Leveraging Your Voice as a Business of One
As a freelancer or small business, it can be hard to begin to think of yourself as a business, but how the world views you starts with how you view yourself. How you choose to present yourself online can have a huge bearing on the size and caliber of the clients you receive. Whether you choose to brand yourself as a creative studio capable of tackling multi-disciplinary projects for major clients or choose to position yourself as a specialist working on gig posters for Romanian Neo-Polka events, the choice is yours. You can craft a presence to target niche clients and move your career in whatever direction you choose.
Supposedly, the internet is forever (tell that to MySpace), but that doesn’t mean you can’t curate your feed to only portray the version of you you want to become. There is nothing stopping you from trying new things and removing them later if they don’t work or if you change your mind. Mimic the habits of studios or designers who are already working with the type of clients you’re aiming for. What does their portfolio look like, what is their Instagram strategy, in what voice do they speak? Make note of these things and find ways to exist in the same space while differentiating yourself enough to stand out.
At times, Social media can feel like a full-time job. Creating fresh content, researching hashtags and trends, and trying to crack the code and unlock the inner workings of the mystical algorithm can take up a great deal of your time.
It’s no wonder that for larger companies, managing their social media presence is usually a team effort. While we may not have the resources at our disposal to hire a social media manager, being a business of one does come with its own set of advantages.
Larger companies have name recognition and the size of their audiences reflects that, but their attempts at building a community around their products usually fall short and their posts receive very little engagement. This is because they don’t have any friends. People don’t want to be friends with Starbucks or Chobani, no matter how pretty their feeds look. They’re brands, they aren’t people, and people don’t fall in love with brands, they fall in love with people, with personalities. And people are flawed. By being vulnerable and letting audiences into our world we become more relatable. While we still can, it’s important that we capitalize on this leverage.
Without a team to approve our every decision, we can afford to take risks, injecting every online interaction with our own unique personality. Very few brands manage to conjure the type of cult-following that takes on a life of its own without first starting with a strong sense of self. Whether you are marketing a product or service, it’s important to understand that to others, your story matters.
Naturally, as designers, we’re drawn to aesthetics. When we look at the shiny, polished feeds of others and compare them to our own, it’s easy to focus on the wrong things. However, rather than simply making and sharing pretty things and hoping others notice, the goal becomes to associate our personal aesthetic to our name and story until they’re linked inextricably in the minds of our clients and customers. By allowing our personalities to shine brightly, we can attract similar clientele, which will lead to work we will feel more connected to. Synergistic relationships develop more naturally through shared interests and goals. Think of all the ways you differ from the competition, and double down on those differences. As individuals it’s important to play to these strengths.
Taylor is the Managing Editor of Notes on Design. Taylor is a graphic designer, illustrator, and Design Lead at Weirdsleep.