A personal brand isn't the same thing as being famous
If you spend time googling, “how to build your personal brand,” you'll find a lot of examples in articles that have nothing to do with you or me. Using Michael Jordan, Koby Bryant, or Mark Cuban as an example is pretty much useless -as they became famous long before they did anything with their personal brands.
So what we're looking at here is something different. It's not about being famous. It's about having a brand that shifts how people think and interact with you.
I saw this tweet the other day and thought it was the best way to think about your personal brand.
“Turns out that his clients weren't looking for ‘website designers,' they wanted ‘Paul Jarvis.' So he had no competition. That kind of reputation takes time to build.”
Jack Ellis & Paul Jarvis couldn't be more articulate if they tried. That's exactly what I'm talking about as we look to your personal brand.
If you want to build your personal brand, you don't need a USP
There are a ton of articles out there that want to help you build your personal brand, but they all start with the same instruction. You have to discover your Unique Selling Proposition (USP).
If you read an article that starts that way, do yourself a favor: close that tab. It isn't going to be helpful. At all.
(Note: I try really hard to never write anything negative on this blog, but sometimes being helpful means warning people, and it sounds negative.)
Whether you're a freelance writer, a freelance designer, or a freelance developer – you already have what makes you unique. It's your personality and the characteristics of that personality (based on your values and experience) that make you who you are.
This is also why so many of these “personal brand” articles are silly. Because they try to give you a perfect recipe with almost a cause & effect guarantee. That's not how it's going to work, because what works for my personality won't work for yours.
It's why I won't be giving you a specific recipe. I promise.
When you build your personal brand, you're taking a corner
Back in March I wrote an article about taking a corner. It's the way I describe “being known for something” and I used an example of a plugin company and their focus on a particular kind of audience.
The thing is, personal branding and corporate branding aren't all that different. You're still trying to take a corner in someone's brain.
But here's where you get to be uniquely you.
[Tweet “What works for you may not work for someone else – but that also means who you attract may not be attracted by someone else.”]
A friend once wondered if she should put her skateboarding photo on your site. I loved it. It told us a lot of awesome things about her personality.
The design of your site, and how it matches your personality, is only one aspect of what we're talking about. It's also the content you create. The tone in your content. And so much more.
My friend Joanna Wiebe once wrote an entire article on the use of swearing in marketing copy.
What works for you may not work for someone else – but that also means who you attract may not be attracted by someone else.
Being known for something takes time and consistency
Before I get into the five things you should consider as you start building a personal brand, I want to highlight one thing that you may not love.
All of this will take time.
I wrote a different blog post every day for 3 years, all focused on the WordPress ecosystem, which, along with my public speaking, a dash of generosity, and social media, developed a personal brand for me that has opened all sorts of doors.
Then I went about 6 years where I wrote here and there.
Then on December 31st of 2020, I started again. And every. single. day. of this year (2021), I have published a new post to help you.
Time and consistency is the formula. It's powerful.
But it's not fast. It takes time.
You just have to know that.
Five things to start doing right now to build your personal brand
Like I said, the path is unique based on who you are. So I'm not going to tell you which social media platform to use, or how to use it. Instead, I want to focus on the five strategies I recommend.
Hold an opinion and make it known. No one wants to follow someone who has weakly held positions or no positions at all. It's a scary choice to make your opinion known, but it helps people know whether they are for you or not (and there will always be the people that aren't for you, so don't stress).
Respond to those who reach out. One of the mistakes I see happen a lot is that you start getting some traction and then things get overwhelming and you step away. Unfortunately, you can't ghost an audience you're building. So you have to commit to make time to reply to people. On Twitter DMs. On FB Messenger. On all the things. But that doesn't mean you can't have boundaries. The other day someone tried to call me via FB Messenger and I simply wrote, “I don't take calls here.”
Produce consistently. I'm not telling you that you have to create blog posts daily. Maybe you build products left and right. Maybe you publish videos all the time. Whatever it is – the trick is doing it consistently. Because staying top of mind doesn't happen if you write one post a year.
Be helpful. It's one thing to write or produce a lot of content. But if it's all telling us how awesome you are, it gets tired quickly. Very few people can build a personal brand simply from being famous. So when building your personal brand, focus on being useful and helpful to people. It's a stronger platform to build from.
Put the spotlight elsewhere. In line with my last strategy, building a personal brand isn't just about standing in the spotlight. Take the spotlight and point it to others. They'll appreciate it. They'll share your content more effectively, and their own followers will share your content. What I'm saying is that there's more than enough spotlight to go around. And you can say things about others that they wouldn't say for themselves. And it's likely that they can say things about how awesome you are that you can't (or won't) say about yourself.
The result of having a personal brand
Why do all of this? Because you want better clients. That often means clients that are better prepared, want you more than you want them, and are ready to spend more money than others.
Wouldn't all of that be nice?
It's possible. Completely possible.
It all comes down to who is doing the pitching.
If I'm on a call with a prospect, and I have to convince them to hire me, I'm doing the pitching. Know what I mean?
If I'm on a call with a prospect, and they've heard all about me, gotten recommendations to work with me, read all my content, and are eager to hire me, then they're doing the pitching.
Building a personal brand helps shift who does the pitching. And if you're not doing the pitching, you'll get better (and more profitable) clients. I promise.