27 Jan How I Built My Personal Brand
With a steady flow of referral clients, I am in an enviable place. I don’t have to hustle (god I hate that word) for new clients or projects, and I can tailor my work days to support my lifestyle (aka, go snowboarding or hiking in the middle of the week). I owe it all to my personal brand.
This didn’t happen overnight of course. I worked hard to build a personal brand, and I work hard to maintain it.
Totally worth it.
One of my favorite blog posts that explains just why a personal brand is so important was written by thought leader Mark Schaefer. When the pandemic hit, his business crashed. He wrote:
“But within a few months, my business bounced back. Sure I worked hard and made some pivots, but people came back to me because in all this craziness they know they can count on me. They knew my personal brand.” (Emphasis mine.)
What the heck is a personal brand?
I feel like the term “personal brand” isn’t always clearly defined. A brand – whether it’s a nonprofit, corporation, small business or person – is what your audience/customers/clients say and think about you.
You can help shape their perception, but ultimately, they tell you what your brand is.
A few years ago, I asked a couple of friends who have worked with me – either as partners on projects or as clients – how they’d describe me. My favorite came from my friend Marissa:
“You tell it like it is and make me laugh at the same time.”
I laughed when I read it because it’s so true. And I’m glad that’s part of my personal brand!
All the responses, though, shared something else: I am a really good writer and editor, and I can cut to the heart of a message very quickly.
Totally made my heart melt to hear that.
Anyway, let’s get back on track here:
Here’s how I built my personal brand
Sharing useful content … for years
This is also Mark Schaefer’s number one tip for building a personal brand: share useful content over the long-term.
What I’ve shared has changed. I still sometimes write straight “how to” articles that walk people through a process, but my bigger focus is on much more personal content.
I like to teach people what I’ve learned, like I’m doing in this blog post. I also like to share the answer to a question I had, like this blog post. It’s more interesting, more shareable and more fun to read.
Also, people have told me they like these types of posts.
Consistency is key here. As you put out quality content, people will gain trust in your expertise. But they also need to trust that you will show up on a regular basis.
Actively using one social channel
As you build your personal brand, people will want to engage with you. Pick the social channel where your audience is and use it.
For me, that channel is LinkedIn. For two of my clients (one B2C and one B2B), it’s Twitter. For you, it might be TikTok (the fastest growing social media channel as measured by number of users) or Instagram.
If that channel is Facebook, tell me how you are getting engagement there, because it’s become nearly impossible – even for influencers.
This is where you share the content you’re creating, but this is also where you want to start conversations. A couple of my friends are great at this on LinkedIn, constantly asking thought provoking questions. And yes, their audience is responding.
Meeting new people
When I first launched my business, I didn’t start with a fat rolodex of contacts from a previous job. I started from scratch, and that meant meeting as many people as possible.
Eventually, I found all the “right” people – the ones who have become lifelong friends, the ones who I collaborate with on projects, the ones who hire me, and the ones who like me and refer business my way.
Without this solid network of peeps, I don’t think content marketing would have been enough. Those personal relationships are solid gold. There’s really no comparison between hugging someone hello, laughing through a lunch meeting and then following up with that article you told them about … and watching a YouTube video. Or reading a blog post.
Delivering for my clients
In the quote from Mark above, one phrase really stands out to me: “They know they can count on me.”
That’s a big part of your personal brand. When your clients and the people in your network know that you will deliver on what you promise, you will respond to their emails and phone calls and you will find a solution or answer to a problem, they will scramble to work with you.
They will send you business, and they will hire you.
Have I royally screwed up in the past? I sure have. I am a human being, after all, and I make mistakes. But when it happens, I apologize immediately and communicate how I will fix things. And then I fix things.
Always being me
As Marissa’s statement about me above demonstrates, a personal brand is tied to your personality. I don’t ever hide who I am.
Being straightforward has only cost me one client. (I guess that person prefers to have everything candy coated and showered with unicorn dust.)
Making people laugh has never cost me a client. As far as I know.
But I also like to develop relationships. I want to know you, and I want you to know me. It just makes for a richer, more enjoyable experience.
So now let’s talk about you. If you want to build a personal brand that reflect just how awesome you are, commit to writing high quality blog posts. Our classic “Small Business Guide to Blogging” is a great place to start. Download it today!