DailyWritingTips

Section Four: Building Your Brand

In the crowded freelance writing market, a strong personal brand can be the difference between blending in and standing out.

Your brand is more than a logo or a color scheme; it’s the essence of your professional identity, your values, and what makes your writing unique. When it comes down to it, it’s your schtick.

“But Candace, I don’t know what my schtick is!” Not to worry! I’ve got a few in-depth strategies to help build and strengthen your brand.

Top Branding Tips for Freelance Writers

The internet is robust, with an array of tips like these from seasoned professionals, all suggesting different approaches. So, it can get overwhelming when searching for the right tips for you to get started. I’ve refined everything down to the three most basic tips to help build the foundation of our personal branding.

Tip #1: Define Your Niche

Specializing in a specific niche makes you an expert in that area and attracts clients looking for your particular skill set. Whether it’s technology, fashion, finance, or healthcare, dive deep into your niche.

Take a moment to reflect on what you’re good at or what you have the most experience in. What’s something you could talk people’s ears off about? What life experience can you bring to the table? Did you study a niche in school, like business or cooking? Do you come from a family of gardeners?

These are your niches—the things you could be an expert on.

Attend relevant webinars, read industry publications, and write about topics that showcase your expertise. This focused approach helps you build authority and credibility. You can choose a few niches to excel in or pick one area to sink your teeth into and establish yourself as an authority on the topic. If it happens to be a popular niche, the potential work could be endless. 

Once you’ve established what your niche is, work it into everything: your bio, your title, a hook, past projects, etc.

For example, I’m a professional writer, published author, award-winning screenwriter, former interior designer, a parent of two kids, an avid gardener, and a major nerd. So, my stuff looks something like this.

Title: USA TODAY Bestselling Author and Award-Winning Writer Candace Osmond.

Bio: Candace Osmond is a #1 International and USA TODAY Bestselling Author and Award-Winning Writer with a background in interior design. She currently resides on the rocky east coast of Canada with her husband and two kids, where she spends her time reading, gardening, and doing nerdy things.

Aesthetic: I love the colors pink and black, so I established specific color codes and used those in all my visual branding, such as social media headers, website design, etc.

Personal content: Across my channels on social media, email newsletter, etc., I use my brand colors and vibe to share content in my niche(s). I post about writing, reading, publishing, gardening, parenting, and nerdy things.

Or, for a more generic bio for those just starting out or who dabble in freelance work on the side:

Bio: 

A 22-year veteran of the high school classroom, Danielle McLeod brings her unique experiences to the table when it comes to contributing to various blogs and other freelance publications. She is currently working full-time as a technical writing instructor and offers up her background in science to help negotiate the nuances of classroom instruction and curriculum development. 

Freelancing started as a way to make a little extra money but is now an important part of her overall career. Specializing in the technical aspects of language and writing, she also enjoys gardening, reading, traveling with her two children, and contributing to various blogs and websites related to her passions. 

Tip #2: Develop a Professional Website

Your website is likely going to be the first impression potential clients have of you. Take the time to make sure it reflects your professional image and showcases your very best work.

Include a portfolio section and a brief bio that highlights your expertise and personality and shows off your wonderful face with a headshot.

Add a blog to demonstrate your writing skills and insights into your niche. Some writers choose to post daily, others post once a week, and I’ve seen some who only post once a month. Pick a schedule that works for you.

What I like to do is batch my tasks. This involves writing a dozen short blog posts that cater to my niche(s) and prescheduling them to post weekly on my blog.

It’s also a good idea to optimize your socials and website for proper SEO to increase the potential for visibility in search results. For every image you add, make sure to name the file first with keywords describing what it is and what content it pertains to. Titles, headings, and descriptions must incorporate common keywords and phrases. We do dig into this a bit more later in the course, so keep an eye out!

Tip #3: Active Social Media Presence

Social media can be overwhelming, especially with so many platforms to choose from. But you don’t have to be present on every single one of them.

There’s Facebook, Instagram, Twitter (X), and TikTok if we’re focusing on the most common platforms. For professionals, a strong LinkedIn page is a must, so add that to your list and choose 1-3 others.

Pick social media platforms where your potential clients are most active. Regularly share your work, post about industry trends, and engage with your audience.

Utilize your social media to build relationships, not just as a broadcasting platform. Authentic engagement can lead to meaningful connections and work opportunities.

Never spam others with your work or offerings. “Build it, and they will come” is what I always say. Creating an environment that nurtures and shares your expertise will eventually attract the right people.

Defining Your Unique Value

Your Unique Value Proposition (UVP) is what sets you apart in a sea of freelance writers. It encapsulates why clients should choose you over others. Here’s how to narrow in on and communicate your UVP.

Discovering Your UVP

Identify your strengths by reflecting on what you do better than anyone else. Is it your ability to turn complex topics into easy-to-understand content? Your knack for creating compelling narratives? Do you have decades of experience in a certain area? Do you have credentials that other writers might not? 

Understanding your strengths is the first step in defining your UVP.

Pay attention to why clients choose you and the aspects of your work they praise. This feedback can reveal the standout qualities that you may take for granted. Incorporating this insight into your UVP can make it resonate more with potential clients.

Establishing Your UVP

Craft a Memorable Title: Instead of just “Freelance Writer,” consider titles that reflect your UVP and niche, such as “B2B Tech Content Specialist” or “Lifestyle & Wellness Copywriter.” A specific title can make a memorable impression and immediately convey your expertise.

Incorporate Your UVP into Your Branding Materials: Your bio, website, social media profiles, and marketing materials should all communicate your UVP. Use consistent messaging that highlights your unique skills, approach, and the value you bring to clients.

Creating a Professional Identity

Your professional identity is the sum of how you present yourself, both online and offline. It’s an extension of your brand and plays a crucial role in how clients perceive you.

