. Behance and Dribbble are a great sites to display your best designs, and can also earn you social proof.

You also want to think outside the box. Did you know DeviantArt has a “Designs & Interfaces” section? You may not find a job there directly, but if you develop a strong following you can always reference it when courting clients. Plus, you’d be surprised how much traffic you can pull if you backlink to your portfolio.

Personal Brand


4. Show Your Human Side

When we say “you are your own brand,” we mean you. Your personality has more impact than you think in winning over clients, so don’t be shy about who you are and what makes you you.

What are your hobbies? What’s your favorite book? Where did you grow up? These factoids may seem negligible, but they’re actually invaluable for displaying your personality. If a client shares your passion for B horror movies, mentioning it could make more of an impression than your work record.

Personal Brand

It’s ok to show your human side, like 99designs’ designer Scribe

Social media works well for displaying your personality because it’s expected. But you should also mention some personal facts on your portfolio site, online profiles, or even your resume.

5. Revamp Your Online Presence from an Outside Perspective

When you Google yourself, what comes up? Is it your portfolio site? A social media account? A news article from high school? While you can’t always control your reputation, you can guide it — or at the very least, incorporate it into your overall brand strategy.

Personal Brand


For example, say your Facebook page comes up first. That’s a sign you should put extra effort into it. Apply all the tips above to your profile page, make links to your portfolio easy-to-find, and delete that picture of you drunk from your wild years.

In fact, we advise going through your entire online presence, but through the perspective of an outsider. What would Mr. or Ms. Potential Client think when they land on your portfolio home page? Would they immediately see your best selling points? What would they think of your Twitter or Instagram feeds?

Without sacrificing who you are, you want to tailor your online presence to make sure your best foot is always forward. And because you are the brand, the lines between your business and personal life are blurred. If that sounds ominous, don’t worry — when you handle your own branding proactively, your personality could be your greatest selling point.

Pamela Webber is Chief Operations and Marketing Officer at 99designs, where she heads up the global marketing team responsible for driving customer acquisition and increasing lifetime value of customers. She is passionate about using data to derive customer insights and to find “aha moments” that impact strategic direction. Earlier in her career, Pam served in various corporate strategy and marketing positions with brands Borden, eBay and its subsidiary, PayPal, Inc. She received her BA from the University of Pennsylvania and an MBA from Harvard Business School.