Do you want to know why your industry colleagues always have press interviews and amazing opportunities coming directly to them and you don’t? It’s because they’ve harnessed their personal branding, and they’re consistent with it.
It takes a lot of work to be a business owner these days. Between developing your product or service, launching a website, keeping up with social media, creating blogs and video content, financials, employees, and marketing to an audience— I’m getting tired just thinking about it all.
The people you see who seem to have it all figured out only rely on one aspect of their business to cover everything their business needs— their personal brand.
Those same people who are “overnight” successes, the ones who go viral on social media? It’s not the product, the how-to tips, or even the creativity that gets people to follow them. It’s their personality.
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Masquerading your brilliant ideas behind a company brand is, honestly, thoughtless.
It’s 2021, and nobody will look twice at a social media page if there’s no face behind it. You could be a CPA giving golden money-saving tips, but if you’re not present on your platforms, people will forget about you.
Your personal brand is what makes you stand out. And while you will eventually need to develop a brand aesthetic to make your platforms recognizable, it’s, ultimately, not what matters.
Your expertise and your personality are exponentially more valuable than your brand fonts and colors.
But where should you start if you’re ready to develop your personal brand? I’m glad you asked.
Before diving into my Ultimate Guide to Personal Branding below, I need you to understand what this is and why it works.
Your personal brand, put simply, is you. It’s a combination of your expertise, attitude, values, and how you present all of this to an audience.
As such, your personal brand is also how others perceive you.
They say not to judge a book by its cover, but we all do it. As a business owner with a personal brand, your income depends on your “cover” appearance. You can always make a second first impression, but those who succeed quickly make an impactful impression the first time around.
The reason people are finding such monumental success with personal branding is because no one else has their unique perspectives or personal experiences. As long as you’re willing to put yourself and your stories on display, you’ll find success comes easy with your personal brand.
For example, let’s say I’m working with two business coaches. They’re both using Instagram to attract their ideal client.
Business Coach #1 who is creating video content telling their audience how to grow from $0 to $10K months in 90 days will establish themselves faster than Coach #2, who is only posting carousel graphics with step-by-step instructions on the same topic.
The reason Business Coach #1 is going to be more successful is simple: they’re showing their face.
Business coaching is a profitable, but competitive, market. If you want to stand out, you need to be doing more than posting “How-To Build a Business” graphics. You need to personally show up.
Why It Works
You have always had a personal brand— you just didn’t know it.
Every job interview you’ve had, every admission essay you wrote: it all hinges on the way you present yourself and the information you possess.
Now, you and your career tie into one brand— hence personal branding. However, maintaining your brand isn’t easy. It requires you to show up and market yourself continuously.
According to statistics, “61% of customers are likely to buy from companies with unique content.”
The easiest way to create unique content is to be in it because nobody else can be you.
On top of that, “54% of consumers would like to see video content from the brands they support.”
The first business coach is doubling their chances of becoming a recognized authority in their industry simply because they choose to show up in a video. While you can always produce animated videos with plenty of valuable information, statistics aren’t memorable— people are.
Common Personal Branding Problems
The problem I see with most of my clients’ personal brands boils down to one of two things:
- Their personal brand isn’t growing;
- They went viral, and they have no control of their image
I’ve found if your personal brand isn’t growing, it has to do with consistency and the willingness to be vulnerable.
If you’re not ready to get up and speak to an audience about your experiences and your skillset, then you’re not prepared to have a successful personal brand.
On the other hand, I’ve had successful authors, CEOs, and influencers come to me to help manage their personal brands after they went viral on social media.
This can be exciting at first, but in the chaos of it all, people realize pretty quickly that it’s possible to lose control over your narrative. And when that happens, you’ll either sink or swim.
That’s typically where I come in because I’ll help them outline a content strategy and use the momentum to keep the success of their personal brand going. We don’t want your viral post to be your 15 minutes of fame.
Every year, Forbes publishes a piece on the top paid YouTubers of the year. In 2020, the lowest top earner made $15 million.
The highest-paid YouTuber, Ryan Kaji (a nine-year-old), made almost 30 million in 2020.
Every single person on this list is considered a personal brand. And YouTubers were just the beginning: Tik Tokers, Instagram influencers, and bloggers fall under the personal branding umbrella.
