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Good communication is a top soft skill that can set you apart in a crowded field, and something I look for when hiring a DOP.

Everyone loves to talk about branding. But how do you brand yourself when you are self-employed?  There are a few strategies I’ve used over my years in the video production business that you might find helpful.  I’ll be incorporating these into a new Lynda.com course this year on being a successful creative freelancer. Let me know any specific branding questions you have, as I’d love to incorporate them into the course.

Why You Think People Hire You

Most freelancers promote themselves with the skills they think people are looking for. Their websites show software or tools mastered, areas of expertise, lists of equipment.  That’s fine. But did you know that your expertise is only a small part of why people hire you?  If I want to incorporate a fantastic animation sequence in my next video, I can choose from literally thousands of freelance designers working with all the latest software. What I need in addition to those skills and tools is someone who is a problem-solver, easy to work with, and a good communicator, as we are likely to have a lot of back and forth during the storyboard process.   If you are that person, then your portfolio page needs to communicate to prospective clients more than simply the last projects you worked on. They need to understand HOW you accomplished the work to be sure you’re a good fit for their new project.

Why People Actually Hire You

Soft skills is what we’re talking about here. So how do you incorporate “soft skills” into your branding? References from past clients are helpful–and guide them to talk about your “HOW” skills. Also be sure to describe the personal attributes and abilities that make you good at what you do. These might include your positive attitude, your communications skills, your ability to work with challenging personalities, or your ability to lead a team.  Case studies are another great way to explain the problem or creative issue was that you were presented with, and how you solved it for a client. Be sure to include soft skills in your resume along with lists of hard skills and gear. Also put them on your LinkedIn page and website. These are part of your unique brand value, and that’s what you need to be promoting!

 

 

Amy DeLouise Workshop

Amy gives a workshop on personal branding.

Forget the gym, it’s time to put your personal brand in workout mode! As the     economy picks up steam, you might considering a career move. Or, the kids are grown and you’re getting back into the workforce. Or, you’re  ready for the next step in your current career track. Whatever the motivation, here are 5 things I found helpful–plus a few updates–when I repositioned my own brand a few years ago.

1. List Your Success Qualities. A resume is more than a boring list of skills. The personal qualities that make you good at what you do are what employers (and clients) look for even more. So whether or not you’re currently in a job you plan to keep on doing, think about what qualities allow you to succeed. Here are some examples: stick-to-it-iveness, loyalty, team-builder, team leader, calm under pressure, strategic thinker, behind-the-scenes organizer, detail person, etc. Put your list together, then define–on a piece of paper, even!–exactly how these qualities can apply to the new job or career path you’re interested in.

2. Develop Personal Examples. When I was an employer, I used the “STAR” method to seek out these qualities in prospective employees, asking them to give me examples of a challenging Situation, what Tasks they determined needed to be accomplished to resolve the situation, what specific Actions they took, and what was the Result or outcome of their actions. As a prospective employee, or someone looking to re-position, you’ll need to show how your qualities can help you–and your employer–succeed. Examples of past performance are a great way to demonstrate your value.

3. Practice a (New) Elevator Pitch. When people ask “what do you do?” make sure you incorporate what you Want to be Doing, not just what you currently do. So, you could answer “I’m a graphic designer specializing in animation, and I’m transitioning from corporate training to broadcast design.” OR “I’m the Executive Manager of a family of six, and I’m putting my organizational ninja skills to work as an educational administrator.” Even if you have not arrived yet, speaking about where you want to be is essential to the re-branding process.

4. Use Your Social Media Voice.  Maybe you have a lot of detailed knowledge about a field, so it’s time for a blog to better position yourself as an expert. Or a microblog on Twitter in which you curate other content in your field and post helpful links. Or you want to show off your new business venture, so you should be posting daily pics on Instagram, and reposting via Twitpic and on Facebook. Or create  Pinterest page.  The key to making your social voice heard is offering content and insights that others find helpful. Social media has leveled the playing field, giving every entrepreneur and employee the same platform as large corporate players and celebs. So use it!

