How to Start (or Start-over) Building Your Personal Brand

This article originally appeared on the Skelliewag site on 3/31/09. The article is about personal branding, which is a key component in building your author platform. 

A ‘personal brand’ is in many ways synonymous with your reputation. It refers to the way other people see you. Are you a genius? An expert? Are you trustworthy? What do you represent? What do you stand for? What ideas and notions pop up as soon as someone hears your name?

If you’ve been around for a while you’ve probably already developed a personal brand. People recognize your name, what you’re working on, what you offer and what you’re about. That being said, your personal brand might be a little weak and disjointed. If you’d like to make it stronger, I’m going to help give you the tools by outlining what I believe to be the components of a strong personal brand.

If you don’t feel like you have a personal brand yet, this post will show you how to go about building one. But first, it might be worth talking a little about the value of your personal brand and why we might want to create one in the first place. 

A smart investment

Your personal brand has the potential to last longer than your own lifespan. While the projects you’re working on might get sold onwards or shut down, your personal brand will persist and (hopefully) add value to each new project you create. If you consider yourself to be in this particular game for the long-haul, whether it’s online business or just online creativity, a good personal brand is the single most valuable investment you can make. People will follow your brand from project to project if they feel connected to it.

One example from my own experience that highlights the long-term importance of a personal brand occurred when I launched my second blog. I announced it on this one, hoping to give it a little head start but expecting to build up an audience mainly from scratch. Instead I found the second blog had accumulated over 1,100 subscribers in under five days.

When launching new projects, your personal brand has the potential to guarantee you never have to start from scratch again.

Your personal brand is not just you

Because your personal brand is built from the thoughts and words and reactions of other people, it’s shaped by how you present yourself publicly. This is something that you have control over. You can decide how you would like people to see you and then work on publicly being that image.

You should plan your personal brand based on your aims. If you want to sell an expensive course in watercolor painting you’ll need to be seen as someone with the authority to teach others on the topic. If you want to get work for high-end design clients you’ll need to be seen as a runaway talent with a professional attitude. Two useful springboard questions are:

  • How would you like potential customers/clients to think of you?
  • How can you publicly ‘be’ that brand?

The second question is an important one, but a tricky one. Your personal brand is composed of your public actions and output in three main areas:

1. What you’re ‘about’. Seth Godin is about telling stories, being remarkable. Leo Babauta is about simplicity and habit forming. Jonathan Fields is about finding ways to build a career out of what you love doing. Think about the key ideas you would want people to associate with you.

2. Expertise. Every good brand involves the notion of expertise. Nike brand themselves as experts in creating quality and fashionable sportswear. Jeremy Clarkson (host of Top Gear) is an expert on cars. Even if you’re not interested in marketing your advice you need to create the perception that you are very good at what you do.

3. Your style. This is not so much what you communicate about yourself, but rather, how you do it. Are you kind and unusually enthusiastic, like Collis Taeed? Are you witty and raw, like Naomi Dunford? Are you confident and crusading, like Michael Arrington? Hopefully you’re none of these, or at least, not in the same way. Your style of delivery should be as unique as any other aspect of your personal brand. This doesn’t mean you need to sit down and brainstorm how to be different. If you don’t actively imitate anyone else, it will happen naturally.

Read the rest of the article on Skelliewag.

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