In this article, we’re covering all the key steps of building a strong personal brand that stands out.
Branding for small businesses essentially comes down to heaps of market research and creating a unique value proposition. Personal branding is not too different. Influencer Marketing Hub defines a personal brand as:
“Your personal brand is how you promote yourself. It is the unique combination of skills, experience, and personality that you want the world to see you.”
However, the inevitable fact is that your personal brand is linked to your persona. This is a double-edged sword since you probably know yourself better than anyone, but also it can be hard to stay objective or critical when it comes to creating your own personal brand.
In this article, we’ll cover the process of personal branding in a few key points, which you can use to start creating your personal branding strategy.
Who can have a personal brand?
The short answer is: anyone.
If you ever tried googling yourself the results that came up: your LinkedIn and Facebook profiles, maybe past projects and personal websites are all parts of your personal brand.
If you’re a business owner, you need a strong personal brand that’s distinguishable from your business brand (for example, the personal brand of Steve Jobs had its ups and downs, but the Apple brand is one of the strongest there are). Of course, personal branding is most important for people who work alone or for a commission: freelancers, artists, consultants and real estate agents are probably the type of professionals who require an especially good brand in order to attract potential customers.
This isn’t to say that a business brand and personal brand are mutually exclusive or even incompatible. Another famous example is Kim Kardashian, who built an amazing personal brand first and then used it to jump-start some business ventures like her clothing line Skims.
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Create a brand statement
Creating a personal brand requires you to “know your true self”, however cliched that sounds. Still, remember that your personal brand statement is not your life story. Knowing your true self means that you can pick and choose elements that you want to include in your personal brand.
A brand statement needs to include your professional mission, vision and values. If you’re building a brand as a digital marketer then maybe your lifelong dream to have three kids and live in Paris isn’t necessarily what potential clients need to know. Distinguish the professional from your personal life.
A great example to learn from is the digital marketing guru, Neil Patel. He became the thought leader in the field not just thanks to timing (he’s now one of the veterans in the business), but also thanks to his brand promise. Growth hacking, SEO and social networks are just some of the big topics which he was one of the first to approach in an understandable, beginner-friendly way.
How did he achieve this? By putting his clients first. If you head over to his website, you won’t find his life story or interesting quirks we all have (and think other people want to know about). It’s all about how he can help his clients. And the website even reads your location and creates a completely unique value proposition for each visitor!
But although the brand strategy isn’t focused on Neil himself, it’s far from faceless. He enforces a sense of a personal brand elsewhere, for example on YouTube, where people can find many helpful tutorials and webinars. Each thumbnail includes him on it which helps people connect the name and expertise to the face, and ultimately leads to a very successful personal brand.
Define your target audience
This step is actually an integral part of creating your brand promise: after all, you can’t know what your brand is unless you know who it is for.
As a freelancer starting out, you might be tempted to take on any job you can get your hands on and up to a point that’s also fine. But you cannot create a personal branding strategy or any long-term goals for your brand without a clear sense of your target audience.
Going back to the previous example, I’m pretty sure that many digital marketing experts follow Neil Patel and are always interested in his insights. Nevertheless, he built his brand around the idea of helping people who don’t necessarily know a lot about digital marketing; and he continues to take this approach, often guiding aspiring business owners from step zero.
Another great and famous example that comes from a totally different industry is Billie Eilish. Sometime last year I guess I decided I didn’t like her music and her personal brand even less, which led me to the realization that I’m way too old for it. The pop stars of my teen days were all air-brushed and happy go lucky, or brooding yet with the same sense of a beautiful aesthetic.
Eilish’ brand is equal parts awkward and self-absorbed, and in the era of influencers, TikTok and instant fame this is the kind of personal brand that speaks to younger audiences: her messaging is all about having absolute freedom to decide who you are and then be yourself.
Stand out visually
This is probably the one aspect of the personal branding strategy that so many professionals seem to overlook. We have first-hand experience here at ManyPixels, having helped numerous business consultants and coaches develop their unique brand look.
It doesn’t matter what you look like: people will remember a face or they won’t. But if the rest of your branding assets have a high-quality and unique look, then the face behind them will instantly become more recognizable. More importantly, you want your hard work and professionalism to be evident with just one glance. Professionally done branding assets such as your personal logo, marketing materials, websites, business cards and more show people that you take yourself seriously.
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For this section, we’ve chosen one of our own projects, building a brand identity with the business coach Katya Sarmiento for her coaching business Reach and Make Millions. Our graphic designers helped Katya create a brand identity that’s as fun and vibrant as herself, but also professional and suited to the kind of work that she does. And it’s not just about creating brand recognition in the first place. Having a coherent visual identity means that subsequent graphics production (from social media content to sales deck presentations), is much quicker and more streamlined. For Katya, this also meant being able to diversify and repurpose her content, and of course, create a more professional looking brand.
Create a marketing strategy
Depending on your line of work, you might want to invest some time and effort into offline or direct marketing like appearing at industry-related conferences and events.
However, the importance of building an online presence cannot be overstated.
Start with your personal website that is going to include your brand promise and perhaps give visitors a taste of your work such as a portfolio or customer testimonials. You might want to use the help of a marketing or branding agency to help build your brand online.
The first step is to ensure that your website is search engine optimized. Make sure you include all the keywords relevant to your industry on your main pages. Blogging is another great way to boost your SEO, by writing helpful, actionable articles that your target audiences can use (and again including the right keywords so that your blog ranks well in search engine results).
Secondly, make sure that you are present on social media. LinkedIn is a must for personal branding, since this is usually the first place people (and more importantly recruiters) turn to check your online reputation. Other social media profiles like Facebook, Instagram, Twitter or YouTube can all be useful for connecting with your clients. If you need a famous example, just consider what a game-changer Twitter has been for the personal brand of Donald Trump. Whether it’s thanks to people who came to agree, or more likely those wanting to challenge him, he really established a strong online presence through this social media platform.
Of course, don’t underestimate the importance of audio and video marketing. Creating webinars, YouTube tutorials or insightful podcasts can help you gain a huge following and build brand awareness.
For a more in-depth look, check out our complete article on personal marketing with tips on how to build your strategy.
Never miss a networking opportunity
This may seem difficult in the current situation, but thanks to social media and other digital marketing channels, businesses can stay connected even in these strange times.
Another thing you can do if you are unable to network in person right now is creating a stellar elevator pitch. This is a short speech that tells people about your background, skill set and of course how you can help them. The beautiful thing about networking is that it’s unpredictable and if they want to be one of those that grow fast company owners must be prepared to pitch their brand at every opportunity.