However, it’s not the social media algorithms that make these people insanely rich. While at least a small fraction of their success tie is tied to pure luck, their uniqueness plays a significant factor.
Influencers are not the only ones profiting from having a personal brand. Think about it: where would Elon Musk be if he hadn’t developed his own personal brand?
He probably wouldn’t be working with NASA on his own spacecraft, that’s for sure.
The fact of the matter is, people invest in other people. If you only work behind the scenes, investors are less likely to take stock in your company, and customers aren’t as willing to buy.
Investing in Stories
Have you ever watched The Profit? The reality show follows CEO and angel investor Marcus Lemonis. He travels the U.S. to invest in what he perceives as valuable companies.
A large portion of the show’s success attributes to its storytelling factor. Lemonis finds and interviews small business owners who almost always have a tale of hardship. These stories are what bring in nearly half a million viewers for each episode. These personal anecdotes are also why Lemonis eventually writes them a check for hundreds of thousands (sometimes millions) of dollars in working capital.
Yes, he asks for their financials and evaluates their business model, but Lemonis ultimately invests because of their stories.
Your personal brand should tell your story. But do you know it?
Where You Should Start
The key to any successful personal brand is having a story to tell. It should be present in every piece of content you produce, whether it’s a social media post, a billboard, or your website copy.
If you’re serious about making your business work, you need to know your personal brand inside and out. So before you start working on your social accounts, the first thing you need to do is get to know yourself a little better.
The Ultimate Guide to Personal Branding in 2021
Okay, now you have the inside scope into personal branding. So how can you start building a profitable brand?
As I’ve said, personal branding is just as important as your marketing efforts. The more you put into it, the more you’ll get out of it.
But I don’t want you to overthink it. While it’s crucial to maintain and build your brand strategy, the bulk of it should be easy.
If you’re ready to have a recognizable name in your industry, here is exactly what you need to do:
Step #1: Own Your Name
Press features and social media platforms are great, but it means your building your reputation on someone else’s platform.
Right now, head to a domain name provider and claim your .com. Go Daddy, Blue Host, and Host Gator are a few places where you can claim a domain for less than $20 a year.
Don’t stress what your domain name should be; you should use your first and last name. If you have a common name, I recommend utilizing your middle initial or your full middle name.
Once you have your domain paid for, grab the same exact name on all the social media platforms. I’ll get into which ones you should be using in a bit; for now, claim your name on every channel. This means getting your @handle on:
- Tik Tok
And maybe even Snapchat.
It might not always be possible, but try to have the same name across every social media platform. If your name is already taken, try adding your industry title to your handle. At least this way, people will immediately recognize what type of content you’ll provide for them.
All of this should take you less than two hours. If you’re already at this stage, then here is where you might be screwing up your personal branding:
Make a Website
Yes, you need a website if you want people to recognize you as an authoritative figure. Unless your goal is to be a social media influencer, there’s no reason not to have your own platform.
Having a personal brand website shows people that you’re willing to go that extra step. These days, there are too many entrepreneurs enamored with the idea of becoming social media famous instead of focusing on what really matters.
Now, if you’re worried about building your website, that’s understandable. While platforms like Squarespace make designing a modern website relatively easy, it’s usually worth it to hire an expert to handle this for you.
You have approximately 1 second to make your first impression with your website. If your site loads too slowly or looks messy at first glance, your website will be doing you more harm than good in terms of your reputation.
What should people see when they land on your website? Here are just a few critical aspects of a profitable website:
- Professional photos of you
- Your personal brand statement
- About, Contact, and Press options in your Menu navigation
- Free resources (a downloadable checklist, a short eBook, a webinar)
- A website pop up for email opt-ins
- SEO blogs and website copy
Chances are, you’re going to get to #3 and then get stuck. This is where outsourcing for blogs, email marketing, and graphic design can save you time. If you don’t have the resources for that, you’ll just have to learn to do it yourself.
This will take more time, but as long as you can add all of these within the first three months of your personal brand launch, you’re on your way towards elevating your brand.
Step #2: Be Yourself
Your website and social media channels are primed and ready to go but don’t post anything just yet.
Remember, personal branding is all about living up to your own potential. The problem is, most people will try to mimic what they see other personal brands doing because they want to see the same success.
