Freelancers: it’s your time to shine, and it’s only getting brighter. According to Fast Company, over 40% of the American workforce, or 60 million people, will be a part of the freelance economy by 2020.
How do you hop on this wave? While creativity is vital, it’ll only get you so far. Understanding business and marketing concepts like branding is what will truly propel you closer to realizing your dreams of developing a successful brand on the web. Great branding transcends merely focusing on the type of product or service you offer the world and enters the territory of emotion and romanticism. In other words, branding is about making a genuine connection with fans and followers.
Successful creative entrepreneurs get to develop a following, earn money, make a good living, get invited to speaking gigs and events, and even quit their day jobs! They make a total transition to entrepreneurship and doing what they really love to do.
Getting to this career pinnacle involves understanding and mastering the business aspect of their craft. Read on to learn how successful creatives have mastered the art of branding, and find new ways to propel your own career.
Why a Brand Is Important
If you think that a brand is simply a name that you slap on a product or service, you’ll have to think again.
Branding is much more than a catchy name or unique logo.
Forbes defines a brand best, calling it “what your prospect thinks of when he or she hears your brand name.” This definition, then, expands to mean what the public thinks of your brand, both factually and also subjectively and romantically. In short, it’s how your product or service is perceived in the public’s mind. It’s how your brand makes people feel.
Example: Coca Cola. It’s likely not news to you that Coke is unhealthy, to put it lightly. However, and this is the absolutely critical secret to branding, the public today still associates this sweet, sugary pop drink with good times, relaxation, being “cool,” and having loads of fun. This is the subjective and emotional success of brand building done well.
By rooting your product or service firmly in the public’s emotions, your brand can enjoy longevity and brand loyalty, both of which are huge to netting a big share of your market and climbing profits.
How to Build a Brand
Brand building is as much an art as it is a science, but there are key things you can do as a creative entrepreneur to establish yourself. As with most things, the work you put in will end up affecting how much success you see.
Where do you start, you ask? Every creative entrepreneur should have a user-friendly website designed to give people information about your brand and eventually, net you conversions (people emailing you, calling you, buying your work, hiring you as a contractor, etc.). Website templates are an excellent way to create a cost-effective site for your brand.
Next, you’ll want places to send buyers! For instance, if you’re a designer, you can start a profile on Behance, open a shop on Creative Market, or offer unique experiences to your existing audience with a Patreon page. Make sure to link to these sites on your website.
Next up, create a logo for your brand. A logo is an ingenious way to brand-build since it communicates your product or service by a mere emblem. Logos can be displayed on your site, social bios, and email signatures, as well as on printed promotional materials, such as business cards, stationery, and brochures.
When you have the right digital assets in place, all of which are affordable, brand-building can begin in earnest.
Why Followers and Fans Lead to Conversions and Continued Loyalty
One of the big objectives of brand building is getting followers and fans, which will lead to conversions and continued loyalty. You can think of your fans as repeat customers who will always watch your videos or buy your creative digital assets. After all, your repeat customers will know, understand, and most of all, appreciate your aesthetic.
There’s a great chance that your followers and fans have already made at least one conversion, whether it’s an all-out purchase of your product or service or a smaller conversion like signing up for your offer or subscribing to your podcast. Studies show that these repeat customers will only continue to convert (read: buy) more and increase their brand loyalty.
Most small business owners get 51% of their revenues from—you guessed it!—repeat or existing customers.
It stands to reason: The more people who follow your brand because of the videos you regularly put out or the assets you create, the greater the interest in converting by becoming a patron or even by performing a mini-conversion (such as tweeting or sharing on Facebook).
Examples of Patreon Creators and Creative Market Shops Who Have Created Successful Brands
It’s always inspiring to see examples of creative entrepreneurs who have succeeded at brand building. These folks provide a good starting point for anyone who’s interested in replicating that type of success for their own branding.
Here are some of the Patreon creators who’ve created successful brands:
- The Nerdwriter – A creator of video essays, the Nerdwriter, or Evan Puschak, cultivates worldviews by discussing a range of topics like philosophy and entertainment.
- CanadaLand – Holding the Canadian media accountable, CanadaLand features an independent podcast hosted by Jesse Brown.
- Kurzgesagt – This channel features science-animation videos that tackle harder subjects like space, evolution and why we humans are here in the universe to begin with.
Their branding success is based on consistency in branding across their different platforms, which involves the use of the same images or logos on their Patreon pages and social media accounts.
Here are some of the Creative Market shops with successful brands:
- Nicky Laatz – This South African graphic designer was the first creative on Creative Market to make $1 million USD! She’s known for her breathtaking fonts.
- Hustle Supply Co. – This design shop by Jeremy Vessey specializes in vintage logos and badges, as well as a myriad of different font families.
- Seniors Studio – This indie type designer features a slew of scripts and typefaces.
The common bond to branding success for these three is exposure on numerous platforms besides Creative Market (Behance, Twitter, Instagram, etc.) and consistent branding (logos, etc.) on different channels.
An Introduction to the Freelance Economy
Now that we’ve spotlighted some successful creative entrepreneurs and their brands, let’s dive into the freelance economy!
According to Fast Company, the freelance economy is composed of all those people who are contractors and/or self-employed and independent workers. From 2014 to 2015, their numbers in the U.S. alone jumped by approximately 1 million. As mentioned before, in just three short years, greater than 40% of the American workforce, or 60 million people, will be part of this awesome freelance economy.
You’ve just met a few of the more successful members of the freelance economy on both Patreon and Creative Market, and I myself am part of this movement (though, full disclosure, I’m up in Vancouver, not the States!).
In a nutshell, the freelance economy helps businesses of all sizes by providing highly skilled and high-quality specialists to fulfill certain jobs that used to be done on-site. This has worked out well for both employers and freelancers, as freelancers get to command their rates and work from home at their pace while employers don’t have to pay the usual benefits associated with full-time workers.
And some freelancers, such as those on Patreon and Creative Market, become creative entrepreneurs, selling their unique and high-in-demand product or service on the web, which is really the worldwide marketplace.
Why Brand Consistency Across Multiple Platforms Is Important for Success
On the web, there are many platforms over which to promote your brand, which is why brand consistency is vital to avoid confusion and ensure your fans and followers perceive you in the same way everywhere they look for you. This is particularly important.
Let’s say that your brand was represented by one logo or color scheme on Patreon… yet then your social-media account for your brand sported another logo with different colors. Confusing! That inconsistency can well result in the loss of some fans and followers.
Plus, being consistent on one platform to the next ensures greater engagement with your brand, which again leads to more conversions and better business.
If, for example, your brand displays the same colors on Creative Market, Facebook and, let’s say, Behance, then your fans or followers can easily:
- Comment on or share your Facebook page or posts with their friends
- Share your Behance work on social media
- Find their way back to your Creative Market shop to make a conversion
Having brand consistency means people can share and distribute news, updates, and your brand’s product or service efficiently and confidently.
Building the Right Brand Can Make You as a Creative Entrepreneur
There’s no doubt that there are many creatives on the web who are unique, talented and provide a high-quality product or service. The huge differentiator between the successful ones who establish their brand and those who get forgotten is, without a doubt, effective brand building.
Those who understand that branding is about how you make people feel when they think of and experience your product or service will be successful.
That’s key to remember and practice as you build your brand to greater success!