It’s one of those buzzwords that we can’t seem to shake. And if you’ve never heard it, once you read this you’ll see it everywhere.
Whether you’re reading a post on LinkedIn or reading an article you found on Twitter, it would seem that building a personal brand is the single most important thing you can do for your business.
That’s not entirely true. You’re still going to need to deliver quality content and ensure that you’re indispensable to your clients. But your personal brand is a good way to start ensuring the success of your business.
What is a Personal Brand?
It doesn’t really matter whether you’re a freelancer, a small business or a multi-national corporation. You need a personal brand.
So what is a personal brand?
The branding of companies is easy to spot.
Consider these companies:
- Tesla has created for itself a green brand of luxury (even enviable) products at the cutting edge of technology.
- Google has created a brand which represents the forward movement of tech.
- Walmart’s brand managers have continuously striven to associate with affordability and a neighborhood atmosphere.
- Ford, even, has taken advantage of company history. The organization’s brand is associated with reliability, tradition and stability.
To begin to build your personal brand, you need to think of yourself as a brand. You’re no longer just a freelancer, taking jobs as they come. Instead, you’re a business. A company. And your company, no matter how small, needs a brand.
Building a Personal Brand: The Basics
Before you begin to create your personal brand, you need to realize one thing. Your personal brand is not about you.
Instead, realize that your personal brand is about what you can bring to others. What sets you apart from the others in your industry?
Your personality, lifestyle and chosen career will certainly play a large part in developing your personal brand. But even more so, the service that you can offer others will be critical to the success of your brand.
Where would Ford be today if not for the brand of tradition and reliability the company established? They’d be just another car company.
Don’t be “just another freelancer.”
Here are three ways to begin to develop your personal brand. I won’t go into too much detail about how, exactly, you should share that brand with the world. That’s information for another post.
Instead, I’m going to share a few tips with you which will help you in the beginning of the process. After all, once you decide on your personal brand, it’s imperative that you remain consistent.
Creating Your Personal Brand
Step 1: Identify Your Niche
When I say, “identify your niche,” I don’t mean you should choose a topic for your blog. Though that could certainly be a part of it.
What I mean is that I want you to identify what you’re good at. This could be anything from home cooking to information security. Everyone has intellectual strengths – what’s yours?
Is there a topic you’re frequently asked about? Do your friends rave about your ability to create compelling cover letters? Does your family recommend you to landscape others’ yards?
Those are just examples – it doesn’t matter whether your niche is writing, graphic design or underwater basket weaving.
What matters is that you do it differently. That there’s something unique about your approach which inspires others to hire you or seek your advice.
If you don’t write blog posts any differently than the next guy, you should probably consider choosing a different niche.
Your niche is a venue through which you can genuinely help others – and you have just as genuine a desire to do so.
Step 2: Develop Your Message
This is the hard part. You now need to develop your message. What do you want to share with others, and what makes your service unique?
You can start by developing an elevator pitch. This “pitch” should be concise, with a succinct description of what you do, in addition to the results it brings to customers.
Of course, a single-sentence pitch is too short to convey your entire message. So next you’ll consider your unique strengths.
Need a little help? Ask a client to write you a testimonial. You may or may not choose to use this on your personal website or your professional portfolio.
But the testimonies of your clients will doubtless alert you to the strengths your clients notice. Punctual. A wordsmith. A mind reader. Invaluable. My go-to freelancer. Never misses a deadline.
Why are your clients hiring and re-hiring you?
If you don’t yet have clients, ask an instructor, a family member or a friend to give you an objective analysis of your strengths.
Now, you’ll combine it all together. You’re creating your message, your mission statement. The statement should say, in no more words than are necessary, the following:
- What you do
- Why you do it
- Why you do it well
- The value you bring to your clients
Time to start spreading the word
Step 3: Implement Your Statement
You may already have an arsenal of kickass clients. You may have none. It’s never too late to begin to build your personal brand.
Choose a social media platform and stick with it. I used Facebook for a while, but recently discovered I much prefer Twitter.
Explore the messages that others are sending. Identify their problems, and engage them in conversation if relevant.
Most importantly, propose a solution to their problems.
As time and finances allow, don’t be afraid to offer to implement that solution – free.
You heard me right.
There’s no better way to build a following of people who trust your expertise than to share that expertise. As you prove your ability as an expert in whatever it is that you do, your reputation as an industry leader will follow you.
Your personal brand will stick with you, too. Develop a solid understanding of how you want to be perceived. Then follow through. It’s one of the most important things you can do for your business.