I’ll admit it. Personal branding has become a buzzword we tend to throw in a conversation, claiming it to be the solution to our impending success. And while the skeptics are listing out all the reasons why personal branding is just one of the latest hypes, the rest are doing their best to put their authentic foot forward and show the world just what they are capable of.
But if we weigh the pros and cons (regardless of what our opinion is on personal branding), we cannot deny that our actions and appearances, both online and offline, will paint a picture of who we are as professionals. In a nutshell, we are building our personal brand every day, and it’s imperative we do so well.
So, what would the ultimate checklist for building a stand-out personal brand look like for a professional graphic designer? Here are the game-changing questions.
Thanks to our friends and personal branding experts at Domain.ME for sponsoring this post!
1. Who are YOU?
This is probably the hardest part of defining a personal brand. I’m often told by my graphic designer friends that describing themselves is as easy as climbing Everest. So we sit down and I probe them with a series of questions that help them gather the most important information about who they are, without creating noise no one wants to hear.
It takes us some time to jot everything down and create a coherent narrative, but at the end of that road, they go home with an engaging About Me page.
This is my super secretive list of questions:
- What motivates you more than anything?
- What is your favorite aspect of design?
- In what areas do you excel?
- What is your unique selling proposition? Or what do you have (approach, characteristic, experience etc.) that others might not?
- What types of projects make you forget about the world around you?
- What types of projects make you want to quit design?
These questions help you get a rough idea of what you want and what you don’t want. Once you’re clear on that, you can proceed with writing your about page by focusing on aspects of your work and personality that make you unique. Remember, your professional story is the foundation of your personal brand.
When writing your about page and presenting yourself in general, think about the message you are sending. Your narrative should support your goal and be adjusted to your target audience, of which we’ll speak later. Oh, and don’t be afraid to break out of the stuffy mold. You should strive to showcase your unique and awesome self!
2. Who is your audience?
If you say, ‘well, duh, everyone’, referring to every employer and/or client under the sun, I might lose it.
Here’s the thing we need to agree on: by defining who your audience is, you’re also defining how you address them. After all, nowadays we all expect personalized experiences.
Generic messages won’t catch your target audience’s eye. But if you get too specific, the message risks resonating with some, but won’t catch the eye of the rest of your audience. You might as well be aiming for a target in the dark. So what do you do?
- Step 1 — Define whose attention you want: Employers/Clients/Customers/Followers?
- Step 2 — Research your defined audience. What are their defining characteristics? What do they like and what do they dislike? What are the topics that interest them? How do they spend their leisure time?
- Step 3 — Create an imaginary persona who’ll represent your audience. Imagine how an average persona representing your audience would look and act according to their defining characteristics.
Have more than one audience segment that varies slightly? No problem. Repeat the same three steps until you are well acquainted with the types of people whose attention you want to command.
Why is this important, you may ask? Knowing your audience is the defining step towards crafting your personal brand. Think about it, the way you act with your friends, and let’s say colleagues, differ. The same goes for your work.
3. What is your goal?
Now that you’ve defined your audience, you need to think about your goal. What do you want to achieve? Depending on your goal (finding employment, new clients, selling prints, etc.) your approach to your audience will vary.
Let’s say you want to sell prints on your website. How you present your work and describe it should be tailored to that goal. If your goal was to find new employment, your website (about page, projects page, etc.) should take a different shape, as it would be more focused on presenting your skills and knowledge vs. selling a product.
What happens if your goal is twofold?
If your goal is indeed twofold, (e.g. gathering a following and looking for a job) find common means to achieve both goals.
For example, if you want to build a following while also looking for a job, your common thread would be an informative/educational blog that would show off your expertise. It’s always advisable to dust off your projects page and get to the bottom of why and how you approached a project the way you did.
Explaining the process behind a project will speak of your design expertise as well as your ability to transfer knowledge and explain to potential clients why the presented solution is the best option for their brand.
Bonus points: Create case studies for the most successful projects you’ve completed!
4. What does your online presence say about you?
You’ve defined who you are and who your audience is. You are clear about the goal you want to achieve. The only thing left to do now is to evaluate your online presence.
Most of us are unaware of our digital footprint, and from time to time, we tend to get careless about the way we present ourselves in the online world. In the world of the internet where nothing ever gets deleted, the past versions of ourselves or better yet, our online behavior, can have repercussions on how we are perceived today.
Our online personalities and actions have become an immense part of who we are. After all, how many times have you googled someone and made up your opinion on them based on the content you’ve found online?
Here’s what you do: Go through your professional (and private) profiles and curate your posts. Why is this important? Simply put, you want to leave a good impression on our target audience. But, if you share a bit of UX/UI, a bit of web design, and perhaps a few illustration projects for example, you are confusing your audience and they’ll likely have a hard time defining what you do. Instead, focus on one area you excel at and publish projects that present you in the best possible light.
If you want to expand in new fields, or are particularly proud of your work in other areas of design and think that those projects speak highly of your overall skills, go ahead and publish them too.
However, create a hierarchy of projects. Those belonging to the area of design you want to focus on should go at the top of the project page on your website. Projects that refer to other areas, but are important to you, should be presented as additional projects you do.
Over to you
We all have a personal brand whether we like it or not, or whether we cultivate it or not. And because people often perceive graphic designers based on their online and offline appearance and behavior, it is imperative that you put our best foot forward. By going through these four simple steps, you’ll create a solid base for your personal brand. ■
About the author: Tijana Ostojic is a Marketing Specialist at Domain.ME, the international tech company that operates the internet domain “.ME.” Writer at heart, she appreciates great content and focuses her attention on bringing light to the importance of personal branding.