Most of us have big love for brand name products. Alcatel smartphones have nothing on Samsung’s latest model, and I don’t care what the ingredients label or any double-blind study says, CVS-label ibuprofen just can’t kill a headache like Advil can.
Growing up – especially when I was working my way through college – I had to make due with plenty of generic, off-brand clothes, foods, technologies, and whatnot. Did all of it do its job? Sure. Was it as good as the big brand name stuff? It didn’t feel like it.
And to me, that’s the difference between having an existence online and building a personal brand. That’s the distinction that helps one person become a card-carrying expert who makes big bucks as a remote consultant and keeps another grinding it out as a freelance gig worker unsure how they’ll pay rent next month.
I spent the past several years ghostwriting content on behalf of various clients, so I haven’t had the time to invest much in my own personal brand. But now I’m trying hard to rectify that, and here’s why I think it’s so important for my career trajectory.
Creating a personal brand is what gives a person the power to stand out from the noise. Those special qualities are what draw people to the message a personal brand shares. It’s what makes you distinguishable in a world overrun by hustlers and go-getters.
Developing a recognized personal brand is how people make a career on Instagram, earn speaking gigs, and get recognized as leaders in their industries. It’s what allows us to take solopreneurship to the next level.
And it’s not just businesspeople who need personal brands.
Why Everyone Needs a Personal Brand
If you don’t create a personal brand, others will do it for you through their own perceptions. As Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos once said, “Your brand is what people say about you when you’re not in the room.” I guess that makes Alexa the most effective brand reputation boosting solution invented yet, because now Bezos’s presence can be felt in every room.
Building your own brand is how you gain a certain level of control over your career and how you are perceived.
Outside of CEOs and self-starters, those who have strong personal brands possess the secret sauce for sticking out among a stack of resumes and applicants.
That said, don’ think that your personal brand is all about you. It shouldn’t be, anyway. In my experience, you’re best off making your brand is about the value you can share with others and how that might help them.
Here are 6 requirements for creating an epic personal brand.
1. Concentrate On Your Abilities
When starting a personal brand, too many people think that they need to be a jack-of-all-trades.
“I’m a writer, blogger, speaker, influencer, fashion designer, dancer, retail Jedi, bread scientist, exorcist, and social media expert.” No. Stop it.
Dwayne Johnson, one of the most successful pro wrestlers and actors in Hollywood today says: "success at anything will always come down to this: focus and effort and we control both". When discussing our personal brand, one of the most important things to develop is "focus". A personal brand helps to create a strong public persona only if you clearly have a competitive edge in one specific area. If you try to be everything, you will ultimately be nothing.
For this reason, it is über important to be crystal clear with what you offer the world. Pick one to three related things you are great at, and focus on building your brand around those areas.
2. Claim Your Name Online
To forge a personal brand, you need to be in control of your own digital footprint. So you’ll need to have your own website. If possible, the domain name should simply be your name – or reflect a version of it that people will recall.
Just make sure that you maintain consistency while owning your name online. Tools like Namecheckr make it easy to check if your handle is available on dozens platforms, all in one go. No need to buy a domain and open accounts on About.me, Twitter and Instagram with one user ID, only to learn that the same ID is already taken on Pinterest and Spotify.
And remember that websites don’t have to be perfect from the start. Begin with something simple like a Squarespace site that features a professional picture of yourself, a brief blurb version of your story, and the projects you’re involved in.
3. Share Your Knowledge by Creating Content
Content is the backbone of nearly all online activity. This gives potential followers and clients a window into your thoughts, ideas, expertise, and creative acumen. It allows you to “take a stand,” too, which helps to differentiate you.
There are various forms of content that can satiate this need. You can produce blog posts for your website, daily or weekly production “vlog” posts or live social video broadcasts, guest post on sites in your niche, or record quick podcasts on the fly using tools like Anchor.
Once you’ve got a critical mass of great content, you can repackage it as a premium course and start making money from your knowhow. Kajabi, an all-in-one knowledge commerce platform, makes this easy.
Whichever route you choose, be sure that the information you share helps your audience to reach their goals while simultaneously shining a light on your proficiency.
4. Build Your Tribe
With your website, blog and social accounts building momentum, focus on building a community. Focus your efforts on engaging a group of people who like and trust what you have to say.
This can be done with social media advertising or a free offering on your site, like an eBook.
One of the most effective ways to find your tribe, however, is through curating content published by others. This helps to position you as a go-to resource among your peers and, if you tag them in your posts, helps to get you noticed by influencers.
5. Link Your Past with Your Present
What tons of people fail to realize is that a personal brand is a narrative. A big part of it is the story of your journey. Since you didn’t start out at the same place you’re at now, and since you won’t be who you are now in a few years, your job is to connect major milestones into an empowering story about a process.
Use your personal evolution to illustrate your advancements in career and life. Explain how your growth molded your skillset and birthed the value you now provide to others.
Doing this not only gives people a clear understanding of who you are and how you got to where you are, but it also provides the basis for emotional connection and personal identification; two of the core pillars of any personal brand.
6. Shape a Signature Style
How did TV on the Radio and Nas, two of my favorite musical acts, become famous? It definitely helps that have their own unmistakable, signature styles – and not just their sound.
In Hollywood, signature looks are important, some actors choose subtler ones, like Lupita Nyong's beautifully feminine signature attire and some choose a more bombastic style like Lady Gaga's. In terms of personal branding, your syntax or flavor of writing, a certain hat you always wear, or even wearing the color orange, like Dave Kerpen, goes a long way. Why? Because it helps you get noticed and remembered.
Dave's choice of flamboyant footwear paid off when they caught the attention of angel investor Dave McClure at a networking event. Because of their conversation, McClure invested in Kerpen’s startup. As Kerpen recalls, “Were my orange shoes the reason I secured an investment? Of course not ... but they were the reason I got into a conversation in the first place.”
The point here is that little idiosyncrasies can make a world of difference.
Take Control of Your Story
Creating and cultivating a strong personal brand takes significant time and effort, but it’s so worth it. Doing this is an investment in yourself and your future. It’s something that no one can take away from you.