5. Leverage Linked In. Despite being launched before Facebook, and despite new interface upgrades that have made it more user-friendly, Linked In seems like the forgotten step-sister of the social media world. And yet HR professionals say they turn to LI consistently when filling positions. So take some easy steps on this network: build your profile, ask for recommendations, connect to Groups (at a Minimum, your college alumni group and at least one or two industry groups–the one you’re in or the one you want to be in). You can also use the powerful Search tool to find people within your own network who work in the field you want to be in, or even in the very company you are interested in.

And, just because I have one coming up, here’s a bonus tip:

6. Attend Reunions. When people are out of work or re-positioning their careers, often the last thing they want to do is attend a reunion (where everyone asks “What do you do?”). But here is the perfect place to practice your New elevator pitch! And more importantly, reunions give you a place to listen to others about what they do or don’t like about their fields, what qualities make someone successful in that field. So raise a glass with your classmates, who can help you find your way.

The New Year is a time for great new opportunities, and for us all to re-invent ourselves a bit. Go out there and enjoy your personal re-brand. It’s time!

Amy DeLouise is a speaker, brand consultant and multimedia producer who has often had to re-invent herself.

Last night I watched as much as I could manage of Sarah Palin’s Alaska—the new show on TLC.  It’s basically Mutual of Omaha’s Wild Kingdom meets The Brady Bunch (but without good old Alice). If you are as old as I am, then you remember watching Wild Kingdom and wondering “will Jim be swallowed by the giant croc or mangled by that charging lion?!” And on the Brady Bunch side, we pondered “whatever will happen at the Big Dance if Jan can’t get her hair to look right?!”  Well, that’s pretty much the way it goes on Sarah Palin’s Alaska, where you can’t help wondering if Sarah might plunge to her death in a crevasse on national TV or whether Willow will ever finish getting dressed in her room while her boyfriend waits downstairs.

So why is this harmless show the subject of this branding blog?

Because it’s a brilliant move in the re-branding of Sarah Palin.  It’s entertainment that puts her in a much better light that most of her media appearances and political rallies. It makes her human. It shows her dangling uncomfortably from zip lines and doing her homework on the home computer for a Fox TV appearance. It shows her with popular hubby Todd taking their kids fishing, and the kids can’t catch any.  It reveals she’s just like every other working mom, getting chewed out by her daughter for being on her Blackberry too much.

What’s the impact?

Hard to say, when the show has many more weeks to go. But paired with her new book “America by Heart” coming out in a few weeks (already available for pre-order, of course) it could be a nice re-direct and a good way to make a tidy sum (did you see the size of that RV??!!).  And when Republicans take over the House in January, she can also stay on her political soap-box to keep them on task and herself in view. All without being involved in the actual ugly sausage-making of public policy and governing. Sounds like a great re-brand to me.  What do you think?

Abstract in Green s.c.2By now you’ve probably read that after 44 staffers were laid off at CQ-Roll Call at the end of September,   veteran editor Brian Nutting e-mailed the entire editorial staff (and cc’d the newsroom) a letter demanding answers from management.  His email was immediately “leaked” online and a day later, he was fired for insubordination.

A few days later, The Washington Post released new social media guidelines for its writers which take a pretty dim view of journalists having social media lives. The rules have resulted in journalists closing twitter accounts. Post journalists must refrain from “writing, tweeting or posting anything – including photographs or video – that could be perceived as reflecting political racial, sexist, religious or other bias or favoritism that could be used to tarnish our journalistic credibility.”

The Red Cross takes a different tack. It created—with input from employees—a Social Media Handbook that makes some common-sense recommendations. These include “Use disclaimers” “Respect work commitments” “Be a good blogger” “Be transparent” “Be accurate” “Be considerate” and one of my favorites “Be generous.”  (This particular recommendation is about being generous with links –that is, information–for your readers.)

These two approaches beg the question: who are we online? And can we be more than one person (the private and the public) at the same time?

Particularly if we work in a field where people pay us for our opinions and expertise (journalists, lawyers, doctors, consultants of various stripes), can we still express our personal views online and keep our jobs/clients?

What’s your SM policy? Can your employees make personal comments on their Facebook pages and still keep their jobs with you? What are the parameters? What is working and what isn’t?

I’d really like to hear from you on this one, so comment away!