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7 Steps to Building a Head-Turning Personal Brand

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This post is part of a series called Small Business Branding.
How to Grow Your Freelance Brand Without Losing Your Sanity
How to Define Your Core Brand Values (And Why You Should)

What’s a personal brand anyway? Let’s start off with a story...

Let’s say that this Sunday afternoon you’re hosting a star-studded tea party (as you do on any given Sunday—in your head, while still rolling around in the warm comfort of your bed). Which of the three following guests are you inviting?

Martha Stewart, Oprah Winfrey, or Ellen Degeneres?

And more importantly: Why?

Since this is a tea party at your house and not a high-profile publicized event, your choice of guest should have nothing to do with the viewership numbers of our three candidates, but should rather be based on each guest’s personality—or at least, on the public personality of each woman as we get to know her through her work and public appearances.

And that public personality by which you’d decide whether you’d love to have a cup of tea with someone is what in marketing we call a “personal brand.”

Your personal brand is the public perception of yourself as a professional.

And it determines how your colleagues, your industry, your collaborators, and your bosses or clients see you and perceive you. And today we’re going to look at seven practical steps you can take to shape your personal brand into a remarkable and admirable public persona.

If you’d like to see a more in-depth explanation of personal branding and how it can affect your work before we move on, make sure you check out this detailed article:

If you’re all ready to go, let’s dive right into what you should be doing right now to get yourself invited to all the hot Sunday tea parties in your industry by all the right people. Because no one wants to be invited to a lukewarm tea party and not everyone who holds a party will be a good host!

(Oh, and if your industry doesn’t hold hot Sunday afternoon tea parties, just consider switching industries, yes?)

Character kit
Building a personal brand. (Character kit on Envato Market)

How to Build a Head-Turning Personal Brand

1. Know Thyself

It’s old-time advice that rolls off the tongue as easily as the phrase “one sugar, no cream.” But how many of us really understand what it means or truly know ourselves?

It’s not a philosophical question, but a practical and sincere one. In a competitive modern world that has taught us to strive to “be the best” in class, at work, at sports, and in everything we do, many people never take the time to discover and consider their real strengths.

In fact, the all-star Western culture we’ve created propels us to spend more time trying to improve or cover up our weaknesses than cultivating our strengths. Because we have to be good in everything, don’t we?

No. No, we don’t. That’s impossible, anyway. 

So why not stop pretending now?

The best thing you can do for yourself and the advancement of your career is to stop trying to be the “star” everyone else—society, colleagues, your boss, your ex-boss, your current clients—wants you to be. Instead, start being the diamond you really are with flaws and imperfections fully acknowledged and accepted.

What are you really, really good at. Make a list. And leave out anything you hate doing.

Only then can you start building your personal brand.

2. Show Thyself!

In vain shall you get to know to yourself, if you shall keep it all a secret. Or in plain English: flaunt what you got! 

Because if you don’t, how will people ever know who you are and what you can really do?

The best way to showcase your personal brand to the world is through a personal website. And don’t worry if you don’t happen to be a coder, website developer, or designer. You can still create a stunning personal website using one of these amazing and easy-to-use site templates that you can set up right away!

Have a look for example at these ready-made variations you can get with the Foundry theme:

Foundry website template
Foundry website theme and page builder.

Or show the world your real talents and superpowers with one of the many stunning Hero templates that come standard with the Canvas theme:

Multi-Purpose Canvas Theme
Multi-Purpose Canvas website template.

Despite engaging mostly online with others now, there are also times when you’ll need to use some good old-fashioned print material for your communication. (Maybe for printing your lovely tea-party invitations?) And you’ll want your personal brand to shine on those as it does on your website. But worry not. Professional print templates like these make that work easy as well.

3. Share Your Personal Experience, Not Information

In a world where every answer and every service imaginable (including personalized and branded tea cups) lie but a few keystrokes away, how can you stand out from every other professional who does the same job as you do?

You craft your band around the experiences you’ve lived, not the information you’ve gathered.

And here’s the trick: Information comes standard; experience depends on how you filter, interpret, and perceive the events of your life and professional career.

If the same exact thing happened to Martha Stewart, Oprah Winfrey, and Ellen Degeneres you can bet all your money that none of them would react in the same way as the other two. And that’s what makes them different and individual personalities.

Each reaction to and experience of an event would be (when boiled down to its very basics) the reason why you’d choose to invite one guest over another to your Sunday afternoon tea party.

Whether you’re a small-business owner looking for new customers, a freelancer trying to grow your email list, or a professional hoping to score a new position or a cushy raise, the plain, cold information you’ve amassed over the years is the last thing anyone cares to know about you.

So before you start offloading all your degrees and qualifications in a militaristic order on that new shiny website you’ve just created, think about the unique experiences you bring to the table.

What’s so unique about the way you’ve interacted, interpreted, and dealt with the information of life?

If you're not sure how you can relate basic information through interesting and personable stories that speak to your experience, check out the following article on how to write a unique personal resume statement. Then, apply the same principles to all your major brand points to create an intriguing story around your personal brand.

