Branding and positioning

What’s In A Name?

By Brennan Dunn

Have you ever thought about what you call yourself?

If you’ve been following my blog, there’s a high likelihood that you’re a “freelancer.” But if you’ve been around a while, you know I favor “consultant.”

Along the way, I’ve also heard “independent”, “contractor”, and “supertemp” thrown around. And development-centered teams are generally called “consultancies” and design teams “agencies.”

There’s really not one easy way to say: clients pay me (or us) to work on their projects.

It’s all about perception

Last week while vacationing in the mountains of North Carolina, I was invited to speak to the Charlotte Hackers & Founders meetup. There I met Diana, an IT Consultant.

After a few minutes, it became very clear why she calls herself an IT Consultant. Her client is a very large bank, and she helps direct the development of software used on the trading floor.

Could you imagine the reaction of a higher up hearing that a freelancer — a ronin, a knight without a lord — was involved with software that touched billions of dollars?

But we’re not all looking to work for mega-banks. Many clients might favor a freelancer over a consultant. I’ve been rejected in the past because the prospective client thought “they needed someone who could actually execute, not a consultant” (translation: they wanted a code monkey in front of a keyboard.)

Like with most things, I would encourage you to look at who you’re pitching to and the kind of client you want to work with, and label yourself accordingly. However, the same rules as always apply:

  • Focus on the benefit, not the solution.
  • Price on the value you deliver.
  • Less you, more them.

I’ve seen many underpriced consultants, and many in-demand expensive freelancers. However, there’s a greater correlation with those who follow the above rules and self-identified “consultants.”

One year in — and I still don’t have it figured out

Exactly one year ago, on August 15th 2012, I created my newsletter. Truthfully, it really wasn’t a newsletter then — it was an update list for my upcoming book, Double Your Freelancing Rate.

After launching the book, I was moments away from shutting it down. After all, the book was launched… right? But I kept writing, and now I’m pretty close to 7,000 subscribers.

(If you’ve ever thought “there’s no way I could build a personal brand”, please consider me as a case study. No one knew who I was a year ago. But I worked pretty damn hard over the last 365 days.)

Anyway, here’s how I’d like you to weigh in:

My products include Freelancer’s Weekly (this newsletter), The Business ofFreelancing podcastDouble Your Freelancing Rate, and the Consultancy Masterclass — as you can see, I also have a bit of an identity crisis.

And just last week, I was talking to a principal at an agency who told me they wrote Planscope off because it was “that app for freelancers.” The thought being that freelancers and teams have very little in common (though my experience says otherwise; the difference is largely a matter of scale, not substance.)

In looking out over the next year, I’d like to really refine my messaging and focus. Drop me a comment below… Do you call yourself a freelancer, or something else? And do you have any suggestions on how I could better position my this newsletter and my other products? (I’m probably going to get a ton of email replies, but I promise to reply to each one — even if it takes me a few days.)

Thanks so much. And I look forward to another year together 🙂