Photography: Timmy Toucan
It’s hard to imagine that there was once a time when you could leave college, sign up with a company and know exactly what you’d be doing and where you’d be doing it for the rest of your life. Today, there are no such things as employees; only freelancers in temporary employment.
When no one can be certain that the company they work for will be around next year — and no company can’t be certain that its employees will be around then either — the only thing you can count on is you and your ability to make your name, promote your skills and sell yourself, not as a person, but as a personality.
Here are 17 ways to turn yourself into a geek brand.
1. Focus on a skill.
It all starts with identifying what you do best. You probably have lots of skills, from programming Perl to changing diapers. Brands always focus on one, whether that’s serving frappuccinos or designing super-shoes. Identify the one thing that you do better than most. That’s what you’ll be branding.
2. Bring out your uniqueness.
There are lots of cafes, but there’s only one Starbucks. Once you’ve identified what you do best, you’ll need to identify a way of doing it that’s all you. That could be coding in record time, creating Web designs with a certain look or even creating a particular pattern when you mow the lawn. It’s not just what you do but the way you do it that can help you stand out.
3. Look to your achievements.
Looking for skills and unique approaches to what you do is all a bit abstract. It’s much easier to look at what you’ve actually done and mine your achievements for the raw materials that will make up your brand. Ask yourself what you’ve actually done, not what you want to do… then ask yourself how you did it.
4. Turn every task into a WOW project.
Tom Peters of The Work Matters! Movement talks about the WOW-ness of every project — even small, annoying ones. Every task you do should be another example of what your brand can do and the gigantic benefits it can bring to the people who use it. So don’t sweat the small stuff; just make it look big.
5. Provide an experience.
One of the things that marks one brand out from another is that brands don’t just offer products or services; they deliver experiences. That’s easier for a restaurant to do than a designer or a coder… but not impossible. Try designing a client-side workflow that’s enjoyable — and unique to you.
6. Share the knowledge.
Once you’ve pulled out the elements that your brand will embody, you’ll need to communicate them. One way to show people that you have valuable information is to share some of it in a blog, or better still, a book. When people read you, they assume you’re an expert.
7. Give talks.
And once you’ve got an information product that can brand you as an expert — and which can generate revenue too — you can become a speaker. You don’t have to wait for the conferences to come calling to do this. You can just rent a room, churn out some flyers and market it yourself.
8. Give classes.
Another way to transmit information — and reinforce your image as a reliable source of expertise — is to teach a class. Community colleges and adult education schools often have slots to fill or again, you can rent a space and organize your own. Teachers are experts too.
9. Team up with other brands.
When Corn Flakes puts a picture of Shrek on its cereal boxes, both brands benefit: Corn Flakes gets sales and Shrek gets publicity. You can do the same thing. Look for other geek brands in complementary fields and form joint ventures. A game designer, for example, could team up with a fantasy author to offer unique online worlds.
10. Get a good picture.
It really goes without saying, and yet it’s so often needs to be said. When you are your own brand, the way you look matters. A blurred webcam still just won’t cut it on your About Us page. Only a professionally taken photograph will do.
11. Get an image.
Every brand has a logo, but getting an image is about more than a single neat graphic. It’s about a look, a design, an approach that’s all you. It’s likely that more people would recognize an iPod today than Apple’s apple logo. When you create products, a website or anything else, brand it with your own unique style.
12. Get a slogan.
An image might be the easiest part of brand to remember but a tagline that sums up who you are, what you do and how you do it is important too. At the very least, it will help you remember what you’re doing and stay focused.
13. Make your site WOW.
Much of branding is about extracting your uniqueness and communicating it. Just is it’s possible to follow Tom Peters’ advice about making each task WOW, so it’s just as important to create awe with your marketing. Don’t settle for a website that looks like any other site on the Web; take a look at how designers (like Benoit Falardeau and Nate Smith) use their sites to create an impression… and do the same.
14. Do the social networking thing.
Your brand is only as valuable as the people who know about it. Social networking though has made it easier than ever to get to know lots and lots of people… even if only superficially. Make friends on Facebook, start groups to raise interest in your field and take part in discussions.
15. Network offline too.
You can “meet” a lot of people online, but nothing beats meeting in the flesh. Attending conventions, first as a delegate and maybe later as a speaker is a great way to meet the people who matter, show them who you are, spread your name and form valuable joint ventures too.
16. Make one client better.
The goal of your brand will usually be to land enough jobs to help many clients and give you a high and stable income. But ultimately the strength of your brand will always depend on the benefits your skills bring. Instead of thinking in terms of servicing lots of clients then, try thinking in terms of helping one client at a time. Not only will you earn your fee, you’ll also create your own network of satisfied evangelists.
17. Don’t kill your brand with shortcuts.
Brands are really all about trust and nothing is more fragile than a trustworthy reputation. It doesn’t take much — a shoddy product, a bug-ridden program, poor customer support, to name just three — to turn your name into mud and make your brand worthless. Your brand has to be shiny at all times.
[tags] branding, geek branding, geek brands [/tags]