Trust me. If you do this, you won’t see that success!
You have to be your brand. Your business is to present the life that you actually live. I don’t mean that you need to show everyone every aspect of your life, day in and day out. I just mean that you can’t pretend to be something that you’re not. If you try this, you’ll eventually feel burnt out, unmotivated, and uninspired. And more than likely, your audience will see right through your fake persona.
Being someone else isn’t sustainable.
So here’s what I want you to do. Ask your friends and family to describe your key personality traits. See if they line up with what you think of yourself and your core values. These will be your personal brand “words,” and they should be present from your audience’s first interaction, all the way to the final transaction. Here’s a couple of adjectives to get you started:
Use those words to establish the tone you want your personal brand to present. It’ll help you to bring your unique attitude onto your platforms.
Play To Your Strengths
Another part of being true to yourself is playing to your strengths. Are you terrible at numbers but great at writing? Both of those should be a part of your brand but don’t try to give out financial advice to your audience (even if you do deal with numbers). Only create educational content in your qualified field.
This brings me to my final point: what should you be posting to create buzz around your personal brand? There are at least two ways you should be presenting yourself:
- Be Educational: Provide how-to tips for your target in hopes of turning them into paying customers
- Be Entertaining: Tell personal stories about yourself to get audiences to like, know, and trust you
You need to incorporate a little bit of both if you want people to begin to recognize you. For most, the educational part is the easiest. It’s the entertainment aspect that usually turns people off to personal branding.
The good news is, entertainment is different for everyone. To one person, entertainment can be watching hours of comedy sketches, while another person can feel intrigued just by reading about personal experiences.
You don’t have to be loud, aggressive, or funny to be entertaining. You just have to have stories to tell over and over again to your audience. It can be a story about your dog running away on their leash to chase a squirrel, or it can be a solemn story about how your business almost failed.
As long as it’s emotional, relatable, and authentic, these experiences are what immediately make your brand unique. So use these stories, and use them often.
RELATED: Free Personal Brand Rating Quiz
Look the Part
When I say you need to look the part, I just mean you need to look like you. You can be a professional CEO and make YouTube videos in your pajamas. It might make some people take you less seriously, but those people aren’t going to be your target audience, are they?
If you spend most of your day in sweats, then there’s no shame in showing up that way on social media. This is something that will help set you apart from your peers.
However, I recommend being cautious here. Use your judgment and your industry knowledge to determine what’s acceptable in your circle. Wearing P.J.’s can come across as playful and relatable, but it’s all about how you deliver it. If you choose not to acknowledge it at all, then people are more likely to look down on your style (especially if you’re in the business sector).
One thing you can do to set your personal presentation apart from the rest is to figure out what’s unique about your look— and highlight it. This is another area where your friends and family come in handy. Ask them what they notice first about your appearance. Whether it’s your smile, hair, height, or even your nose, accentuate those features and let them work passively to make you recognizable.
Simply having a work wardrobe can help establish your presence. Maybe you’ll be known for wearing a certain color, monochrome pantsuits, or distinctive heels. It all plays a role in your personal brand, and can even have a major effect on how you succeed.
Step #3: Find Your Audience
Personal branding is about being true to yourself first to attract the right audience.
The people who go viral are the ones who post content being their 100% unique selves. That’s all there is to it.
But again, viral content is not the end all be all. I know there are people out there who show you how their viral video or blog post earned them some quick cash, but you only see half of it.
With those viral videos come hateful comments, dips in sales, and sometimes even bad press.
The only way to maintain a viral video’s success is to know your audience.
Let’s say that your branding is picking up traction, and you want to ride that momentum to further your reputation and income. What’s your next move?
Find your target audience.
This is true whether you’re starting slow or your business is moving faster than you anticipated. If you know who your audience is from the beginning, you’ll have a better chance of going viral, or you’ll be better at managing your personal brand after you’ve gone viral.
Let’s say that you’re a fashion designer. You know your target audience is 25-35 year-olds in the U.S. How can you speak directly to these people through your personal brand?
The trick is to not look at your target audience as a whole but instead think of them as an individual person. Don’t craft content for a 25-35 audience; build content that speaks to a 35-year-old American male who makes 200K as a lawyer in New York. Give him a name, dreams, fears, and even write down what hobbies he might have.