Professional Positioning

What’s professional positioning, you ask? It’s basically just a clear, simple, but strategic description that screams exactly what to expect from you because it clearly states your expertise.

Use a professional email address, preferably one associated with your website domain. We go further in-depth on that later in the course. Ensure your social media handles are consistent and professional across all platforms. This uniformity helps clients find and remember you.

Every point of contact with clients, from your website to your CV and portfolio, should present a cohesive and polished image.

Use your established color scheme, font, and style that reflect your brand. Make sure your portfolio is up to date with your best work and clearly shows off your expertise and range.

Legal and Administrative Setup

First thing first: Set up a PayPal account or some other system to send invoices and receive payments. Once you have that setup, there are four key areas to focus on when setting up all your legal and administrative stuff.

  •  Freelance Contracts
  • Tax Obligations
  • Workspace Organization
  •  Key Tools You Should Have

Disclaimer: As always, when it comes to the legal end of things, we’re not experts on that. We just speak from experience and share what works for us. If you have questions or concerns about setting up legal and administrative stuff for your freelance career, arrange an appointment with a local accountant or lawyer. 

1. Freelance Contracts

A well-drafted contract is your first line of defense in protecting your rights and defining the scope of work, payment terms, deadlines, and expectations. Make sure your agreement, or the one the client provides, includes these key elements.

Scope of Work: Clearly define what will be delivered, including the format, word count, and any specific requirements.

Payment Terms: Specify rates, invoicing schedule, and payment methods. Include late payment fees to encourage timely payments.

Revisions and Termination: Outline how revisions are handled and the terms under which either party can terminate the contract.

Ownership and Rights: Clarify when and how rights to the work are transferred to the client.

2. Tax Obligations

Working for yourself also means you’re responsible for your finances, like taxes and other administrative stuff.

This area can definitely overwhelm you because it’s not as straightforward as being employed by a company. You’ll have to set aside a portion of your earnings for taxes each year and keep track of your expenses, receipts, etc. But there’s more to it than that.

Keep Accurate Records: Track all income and expenses related to your freelance business. Accounting software like QuickBooks can definitely help you with this, but I honestly just use Excel and create my own handy spreadsheets for keeping things organized. Whatever works for you!

Quarterly Taxes: Once you step over a certain threshold in earnings each year, you might be required to pay your taxes in quarterly installments. Check the tax guidelines where you live.

Consult a Tax Professional: Tax laws can be complex, and regulations change all the time. Having a sit-down with a tax professional will clear up any confusion you might have, and their fee is a tax deduction!

How Much Taxes Should You Put Away?

A good rule of thumb for freelancers is to tuck away 20% of your earnings for taxes at the end of the year. As you grow your career and start increasing your earnings, you’ll have to increase that number.

What Expenses Can You Claim?

This is subjective because it depends on where you live, whether you operate fully online or partially in-person, etc. But here is a quick list of the basics you can claim as expenses.

  • Home Office Expenses
  • Office Supplies and Equipment
  • Internet and Phone Expenses
  • Professional Development
  • Website Expenses
  • Advertising and Marketing Costs
  • Software Subscriptions
  • Professional Memberships and Subscriptions
  • Travel Expenses
  • Health Insurance Premiums
  • Retirement Contributions
  • Bank Fees and Payment Processing Fees
  • Legal and Professional Services

3. Workspace Organization

I swear by this. I’m a neat freak and find it impossible to work in a messy, cluttered office. I can’t focus, and I’m less productive.

Having a dedicated and organized workspace can significantly impact your productivity, whether you’re in a home office or a co-working space. Here are some tips to consider for keeping your physical and mental space tidy.

Ergonomics: If you’re going to do this, invest in a comfortable chair and desk now. Freelance writers spend a lot of time sitting each day. I highly recommend a chair with lumbar and arm support and a desk that can transition into a standing desk throughout the day.

Minimize Distractions: Create a clutter-free environment. Use noise-canceling headphones if you’re easily distracted by ambient noise. Turn off other screens. I love to light a nice smelly candle, turn off bright lights in favor of a softer lamp light, and play classical music on a low volume. Creating a routine like this can quickly put you in the right mindset to start working.

Tools and Equipment: Good, reliable internet should be your top priority. Trust me. After that, things like an office printer, scanner, etc. will come in handy.

4. Key Tools You Should Have

Let’s take a look at some of the most common tools of the trade.

Word Processing Software

Microsoft Word and Google Docs are staples for writers these days. They have great built-in editing tools, the ability to share with others, and so much more.

Tip: Take the time to learn the advanced features of your chosen word processor, like commenting, track changes, and templates, to speed up your writing and editing process.

Project Management Apps

Trello and Asana are two of the most common apps for managing projects and working with a team of people. You can facilitate project tracking from brainstorming to publication. They’re excellent for organizing tasks and deadlines.

Tip: Use these apps to break down projects into manageable tasks and set deadlines for each, ensuring nothing falls through the cracks.

Time Tracking and Invoicing Software

Tools like FreshBooks, QuickBooks, and Harvest help you track time spent on projects and streamline the invoicing process.

Tip: Regularly tracking your time can provide insights into your productivity and help you price projects more accurately. Choose software that integrates time tracking with invoicing to simplify your workflow.

SEO Tools and Content Research

Understanding SEO (Search Engine Optimization) is a huge part of writing online content. Tools like Semush, Ahrefs, and Yoast SEO can help you research keywords, analyze competitors, and optimize your content for search engines.

However, most clients will provide you with the required keywords and phrases to use in your work, which are usually found in the brief. As a content writer, you can impress your clients by delivering work that’s optimized.

Tip: Use these tools to enhance your content’s visibility and value, making it more attractive to clients who rely on organic search traffic.