We all have a personal brand, whether you want to believe it or not.
Some of you may not know this, but my background is in marketing and branding. I am the co-founder and CEO of Online Profile Pros, where we help people create their personal brands for their dating, career, and social life.
I have been asked numerous times to go into greater detail about personal branding and why it’s important for everyone. That’s actually part of the reason why my own personal brand transitioned from lifestyle content to a more business-minded concept.
Here’s the thing about creating a compelling personal brand: if you do a good job, you can create multiple businesses around a variety of niches whenever you want. And chances are, they will all be successful.
Because your core audience is going to stick around for you. A personal brand is an expression of your lifestyle: what you’re about, what your goals are, and where your journey is headed. People are following along because they like and know you. It doesn’t matter what type of content or business you’re producing— if your brand is authentic, you will be able to cultivate an audience.
And if you are able to pull that off, then the sky is the limit.
Change Within Your Personal Brand
When I came face-to-face with the dilemma over “changing” my personal brand, it stressed me out. Although I kept wanting to talk to my audience about building a personal brand, it wasn’t what my audience came to me for. While I still love talking about style, beauty, and travel, my everyday life is consumed by marketing, personal branding, and business. What used to be a platform to express my thoughts suddenly became a hindrance to my creative and entrepreneurial goals.
Making the decision to completely change the topics you see here and on my @clairebahn Instagram account was difficult, to say the least. Would I lose my audience who came to me for wardrobe advice and travel pictures? Would anyone even be interested in learning how I run my businesses?
I knew that I had the experience to give out this information, it was just a matter of who would stick around to listen. What if this rebranding completely alienated the audience I’ve worked for years to build?
Once I realized I had more passion to discuss personal branding than travel blogging, I knew it was time to make the switch. Part of maintaining your personal brand is being honest about your journey. If I lost followers or readers during that transition, it was a risk I was willing to take.
It’s only been a short time since I went from a lifestyle blogger to a personal branding strategist, but it has been one of the best decisions I have ever made. It really tested the strength of my personal brand. Overall, I learned that my own brand was powerful enough to hold onto a majority of my audience because they still wanted to learn from me.
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A great personal brand is the foundation of a successful career.
People who excel at personal branding stand for their brand while at work and at home. A brand is a lifestyle that you are selling. If you want to be known for traveling the world but you have never left the country that you were born in, no one is going to take you seriously. You have to be authentic. When people see that you really believe in your brand, they will have more confidence in you. When that happens, you will have more people looking to you more frequently for advice in your industry.
Creating a compelling personal brand will elevate your career and create bigger and better opportunities for you. I was able to transition my personal brand as Claire Bahn and I was able to capitalize on that brand to market my other businesses. The fact that my brand can be harnessed and used for multiple opportunities means that I have built something authentic, persuasive, and in demand.
Whether you are a business that sells a product or service, your personal brand is the device that leads to sales. Once you have solidified the foundation of your brand, you can look for ways to grow. One way to expand beyond just selling on your website is to become a voice (an “influencer”) within your industry. If you can market yourself as an expert in your field (through social media, blogs, and press features), there is no telling where your career might lead. You can book speaking engagements, teach courses, or become a consultant for others in your industry. New possibilities will present themselves as you fine-tune and live out your personal brand.
Examples of powerful personal branding
By creating a memorable personal brand, you establish yourself as an expert. You create a space for yourself that no one else can occupy. Some champions of personal branding include people like Beyoncé, Michael Jordan, and Ellen DeGeneres. These are household names in America and throughout the world. When you think of these people, you think of specific markets, products, and sometimes lifestyles.
The worth of an industry leader is no longer limited to one job. Dr. Dre, for instance, is not just a rapper anymore. He owns a billion-dollar business, he started his own record label, and he is one of the most wealthy musicians in the world. His career continues to change and grow. And that’s because he has a powerful personal brand.
