Start shaping your personal brand, so it can shape your future.
Everyone has a personal brand, but not everyone knows how to use it to their own advantage. A good reputation can carry more weight than your experience and skills put together – people do business with people, not portfolios! If you take a strategic approach to building your brand, it will soon replace your business card.
So what elements come into play when we talk about a personal brand? How can you ensure your brand accurately reflects your expertise and personality? And how do you put it to work?
This resource is all about building a personal brand and how it can help you achieve your career or project goals faster and with more success.
We’ll start by defining personal brand and go through a rich selection of available tools and exercises that will help you to create positive associations and increase your chances of attaining those goals.
This guide is for everyone who wants to improve their situation – be that to find a better job, win more clients, succeed as a freelancer or earn more industry recognition.
Having been a freelancer myself, I can honestly say that personal brand is a key ingredient in the recipe for success. When you build a recognisable personal brand that’s associated with your top skills or expertise, you let it do the talking for you.
We don’t really think about it that way, but we all have a personal brand. If you’re being referred to a prospective client by someone from your personal network, that’s a result of your brand! It simply means someone regards your work and your skills as exceptional and are willing to put their name on the line for you.
Personal brand is an extremely powerful tool in boosting one’s professional success – we just need to know how to tap into it.
So let’s begin, shall we?
What is a personal brand?
So what does a personal brand entail?
If we look at people like Richard Branson, Elon Musk or Oprah Winfrey, the idea is pretty clear. Their names carry a certain weight not only because they’re mega rich, but because everything they do is a reflection of their vision and mission in life and they’ve managed to build a whole network of strong, positive associations that make them truly unique and separate them from everyone else.
That’s what a personal brand does – it celebrates and enhances your authenticity. It’s a combination of your values, passions and talents and how they are perceived by others.
If you’re not entirely sure whether you actually need a strong personal brand, here are a few examples of when we can most benefit from it:
When we’re looking for a new job
When we want to make a career switch
When we’re planning to branch out on our own
When we want to be more successful in our position
When we want to win more clients or generate more business
When we want to build a great network of like-minded professionals
When we want to earn industry recognition
There are so many different reasons!
To lay a strong foundation of a personal brand, you need to tap into your genuine, individual human qualities from which your character and personality stem.
So take a pen and a piece of paper and let’s do some soul-searching.
The foundation of a personal brand
First, let’s look at your values.
Values are the things that we hold most important in life, that help us make the right decisions and drive us in the right direction.
For example, my values in life are:
Take a moment to think about the situations or people that make you happy and jot down your ideas. There’s no limit to the values you can include – everything from intelligence to healthy living should go in if it ticks the boxes.
Now that you have them on paper, go ahead and prioritise – not all the values on your list are equally important. To build a happy life you need to be attuned to your true, authentic self.
Next, let’s move on to your passions.
Passions are the things you love to do in your spare time. They’re rewarding experiences that drive your personal and professional life. Stuff that you would do even if you weren’t paid for it!
In this exercise, we want to identify both your personal and professional passions to ensure that your personal brand is created with them in mind.
For example, my professional passions are:
And my personal passions include:
Combined with the values, these passions give us a better insight into where you want to be in the next 2, 5 or 10 years. And a strong personal brand is one of the factors that can help you get there faster!
The third step to figuring out your current personal brand is talking to your friends, family, and peers about how they see you.
You may think that your own perception of yourself is what really matters here, but creating a personal brand is all about how others see you and what they think you stand for.
To be able to shift that perception you need to know what it is first!
So ask people about what they believe your values are, what passions energise you and what they would recommend you for in terms of your skills and personality traits. Try to figure out what people think you’re really good at.
If you find the idea of such conversation slightly embarrassing, send them a text or an email – no eye contact makes it more bearable!
Another thing you can do to audit your current brand is to simply Google yourself and check your Klout score. Klout is a great tool to measure the impact and influence you have on social media platforms and Google… well, you know – it’s kinda the centre of the world wide web.
What’s your destination?
You have a pretty good grasp on the professional image you have at the moment and on the values and passions that give your life meaning.
So, where do you see yourself in 5 years?..
Yes, we all hate this question. But it only matters which path you take in life if you know where you want to get to in the end.
To achieve professional or personal goals, everything we do has to be in sync and powered by a well-defined purpose.
Let’s say you’re in sales right now but your dream is to open a coffee shop. How can your personal brand help you in this new endeavour? By giving you a massive boost in credibility!
If you concentrate all your efforts in building your personal brand as an expert of artisan coffee roasting, when you finally quit your job and dive headfirst into this new project, you’ll see many more doors open to you than you ever expected.
You can start shaping your brand by spending your spare time writing a personal blog on the art of making coffee, by ensuring all your social media channels are in tune and you’re talking about this new-found passion of yours, by hosting coffee tasting evenings at your place and making connections with the city’s best baristas.
Get out there, be seen, build credibility and let everyone know that you are a passionate expert in that field.
So, take a moment now to think about your ultimate goal and what kind of finale would make it all worth it. What’s your destination? Write it down.
Now, let’s look at some simple yet effective tips that will help you develop your professional image and experience success in your professional life.
7 steps to build your personal brand
First, let’s establish the fact that creating a recognisable brand takes time and encompasses very different aspects of your life.
Here are 7 simple elements you can start from:
Okay, so the first one on the list is creativity.
We often make the mistake of attributing creativity to certain professions only – designers, writers or chefs are always regarded as highly creative people. And that’s true, but so are most of us!
