How to Build Your Brand as a Freelance Developer [Ultimate Guide]

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Personal Brand Coder

This guide shows you the importance of building your personal brand as a freelance developer.

How to Build Your Brand as a Freelance Developer [Ultimate Guide]

Why Freelance Developing?

Freelancing is the new mega trend in the 21st century. Freelancing platforms such as Upwork and Fiverr grow double-digits year after year. The COVID-19 crisis has revived the interest in remote work and, statistically, most people dream of being their own boss and gaining more control of their lives.

Woman Sitting On The Floor Using A Laptop

Do you want to be one of the winners of spotting this trend early? There are many arguments why freelance developing may be a great thing for you to do. Here are the most convincing ones:

  • Time: Zero time on the road—you don’t have any commute time (I love it!)
  • Independence: No boss
  • Pay: Higher hourly rates than employees: the average rate is $61 per hour for Python freelancers!
  • Flexibility. Set your own time and work schedule.
  • Control of your income
  • Job Safety: you work for hundreds of companies rather than just a single one
  • Learning: you learn more because of the different types of stimuli.
  • Region Independence: work on the beach, in a cafe, or in a cheaper environment.
  • Side Income: You can always side-hustle on your freelancing business to create a second stream of income if you or your family need more cash.

These are just some, not all, advantages. Also, there are some disadvantages—you can read the full comparison in my blog article.

Related Article: Freelance Developer – To Be or Not to Be?

What is Personal Branding?

Person in White Shirt Using Computer

Your personal brand is the image you represent to the outer world.

Personal branding is the conscious and intentional effort to create and influence public perception of an individual by positioning them as an authority in their industry, elevating their credibility, and differentiating themselves from the competition, to ultimately advance their career, increase their circle of influence, and have a larger impact.” (source)

This definition consists of different parts:

  • Conscious and intentional: The act of personal branding is an active one. You must pursue it and aim to control the positioning and your perception.
  • Effort: Building your personal brand is a long-term strategy for success. It’s not a get-rich-quick scheme. But it’s by far the most certain, predictable, and controllable way to success.
  • Positioning: You cannot be the jack-of-all-trades. You must be the master of one. You may not have thought about this much, but choosing the right positioning, where you can perform from your strengths, is the most important business move in your whole life. Read my detailed blog tutorial on this topic!
  • Credibility: It is hard to be earned but easily lost. Never jeopardize your good name and your credibility. Be a man or woman of your words. Overdeliver. Keep your promises. Be punctual.
  • Differentiation: It is more important to be different than to be good. If you cannot be excellent—that is: you cannot join the top 5% in your field—no problem: be different! You’ll still be able to command premium prices with average skills, if you’re different.
  • Impact: The easiest way to motivate yourself, get others to follow you, and build your personal brand that is perceived positively is to choose to aim for a goal higher than your own selfish ones. Don’t aim for your own profit but allow others to make great profit and you will have impact. The rewards will follow if you’re truly impactful.

You may ask: why is it important to build a personal brand in the first place? Let’s explore this question next!

Why Branding?

The most fundamental law of economics states that as demand for a fixed resource rises, prices rise, too. As you build and refine your personal brand, the demand for your time increases. This has all kinds of benefits such as higher hourly pay, higher status, higher perception of attractiveness, increased opportunities, and an exponentially growing network of supporters. Building a personal brand that shines is more than ever the highest-leveraged activity you can do to ensure your success into the future.

Woman Reading Book

The web has broken up many social structures and the way personal brands are created. If you don’t have a web presence, it’s very unlikely that you have already built yourself a powerful personal brand. The web is a highly scalable way to reach people all over the world. Without this highly-scalable distribution channel, it becomes very hard to reach more people. However, if you use the web in the right manner, you can make a name for yourself in relatively little time.

