One of the biggest mindset shifts that has helped me successfully make a living by essentially freelancing services that I’m interested in providing is thinking of myself as managing a personal brand.
In this mindset, any service I provide – anything I do in exchange for money – is part of the brand. My teaching, my writing, this blog, and my social media services are all products offered by this brand. It’s personal to me and exists in direct relation to who I am as a person but it’s a unique section of my life.
There are a few reasons why I think this mindset is important for others with a similar work style or similar work situation. Let’s look at those reasons now.
Okay, that’s a bit confusing but let me explain. I work from home. In my family, we make jokes about how I never leave the house and might easily be mistaken for a captive of my family rather than a member of it because they all go out into the world but I spend endless hours in one room of the house. The jokes are like a thinly veiled coping mechanism for what we all know is an odd reality. I don’t leave the house often. Sometimes I get so stir crazy I have to leave for the sake of leaving without any actual mission other than getting fresh air.
So how do I know I’m done with work? Honestly, the entering and exiting of physical spaces is something that we often take for granted in our lives. We enter our workspaces and know we are at work, we exit them and can start thinking about our personal lives again. I’ve done a decent job of making my office my physical workspace and letting what happens in the office stay there when I leave it BUT it’s always right there, calling to me when something could use my attention. Why wait until tomorrow morning when I could just go grab my laptop and attend to it right now? Thinking of your work as existing under the umbrella of a personal brand helps to add one more layer of separation between your personal life and your professional one even when the two cohabitate in one physical space.
Not only have I left my office but I’ve mentally left the headspace of the brand and so whatever needs to happen will have to wait for me to get back in the office and back in that headspace.
It’s really hard to turn down work when you’re a freelancer working from home. You figure there’s always a way to shuffle your calendar around and make time for one more project because security is so elusive. Work is work and money is money, right?
Sure. But if you’re so busy taking every opportunity that comes along you may end up with a set of projects that don’t fit or make sense together. This seems pretty benign on the surface but can actually become quite problematic for your overall productivity. If your projects don’t make sense together then they can start to battle each other for your time and switching projects will become a big interruption to your workflow.
For me, working on Oh My Mermaid and working on Playful Greetings social media work really well together because a lot of the organization can happen from one single platform so time spent on one can easily coexist with time spent on the other.
Thinking of new projects as coming in under your personal brand gives you a buffer between them and you that will allow you to reject them without feeling guilty
You can say to yourself and the potential project, “I’m sorry, that project/job/contract doesn’t work with my current portfolio so I wouldn’t be able to fit it into my schedule or do a good job of it without hurting my other projects.”
When the reason you’re saying no is that it doesn’t work for “the brand” rather than because you just don’t feel like saying yes there’s a lot less guilt and obligation.
Just like it’s easier to say no because it isn’t personal, it’s also easier to ask for an opportunity because just like when you turn something down, rejection isn’t personal. When you feel like it’s just you, as a person and a freelancer, saying to a company that you’d like the opportunity to work with them then when they say no they’ve rejected you. And that sucks. Nobody wants to feel like that.
But when you apply feeling that you’d like to add that opportunity to your personal brand portfolio and you get the rejection it’s easier to just move on, work on your existing projects and look for the next opportunity that might be an even better match for you and your brand.
One of the biggest struggles I notice as an independent freelancer is that there is a lot less positive feedback than I might have access to in a regular old brick and mortar job. As a student for most of my life and in the various regular jobs I’ve had I’ve always appreciated the positive and negative feedback that lets me know what’s going well and what isn’t.
Working in isolation, as I talked about earlier, feedback can sometimes be seriously lacking. It made me feel like I was lost in space having no idea if I was going the right direction or what was going on.
Thinking of my work as a personal brand somehow makes it a bit more tangible. I start finding ways I can measure performance. Income, of course, but also through social stats, leads, and projects. I feel proud of what I’ve accomplished with Oh My Mermaid and the other projects I’ve taken on. That’s something that reduces the sensation of being lost in space.
So overall there’s a lot of good reasons to start thinking of yourself as managing a personal brand to create an extra mental layer between your work and you as a person. It’s better for your mental health and self-worth to feel that it’s still a job, at the end of the day and you do get to be off duty even if that just means going to a different room in your house.