Creativity is not only what you do, it’s also how you do it.
Creative people are usually perceived as assets. Everyone wants to work with the person who is brimming with unconventional ideas how to get a job done. In many professional arenas “going the extra mile” is also considered creative – whatever it takes to achieve the goals!
So the first step to shaping your personal brand is discovering the right platforms or mediums to showcase your creativity. Now… this is not the time to exhibit your butterfly collection if you’re striving to become a life coach.
Pick relevant samples of your work that enhance your best qualities and support your professional image and create your creative portfolio. Think big – write some case studies, take screenshots or pictures of your work, shoot a video testimonial…
Next, let’s look at what being memorable means.
It’s one of the most frustrating tips you can ever get. Be different, be authentic, stand out… Everyone tells you what to do but not how to do it.
Think about the people that have left a long-lasting impression on you. What was so special about them?
Were they brilliant conversationalists? Did their fashion style impress you? Did they talk to you about something amazing they do in their free time – extreme hobbies or charitable work? Maybe they just showed a particular interest in your work?
Some people are simply born eccentric – it’s almost impossible to forget them. The rest of us need to gear our energy towards leaving an imprint on others’ memory.
Word of mouth is the best advertising technique we will ever have. And the only way to tap into that is through a strong personal brand. What will people say about you when you leave the room?
Some of the simplest ways to resonate with others is by drawing on our passions and values. Now’s the time to refer to your lists from the previous exercise.
It’s common knowledge that people buy from people they like!
So, when you meet new people, talk about your hobbies and interests to open up a broad and engaging conversation that anyone can relate to. The more personable and open you are, the more likely it is that someone will remember you because they know you better.
The next thing on the list is being consistent.
It’s a really simple one. Consistency helps build trust and people are generally more comfortable working with someone they can thoroughly rely on.
There are many simple ways to incorporate consistency in everything we do.
If you have a blog, publish regular blog posts. If you’re active on social media, use tools like Buffer or Hootsuite to push out content that’s relevant to your field of expertise on a daily basis. If you’re mentoring, show up at the meetings on time. If you’re pursuing freelance gigs, deliver the same level of work every time. Don’t miss deadlines. Don’t put people in jeopardy just because you can’t manage your time.
Sure, we all have glitches sometimes and things do go south occasionally. But we’re talking about patterns here…
Late to work every day? Well, that’s what your peers will think about when someone asks them whether they can trust you to work to a tight deadline.
Moving on to credibility.
No matter your profession, credibility is undoubtedly one of the pillars of your career success.
Our credibility can be affected by anything we do online or offline – an inappropriate joke or a rude comment in a meeting can significantly damage the image.
One of the most effective techniques to improve your credibility is to associate yourself with other, more established figures in your arena.
You can form a creative partnership with someone and work on the same project or you can double-down on building your own authority by creating value-filled content that people seek and publishing it on credible sites.
You could also start building a knowledge base on your own website, which will make it easier for you to form a relationship with your target audience.
Proudly displaying your professional achievements on your personal site or platforms like LinkedIn is also a great way of boosting your credibility. We see this in practice every day. Open any brand’s website and you’ll immediately see a bunch of testimonials and logos of media outlets or other brands that the company has worked with. Copy this practice – it’s a great booster of credibility!
You should take pride in what you’ve achieved.
As a PR professional I can attest that shouting about your features in the press, including logos on your homepage and testimonials helps build credibility with your audience.
Next thing on our list is professional photos.
Don’t roll your eyes – having a professional headshot is really rather key to being taken seriously.
Your selfies might be great, but they don’t contribute anything positive to your personal brand (unless you’re marketing yourself as an Instagram guru!).
We’re going back to the consistency element here, but having the same headshot throughout all your social media profiles, email, personal website and any online mentions will help people to recognise you easier and add to your credibility, too.
Everything from the clothes you wear during the shoot to your facial expression can influence people’s perception of you. So don’t turn a blind eye on this – invest in some great-looking photos!
On to Email signature
Although a seemingly small thing on the list of big-picture stuff, an email signature is your business card in the online world.
A good email signature looks professional, has all the important information and loads quickly on all browsers.
If you don’t know how to do it yourself, you can easily find someone on PeoplePerHour who will do it for you for less than 15 pounds.
So what needs to go into your email signature?
- Your professional headshot
- Name and surname
- Your title / position
- Company name
- Phone & email address
- Link to personal website
- Social profiles
…Do you really need that inspirational quote? Probably not.
And finally, one of the most important aspects – your online presence.
A personal website is an extension of you, so it has to look and feel professional to make the right impression.
If you’re serious about building a memorable personal brand, it’s just one of the must-haves, really. You can use the site to host your portfolio, share regular updates on your work and life and sell your services if it comes to that!
Several things that you need to take into consideration when crafting your own site are – professional images, compelling copy, great website design and a strong “About Me” section.
A good idea would be to buy a domain with your full name rather than a nickname or a company name – it’s the ultimate SEO win.
So we’ve run through the 7 main steps to building a personal brand. Thank you for sticking until the end!
Now, let’s look at the best tools that can help you put a process in place and build your personal brand faster and with more success!
Managing Your Online Presence
BrandYourself’s tools and services empower you to control what people find when they Google your name.
Manage all your social media updates with one tool. Post regularly, be seen.
Use data available to you to shape your brand the way you want to.
Optimise your email for the best performance.
When you need to promote yourself, make sure you do it in style.
If you need to build a sleek personal website, consider these tools.