What do Tim Ferris, Billie Eilish, and Elon Musk have in common? They understand how vital it is to build a personal brand.
Personal branding is how you put your own stamp on what you do and stand out from the crowd.
And it’s not just for influencers or wannabe celebrities.
Entrepreneurs, freelancers, and professionals can all benefit from personal branding. It can help you grow your online audience and attract a constant stream of opportunities.
So what is a personal brand, and how do you create one? Let’s explore this concept further.
What is a personal brand?
Your personal brand is the art of aligning your online presence with your personality, skills, style, and values.
People already associate certain traits with you. Personal branding lets you take control over how others see you, to make sure you present your best self to the world.
It’s partly about style - your choice of colors, tone of voice, and design should compliment what you do and be consistent across platforms.
However, it’s also about highlighting your skills and making your expertise and value proposition clear. You want to promote your best qualities and show the world you’re amazing at what you do.
A personal brand is not a fake online persona. In fact, it’s the opposite - your online presence should represent your authentic personality, skills, values, and individuality.
Why you should build a personal brand
There are many benefits to having an authentic and unique personal brand.
- Clients and customers can quickly identify you as the right person to solve their problems.
- Your dream employer can see you are a perfect fit for their company.
- Developing a consistent style for your online content will save you time and help you publish more often.
- You can start to gain people’s trust through consistency, and establish authority in your area of expertise.
- People will relate and connect with you, helping your network grow.
- You’ll differentiate yourself from competitors who haven’t taken the time to cultivate a personal brand.
There are plenty of ways that having a personal brand can benefit you, so let’s talk about how to create one.
How to build a personal brand
Now we are going to get into the method of how you can start to build your personal brand. This is a process that takes time.
1. Start with why
If you are thinking about personal branding, first start with your “why”
Why do you do what you do?
What goals and dreams do you want to achieve, and what do you want to help others achieve? Why do you want to serve this audience?
Establish what you want to do, for who and why.
2. Figure out who you are
Next, take some time to think about yourself.
Try to define your:
- Core personality traits
- Values & beliefs
- Biggest passions and interests
- Strengths and weaknesses
- Most important goals
- Vision and message
- Expertise - what do people come to you for help with?
You can also think about the following:
- What you want to be known for
- A subject you have lots of ideas and insights about
- Something you want to learn more about
- Your unique combination of experience and skills
This is a great brainstorming exercise that will help you understand the purpose and direction of your personal brand.
You can also make a list of other people you admire to inspire you.
3. What value do you offer to others?
To build a personal brand you must come up with your own unique value proposition. It should be a combination of what you love, what you do best, and something lots of people need.
Ideally, you should focus on one or two things you do amazingly, or combine two very different skills to have unique expertise.
Here’s a simple way to get clear about your value proposition. Can you fill in the blanks in the following statement?
I help ...... to ....... by............
Think about some famous personal brands to help you get inspired.
Slack helps professional teams communicate and get work done by providing an instant chat platform with channels for teams and topics.
Hootsuite helps social media marketers save time and post more by providing a platform to plan, create, schedule and track content.
Here’s my value statement:
I help entrepreneurs, students, and companies achieve fast and consistent growth.
Try to make your value statement short, clear and simple.
4. Identify your audience
When you defined your value, you had to think about your audience. Now let’s take a closer look at the people you’re going to help.
Think about who:
- Often comes to you for help?
- Benefits from your skills, services and knowledge?
- Do you want to find you? (target customers, dream employers)
Learn more about those people and what they need. Think about where to find them.
You should also look at other people doing the same thing as you.
Follow them, join communities, and start conversations.
Look for people asking the questions you can answer.
5. Develop your style and image
You need quality and consistency across the brand.
If you build a great personal brand, when people land on your website or social profile, they will understand exactly what you do. An easy way to do this is to use your value statement from point 3 on your landing page or social profile.
Here are some more things to consider as you design the look and feel of your brand.
- Colour palette
- Style - could be minimalist, modern, colorful, etc
- Name - use the same name for your domain, social profiles and email
- The tone of voice - write the way you normally speak
- Logo design
Finally, bring all these elements together in a way which:
- Fits with what you do
- Shows your personality
- Appeals to your target audience
6. Create content
The next stage is to start creating content on a regular basis that delivers value and educates your audience.
Your ideas don’t have to be original, and not everyone has to like you. Just share your thoughts and insights in your own unique way to appeal to your specific audience.
This is content marketing 101 and it’s more or less the same whether you’re doing personal or company branding.
Creating content will help you build a community of people who appreciate your ideas and content, and ultimately help you achieve your goals.
Focus on the channels where your audience hangs out. Keep track of your analytics and double down on positive trends - the topics, channel, type of content that works.
7. Be yourself
This may sound cliche but the most important thing when building a brand is to be unique and authentic.
Pretending to be something you’re not won’t work.
Your brand is simply an extension of your personality, your ideal self that you want to put forward.
It’s great to have strong opinions, so remember what you stand for and what you believe in.
You don’t have to appeal to everyone. You shouldn’t even try.
Share your personal journey. Your story will help explain how you got where you are today, and this will provide value and inspiration for your audience.
Mistakes to avoid when you build a personal brand
Finally, let’s run through some common mistakes you should avoid when building your personal brand.
- Create a fake persona.
- Try to please everyone.
- Be bland and safe.
- Attempt to be an expert in too many things.
- Make your message complicated.
- Neglect your website and only concentrate on social media. (or vice versa)
- Keep all your best ideas a secret. Share them!
- Focus only on visual aspects like color scheme, photos, fonts. Your values, skills, and personality are the most important aspect of your personal brand.
My favorite personal brand examples
Sujan’s website has his value statement front and centre, there’s no doubt about what he offers and who he helps.
The design is consistent and fits his brand.
Again the mission statement is clear as soon as you land on James Clear’s site. I feel like the minimalist design of the sign makes it very “clear” and simple to read.
He also produces a lot of content on twitter and in his newsletter, all on-brand and somehow tied in with the theme of habit building.
Emma Cownley - Jot Jot Boom
Jot Jot Boom is Emma Cownley’s freelance copywriting brand. The branding is clear, the value statement is bold.
Some people might be put off by this, and that’s ok - she isn’t trying to please everyone, but she will attract the kind of clients who’ll love her work.