What is a Personal Brand?
Your personal brand has noting to do with getting a million followers or hacking the algorithm of whatever social media platforms you use. How you build your brand is simply about showing up consistently to your target audience. It’s about building rapport and credibility over time.
Get Clear about Who Are You
There are two foundational elements for your brand. The first is to really understand your mission and motivation. It’s all about the why. Along with your why, get clear about your personality and your values.
Then get clear about the problem you solve for your clients. The problem you solve or the service you offer pretty much needs to tie back to one of three things:
- How to help them make more money
- How to help them get healthier
- How to help them be more attractive and improve their relationships
Money, Health, Love. Solve one of those problems, and you have something that people care about. And honestly, it’s something you can stand behind. It’s easy to create a why and brand story around those things.
It’s also important to get comfortable with yourself. When you share written content, put the same words and personality into your writing as you would if you and I were talking over coffee. Put some thought into how you dress on a consistent basis.
For example, I’m more comfortable in a suit than just about anything else in business situations. At home it’s jeans, a t-shirt, and a quarter-zip sweater or nice sweatshirt. If you see me in a hoodie, I’m either outdoors someplace windy, or I’m sick at home. I just don’t wear hoodies. But maybe you do, and that’s just fine. Make it part of your brand.
Get Clear about Who You Serve
I’m not simply talking about your ideal client here. I’m talking about an entire narrative about who they are. You really want to start understanding what makes your target clients tick. What drives them in their business? What do they value? How do their values line up with yours? Why do you enjoy working with them?
Once you’ve written out who they are, figure out where they hang out. This means both online and in real life. Yes – IRL. What social media apps do they use? Where do they shop? What products are they buying? What are the other brands they love?
Where do they gather in real life? What conferences do they go to? What local networking events do they attend? Where do they grab coffee or have dinner? Where are their offices or storefronts located? Talking in person might be the social media of the future. The online presence is still critical, but the interest in what you do online is going to be fueled by them getting to know you in person. Then they will tell others bout how great you are as a person. Your online branding become more real.
Get Confident About Your Ability
Personal branding is mostly about the mental game. It’s important that you get confident not only in your skills, but also in your approach to building your brand. This is about the long game. While you will see results in weeks or months, it really takes a year or two to build a strong brand.
It takes that long because it’s about showing up consistently. But if you feed yourself with negative self-talk like “I’m not good at marketing” or “I’m an introvert, so I’m bad at in-person networking” guess what? You’ll be bad at those things. So before you start branding, be confident in your approach and your skills.
Think back to that problem you solve. When people ask what you do, tie it back to that problem. I definitely don’t start with “I’m a photographer” in these situations, because that’s way too broad. My typical answers are “I’m a personal brand photographer” because that generates some interest, and it’s all I do. But in larger more general networking situations I like to start with “I help people make more money.” Get’s everyone’s attention.
I’m also clear on my online strategy. Instagram, LinkedIn, and blog posts. I’ll link some blog posts on Facebook sometimes, but Facebook isn’t part of my core strategy. And I have ideas on more layers to add when the time is right.
Take the time to write out your marketing plan. Figure out what you can do consistently, and start there.
Start Building Your Brand Today
None of this visioning matters if you don’t do something with the information. So get started. TODAY! Create a post. Start putting yourself out there and showing up for your clients. Are you going to get a sale this week? Probably not.
But, as you start being more consistent in your efforts, your message become more clear. So it’s entirely likely that when you add a new layer to your brand you might get results more quickly. I find it’s important to start with one thing and do it well. Then do something else.
Remember, it’s a long game. You don’t need to go to three networking events, post a YouTube video every day, post in Instagram twice a day, post on LinkedIn, Pinterest, Tik Tok, Vimeo, and launch a podcast all this week! Maybe just start with regular, consistent posting on Instagram. For me, that means six days a week.
Once you’ve done that for a month or so, two things will have happened. One, you’ve gotten better about sharing your brand consistently. Two, you’ve started to build a content library that you can re-purpose in other channels. Think of this first method or two as your pillar content in Gary Vee’s approach. You can’t go from zero to Vaynerchuk. Start small. Do that well. Add a layer.
Communicate Your Brand Consistently
Building a brand is sort of like your health. You can’t work out once a month and eat junk food 28 days a month while sitting on the couch eating Mickey D’s and ice cream all day and expect to have six-pack abs. It just won’t work.
Likewise, posting 27 times in one day and not showing back up for two weeks or two months won’t work either. You also need to be consistent in your message, your language, and your appearance. You can’t be fake about this stuff, because it will catch up with you eventually.
That’s why authenticity is such a buzzword, but it feels like so many people try to make fake feel authentic. Just be you, be true, and show up for your target clients. Over time, you will attract the right people, assuming you have the skills to do the work.
Honestly, it’s why I was originally nervous to start posting on LinkedIn. I built a network and following on the topic of improving business through Lean, helping larger companies improve teamwork and efficiency. To start sharing about how I help smaller companies and individuals make more money through branding photography was scary. We all feel that way some times. Push through and stay the course.
As you add layers to your strategy to build your personal brand, pay attention to what works and try to understand why. Do those things more often. Pay attention to what doesn’t work too, and try to understand why. Change those approaches or consider eliminating them and adding something new. Always be improving your methods.
Get Some Help Building Your Personal Brand
You can try to go this alone, but it’s going to be tough. I highly value having good coaches in my corner. They help me learn new skills, but also push me through those fear moments. I have friends I can talk to that are also freelancers or solopreneurs. I’m a photographer, but I rely on other photographers to create most of the photos of me. Maybe you want to hire a brand strategist to help you get clear and confident on your brand to start with!
But this isn’t just about people. It’s also about systems. I post almost none of my online content in real time. Everything is written in advance and scheduled. So no matter what happens, the content comes out consistently.
Consider this blog post: It was written almost three weeks before it was posted. I’m busy pretty much from 7am until 8pm the day it was posted. But it still came out on Monday at whatever time I chose.
I personally find spending a little money on the right planning systems to be the best marketing money you can spend. They are like you own very inexpensive personal assistants that make sure you show up consistently.
And speaking of VA’s, that can be another great strategy as your business grows; it can even be meaningful for individuals if your time is worth more than what you pay the VA. I had a VA when I worked as an engineering manager for a while – her time analyzing data and answering emails allowed me to focus on delivering product and closing sales.
The Key to Building Your Personal Brand is Consistency
I hope you picked that up by now! Showing up on a regular basis is the foundation of your branding strategy. Once you’re clear on who you are and who you serve, and you’re confident in your skills, you must get confident in your approach.
Then, break the branding strategy into individual pieces and do the first piece or two consistently. Learn from hose initial efforts and improve our approach and your message. And get some help along the way. Try different software packages to help you be more consistent. Hire a coach or three. Get some killer branding photos.
What questions do you have about building your brand? Let me know in the comments, and I’ll offer my perspective, and maybe write a follow-up post on the most common questions.
Then, go do something today to build your personal brand.