So, I’ve been working on some freelance stuff lately, doing website designs and copywriting while I wait for news to come about some more steady employment. Freelancing is fun because you can do it on your schedule and being your own boss has its own special perks (read: waking up at noon).

But in this time of market meltdowns and financial recessions, I wonder what effect the current global economic situation will have on “the little guy” in the industry, like me (right now).

My initial thought is that it probably won’t have a serious effect, unless all the freelance work you’ve been doing was for big financial institutions. That’s an unlikely situation, though. I think the more subtle change we’re going to see is that when the dust settles and businesses begin to rebuild themselves, they will think strategically about including more ‘guaranteed to work’ strategies and taking less risks creatively when what they should be doing is exactly the opposite.

If you want to be a brand that’s constantly on the tip of people’s tongues, you have to constantly (and consistently) be doing things and saying things that surprise people. The more we can strike a balance between fresh creative and a more pragmatic approach, the more people will appreciate and even welcome our messages, our symbols, our brands.  Marty Neumeier noted that a brand is not a product or a logo or even what a company says or does. It’s “a person’s gut feeling about a product, service or organization.”

The more we can remember that, the more we’ll come to recognize that building a brand goes beyond having a really tight IMC plan. Beyond an awesome campaign. Beyond a box, a great spokesperson or a history of award-winning creative. It involves living and breathing your brand character. Understanding that every decision you make as the owner of a product or a corporate entity reflects upon your brand.

And the reason that is and will always be true – brands don’t belong to us. They belong to YOU.