Personal Branding Guide: How to Establish and Promote Your Own
Look around you, I bet you can spot at least five brands within hands reach. Brands are everywhere, from what we wear, to what we eat, to every piece of content we absorb throughout the day - both subconsciously and consciously. Good brands have marketed themselves in a way that makes you remember them, from a clever logo design to a catchy phrase or even just a shade of blue (yes, we’re talking about Facebook).
Unlike business and organizations or celebrities and influencers, brands don’t have to be famous. You are also one, whether you have already decided to create your own logo or simply didn't mean for it to happen. Because of this, you need to be responsible for your own personal branding. If you don’t take control over it, you’re allowing others to do it for you. It’s as simple as a friend tagging you in an unprofessional photo on social media, or someone else describing what you do full-time while you sit there and let them mess it up. Instead, don’t. Put your personal branding in your own hands and allow it empower you.
Whether you’re applying for jobs or colleges, or trying to make a name for yourself as a business owner or freelancer, personal branding matters. A lot. It enables you to use what you have to get what you need. Below, we’ll show you just how to discover and achieve your motives.
What is personal branding?
Personal branding is nearly synonymous with your reputation. This type of brand is the appearance you display in your life towards the people in it and the impact this has, both inside and outside of your career.
No matter where you see yourself on the professional scale - a student, job candidate, employee, business owner or freelancer - personal branding is crucial. It includes your skills, job qualifications, personality, and everything else that makes you, you. Yes it matters how you dress and speak, but in today's world it's equally as important to pay attention to how you look online.
From learning your strengths and discovering your focus to creating a website and maintaining your social media accounts, we’ll show you how to establish yourself professionally in all walks of your life.
Benefits of personal branding:
As a personal brand, you’ll be able to build a whole story around your brand identity, so that you’re not just selling yourself or your services in isolation. People will come to know you for what it is that you’re really about, and get to see the whole package. The best part about all of this is that it comes with many benefits for you:
Become more relatable. In other words, become more ‘human’ and less ‘markety’ by revealing more about yourself.
Establish a brand identity. Personal branding will ensure that people know what to come to you for, and that they will be able to rely on you for specific things.
Get more opportunities. With a strong brand, you will most likely be exposed to more interviews, job offers, promotions, contacts, clients, event hosting gigs, and more.
Differentiate yourself. Building a brand will allow you to show off unique characteristics about yourself that set you apart from others in your area of specialization.
How to build your personal brand:
01. Gather all of the information
A. Get to know yourself better
There are a few different ways that you can evaluate your own professional persona both from the inside and how the world perceives you:
Learn your strengths: Figure out what it is that you’re good at in order to allow yourself to become an effective leader, communicate better, and find personal empowerment. To do so, you can ask 10 people that know you dearly from all walks of your life what your top three strengths are and then choose the most common answers. You can also take a personality and strengths test such as the famous Myers-Briggs Type Indicator, or opt for a free VIA Character Strengths Assessment.
Hone in on your passions and interests: Just as important as your strengths are the fulfilling activities in your life. That’s because if you do something from your heart, you’re more likely to do it with motivation and energy, and others will certainly notice that.
Establish your values: Values are what you stand behind, no matter what. These are the things that you won’t budge on, as they are most important to you and the way that you live your life. When your values are positive, people will feel more connected to you.
Find your inspiration: Do you have someone that you look up to? If so, think about how you can focus your brand to emulate theirs. This doesn’t mean you should copy them, but rather take advice from them. What made them successful? Why do you want to learn from them? What do you want to learn from them? While answering these questions, be genuine and honest with who you are, rather than striving for something too far from your personal truth.
B. List your education and work experiences
Make a record of all of your life experiences relevant to your professional career and interests, from education at school and training programs to work and hobbies. These are what make you special.
Plus, creating this list will help you focus on what to speak about with the relevant parties (jobs, clients, etc.), as well as write your resume and update your social media, website and other content-based projects. It will also serve as evidence to backup your skills and strengths as mentioned above.
C. Hone in on a goal
What do you hope to achieve in one year? In five years? In 10 years? Having a realistic focus in mind will help you establish a clear vision for your brand that not only you will understand, but also everyone else in contact with you. This way, when you speak about yourself or others speak about you, you will be known for this vision and people will remember you because of it.
If you’re not sure what your vision is, use your experiences, passions, and strengths to come up with something. You can also take a career or purpose-related test, such as IKIGAI.
IKIGAI is a Japanese concept for finding your purpose or ‘reason for being.’ You’ll fill in ‘what you love,’ ‘what the world needs,’ ‘what you can be paid for,’ and ‘what you’re good at.’ Then, blend them together and discover your purpose.
D. Know your target audience
First things first: Define your audience. They are the people offering opportunities in the area you specialize in. They are realistically reasonable for you to reach (for example, they are not the CEO of a Fortune 500 company if you’re just starting out). And lastly, there are enough of them requesting the kind of work that you offer for you to be able to earn a living out of having them as clients.
After you’ve envisioned your target audience, it’s time to reach out. Find a way to talk to them and start a professional relationship. When you do get their attention, have a readily planned prompt of what you want to communicate. You should be able to explain how your skills can be beneficial for them. This is finally the moment to start acting on your vision, so make sure you do so with professionalism, confidence, and charisma.
E. Develop your story
From this information above - your strengths, passions, interests, experiences, focus and chosen target audience - you’ll be able to build your own unique story. Make it something you can remember and share over and over again from conversations to the content on your website. This will ultimately set the tone of your personal brand.
