A guide to creating a personal brand for independent consultants
Consultants are their brands. Your brand pulls in clients, wins deals, and lets your clients know who you are. Always remember this and use every tool at your disposal to build a brand for success.
Over the last few years, LinkedIn has skyrocketed from one of the least used social networks to a hub of activity. Really, this shouldn’t surprise anyone. The social media generation has entered the workforce — of course they want to be able to easily interact with others online.
For established professionals (even old-hats like myself), the surge in LinkedIn use presents an opportunity. And, to be honest, it always did. LinkedIn is a great place to find new connections, establish yourself as a thought leader and demonstrate your value. Using LinkedIn, it’s simple to keep in touch with a far wider group of connections than you could ever maintain in person.
So, how can you create that personal brand on LinkedIn? Read on to find out…
Back to basics
Making sure that your brand translates to LinkedIn in a consistent and flattering way starts with the basics. Your profile should give all who see it a taste of what they can expect from your consulting firm. Any good chef will tell you that the first bite is with the eyes, and a glance at your profile will tell users key details about your brand.
Optimise your profile
With this in mind, your first step should be to optimise your profile. This will allow you to succinctly lay out everything your fellow users need to know about you in order to decide that your services are the best fit for their business.
Your profile should include:
- A recent photo and banner — You can’t expect anyone to trust you if they can’t see your face. A headshot against a plain background works best. Strike a look that’s professional but cheerful.
- Headline — Not a cheesy catchphrase but a succinct sentence that sums up what you do.
- Contact information — The easier you are to get in touch with, the better!
- About you — Try and distill this down to the basics. Users don’t want your autobiography.
- Experience — Show off your experience with the impressive job roles you’ve had. Be sure to choose the organisation from the drop down list to display a logo for each. Give a few words describing duties and responsibilities if they’re not obvious.
- Education — Make sure to include key qualifications and professional development.
- Volunteer experience — Demonstrate your commitment to social responsibility. If you aren’t volunteering, it’s a good idea to start.
- Skills & endorsements — Show what you’re good at and what skills previous clients and colleagues will endorse you for.
- Recommendations — All businesses value social proof and your firm is no different. Don’t be shy about asking former clients or colleagues and clients to complete recommendations for you.
- Accomplishments — This is a good place to put any achievements that you want clients to know about that don’t fit elsewhere. Keep it professional, but this is an area where you can get creative.
- Interests — Don’t forget to join groups and follow influencers that are relevant to your area of expertise. You never know where that next call might come from.
What makes you unique?
If a LinkedIn user is in need of a consulting firm, there’s a good chance that yours isn’t the first profile they’ve come across. They may well have perused the profile pages of numerous consultants in your area — your competitors’ profiles! As such, your profile needs to give users a clear sense of what makes you different. What makes you a worthier investment than your competition? What can you offer that they can’t?
The answer should be the things that set you apart — the things you should build your brand around.
Consider that, as far as branding is concerned, different is better than better. Prospective clients may have seen dozens of profiles all assuring that they’re the best consultant in town, and after a while, these can just blend into one another. Create a profile that stands out, however, and yours will be the name they remember when they have need of your services.
Never underestimate the importance of your education, training, skills, volunteer work and interests in building genuine value in your brand. For some clients, these will be more important than the satisfied clients you’ve left in your wake or the impressive positions you held before joining the ranks of the independent consultants.
Build your profile (and your brand) around what you want people to say to one another about you and you can’t go far wrong.
Demonstrate your value
One of the great things about LinkedIn is that it provides you with a comprehensive platform on which to demonstrate your value… and 300 million active users to demonstrate it to. There are a number of ways in which you can demonstrate your value to prospective clients. Even if they don’t need your services today, you can still prove a valuable contact whose services they might want to retain at a later date.
Remember that being an independent consultant is all about playing the long and short games simultaneously. Demonstrate your value on LinkedIn and you can build a wealth of contacts today who can become lucrative clients a few months or even years down the line.
1. Use LinkedIn’s publishing platform for thought leadership
LinkedIn’s publishing platform provides you with both a soapbox and a sounding board. It’s where you can not only demonstrate your knowledge, skills and experience but also give users that all-important free first taste of what you have to offer them.
When writing articles, remember to keep your content informative, engaging and built around the needs of prospective clients. Make your posts too self-indulgent and they won’t build value in your brand.
2. Interact and engage with other users
Prospective clients want to know that you have time for people. And that includes the people who won’t necessarily be paying this month’s wages. Make sure you’re an active member of your digital community. Like and comment on people’s posts. Share content you feel your followers may find useful. Be a good LinkedIn citizen. It goes a long way towards presenting yourself as someone worth doing business with.
3. Leverage social proof
When all’s said and done, people who don’t know you will always maintain a healthy dose of scepticism. When it comes to anything you’re saying about yourself, they’re likely to take it with a pinch of salt.
Businesses of all shapes and sizes use social proof (from star ratings to user reviews) to demonstrate their credibility to their target markets. In this respect, independent consultants are no different to any other small business. This comes back to getting recommendations and endorsements for your profile. However, it also includes case studies and public interactions between you and your clients on the platform.
Adapt as you go
You, as a person and a professional, are not a fixed point. You’re always learning, growing, improving and ultimately adapting to new social, cultural, economic and technological changes in your chosen field.
So, make sure that your personal brand is always growing and improving. Check in with your clients and contacts every 6 months or so. Ask them if they feel you or the service you provide has changed. This can prove a useful barometer of how you’ve changed and evolved, and will help you improve further.
Whatever changes the future has in store for your consulting firm, take advantage of the value of LinkedIn when it comes to establishing and building upon your personal brand.
A personal brand brings opportunities to you
Having a reputable personal brand has the potential to bring clients to you - taking care of some of the client acquisition work for you. However, knowing how to network is still essential. To get networking tips and guidance for independent consultants, download our eBook below.