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Ellen Porteus: “My personal brand isn’t about me”

June 25, 2018 / 5min

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Ellen Porteus: “My personal brand isn’t about me”

June 25, 2018 / 5min

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Designer Ellen Porteus is a straight talker. She’s the first to tell you that. Five months into her first in-house design job after finishing her study at Sydney’s UTS, she was restless. She decided to go out on her own.

And her personal brand – Ellen explained at RedZed’s recent Brand of Sisters event on marketing and branding – is all about her work.

“I don’t post anything personal on Instagram. My personal brand isn’t about me. I want people to follow me because they think my work is good, not because they like the clothes I wear or they think my dog is cute,” she told the packed function.

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That approach has seen Ellen work for diverse companies from the likes of Apple, Disney and The New York Times, to the Sydney Comedy Festival and Melbourne public radio broadcaster PBS.

“My personal brand is the unique aesthetic and voice that I have created,” she said.
“My business, or how I make money, is clients paying me to adapt that aesthetic and voice in some way to help sell their stuff.”

If you missed the event, you can sign-up here to find the latest information on Brand of Sisters events.

In the meantime, here are the highlights from the Q&A with Ellen on the night:

Q: How do you face the challenge of getting an idea or an artwork across the line with difficult clients?

A: It’s often more difficult than you think, because with commercial brands they have so many stakeholders along the approval process and it has to be on brand and not be offensive. So there can be millions of revisions. But it’s usually easy to know fairly early on if something is going off the rails, so you can put the brakes on when it’s still in a rough stage. I’m kind of used to it.

Q: How do you justify the work you put in as a freelancer?

A: Often when you speak with a client they won’t mention the word “budget”, they won’t talk about money. I find the best way is to be on the front foot about it as the person who is proving the service, and I’ll ask them what they need and be upfront about asking for their budget if I have a feeling it’s going to be too low. Or, I will go ahead and quote what I think it’s worth. A lot of the time they’ll say “that’s too high,” so I’ll think about the client and if the brief is good or if they’re a cause I believe in then I’ll adapt to that. But i’m more than happy to leave it off the table if I don’t think it’s worth my time as well.

Putting your work on display for people to look and judge is terrifying. I’m so used to working with people in a digital space and getting a like or a comment - Ellen Porteus

Q: Who’s your dream client?

A: Blondie.

Q: What was your most challenging but rewarding brief?

A: It wasn’t a commercial brief but my exhibition was the most challenging but rewarding brief. Putting your work on display for people to look and judge is terrifying. Working in a new medium, saying things that were quite personal, that was definitely terrifying. I’m so used to working with people in a digital space and getting a like or a comment.



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