I know I bring him up a lot, but Gary V is the epitome of a successful personal brand. And he didn’t build his success off the backbone of his celebrity status. Gary V was just your Everyday Joe who used the power of social media to sell wine. Today, however, he is known as an expert in social media marketing. So how did this man go from selling bottles of wine on YouTube to becoming the nation’s go-to hero for building a business from scratch?
It was his constant presence on social media, his eagerness to learn about successful marketing, combined with his no-BS attitude that made him into the millionaire he is today. It doesn’t matter if he’s talking about wine, Instagram, basketball or Vayner Media— people stop and pay attention when he speaks because Gary V is his personal brand. And people love him no matter what he happens to represent at the moment.
What Should You Consider When Cultivating Your Personal Brand
In order to create a brand that you can really feel comfortable living out, you have to first consider your own values and priorities. If you are going to be an example of this brand day in and day out, online and offline, it needs to be something that you really believe in. Every decision you make, publicly or privately, needs to be evaluated through the scope of your personal brand. So, choose wisely.
Take time to consider:
What are your strengths and weaknesses?
And yes, it’s vital that you know both of these. Make a list of characteristics that highlight what you’re really good at, and then make note of some of your weaknesses.
For example, you don’t want to try to brand yourself as someone who is all about consistency if you’re really a procrastinator. Instead, you need to own the fact that you’re a procrastinator because there is going to be a group of people out there that can relate. You will be able to build a stronger personal brand if you can be honest about things you’re insecure about. When you’re honest about your weaknesses, people are more willing to trust you.
Your past experiences
Know when to share and when to hold back. How can you use your past experiences to connect with your audience or ideal client? Use your past experiences to teach them what you’ve already learned— just be careful about how much you’re willing to share.
What are they? Do they have anything to do with your brand? It’s okay if they don’t—people enjoy a variety. Don’t be afraid to show people that you’re a wiz at writing, a gaming pro, or even that you once won a chicken wing eating contest one time.
What are you passionate about?
A part of having a trustworthy personal brand is your willingness to open up to others. Some people believe in the power of manifestation— in other words, putting out there what you hope to achieve. Expressing your goals and ambitions is a way to get your audience to look to you with respect, inspiration, and guidance.
What are your core beliefs and values?
You will be tested on your beliefs and values, so again, analyze what is worth divulging. You never want your personal brand to be overtly political or religious, though there is nothing wrong with mentioning these things in moderation. However, I recommend doing this only after your brand is built. There’s a reason Taylor Swift didn’t open up about her political views the first decade of her career.
What do you do for fun?
Share your weird talents, your nerdy hobbies, or simply what you do on an average weekday night. People like to feel that the person on the internet they’re buying from is a close friend. In fact, if you do it right, that’s exactly how you want them to feel.
What makes you unique?
This is one concept that is difficult for people to define. It involves really evaluating yourself and seeing what it is you have that no one else does. Sure, there are lots of personal branding strategists like me out there, but how many of them have 3 corporations? How many of them can give first-hand experience about working with (and even being denied by) investors?
Take what you know and what you’ve experienced and figure out how those situations can help others so that they can look to you and your unique perspective.
What niche can you serve?
Try to find areas that overlap or support each other. Imagine yourself being a champion for this cause or becoming an expert in this area. Is that a lifestyle that you could exhibit every day? What would stand in the way of your success? What could you do to remove any obstacles?
Take a look at other influencers with a similar personal brand. Are there areas that they are neglecting? How can you make yourself stand out next to these people? What have they done that inspires you, and what have they done that you disagreed with? Take notice of all of these components so that you can create the most successful personal brand possible.
How to Create a Compelling Personal Brand
Once you know the personal brand that you want to pursue, the next step is to build it up and use it to promote yourself. There are a lot of different things you can do to make yourself stand out. Some of them may come easily for you and some of them may take extra work. Do not be afraid to fail. Just get started, learn which things you are good at, and work on the things that you are bad at. Ultimately, your personal brand should compel someone to do something whether that is to get you in for an interview, give you that promotion you’re up for or accepting your application that social club that you want to be in. It takes time to build a personal brand, so here’s where to start.
