Build your brand as an independent contractor to generate leads

As an independent consultant, whether you’re seasoned professional or just getting into the game, it is important to spend time developing a personal brand. A personal brand isn’t much more than creating a consistent message in your market around the things that make you, as an independent contractor, special.

Once you have developed your brand, it’s important to make sure your advocates and mentors can communicate this message effectively when discussing your background to others.  Having a recognizable brand that colleagues can easily associate with you will not only get you more work but can help you land more interesting, coveted and rewarding projects.

As a founder of a company that has had the privilege of working with of hundreds of independent consultants over the years, my firm consistently provided work to the consultants who had a brand and who could best articulate a personal value proposition.

Think it’s too hard to put together a personal brand? It’s easier than you think.  Here are a few points to consider when crafting a brand identity.

1. Know what you are good at and how to tell people about your greatest strengths.

When you are creating your personal brand, answer a few simple questions. What are you known for? Do you have a particular skill or knowledge base that separates you from others in your field? Do you often finish projects on time or even early? Are you a super effective project leader or a highly regarded team player? Are you constantly being requested back by clients? Do you have a rare subject matter expertise or experience?

Answering these questions will help you craft your pitch, your portfolio and eventually your brand identity. If you cannot effectively  demonstrate to a project manager what makes you special, then you most likely won’t get the best gigs.  Additionally, you will likely receive a lower hourly rate than you may have otherwise.

2. Find trusted project managers, advisors and fellow independent contractors to advocate on your behalf.

After you know what you excel at and how to tell people about it, find people who will advocate for you. Independent references who can attest to working with you in the past and who are willing to speak on behalf of your work are powerful indicators to future employers, and clients, that your work is highly valued.

Gather all positive reviews and articles touting your praises and assemble these into a folio format which can be presented via email.  Put them to work for your business by sending the folio in advance of an interview or another time during the interview process.

Once you have people that know your work well and are willing to tell others about it, take the time to make sure they know your brand.  Send them a summary of important points, take them them to lunch and thank them in advance for any help they might provide. If appropriate, offer to do the same for them.

3. Be memorable.

Understand how to articulate what makes you different from others in your peer group. Have you won awards? Helped a project or firm save money? Been a key part of a well known start-up or project? You can even pull from your personal life.  Have you ever been skydiving or even base jumped Mount Everest. Moments and stories like these will create a lasting impression with project managers for current opportunities and future ones.

4. Perfect your pitch.

Are you missing out on great projects and opportunities because you havent invested fully in creating your pitch? Know your personal elevator pitch cold.  In his book Perfecting Your Pitch, expert negotiator Ron Shapiro offers a few tips about crafting the perfect pitch:

  • Spend as much time as you need scripting the language of your pitch. No need to create a pitch on the fly.  If you take  the time scripting your ideas in advance your pitch will almost always be better.
  • Find a devil’s advocate or a mentor you trust to go over your pitch with you. Ask them to give you candid feedback. In this case, having the right person helping you craft your message could yield big dividends.
  • Learn the pitch cold. After the draft is complete, practice, practice and practice some more.  Know the script so well you can deviate a little if necessary and still cover your entire value equation.

Taking the time to build a recognized brand will yield tangible results for your business and can help any independent contractor not only find more work but better projects to build out their portfolio and network.