There are a few core elements on the checklist of a successful professional: create a personal brand, develop a business model, and build and maintain a stable customer base. As usual in life and business, the first steps are the most difficult.
For many professionals, young and seasoned, the concept of personal branding is still unclear. The concept of having a consistent and strong message with a professional image seems cut and dry, but what are the concrete steps of actualizing it? With some help to clarify the basics, you can bring your brand from the obscure and into the spotlight!
Personal Branding Defined
In the literal sense, a personal brand may involve a particular image, logo, color palette, or slogan to represent an individual's product or services. However, branding can be all that and more, encompassing tone of voice, your online presence, and your way of expressing ideas.
That's why your brand is as much about how you walk into a room as it is about the logo on your website. Ultimately, your personal brand will be what gives clients, associates, and complete strangers the most lasting impression.
And it's completely within your control.
In every industry and niche, some people stand out from the crowd and seem to be the go-to authority for advice and opinions. Think of top chefs such as Jamie Oliver or Gordon Ramsay and of entrepreneurs like Richard Branson and Elon Musk. They have built a particular image around their personality and talent. They have also succeeded to impose this picture at a worldwide level.
Why Your Brand Personality Matters
There are several reasons why a brand personality is no longer a luxury, it's a necessity.
1. The market is saturated.
Freelancers now make up 34% of the United States workforce according to a study conducted by the Freelancers Union and Elance-oDesk. This includes 40% independent contractors, 27% moonlighters, 10% temp workers, and 5% freelance business owners.
This means that if you'd like to thrive as a freelancer, you'll need to be heard above the noise by establishing and upholding a strong personal brand.
2) Google isn't going anywhere.
While much of your business may come from word of mouth, prospective clients will often do a search for your business before they contact you. This means that your brand should remain consistent across different social media channels, review sites, and your website.
3) Since you're self-employed, you are selling you.
Especially true when you are in a creative industry like graphic design or writing, however no matter what your specialty, prospective clients want to get to know the real you. Your brand should showcase your personality and what makes you different from the droves of people offering the same service.
How to Build a Personal Brand from Scratch
Developing a brand isn't just designing a logo (although that's extremely important too). In order to create a brand unique to you, you will need to find your "voice." Here are seven questions to get your creative juices flowing.
- What do you do for your clients? Specifically, what pain points do you alleviate?
- Who is your ideal client? Some call this a persona or avatar.
- What is your own personality? If you are a fun, bubbly person, a stuffy brand won't convey the real you.
- How are you different from the other freelancers or companies in your market?
- What are your ideal client's problems in their own words? When you use their verbiage, you resonate on a deeper level.
- What do you want to be known for? This is where color can be very helpful. Each color represents different characteristics. Find the ones that speak to your personality and core beliefs.
- What's your story? Never underestimate the power of story. Where did you come from? Why do you do what you do? What matters to you? Most importantly, how do you improve your customer's life?
As you answer these questions, you will have an easier time finding your company's voice and creating a unique brand.
The Importance of a Personal Branding Statement
A personal branding statement prevents you from chewing off someone's ear when they aren't your target audience and allows others to repeat what you do if they come in to contact with your ideal client.
A relative of the Elevator Pitch, a personal branding statement is 1-2 sentences long and made up of three parts:
- What do you do?
- Who do you do it for?
- What makes you different than others?
This statement allows you to clearly communicate how you can help potential clients, in under 30 seconds. The idea isn't to spill your entire life's story or give away your methodology, but rather to spark interest and start a conversation.
The Best Personal Branding Examples
While you need to develop a brand all your own, it may help to learn from some of the great personal brands. Pay attention to their visuals, but also notice how you get a feel for their personality, their voice, and how they can help their clients.
- Marie Forleo is quirky, fun, and down to earth - https://www.marieforleo.com/
- Kris Carr is leading a Crazy Sexy wellness revolution - http://kriscarr.com/
- Anum Hussain communicates exactly what she does - http://www.anumhussain.com/
Take a look at these ladies' brands and see how you can use their techniques to develop your own unique personality.
Where to Start When Building a Personal Brand?
If you want to be successful, you need to become such authority in your line of business, and to do that, you need to build your personal brand. Every great undertaking has a beginning. Here are five effective steps you can take right away to give your brand an identity:
1. Create Social Media Profiles
Social media is crucial in the internet marketing sphere. Through Facebook, LinkedIn or YouTube, you can build networks, find potential clients or partners, follow your mentors, and learn about trending topics. It is important to understand that a professional social media profile differs from the one you created to connect with family and friends.
Start with the image itself: the profile photo. It will determine the first impression you make on the people who visit your profile. While it should not be a stiff headshot, like an ID photo, it must convey the idea of professionalism and reliability. You should invest in a photo session with a professional photographer and get a portfolio of great pictures for your social media profiles.
Make sure you post on a consistent basis, creating and curating the articles that you find important about the industry. Your passion in what you do will reflect in your social media activities and give visitors a positive impression.
2. Build Your Image Around Your True Self
When you create a personal brand image, it should always reflect your real personality, values and principles. Professional connections and potential clients respond positively to a genuine approach. Trust your abilities and skills and believe in yourself. If you are determined, open and sincere, people will feel confident enough to give you referrals and help strengthen your reputation. Remember that no tricks can replace a positive image of professionalism and willingness to help others.
Sit down to draft a mission statement or short goal that summarizes what your brand should be all about. It should be concise while highlighting what makes your services the best they can be. This will help you shape your true feelings about your role in the business you're in and help you come to understand what values your brand should convey.
3. Embrace Guest Blogging and Interviews
One of the best ways to develop a personal brand and create the reputation of authority in your niche is by authoring helpful articles and participating in interviews for various websites and professional blogs. These online forums have a large daily readership, many of these being other professionals like you who can provide endorsements or people who are seeking the type of services you offer. Guest blogging can be instrumental to branding, helping to secure your online presence and make you stand out among your peers in your field.
Ask your associates and connections as well as top industry publications for a chance to contribute to their sites. Through these specialized articles and interviews, you can create and share your tone of voice, make your core values clear and showcase your skills and strengths. Plus, any content is precious for building backlinks to your website and increasing your chances to get found on Google.
4. Monitor Your Online Reputation
You should perform various searches for your name on Google and social media. You can even utilize various online tools that can send you instant notifications or daily digests for every instance your name was mentioned online.
This is an imperative part of building your personal brand. As soon as you discover a negative mention of your name, you should react, find out why it happened and do everything in your power to correct it. Potential clients tend to respond negatively to poor reviews, but if you show that you're doing your best to engage with customers and resolve their issues, it will actually prove your commitment to great service and help your image despite the original feedback.
5. Keep Learning and Improving Your Skills
If you want to stay relevant in your industry, you need to be constantly up to date with the latest trends in your industry. This is what differentiates industry leaders who grew a powerful personal brand from the rest: they are always the first to offer insights on the latest news and approaches while implementing them in their own work.
As a sign of professional strength, you should always keep in mind that it is not enough to build an image; you have to maintain it, grow it and keep it consistently fresh and relevant in an ever-changing business environment.
The Importance of a Cohesive Approach
One of the most important parts about building a personal brand is to embrace a unified and cohesive way of doing things. The look, feel and theme of your professional persona should be consistent in every aspect of your efforts. Your social media and any business cards or other marketing materials should reflect the rest of the platform that you've spent your time building.
The goal is to differentiate you from your competition and provide recognizability when potential clients come across your work. This ultimately affects your credibility in a positive way and establishes you as an industry authority, even if they didn't originally know you, making you the perfect candidate to turn to when potential customers are looking for solutions.