“All of us need to understand the importance of branding. We are CEOs of our own companies: Me Inc. To be in business today, our most important job is to be head marketer for the brand called You.” -Tom Peters in Fast Company
Here are a few ways key ideas to get you started creating your personal brand:
Know Your Worth
When you are first starting out, you may want to jump at any opportunity that comes your way. However, if you are not aware of your worth, people will take advantage of you. Do not be so eager that you lose sight of what your services are worth and what you provide to your audience. Remember what makes you unique and what it is worth.
Most people who set a price for their services without researching will underpay themselves. What may seem reasonable to you may be way too low. That will lead to being underpaid and will also tell people that your service or talent is cheap. The “get what you pay for” mentality works both ways. People will think that your low price admits that you are inexperienced and your skills are not worth much. You will make yourself look less qualified by valuing yourself too low.
If you are not sure what your brand is worth, look up other new influencers with a similar personal brand and see what they working for. Also, consider what problems you are solving or what services you are offering to your audience and buyers. What would they do without you? What should it be worth to them for you to fulfill their needs? Base your sense of worth around those ideas.
Show, Don’t Tell
Rather than verbally stating your accomplishments, display your value through your work. Your audience is much more likely to trust the evidence of your personal brand than they are to take your word for it.
Create a platform to show your accomplishments, like a blog or a social media account. Show your abilities on this platform and share any recognition you receive. It’s important to include any reviews or special mentions that you are awarded as a result of your skills. Use your platform to build your story. Your followers like to have a peek inside of your life. They want to understand why you do what you do. It can help them better relate to you and will create more loyalty with your audience.
Receive good word of mouth advertising from others by delivering above and beyond what people expect from you. Keep a clean and professional image by delivering on time and being polite. Try to over-deliver when possible to really build the loyalty of your buyers. They will be more likely to give you shoutouts and good reviews in this scenario.
In order to have a successful personal brand, you need to be as genuine and consistent as possible. You are not going to be perfect. Sometimes you might have to backtrack or make some changes. But, as much as you can, be consistent with your brand. The more evidence you have of living out your personal brand, the more people will trust you and feel confident in you as an industry leader. If you are constantly changing your opinions or priorities, your audience will not think that you are being genuine.
Choosing a specific niche and specific demographic, you will be more memorable. Finding an underserved market will boost your popularity more quickly than trying to compete with hundreds of others all working towards one market.
It is also important that you master your niche before trying to widen your scope to new projects or new markets. If you do not stay focused, you may find yourself bouncing from one idea to the next without ever really building a name for yourself in any one market. Zero in on the market that you think you can serve the best and work on only that market until you have achieved some level of recognition. Once you have mastered that market, then maybe consider adding on additional, intersecting ones.
Personal branding is about managing your name—even if you don’t own a business—in a world of misinformation, disinformation, and semi-permanent Google records. Going on a date? Chances are that your “blind” date has Googled your name. Going to a job interview? – Tim Ferriss
Let Others Brag for You
With more varied testimonials, you will build a larger audience of people who believe in you and your personal brand. Telling people your worth or posting about it on your own platform is a good idea but will not be as trusted as the good opinions of others. Your audience knows that you are going to work hard to make a good image for yourself. They know that you benefit from your good image. The testimonials of others will appear less biased.
Industries change every day. New trends and technologies emerge, and if you do not adapt, you will not succeed. Stay educated on the latest happenings in your industries with courses and webinars. Let your audience know what you are learning about and what you find interesting or confusing. Including your audience in the learning process will engage them while also letting them know that you are continuing to grow.
Building a strong personal brand will work wonders for your career. Before you make any big moves, take time to consider what you want your brand to be and which market you want to serve. You may not have the perfect brand all figured out at the beginning. There will be a lot of adjustments to make along the way. But, as long as you keep your core values in mind, stay true to yourself, and work hard, you will eventually build a brand for yourself that you can be really proud of.