We’ve all heard that it’s important to have a “personal brand” but it’s not always clear why it’s so important. While a recognizable personal brand can be a helpful ego-boosting tool, there are real, tangible benefits to crafting a personal brand.
Those with globally recognizable personal brands can charge up to 13 times more per hour than your average professional. Even locally-recognized experts can charge more than double what the average pro charges.
Those with recognized personal brands also have an easier time attracting high-quality clients and partnerships with other professionals or companies. Better clients can result in more fulfilling work, and forming partnerships can open a host of opportunities for you. But it all starts with a consistent, recognizable personal brand.
Step 1: What is Your Focus?
Every brand needs a focus. It’s important to define how you want to be perceived by the world. That starts with asking who you want to appeal to. Who are your ideal clients? Who are your ideal partners? If you could work with anyone in the world, who would it be?
Your focus should not be solely externally focused, though. You also have to ask yourself what your purpose is in your work. What kinds of work do you love to do? What kinds of work do you hate to do? Think about the projects you’ve done in the past and which ones have been the most exciting or fulfilling for you.
Once you know your focus, you can hone in on how you present yourself to the world.
Step 2: Tell Your Story
Your focus is the first step in figuring out your story. Once you’ve got that nailed down, start thinking about how your story can support that focus and attract your ideal clients. Your story isn’t just something you tell through words; it’s also told visually through the work you do, the social media posts you share, etc.
Take some time to define the story you want to tell. Crafting a personal statement to guide you in this can be helpful. Make sure that your story is genuine. If you’re exaggerating or making things up, people will see through that.
So what goes into your story? Your (relevant) personal and professional experience is a good place to start. If there are causes you’re passionate about that will resonate with your ideal clients (or deter the kinds of clients you don’t want to work with), incorporate that into your story. What sets you apart from your colleagues and competitors? That can be an important step in defining your story. And don’t be afraid to get at least a little bit personal in the way you tell your story. Including some personal details humanizes you and creates connections with other people.
You don’t have to reveal everything in your story, though. Revealing all can work against you in a professional setting, depending on the kinds of clients you want to work with. That said, revealing more than you feel like you “should” reveal can create stronger connections with your ideal clients. If done well, it can attract those clients to you and make them eager to work with you.
Don’t be afraid to be a little polarizing in your story. Part of attracting the kinds of clients you want to work with also includes deterring the kinds of clients you don’t want to work with. If you’re trying to appeal to everyone, you’re likely to appeal to no one. Sharing your convictions about important topics related to your industry or the larger world can draw in the kinds of clients and partnerships you want. Just be prepared to deal with any backlash that might come from those who disagree.
Step 3: Consistency is Key
“Consistency is key” is a cliche for a reason: it’s true. To establish your personal brand, you need to be consistent in the way you show up.
The first thing to figure out here is how you’re comfortable showing up. Maybe that’s on social media, by writing articles (or books), by hosting a podcast, or in some other way. Maybe it’s a combination of those things. It’s better to show up consistently on one platform, though, than to try to spread yourself too thin and end up being inconsistent on multiple platforms.
When deciding how to show up in your brand, think about where your ideal audience is. If you’re an illustrator, for example, Instagram might be the best platform for you. If you’re a UX researcher, you might decide hosting a podcast or writing articles are better avenues.
Once you’ve figured out where you want to show up consistently, it’s crucial to make sure that everything you share supports your story. That means both the text you share and the visual content. Your visual brand tells just as much about you as the words you write to accompany the images you share.
Step 4: Make Sure You’re Discoverable
Showing up consistently with the best story in the world will only get you so far if you’re not discoverable by your ideal clients. There are several strategies you can employ to make sure people can find you.
Search engine optimization (SEO) is key for any long-form content you create. If you’re writing articles or hosting a podcast, make sure you optimize your text content to rank well in search engines. This means writing content that’s useful first and foremost but also making sure that you include some of the keywords and phrases that your clients will be searching for. Proper SEO is a complex and ever-changing subject, but taking some time to learn the current best practices will pay off in creating content that people can actually find.
Optimizing your social profiles is also key to being found. Make sure you use keywords in your bio on whatever social media channels you use, as well as in the content you post. You’ll also want to make sure that everything you share is high-quality and provides value to your followers, as that increases engagement. Most social platforms show content based on the engagement it gets, so more engagement means your content will be seen by more people.
Optimizing those social profiles also means using hashtags on platforms like Instagram and Twitter. Hashtags allow people to more easily find relevant content. Make sure that the hashtags you use are relevant to the content you’re posting. Don’t just reuse the same blocks of hashtags for every post you share. Social algorithms get more sophisticated all the time and have gotten good at filtering out content with irrelevant hashtags.
Regardless of which platforms you’re using, be sure to join in conversations that are happening around your areas of expertise. Comment on other people’s content with useful information that adds to the conversation. Don’t just post self-serving promotional content — share relevant information from others. Engage with people who take the time to comment on your content, too.
Everything You Do Is Your Personal Brand
Keep in mind that everything you do publicly and professionally either supports or damages your personal brand. Consider this in everything you do. If your brand is all about helping and supporting small businesses, then sharing a bunch of content from companies that can damage those small businesses isn’t in alignment with your brand. If your story is modern and light, sharing images that are very formal, traditional, or heavy goes against your brand.
Once you’ve nailed your personal brand’s focus and story, filtering out the content that doesn’t fit becomes easier. Take the time to think through those aspects of your brand from the start and keep them in mind whenever you create or share content.
The goal is to fully embody your brand in everything you do. Do this well enough and you’ll find that people can recognize your content and associate it with you automatically. This isn’t an overnight occurrence, but rather a process that you’ll need to put time and effort into ■
About the Author — Cameron Chapman: Editor. Blogger. Author. Designer. Copywriter. Marketer. Entrepreneur. Speaker. Consultant. Coach. I wear a lot of hats. What most of them have in common, though, is storytelling.
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