Every day, I am working and writing the brand voices of my clients. That’s what we freelancers do: We shape and shift ourselves to fit a project or a business, try to take in their characteristics and work our own creativity or skills into that.
But what about your own brand voice?
Too often this skill is seen as something you work on for clients, but not for yourself. Thus, many of us are stuck in communicating what we DO, rather than who we are. What many freelancers in my network don't seem to realize, is that you are your own brand, if it's just you and your one-man show.
Would you go to a dinner party and just repeat what the person to the right of you is saying all night long, would that be interesting to anybody? So why are so many businesses saying the same things at the biggest party on the planet — the marketplace? — Jason Fried, Co-founder of 37signals
Dare to differentiate
The first word you need to learn in your own brand language: NO.
Defining your freelancing voice starts with defining your desired clients. Make sure you know whom you WANT to work for. Yes, we all want to work. All aboard the struggle bus. Freelancing ain't easy and saying no often feels wrong. But it won't get easier by forcing yourself to fit into brands or companies that go against everything you stand for. So, time to make some cuts. If your work and therefore voice too generic, nobody will feel addressed and therefore interested. Make ’em feel special, sweety. Choose an audience and adapt to their language.
Turn your ‘’what’’ into ‘’who’’
Great, you are a copywriter/content creator/VA/coach. Shockingly, that doesn’t define who you are. Existential crisis incoming!
It is not just about what you do, but also you're why and how — and that has a great deal to do with who you are. You are not going to be special by listing your skills or services. That’s now how you will stand out. Yes, this means being vulnerable. Now, I am a big fan of being vulnerable and brutally honest in my communications, and I work with clients that appreciate that. But maybe you like it a bit more toned down. That's fine too, as long as its a conscious choice and a consistent way of working.
Show, don't tell
As a copywriter, you are probably working on or with brand voices on a regular if not daily basis. So what better way to practice and show off your dedication to this by putting some effort into your own brand voice? Instead of just stating it on your website, make sure that your readers can TELL that you are good at storytelling and brand voices.
How do you start? Where does this voice come from, if not from your lungs to your throat, off of your trembling lips — but from your fingers into your keyboard?
Find the keywords describe your one-man army. Think of this in terms of style, way of working, values. These can be on a personal level just as much as professional. Because again, you are your company. Once you found them, and as many as you want, stick to them. Here are mine:
- Freedom: In how I work, but also what I do. I don't want to limit myself and therefore I keep exploring, from poetry to product descriptions. I also work remotely, which is where a big part of my freedom lies in.
- Humor: Or wit, whatever you want to call it. A lawyer or accountant will probably not like my puns or wordplay, and that is more than okay. It is how I keep work bearable for myself.
- Honesty: towards my clients, but also towards THEIR clients, if that is the case. there is already too much copy out there promising the world when it comes to buying washing machines. I don't sugarcoat shit more than I need to. I think it is refreshing, and my clients think so too. Honesty is also my entire working policy: If I can’t do it, don't agree, think it could be better — I will say it.
Once you have found your voice, start screaming on the top of your lungs, let it be heard everywhere. Give ’em the full experience. Your websites and social media are just the starting point. Think about the emails accompanying your invoices? Your pitches? Proposals? Go all in. Not only does this make it easier for yourself (practice makes perfect), but its also branding.
From squeaky to strong
Hopefully, you keep growing and learning: As a person, but also as a freelancer. Don't be afraid that forming your brand voice now will mean that this is it, this is how you are going to be seen as until eternity. Much like your real voice, it will change over time. Develop, train and strengthen it actively, and let it be heard!