Personal branding has become a hot topic in the past few years and with the popularity of the internet and social media, being able to set yourself apart from everyone else is key. Whether you own a brick and mortar business or you're a creative like a writer/blogger developing your brand isn't something you want to overlook. I know many creatives who much rather focus on the "work" than work at creating their brand. The thing is your work, your messages, what you post online becomes a part of your "brand" whether you acknowledge it or not. Social media strategist Emmelie De La Cruz defines personal branding as "the packaging and management of your reputation. It's your message, personality, skills, accomplishments, and the return on investment that people get when they interact or work with you."
With that being said, being able to leverage your work, creativity, and experience can result in endless opportunities for you if you position yourself correctly. The best way to do that is by building your personal brand and showcasing your unique talents. Personal branding is about setting yourself apart from others in your field and creating a name for yourself that is synonymous with integrity and quality. Many believe that branding has to do with increasing their social media presence. While that may be partially true, the goal of building a personal brand shouldn’t be to attract more followers on Instagram and Twitter, but to become more marketable in your business and career. The goal is to convert those who are engaging with you whether in person or online into profitable interactions.
Creating a personal brand allows you to expand your vision by helping you identify and embrace your purpose while simultaneously living the life you always dreamed of. Personal branding is directly tied with living your purpose on purpose. In short, it's about tapping into your passions in a way that wasn’t possible before. Branding yourself gives you the freedom and confidence to trust yourself and the work you do. Truth is, competition is fierce and the number of entrepreneurs creating personal brands grows everyday. So whether you're fresh out of college trying to kick start your career, working as a consultant or freelancer, or taking the plunge into doing something you love, developing a personal brand is the first step.
Identify your niche market.
One of the very first things you need to do is identify your area(s) of expertise. Whether you're a social justice writer like Shaun King or a fashion icon like Kim Kardashian understanding what you're great at is the first step to developing your brand. It is what you're known for. Once you're clear on that then you build upon that. You utilize that area of expertise and your experiences to provide something of value to your customer base. You want to be the go to person for whatever need they are trying to fulfill.
Make yourself known.
In order for you to be the "go to" person people have to know about you. That's why it's important to get your name out there. Whether it's by attending industry seminars and workshops or promoting your skills and services on the internet the more people know you the more valuable you and your brand become. Meeting new people whether in person or online and establishing meaningful relationships is the key to creating and maintaining success. You have to be able to connect with people on a personal level and show a genuine interest in them. People know when you're bullshitting them. That genuine connection is how you develop trust and eventually create brand loyalty.
The internet has become the new way to do business. Everyone is online and if you're not taking advantage of the internet and it's ability to connect people with products and services all across the globe then you're missing out on huge opportunities. The use of websites has made it possible to view homes online, to take virtual classes, and even do your grocery shopping. I cannot stress enough the importance of having your own website. Your website is the first place people will go to learn about you, your experience, and the services you offer.
Create consistent content.
Once you're online and your website is good to go you have to focus on consistently generating new traffic to your site. How do you do that? By utilizing your expertise to create consistent content that brings new, fresh eyes to your website. More traffic means more people will learn about what you do and ultimately more people are in your marketing funnel to become clients, customers, or partners.
Build your email list.
I know you may be thinking huh. Build my email list? Yes. A solid email list is one of the greatest assets you can have. Author of Make Yourself Marketable, Emmelie De La Cruz, states, "While traffic is an introduction, engagement builds relationships. An email list and social media audience full of loyal followers and excited fans are important when marketing yourself and building community."
You want to build your email list so that you're able to directly access your audience at any given moment. You want to engage with your customers on a more personal level so that you can develop and nurture the relationships. Through your email list you can offer special discounts, or exclusive content not offered on your social media pages. It's all about creating that meaningful relationship.
Map out your branding strategy.
There are a few elements of branding to consider when developing your brand. Your website is not your brand. It is a component of your brand, but it is NOT your brand. Some things to consider when mapping out your brand strategy are:
Identifying your customer base.
Develop a mission/vision statement. (Who are you and what do you represent? What are your guiding principles and core values?)
Have a complete bio that outlines your expertise, skills, and experience.
Create a logo.
What's your elevator pitch? You should be able to sell yourself & what you offer in 1 minute or less.
Establish a strong internet/website/social media presence.
Develop a self-promotion/marketing strategy.
Create a content calendar.
Invest in yourself.
I cannot stress this enough. You have to be willing to invest in yourself if you hope to make any money from your brand and want to be taken seriously. Invest in tools that will help increase your visibility and make your job easier. This includes purchasing an exclusive domain name for your website that is specific to you and your brand. Invest in business cards. Invest in resources that will help you develop your skills. Take courses if applicable. If you want to be respected as a professional then you have to act and present yourself as one. Don't scrimp on yourself. You will be the best investment you'll ever make.