Instead of speaking to a general audience, you’re talking to Adam, the NYC lawyer who is worried he won’t be able to land more prominent clients because of his wardrobe. As a fashion designer, it’s up to you to show Adam how you can solve his problem. If you want Adam to remember you, all it takes is bringing your personal experiences with other NYC lawyers and how those stories played out.
Step #4: Create Your Personal Branding Niche
Own your name? Check.
Have a website and social media platforms? Check.
Know your ideal client? Check.
Now it’s time to niche down.
You want to tap into a niche that’s profitable and isn’t overly saturated. For example, I could have easily developed a personal brand as a digital marketing strategist. However, there are tons of these types of experts (i.e., Gary Vaynerchuk, Neil Patel, etc.). It would take a lot of time and effort for my name to become recognizable next to these giants.
Because my expertise is in marketing, however, I decided to fill a gap in this industry. Plenty of people talk about social media marketing, blogging, and creating YouTube videos, but not many people talk about the personal branding aspect of it all.
Enter Claire Bahn: Personal Branding Strategist.
Before I made the call to niche down into this particular subset of marketing, I wanted to make sure it had market value. So one of the first things I did was search Google Trends to see how many people searched this particular field over the last decade. As you can see, personal branding has been trending upwards over the years.
This not only ensures that I have a unique selling position in a profitable market, but it shows that I’m getting my skin in the game well ahead of most other marketers. Now I know that I can set an example for future personal brand strategists, and I’ll be the go-to expert in the personal brand coaching industry.
Finding an underdeveloped but necessary niche instantly boosts your personal brand, making clients and press want to come to you.
When most people think of branding, they think of fonts, colors, and aesthetics. This part is important at some point in your career, but it’s not imperative in the beginning. Colors and branding can easily bleed into one another (like how Amazon and Etsy both use orange), but nobody can duplicate your personal experiences.
But now that you have a good grasp of your personal brand, you should have time to solidify your overall aesthetic.
All you need to do for this is create a brand “Mood Board.” Mine looks something like this:
These are the colors and fonts that show up on my social media graphics, emails, website, and other marketing materials. Even your brand photography can help set the stage for a recognizable personal brand. I try to wear purples and grays to match my brand aesthetic, and I almost exclusively use professional images instead of selfies.
Decide what colors you want to show up in your brand, try to stick to one personal brand photographer, and always use the same 1-3 fonts!
RELATED: WHAT IS SOCIAL MEDIA BRANDING?
Step #5: Produce Consistent Content
All that’s left to do from this point forward is to maintain consistency with your content!
You get to decide which content you want and can realistically maintain. You may choose to stick with the top social media platforms to boost your chances of being seen, but remember to pick the platforms where your ideal client hangs out. That fashion designer will have more success on Instagram and Tik Tok, whereas the business coach should consider using LinkedIn and Twitter to connect with professionals.
I recommend picking 1-2 social media platforms. You should spend the rest of your time creating long-form content on YouTube or your blog. I recommend blogging or vlogging over casual social media posting because you have more control over how often people consume your content.
SEO plays a significant role in how fast your personal brand can thrive, so make sure you choose a platform that can harness these benefits, so you’re not playing the waiting game with social media algorithms. Here are a few platforms that use SEO:
- Your website
- Instagram (new as of 2021)
How often should you present yourself online? Almost every day.
Your blogs and YouTube videos don’t have to have a rigorous schedule because you have SEO on your side. SEO works for you passively to get discovered to new audiences, so once a week is enough.
When it comes to social media, you need to be posting daily if you want a fighting chance to be seen and heard. Every platform is different, but as a rule of thumb:
- Facebook: 1-2 times per day
- Instagram: 3-5 times per week; daily on Stories
- Linkedin: 1-3 times per day
- Twitter: 4+ times per day
- Tik Tok: 1-3 times per day
It’s nearly impossible to be on every platform, and you don’t need to be on them all. The best way you can build a reputation with your online presence is to be consistent and committed to one or two platforms.
It may seem like a lot of work, but the beauty of personal branding is that it works when you don’t overthink it.
As long as you know your area of expertise, you have a niche and ideal client, and you’re ready to post consistent content, the rest is just about being yourself— because nobody else can be you.