Remember those days when only word of mouth was enough to generate business? Now, you need to brand yourself online to differentiate you and all that you have to offer from all the other amazing self-employed contractors and freelancers.
In the last 10 years, the number of self-employed workers such as freelancers, independent contractors and consultants has grown from 30.6 percent to 40 percent of the workforce. How does that affect you? Well, other than being in good company, the need to brand yourself is becoming more important than ever.
Brand yourself, you ask? What on earth has that got to do with providing great service and meeting deadlines?
Like me, I bet when you decided to fly solo you found a great company name. Mine was Lapwing Studios. Catchy, right? Except that every single time I told people about my brand-new business and website they asked, “But what do you do?” These potential freelance clients remembered me and my name, but my clever business name just didn’t stick with them.
And that’s where a personal domain comes into play. A domain name that includes your name will help clients find you online. As Mark Dooley, director of product marketing at GoDaddy, explains:
“For people who are active freelance employees, or embarking on a stage of their career where they anticipate doing freelance work, owning your personal domain <YourName>.com is crucial to positioning yourself for success.”
Ready to learn more?
Brand yourself with a personal domain
A personal domain name is YourName before the dot, like:
NancyKing.com, NancyKing.me, NancyKing.services, NancyKing.guru, NancyKing.design
You get the idea. Snag your name followed by .com or any number of industry-specific domain extensions. How great would it be to have yourname.consulting, yourname.ninja or yourname.expert? There are so many possibilities!
Go ahead, give it a try:
You can use a personal domain for your primary website address, for a professional email address, even to personalize the URL for your Facebook or LinkedIn page.
Connect your personal domain to your website
If you’ve got a website or are planning to launch one, you can make your personal domain your website address. That way, when you meet a potential client at your favorite coffee shop, all they’ll have to remember is your name to get to your website.
That’s just what Erin Faith Wilson did with her personal domain, erinfaithwilson.com. A freelance writer living in Los Angeles, Erin says her personal domain makes it easy to send potential clients to her website at www.erinfaithwilson.com to learn more:
“I registered a personal domain because it was very important to me to have one place that I could showcase all of my work for people who were interested in seeing an entire portfolio, rather than sending them links to clips individually.”
In addition, Erin uses the contact form on her website to generate leads for her freelance business. “I have had numerous people send me leads for stories through that feature and it has helped increase my work, as well as connected me with people in my industry,” she says.
As a (big) bonus, Erin can spend more time building her freelance writing business and less time noodling through technical issues because she uses GoDaddy’s Website Builder. “I will say that I love the fact that I can chat with someone from GoDaddy 24/7 and they are willing to help me figure out even the smallest things.”
Brand yourself on social media
Not every self-employed person has a website. I get it, you’re so busy just dealing with the reality of being your own boss that you just haven’t had the time. But you can use your domain name to point to LinkedIn, Facebook, Google+, Twitter, Instagram, or any other social networking site.
Peter Monte purchased his personal domain, PeterMonte.com, back in 2000. He says he kept it for a while without really knowing what to do with it. Then, after setting up his LinkedIn profile, he wanted an easy way to point people to it. Peter made the decision to leverage his personal domain name to achieve that goal:
“This was the easiest way to promote myself and my background and experiences. Using my personal domain has increased my visibility and exposure not only on LinkedIn but also on social media and in other professional forums and groups, which has brought me more business opportunities and allowed me to network with more professional people and customers.”
Likewise, I spoke with an engineering consultant who forwards his personal domain to his LinkedIn profile as he garners most of his business through social networking. He summed up his reasons for buying his own domain name by saying: “I would like to know that people who knew me or of me could find me.”
He went on to explain that his name was short and memorable, but ubiquitous. He had no desire to have people search for him online, only to find themselves at somebody else’s site. It’s highly likely someone else in the world has the same name as you; have you ever told someone to find you on Facebook and they can’t because there are too many people with your same name?
Pro tip: Get a custom domain from GoDaddy, then forward it to your LinkedIn profile with one-click.
Brand yourself with custom email
Another way to put your personal domain to work for your business? Email. You’ll definitely look more professional with a domain-based email address. Which email address inspires consumer trust — firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com? Easy one, right?
In fact, in a recent GoDaddy survey 33 percent of the U.S. consumers we talked to said they doubt the trustworthiness of a business that sends email from a generic email address.
‘You are your brand’
By establishing a personal brand, you’ll have some control over what your potential clients find when they search for your name online. (Do it now — look up your name in your favorite browser. What did you find?) That’s what your freelance prospects will find as well. It’s your name; you want to own it before someone else does.
As Mark Dooley says, “You are your brand, and your name is the one thing that follows you through life. Own it!”
What are you waiting for? Make your name work for you by branding yourself and taking control of your online presence. It’s easy to get started.
Also published on Medium.