4. Cultivate Your Presence and Voice

Once you establish your personal brand, you need to cultivate your presence and voice! And in order to do so successfully, you need to make sure that you’re promoting your presence and voice.

Translation: it’s important to be yourself! (Hint: Remember step 1?)

Does that mean you have to blog about your dirty laundry and your love-hate relationship with cheap wine? Of course not! (Unless that feels true to you and gives you an authentic way to connect with others. Then by all means, blurt it all out.)

Creating a “fake” or “construed” online presence that’s entirely different to your real personality, or speaking in a way that doesn’t reflect your true communication style will also mean you spend inordinate amounts of effort and energy to maintain it. And unless you’re an oscar-worthy actor in disguise, you’re bound to get out of character and off brand sooner or later.

Imagine the shock of a potential customer or boss who came to you based on your online presence and at the first meeting encounters someone who looks, acts, and speaks nothing like the person or personal brand they met online.

To give a more vivid example, imagine that Ellen Degeneres comes to your tea party and doesn’t make even the slightest humorous remark at someone being scared off their chair by a surprise visitor who pops out of a box. Or imagine her remaining completely and entirely still when the latest pop hits come blaring out your stereo. 

Would you not think to yourself, jaw dropping to the floor:  “This isn’t the person I invited. This is surely an impostor! And a bad one at that. Off with her head! I shall accept no impostors at my tea party!”

Yeah, you would. And that’s not the experience you want others to have with your personal brand.

Not sure how to be yourself online without having your dirty laundry showing behind the drawn curtain? Have a look at the following article that will help you create an awesome and cohesive brand personality:

5. Expose Your Personal Brand

Securing your personal website and gathering the experiences that reflect your personal brand are the first steps to establishing a personal presence. But staying at only that is like trying to become a professional model by taking one high-quality photo of yourself and then hanging it on your mama’s fridge. It may make her proud, but it ain’t taking you far!

So what should you do to get more exposure in the online blogger-eat-blogger world? Lots of things! So many that it can get overwhelming actually!

Just take a look:

Blog posting, guest posting, facebooking (page? group? Personal? Ads? all?), tweeting, pinterest pinning, instagram, podcasting, guest podcasting, webinars, courses, guest on courses, affiliates, snap chat, contests, LinkedIn, promos, Medium posts, tribble, and whole host of other industry-specific and general networking platforms that I’ve left out.

Whew! *Wipes virtual sweat off forehead*

It can be a full-time job just updating all the networks. And in fact, for some people, it is.

So what can you do? Grow eight sets of arms so you can manage all these networks? Maybe if you're an octopus...but since we want to stay within the possible options of this realm you have to make a decision on how you’d go about gaining some online exposure for your personal brand.

And your decision should be solely and squarely based on the following two questions:

  1. Where does your audience hang out? Example: If you’re a wedding photographer you might want to leave off scouring LinkedIn for brides!
  2. What do you love doing? Example: If the idea of posting selfies and photos of your behind-the-scenes processes makes the hair on the back of your neck stand on end, you might want to leave Instagram alone.

Being on a social network that doesn’t speak to the ideal audience you’re trying to reach will bring no returns to your brand.

And being on a social network that forces you to do things you hate will add nothing to your personal brand experience and will only obscure your true personality thus defeating the whole entire purpose.

6. Connect With Others

A personal brand should not be treated as a megaphone from which to shout to the world: “Hello, I am here! Come!”

A personal brand should be viewed as a tool for connecting with others in a meaningful and mutually valuable way. (Mutually valuable because it should add value both to you and to them.)

The last thing you want to do is “blast” everyone with your message leaving them no way of answering back. Because a good personal brand needs to be personable too.

So once you establish your favorite social media to use, make sure you don’t just display the image of your personal brand on there, but that you’re actually active and responsive as a brand.

Take for example this post on Facebook by Gary Vaynerchuck who has over half a million followers, but still takes the time to respond and interact with each comment on his video:

Social Media chat

Now that’s a personal brand fans can connect to on a personal level!

7. Keep Learning and Sharing

Anything that doesn't grow or evolve has died. (You can quote me on that.) And the same is true of personal brands.

To have new experiences and material to share and fresh perspectives on your brand you need to keep on studying and learning. You can’t keep pandering the same stale messages over and over again hoping that your personal brand will stay current.

To learn, to evolve, even to change your mind or opinion about something doesn’t mean you’re betraying your brand. It simply reinforces the fact that you’re a living, breathing personal brand that people (be they clients, bosses, project managers, or what have you) can interact with.

To learn more about how you can grow your personal brand without losing your sanity (or style or personality) check out this detailed guide:

Can Your Personal Brand Make Heads Turn?

What's your personal brand? And does it make customers, bosses, and random strangers on the streets turn their heads and look twice? If not, you may want to start implementing these seven crucial steps right away to get yourself noticed and your brand recognized. 

How are you building a personal brand now? Where are you already doing well in your personal branding? Comment below how you do it so others can learn from your experiences! 

And what do you struggle with the most when it comes to building your personal brand? Let us know so we can offer you more tips and insights! 

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