Personal branding and building your business

Personal branding has become much more important in recent years. While word of mouth still works wonders (and may have even got you this far), you'd be surprised how much work can be found through portraying yourself as a knowledgeable and trustworthy creative face in your sector. You don't have to look far to find the experts.

On set of Marcella © Amanda Searle, Buccaneer Media 2018

When working in the screen industries you have the option of trading under your own name or creating a brand name. Different people try out different ways, depending on their sector, skill set and personal preference.

It's not difficult to put together your own web presence and curate your social media accounts. A little consistency and quality control go a long way. Your presence online should reflect the person you're selling. Community sites like Hiive can give you a great way to get started with an online portfolio for free, with the added bonus of a connected network of users.

Diversifying your income

The screen industries are inherently unstable. They rely an awful lot on brands and large companies for investment, on changing government policies and crowdfunding. For your own safety, you should never be relying on just one job to pay your bills. While larger companies may be able to offer you bigger budgets or longer duration contracts, many freelancers in the creative industries will not have that luxury and will need to diversify their income.

Here are some creative ways you can think about diversifying:

  • teaching classes part-time at a school or university
  • selling prints or merchandise online or at industry fairs and expositions
  • writing articles for print media and websites
  • advertising on your products, platforms or events
  • building a following on YouTube or with a podcast to attract sponsorship
  • applying for arts/business bursaries and grants to complete projects
  • selling licences or subscriptions to your work
  • crowdfunding your work
  • guest-speaking and appearing at conferences and events

There are also non-industry related ways of expanding your incomes such as:

  • maintaining a non-creative day job
  • investing your income
  • investing in property to lease out
  • freelancing in other services, Mechanical Turk, TaskRabbit etc.
  • renting your living space out when you're on location
  • renting out your equipment while it's not in use
  • renting out your living space or studio as a location for creative projects

Networking

Creative industry networking events can range from after-work pub meets, to enormous week-spanning festivals. As so much of your work will be from personal recommendations and word of mouth, making a presence at these is important. You never know who you might meet, it’s even worth going along to free networking events outside your sector to drum up business and practise your small talk.

Before you go out to a big networking event here are a few things to check off:

  • do you have enough business cards
  • do your website and email address work
  • do you know the crowd? A TV festival will attract commissioners, producers and advertisers, and an advertising event will attract sponsors, account managers and creative directors. Sometimes it makes sense to attend events even outside your sector, but be sure to spend your time wisely
  • is it just your peer group? Chances are you won't get a job from someone at your current job level, and ideally, you want to meet people above and below you in experience level. Be wary of student networking events if you're in education. If the ratio heavily favours the students, the bombardment of CVs and questions will mean that anyone interesting from the industry probably won't stay to chat
  • think about whether you could pre-arrange to meet with people beforehand. Look on social media before, during and after the event to connect with people who are there
  • is there someone in the industry that you can invite to come with you? Perhaps someone you’ve been wanting to work with, or you’ve just worked with and you’d like to buy them a drink

When you decide to go freelance, your reputation becomes much more important. Word-of-mouth is one of the most valuable ways to get hold of new clients. Of course, your experience and portfolio will play a big part in securing work, but your personality, communication skills and even sense of humour can play a big part.

Try to manage your communications with clients, stay professional where you can, and feel free to chat with your clients outside your own projects. If a client wants to know how possible it is to do some work with VR, put on a show at Edinburgh Fringe, or develop an app then give them some advice. It doesn’t take long and improves your standing as a knowledgeable professional in your field.


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