Advice from top influencers Amra and Elma

It’s not easy to reduce clutter and establish a strong brand, even with a big corporate budget behind you. It is doubly difficult as an individual or independent entrepreneur. What does it mean for freelancers to have a personal brand? What does a voucher look like and how is it created and maintained?

In fact, how do you know if your brand is currently where you want it? Apparently, it’s all too human to overestimate one’s strength and reputation, and as a result, it can lead to mistakes, omissions, and missed opportunities. Cranfield professor Mikko Arevuo notes that executives “generally overestimate their effectiveness as motivators and leaders.” John Kotter of Harvard Business School pointed out long ago that business leaders routinely overestimate their success. The resulting problems are obvious.

Without a clear understanding of brand aspiration and how to define, build and protect it, freelancers are likely to struggle. In my Global Survey of Freelancers co-sponsored by the University of Toronto, we found that while the majority of freelancers were financially successful, a significant percentage continued to struggle.

So what should a freelancer do to establish a strong personal brand? To help answer this question, I turned to two masters of contemporary brand building: Amra and Elma Beganovich.

Amra and Elma are co-CEOs of the eponymous agency, Amra + Elma. These young polymaths (Amra is an economist by training and Elma is also a lawyer) and superstar influencers have over 2 million followers on their social networks and have created a full-service marketing agency to support large and small business clients. Their company provides advice and support in media buying, influencer marketing, social media management, public relations, content production, SEO and, of course, branding.

I had the privilege of sitting down with Elma Beganovich. Here is a sample of our conversation:

1. We’ve read a lot about the importance of building a brand. What does branding mean to you?

Building a brand means building a name that is recognizable, communicates trust and signals authority. It’s about taking a strategic approach and understanding where your target demographic is “hanging out” in the online real estate space. We encourage customers to draw it; map your target audience – where do they “live” online? Is it on Instagram? If so, zoom in closer. What accounts and topics of conversation does your target audience/communicate around? Is your brand present at these touchpoints?

Essentially, the brand builder needs to really dive deep and think about this particular target audience: who are they/what are their values, what do they need and what do they think in this economy. For example, what are their weak points? How can you help them find and implement solutions? How do you stand out? How memorable are you amidst the constant noise, traffic, and internet buzz?

2. We know building a brand is essential for big business, but does it make sense for freelancers to invest hard-earned dollars in building a personal brand?

Absolutely. Individual freelancers need to think of themselves as an investment and develop their mindset – what is the return on investment (ROI) on myself? So if freelancers develop a social media presence, that’s what companies will look and see, that’s how they’ll remember me, and that’s an opportunity for me to stand out and to communicate my added value. By writing this article, or participating in a podcast or webinar, and taking the time to diligently articulate my thoughts on a topic of importance, I am investing in myself, my career, and my future.

3. It’s pretty obvious that brand image has been turned upside down by new media. You’ve built a thriving business in a very short time, so you must be doing a lot of good. In your opinion, what are the new branding rules?

The new rules of branding are all about understanding how to integrate one’s brand from social media channels such as TikTok, Instagram and Twitter to one’s personal blog, where one can post one’s portfolio, case studies, references and thought leadership. Do not view these online real estate “properties” as separate and unrelated; rather think of them as connected pieces and parts of a whole. And how does the freelancer leave breadcrumbs, so to speak, on each of these touchpoints?

4. Can you give an example of how an individual was able to grow their business through the creation of a successful brand? What made them successful?

I think the perfect example of a strong individual brand is Kim Kardashian. Often people don’t think of an individual as a brand, but rather a brand/brand name. In the case of Kim Karadashian, like so many others, it helps to be first or at least one of the first. We’ve seen many influencers get ahead of the game by leveraging technology like Instagram, TikTok and blogging early on when others just didn’t pay attention. As Ray Dalio says, you have to be “radically open-minded,” which means seeing the desirability of available technologies and jumping in before the competition. Be on the lookout for new technologies, new features and data trends that your brand can capitalize on. Was it Snapchat? Are they coils? Are these YouTube shorts? Is it TikTok?

5. If a freelancer called you, where would you start to help them? What would be the steps to help them build their brand?

The first step would be to Google the freelancer. Are you searchable? If so, what do the search results say about you? Remember not to be afraid of Google; rather, think of it as an opportunity to showcase your skills, talent, and experience. Companies are constantly on the lookout for new talent and there’s no hiding the fact!

6. What are people doing wrong? What are the typical errors?

The typical mistake of a “rookie” is to quit too soon. We see new businesses, which include individuals, not giving themselves enough time to succeed. Keep in mind that building a brand is a process. It takes time for Google’s algorithm to fetch its content and index it; it takes time to build a following on Instagram; it takes time to create thoughtful and engaging content that is useful to its target demographic, etc. Plus, making mistakes is part of the job – it means trying! Give yourself a pat on the back because most people aren’t. I believe the statistic is that only 5% of people create content and 95% consume it.

7. What about “side-giggers” who are full-time employees but earn extra money through freelancing?

Clearly, the economy needs talent to thrive. If one gets bored at work and needs extra income, it’s a win-win situation for everyone – for the freelancer and for the company, which urgently needs talent. Keep in mind that companies need exceptionally qualified talent as much as freelancers do for companies. Most businesses thrive on good people who support its mission, values, and business goals.

8. What advice would you give to an ambitious freelancer wishing to embark on the creation of a personal brand?

Create your own blog/website and produce valuable content for your target demographic. Users crave informative, fun, and engaging content in their fields. It’s a chance for you to shine and showcase your knowledge, experience and expertise. Also, don’t stop producing content. Google, like social media, is hungry for fresh, quality content. As an expert in your niche, standing out on Google will surprisingly not be that difficult. That’s how it all started for us – writing tips for budget travelers looking for interesting yet affordable destinations, activities and transportation around the world. Back then, only luxury and five-star hotels ranked at the top of Google for these exciting destinations, leaving millions of travelers stranded, somewhat in the dark of the internet.

Long live the revolution!