Using social media to create a personal brand
Plus a Q&A with Charlotte Williams, founder of SevenSix Agency
Temperatures rose to an absolutely scorching 36 degrees in London last week and it was quite the struggle in our household. My son also had his own high temperature so he was sent home from nursery and wasn’t allowed to return until he’d been tested for Covid-19. As is always the way, this happened in the midst of me trying to meet a big deadline, so I’ve been sweating, typing, and dishing out Calpol on repeat like a mad woman.
On Friday, after approximately 48 hours of trying to hold it together without childcare, I dramatically announced to my husband that I could not write ‘in this environment’ and made a run for the door with my laptop under my arm. I felt like Carrie Bradshaw in that episode of Sex in The City - you know, the one where Aidan is sanding her apartment floors and she flees the scene so that she can finish her column? But rather than run away to a glamorous New York hotel, as Carrie did, I went to the cafe at David Lloyd where the air conditioning was very cool and the wine was cheap.
I’m happy to tell you that my son is now feeling a lot better (the Covid test came back negative) and I’m nearly all set with meeting that deadline. I also managed to squeeze in a pitching workshop with journalist Jessica Evans. If you’re a writer like me, I can’t recommend her webinars highly enough - whether you’re just starting out in the world of freelance journalism or just need a bit of motivation and support, she can really help in refining your feature ideas. She’s also a proud Scouser and a great example of how you can thrive in your freelance career without living in London.
So, without further ado, let’s get on to this week’s newsletter topic which is social media and how it can be used to help you create a personal brand - and get more work as a result. I know that many of us have a love-hate relationship with social media but there’s no doubt that it can be a really powerful tool for freelancers - whether you’re using it to nurture relationships with clients, find new work, connect with others in your industry or promote your business.
You may cringe at the very suggestion of self-promotion, but telling the world who you are, what you’re about and the services you offer shouldn’t mean that you have to sell your soul or reveal every aspect of your personal life. Many freelancers have different accounts for work and personal content, while some blend it all into one if it fits with their business.
I use my social channels in a few different ways but each has brought in work one way or the other. Instagram is by and large my most active channel and where I post the most content. It’s also where I feel I’m the most authentic and can reflect who I am, what I care about and share the work I’m most proud of. It also allows me to engage with editors and ex-colleagues and maintain my professional relationships which is always a challenge as a freelancer. If I post anything more personal, I use tools such as the Close Friends feature on Instagram stories. This allows me to share photos and videos to a select group of friends and family.
Then of course there's Facebook. While the OG of social media may have had its day in some ways, it shouldn't be completely discounted. Facebook Groups are used to bring together all kinds of niche communities and they've become increasingly popular over the past couple of years. I'm part of a few such as Doing it For The Kids, Freelancing Females, We Are Making Humans: The Empowered Mothers Club, Binders for writers, and of course, The Freelance Parent’s brand new group which I'd love for you to join if you haven't already.
Part of the reason Facebook groups have been so successful is that they're a great place to be honest and open in a safe space as well as network, ask for advice from like-minded people, and just generally feel part of a wider community. If you're looking to find new work in and outside of the UK, there's plenty of opportunity for that too and I've found some great clients this way.
Twitter can also be an invaluable place to find work or shout about interesting things that you’re working on. But I must admit this is one platform that I use with caution. As I follow lots and lots of editors and writers, it can sometimes feel like one big bragging hole that can quickly see me comparing myself to others - many of whom are much more accomplished and experienced than me, so it’s a pointless exercise that doesn’t make me feel good. It’s for this reason that I don’t have the Twitter app on my phone and I just log on a couple of times a week to see what’s happening. Or I avoid it completely if i’m feeling particularly anxious about work.
Knowing which areas of social media trigger negative feelings is crucial, especially when you work on your own and it's easy to spiral into negative thinking. So how can you get the balance right and ensure you’re benefitting from the positive aspects of it while maintaining boundaries and your mental health?
To find answers, I thought I’d ask an expert in social media: Charlotte Williams, the founder of SevenSix , a diversity-focused Social Media & Influencer Marketing Agency. Charlotte’s Instagram page never fails to brighten up my feed and she is a great example of someone who has created a great personal brand via Instagram that also brings her in business. I love how natural and authentic Charlotte comes across on her stories and videos and she’s definitely inspired me to do more lives and videos - especially when talking about this newsletter…so watch this space.
THE INTERVIEW: CHARLOTTE WILLIAMS, FOUNDER OF SevenSix AGENCY
CAT: Can you tell me a little about SevenSix Agency and why you decided to create it?
CHARLOTTE: SevenSix Agency was born out of frustration. I’ve worked in influencer marketing and as an influencer for years and the lack of diversity in marketing campaigns has always confused me. I would get invited to a lot of amazing events and work on really great campaigns and when I’d ask the PRs why there were so few people of colour in the room they would always respond with “we don’t have access to those type of influencers”. I had the “access” (whatever that means) so I decided to do something about it!
CAT: What was your professional background before this?
CHARLOTTE: I’ve worked in digital marketing for almost 10 years. I was previously European marketing manager for Hello Kitty at Sanrio, and marketing and events manager at WAH Nails before going freelance. I have also had a blog since 2010 and been on the influencer scene since 2012, so I have a long history of networking with both brands and influencers which has been vital for my Agency.
CAT: How can freelancers and the self-employed create an authentic social media profile that will help new clients discover them and help them grow their business?
CHARLOTTE: It’s important to use your social media to tell your story. Having some sort of strategy will help you focus and be more efficient on the platform as it’s easy to get overwhelmed. I often tell people to think of their pillars - the information they need to shout about. Mine would be personal life, sustainability, diversity within advertising and small business focused content. Each time I create a piece of content it should hit one of those pillars! That being said I’ve been very lazy recently and it’s all just selfies and model shots.
CAT: You use social media to really clearly show what you care about such as your sustainability podcast and content around Black Lives Matter. How important is it to do this when building an online presence and engaging with your audience?
CHARLOTTE: I use social media as a social tool to share my life with my friends (a lot of it goes on my close circle) and a marketing tool to showcase my podcast and marketing services. My audience seem to like me as a person and all my interests in beauty, makeup and sustainability and then the marketing stuff is an added bonus as a lot of them share with friends or book me for work (I get 90% of all my work form my personal Instagram and the rest is word of mouth from my clients and friends).
CAT: What advice would you give those who aren’t massively comfortable being the face of their personal brand but would still like to let the world know about their work?
CHARLOTTE: There’s two things I could say... 1) get over it. People like people and it’s great to show your personality. Once you start filming yourself you will get used to it and become more comfortable. 2) Get creative with graphics, you can use text based graphics to shout about your message.
CAT: What are the mistakes to avoid?
CHARLOTTE: Don’t stress yourself out. As much as social media is an excellent tool for your business, it’s supposed to be fun! Take your time to build what you want and listen to your audience.
CAT: How can we use social media to our advantage while protecting our mental health?
CHARLOTTE: Setting boundaries always helps. I limit myself to an hour a day on Instagram, for example. I also unfollow any accounts that make me feel anything but happy or inspired. If you have a “friend” or peer you can’t unfollow then mute them or restrict access - each platform has their own tools to help protect your mental health, you should use them!
You can follow Charlotte on Instagram here.
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Next week’s newsletter will continue on the social media theme, this time on how to create a really impactful online portfolio that will bring in more work and £££.
Until then! Have a great week. May your little ones be well and your business be fruitful.