02. Take action
A. Present yourself professionally
When establishing a name for yourself, it’s all about ‘talking the talk and walking the walk.’ In other words, how you hold yourself, how you speak, and how you dress are all major factors that influence the way others will perceive you. Make sure to come off professional, friendly, and poise throughout all walks of your life, while staying true to yourself throughout your personal branding efforts. This includes both in person and online.
One way to check your online image is by Googling yourself. In fact, you should search your name online to make sure that the way you’re portrayed there fits the image you want to be seen as. According to research, 70% of recruiters have turned down candidates based on information found online. So, you’ll want to pay close attention to this. Do an audit of your online information and clean up any photos, videos, articles and other content that might negatively impact your personal branding. You can manually go into your social channels to do this, or turn to a software such as BrandYourself to clear the unwanted information from search results.
Overall, just be aware that anyone can see you at any time. Therefore, you want to be appropriate and respectful.
B. Build your credibility
Establishing yourself professionally by building your credibility is something that requires regular work and attention. You’ll need to stay active in your community and online.
Here are a few suggestions of ways to get yourself noticed:
Network via events and other community-based organizations in your city and online.
Mentor others less experienced in the industry.
Seek a mentor of your own to receive guidance.
Volunteer as a guest speaker for relevant events.
Work on projects with others in your area of specialization.
Host your own professional events (happy hours, Q&As, speaker series, etc.).
Join and actively participate in organizations and communities.
When choosing what to focus on, pick activities that you are truly passionate about. Not only do you want to actually enjoy the process, but authenticity is easily spotted.
03. Present your personal brand
A paper resume is certainly one powerful sheet of paper meant to describe your professional personality, experiences, skills, and accomplishments. Yet, the online version does all of this and more. By creating an online resume, you can add many features that you wouldn’t be able to on paper. Furthermore, you can customize your personal website to your liking, and keep everything organized in one place.
So how will you begin? We’ve got a great professional resume website guide that lays out all the steps for you, from choosing your template to adding in the relevant sections, strategizing for SEO and more. For inspiration to get you started on yours, take a look at these polished CV website templates, including examples for a large variety of popular professions, such as business-oriented, students, graphic designers, and more.
If you want to take your website a step further, you can create a blog and regularly add relevant and interesting content (a huge boost for your SEO). And if you are looking to gain press coverage, you can add a press kit to your website. No matter what you do, keep in mind that in the digital world, it’s more than a goal to be impressive, it’s a requirement.
B. Get active on social media
Social media is an important place to market yourself and grow your personal branding initiatives. It’s also a recommended promotional strategy to drive traffic to your website. There are many places you can present yourself: You can create social media accounts on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, LinkedIn, or Pinterest, start a YouTube channel, write for Medium, and more.
You don’t need to be active on all of them, though. Since you’re just one person, that can be quite overwhelming and, in turn, highly ineffective. Start with the most popular and relevant channels, then if you have the time you can also work on other niche channels that serve your interests best (video-focused, design-focused, etc.).
In general, these are the channels we recommend pushing your efforts towards:
LinkedIn is suggested for every personal brand, as it’s essentially a resume without a page limit. You can also connect with other professionals and companies, network in groups and with individuals, and share updates. Here are some tips to perfect your LinkedIn profile.
Facebook is the most popular social media channel without a question. It’s full of many opportunities, from creating a Facebook business page to promotion campaigns, and from joining groups to an endless list of other things. It’s essentially an online phone book with a multitude of other resources. Think about it: When you want to find out more information about someone (what they look like, what they do, who they are friends with, etc.) where do you turn? Probably Facebook.
Instagram is a constantly growing millennial hub to focus on the visual aspects of your brand, like images and videos. There is also your Instagram Bio though, which describes your brand, including the option to link to your website. Instagram Stories allow you to regularly update your followers on your life. And then Instagram posts are a great place to share permanent content to your profile and feed. Within your posts, include popular Instagram hashtags to reach more followers and get more engagement to your content.
The other channels that you might consider are YouTube (for videos), Medium (for articles), Twitter (for short-form content), and Pinterest (for creative ideas and designs). When it comes to these channels, it’s very dependent on your niche specialty in personal branding. In other words, not everyone will find value in being present on these platforms.
C. Create a logo
A logo is a visual mark of your brand. Like your face, it’s a symbol that everyone will associate with you and your work. It’s something that you can place everywhere from your personal website to social media channels, business card, resume, and more.
Don’t have one? No problem. In just a few short steps you can become your own logo designer with the Wix Logo Maker. After answering several questions about your brand, you’ll be presented with choices, and then given the ability to customize your favorite option to your liking. The only thing left to do is download your high-quality image files and use them across your branding assets, both online and offline.
D. Get a branded email address
Sadly, an unprofessional email address is a major problem for 35% of employers. When communicating with clients, prospective employers, mentors and mentees, and other individuals in your professional life, you want to give off the most impressive appearance possible. For that to happen, a custom email address is an absolute must.
You can easily get started and create a custom email address today (also known as a branded or business email address). This simply means placing your website’s domain as your email, for example email@example.com, rather than a generic, or less professional firstname.lastname@example.org. This small change will do wonders for your reputation, trust us.
Key takeaways for personal branding:
Take action. If you don’t take control over your personal branding, someone else will.
Discover your purpose by breaking down your strengths, values, experiences, and niche audience.
Make that purpose a memorable story, and share it everywhere you can - social media, your website, conversations, etc.
Be aware of how you present yourself in all walks of your life, both on and offline.
Build your credibility by joining communities and organizations that align with your focus.
Create your professional assets: Resume website, logo, business email, and branded social media accounts.
Always be authentic.
By Jennifer Kaplan
Small Business Expert & Writer