What is it that all successful companies have mastered -- and what job-seekers looking to advance in their careers need to master? What is it about Coca-Cola, Microsoft, Starbucks, Disney, and McDonald's? What makes a consumer buy one product over another -- and makes one job-seeker much more sought after than others?


The answer is marketing, but more specifically it is the power of branding.

Branding isn't just for products anymore.

Branding (some call it self-branding when talking about individuals) is essential to career advancement because branding helps define who you are, how you are great, and why you should be sought out. Branding is your reputation. Branding is about building a name for yourself, showcasing what sets you apart from others, and describing the added value you bring to a situation.

Create a professional portfolio.

Creating a professional portfolio is done for one reason: so it can be shown off.

Learn how to show off work, skills and completed projects in a convenient way that will make it a little easier to land jobs. It's a professional portfolio, and it's essential for self-marketing.

The purpose of any portfolio is to feature the professional, so this is not the place to be modest. It's about showing off and showing work, so include the best career pieces possible.

Always remember to arrange the items attractively, make everything easy to see and don't over-load.

How do you answer the question "So what do you do?"

Being able to talk about yourself comfortably and with confindence is key. One of the most important things a freelancer (or anyone needs) is an elevator pitch.

An elevator pitch can be delivered in the time span of an elevator ride, approximately thirty seconds and 100-150 words. It is a concise and well-practiced description of what you do. Anyone should be able to understand an elevator pitch, not just people who are well-versed in geek speak. Having an elevator pitch is especially important in situations when you get asked dozens of times, "What do you do?"

Make your pitch about what you can do for the client versus about you.

Here's a discussion archive of Interaction Designers sharing their elevator pitch: "What is your elevator pitch?"

Quick Tip:

Get personal! If you are personal and unique with your designs, people will see you as unique. Develop a relationship with clients. If you develop a personal relationship on a one to one base with all your clients, they will respect you and maybe even come back for more work or better yet, refer you to their friends.

What others say

"Presentation is king. Go out and buy that one good suit and make sure you look the best you can."

Mark Condon - Expert Query Analyst

"Self-Marketing is all about Personal Branding."

Adam Kirkwood - Web Designer/Developer

"Have confidence and don't fidget. Firm handshake and a smile while looking the other person in the face. Know your vocabulary... if you don't have confidence - fake it."

Cara Marsh - Web Designer