Branding

How to Level Up Your Skills and Build a Professional Brand at the Same Time

To make it as a freelancer, you need a tool-set of skills that can be packaged as services and presented to potential clients. The best skills to learn include copywriting, web design, performance marketing, and search engine optimization (SEO).

“How do you figure?” Easy answer. Everybody needs an online presence and those are the four foundational aspects of developing a website that reaches the right people and provides a positive user experience.

By “everybody” I mean both brick-and-mortar businesses and service professionals such as doctors, lawyers, accountants, hair stylists, or personal trainers. Without a website, a lot of money gets left on the table.

“Why do you say that?” Research says so. Studies show 85% of consumers do research online before making a purchase. If a competitor has a website and you don’t, you lose automatically.

To make it big as a freelancer, you also need a professional brand that tells a compelling story. The story should highlight the unique and original talents you bring to the table.

That said, it’s not necessarily about you. It’s about the impact you can make in another person’s life. Your target market is the leading actor. You’re a supporting character.

Disclaimer done, your brand emphasizes why you are different or better than competitors. Ahead, I’ll reveal how to develop new skills and a solid brand at the same time.

It’s actually not that complicated. Learn in public.

The first blog, article, or sales page you write will suck.

The first tweet or status update you post will get no attention.

The first website you design will look as attractive as a dumpster fire.

And you know what? That’s fine. You should share your work online anyway.

I began a full stack web development study program approximately a year ago.

Here is the first code project I ever shared on Twitter during August of 2019. The layout is terrible.

It’s a sad attempt of a football scoreboard with ugly, illogically placed buttons to increment or decrement downs and quarters.

The quality of projects didn’t get much better for a while, but I kept sharing my work with the online developer community by using hashtags such as #100DaysOfCode.

Fast forward to today and project quality is much better as evidenced by this screenshot from a pet adoption website I built. The layout is slick, efficient, and easy to navigate.

Now there is an easily accessible public record of my evolutionary process as a web developer. The “badness” of past projects doesn’t matter. What matters is a demonstrated ability to learn and grow as a professional. This reflects drive and a commitment to getting better everyday.

Learning in public is the best way to accelerate your growth.

All humans are limited by bias. We all have assumptions and preconceived notions that limit our ability to see and perceive reality accurately. Learning to view the world from the perspective of another person is the only real fix.

This is why I seek feedback from many trusted colleagues and confidants before launching any project. Sometimes I send a book chapter or web design in process to a friend. Often, I identify several areas of improvement before they have time to respond.

As soon as I click “send,” I look at the project again, and then it’s easier to imagine how another human might feel about the experience. The more people involved and the better you understand their thought processes, the more powerful this thought exercise becomes.

You can use social media to accomplish the same thing. After you share the current state of whatever you’re building, look at it again and try to imagine how different people will react upon seeing it. This reflection exercise will help you address your shortcomings more effectively.

Every online conversation is a step forward for your brand.

Professional branding comes down to building a reputation. You want to be known for the value you bring to people’s lives. Every time you discuss a project — either in a tweet thread or Facebook DM — you’re directly increasing the public’s awareness of your work and the services you provide.

People talk. If you share your work with a friend and it makes a good impression on them, go ahead and assume they mentioned it to at least one person. Imagine the impact of sharing with a hundred friends! That said, I wouldn’t worry about this part of the equation until you reach a certain level.

The first step is to build marketable skills. While you’re deep in the learning process and would classify yourself as a “beginner,” stick with sharing your work on platforms such as Twitter and LinkedIn. Use relevant hashtags so you can reach people in the same industry and build a network.

The second step is to translate those skills into projects, case studies, or living documents that highlight your talents. I’d advise you to build a project related to a hobby or cause you’re passionate about, because then you’ll naturally be more motivated to stick with it.

The third step is to package your skills into a service and pitch it to the right type of people. Research their needs, goals, and pain points first. For example, you could learn to code and write compelling content, and provide a tiered service as described below.

Level 1 – Mobile responsive landing page design
Level 2 – Landing page design plus copywriting
Level 3 – Same as 1 and 2, but add 5 blog posts
Level 4 – All of the above plus an online store

We’ll get deeper into the technical aspects of the skills discussed here later.

For now, I want you to conceptualize what success as a freelancer requires, because this will help you spend your everyday time and energy more efficiently.

The most important takeaway is to never learn in isolation, or human bias will slow down your growth. Involve people in your learning process to grow faster.

Thanks for reading! If you know any friends or colleges looking to build a professional brand, please share this post on Facebook and Twitter. Want to read more articles like this one? Visit Daniel Wallen’s archives on Pakwired.

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