When starting as a freelance developer, should you be a personal brand or an agency?
Most developers who choose to go freelance decide on branding as an agency.
This is a massive mistake.
The better option: A personal brand.
The appeal of an agency
I made this same mistake when I first started. I created a company called Sminso (SMart INternet SOlutions). It was hard to find clients. One of your biggest assets as a freelance developer is your personality. When you hide behind a brand, you lose that advantage.
I started to do more research, and some of the bigger freelance names were doing things as a personal brand.
I purchased the domain name chrishufnagel.com and threw up a landing page.
I never looked back at my “agency”. I don’t even own that domain name anymore.
Agencies are great once you have built some trust and want to scale. But, if you are starting as a freelancer, you are focused on building a brand and creating cash flow.
If you start as an agency brand but later try to shift into a personal brand, you will have a hard time. It is hard to pass trust from an agency to a personal brand.
Passing trust from a personal brand to an agency is much simpler than the other way around.
Just because you start as a personal brand today does not mean you can’t shift to an agency once you have built some trust.
Why is it easier to build a personal brand?
A personal brand already comes with some personality: YOU!
It is more natural for people to make connections with other humans.
You can let your personality shine through when you go with a personal brand for your freelance development endeavors. Many other developers out there can write code, but none are YOU.
When you meet with prospective clients as a personal brand, they see the exact person executing the work. This makes clients feel safe and you are more likely to get the work. A downside to agencies is that there is a lot of overhead as the project gets passed between sales, project management, strategy, and developers.
How to inject more YOU into your personal brand
- Use your name on social media and a profile photo of YOU.
- Use your name as your domain name. Let the logo be your avatar.
- Create copy that is in the 1st or second person. Use “I” and “you” a lot.
- Show photos of YOU as much as possible. This fosters a real connection with your clients.
- Share what is unique about you. Don’t be afraid. If you love video games, share your favorite somewhere on your site. Enjoy fishing? Maybe show a photo of you catching a bass on your homepage. These traits will help you connect with your audience better.
- Use your about page as a sales page for YOU. Why should people work with you? What results can you help them achieve? And who are you when you are away from the screen?
Start as a personal brand, then grow into an agency (if you want).
The question of personal brand or agency for new freelance developers often arises. If this is you or you are looking for a way to create a competitive edge, the correct answer is to go with a personal brand.
Start simple. Be authentically you. Do this on repeat for the next 3 months and see what happens.
You can craft an agency when you have climbed the freelance ladder as a personal brand and built a reputation. You won’t have to start from zero; you can leverage the trust you have built and pass it on to the new entity.
Whatever you do next, your personal brand will be a resource. No one can take it away.