So you think you need brand guidelines?
The freelance industry has been growing steadily over the past number of years. For marketing professionals, the work-life balance is attractive and provides the opportunity to work with a variety of brands.
However, client-side, these brands run the risk of employing freelancers unfamiliar with their brand and thus incur a time deficit while ensuring the freelancer gets up to speed with a company’s brand voice and values. That’s why, as a professional freelance writer, one of the most valuable things you can offer is the ability to capture a brand voice as quickly as possible.
On freelancing sites like Upwork or Fiverr quick turnaround times are commonly the plat du jour. The client may not have the language to communicate what their brand is or what they’re looking for making it difficult to encapsulate the company values that help create vibrant, engaging, meaningful content.
Your number one port of call should always be requesting a brand guide. However, here are some tips on how to find a client’s brand voice where the information is not readily available.
1. Ask your client to describe their brand
Use prompts such as: What does your brand mean to you? What do you want your customers to feel? If you were to describe your company in three words what would they be?
Try not to confuse matters with jargon — remember, no two entrepreneurs are the same, they will have different priorities and personal interests within their business, marketing may not be one of them
2. Visit their website and make a list of repeated words and phrases
A web designer is usually well briefed on a brand, product or company before starting their work. If it is a self build, consider the copy as coming straight from the horse’s mouth. Look for repeated phrases and adjectives, any mentions of brand values, and the origin story of the company. Make a list, and keep these words and phrases to hand.
BONUS: Blogs often provide great information on previous accolades and insightful behind the scenes information.
3. Take note of syntax and writing style
Does the website use short snappy sentences? Is the language bright and verbose? Can I reflect this concisely?
If you are in direct contact with the business owner, as is common with start-up or small family businesses, take into consideration how their own communication style pairs up with their product or brand communication style. If a product or service is very personal, using the owner’s writing style as a guide can be very successful, especially if they are targeting local media.
Depending on the brand, be careful not to make your content sound too casual — you’re looking to gain inspiration from their passion for the business, not to repeat verbatim. If it was that simple, they would write the content themselves.
4. Finally, Google the business
Do your due diligence and google the brand. You would be surprised at how many people forget this step. Look for previous press releases and media coverage. Explore their current social media pages. See if they have captured the brand, and if you don’t think so, identify what it is you think is missing and include it in your content.
Interviews provide a wealth of information on tone, brand value and key points of interest — the interviewee will have been briefed on information to include, and information to avoid!
Reviews from customers also give a good sense of a business, particularly positive ones. They can indicate a business’s strengths and weaknesses which you can then work into your language.
These tips may not result in the perfect brand voice, but they should give you enough guidance to present a solid first draft. They will also help you justify your choices if a client feels you have taken the wrong direction and provide a launch pad for richer conversations around brand and brand values.