BRANDING FOR THE SOLOPRENEUR
In this era of Twitter, Instagram, crowdsourced logos and turnkey websites, it’s never been easier for the “solopreneur” landscape designer to project a professional image. But for a company of one, developing a unique brand that predisposes your perfect client to hire you also requires a deep understanding of your client and yourself.
Whether you call it an ‘identity’ or a ‘personality’, a brand is really nothing more—or less—than a promise. It’s what your potential clients expect to gain from working with you, and the yardstick against which your current clients are measuring your efforts. Live up to that promise and your success is assured; break it, and your name is mud.
A brand makes money by making the right promise to the right people. So first, you must identify who the “right people” are—not just where they live and what services they want, but also what they value. Close your eyes and envision your Best Client Ever: what are their hopes, desires, beliefs, fears? The “right promise” will address those emotional needs, building the trust that ultimately wins the job.
While faceless corporations can invent backstories to prop up their promises, you and I don’t have that luxury. We carry a personal brand that intersects with, if not defines, our professional one. How you dress, speak, treat others, and conduct your business promise a certain experience. Even if you think you already know, invite your clients, friends, associates, and even lost prospects to tell you what that is. Ask, if nothing else, “How would you describe me? What do I do best? What could I do better?” The answers will reveal what people believe you deliver—for better and for worse.
If some of their reflections make you wince, you may choose to change a part of yourself, but you can’t disown it. That’s okay—imperfections merely make us human. Effective brands are, above all, authentic. You don’t have to flaunt your faults, but posing as someone you’re not, or making claims that conflict with the character you display, will quickly backfire.
Of course, you’ll also get plenty of positive feedback. Match that to the wishes of your Best Client Ever, and you’ll discover your most compelling promise: that how you do what you do best will fulfill their core needs. This is your brand—authentic, unique, rooted in your personal values, entirely relevant to your ideal client. Interpreted into a logo, it sparks imagination and curiosity. Narrated in social media, it’s an engaging storyline. And embodied in your work, it’s the evidence that shows your client they made the right choice—for which they will gratefully show you how much you, and your brand, are worth.