The brand is a concept of your person in other people’s mind. If you give them stuff they like and make them feel good, they’ll have an overwhelmingly positive concept of your person. If you make them feel awkward or bad, they’ll also have a negative concept of you. Your personal brand is a reflection of your own actions. If you control your actions and reactions, you control how other people perceive you.

Examples of Great Personal Brands on Upwork

Next, we’re going to look at three freelance developers who built their personal brand on Upwork.

#1 Machine Learning Engineer ($300/h)

Profile link for logged in Upwork users:

Jason clearly positions himself as a machine learning engineer and data scientist. He doesn’t offer web development, Python, or server maintenance. Great brand building is always a game of smart positioning in an attractive space. He clearly states his value proposition in his profile text:

If your project involves data, I CAN HELP, here's how: 

Don't have any data? 
I'll scrape some for you! 

Have data, but it's very raw?
I'll clean it for you! 

Have data, but not sure what to do with it? 
I'll analyze it, provide useful insights, and create stunning visualizations! 

Trying to build a machine learning model? 
I'll use state of the art techniques to develop the best model possible!

He positions himself as an expert in a field charging premium prices of $300/h. And his testimonials support the great value he offers. Here are four testimonials:

Social proof is always an important building block of powerful personal brands.

Now, let’s have a look at another machine learning engineer that earns less than one-tenth of Jason:

#2 Machine Learning Engineer ($20/h)

The positioning is more freelancer-focused than client-focused (read the first few sentences and you’ll know what I mean). Social proof is not as strong as for the first freelancer Jason. That’s why the freelancer both has less total earnings, fewer ratings and gigs, and a reduced hourly rate.

These two examples show, plain and simple, how powerful building your personal brand can be. What one person earns in 15 hours will another person earn in only one hour—to a large extend because of personal brand building.

How to Nurture Your Personal Brand [5 Simple Steps]

As a general framework for brand-building, you can perform the following five simple steps (source).

Step 1: Clearly formulate your personal brand statement. Before you can start working on your brand, you must know what message you send out to the world. Brand consistency is king!

Step 2: Examine your online presence. Look for everything you’ve ever posted online and put it in a document for easy access.

Step 3: Remove threats hurting your reputation. The data protection laws of most countries empower you to request removal of all harmful content that can hurt your reputation or are not in line with your personal brand.

Step 4: Create online assets that are in line with your brand strategy. You can post to social networks, create your own blog, or shoot videos. Make sure that the message you’re delivering is consistent to your brand strategy. For example, if you want to position yourself as trusted advisor, make sure to earn that trust and don’t sell your audience to the highest bidder!

Step 5: Strengthen your brand by creating a habit around fostering your brand. Every one-time action is destined to fail. However, if you establish a regular process or routine for brand reputation management, you create a positive upward spiral towards success. The more assets you create that are in-line with your brand, the more other people will reinforce this brand and it becomes stronger and stronger. Before you know, you’ll be able to charge $300 per hour on Upwork.

Do you want to develop the skills of a well-rounded Python professional—while getting paid in the process? Become a Python freelancer and order your book Leaving the Rat Race with Python on Amazon (Kindle/Print)!

Leaving the Rat Race with Python Book

Where to Go From Here?

Enough theory. Let’s get some practice!

Coders get paid six figures and more because they can solve problems more effectively using machine intelligence and automation.

To become more successful in coding, solve more real problems for real people. That’s how you polish the skills you really need in practice. After all, what’s the use of learning theory that nobody ever needs?

You build high-value coding skills by working on practical coding projects!

Do you want to stop learning with toy projects and focus on practical code projects that earn you money and solve real problems for people?

🚀 If your answer is YES!, consider becoming a Python freelance developer! It’s the best way of approaching the task of improving your Python skills—even if you are a complete beginner.

If you just want to learn about the freelancing opportunity, feel free to watch my free webinar “How to Build Your High-Income Skill Python” and learn how I grew my coding business online and how you can, too—from the comfort of your own home.

Join the free webinar now!