Gone are the days when only actors, musicians, CEOs, and athletes have personal brands. These days, anyone who’s willing to put in the time and effort to build their niche can become a thought leader with a strong personal brand.
A brand is anything that separates one thing from another. It can be a symbol, reputation, tone, emotion—there’s no clear-cut rule. But brands are no longer confined to just big names like Apple, McDonald’s, or Coca-Cola. As an individual, you can transform yourself into a brand, too.
Are you known for your copywriting skills? Do you have an eye for graphic design? Or maybe people know you for taking great photos? Whatever you’re good at, you can build your personal brand around that.
After all, personal branding is the process of presenting yourself as a marketable brand. It is what differentiates you from other professionals in your field.
Table of Contents
Why You Should Care About Your Personal Brand
Your personal brand appears in online searches
Did you know that people might be searching for you on Google?
According to CareerBuilder, more than half of the employers today won’t hire candidates without any online presence.
But having social media profiles isn’t enough. You also have to make sure that they reflect your personal brand. After all, more than half of business owners chose to hire someone due to their strong and positive online presence and personal brand.
That’s why you must manage your online reputation through positive personal branding. Neglecting this part might mean you’re losing out on potential business.
And if you think that you can separate your personal brand from your business brand, you might have to re-evaluate it. A study from Weber Shandwick reported that 45% of a company’s reputation is attributed to the CEO’s reputation. More than 70% of respondents also said that the CEO’s reputation also plays a role in attracting employees to a company and motivating them to stay.
A strong personal brand can take your career to the next level
When you have a strong personal brand, it will be easier for you to ace interviews, get jobs and promotions, and land partnerships and speaking engagements (just check out all the personal branding examples we have put together and you get the idea).
In other words, your branding serves as a way to build your success.
It might seem like a lot of work at first: You need to build and optimize your profiles. You have to create content about you and your work for visibility and reach. You have to set your goals and develop your brand strategy.
But once you’ve set these all up and established a strong foundation, the whole process becomes more manageable as you already have a roadmap to follow.
Regardless of your industry or professional standing, having a distinct and definite personal brand can open doors to new opportunities for career advancement.
How to Build Your Personal Brand
Building a personal brand can get a bit overwhelming, so here’s an easily digestible way on how to build your personal brand in the following steps.
Step 1: Audit your search results
When someone looks you up online, they must see a positive online presence that reinforces your skills and qualifications.
In other words, you have to look the part. But you won’t know what’s wrong until you evaluate where you currently stand in the search results.
That’s why the first step in building your brand is by Googling yourself and identifying which of the results could potentially damage your reputation.
What’s the first thing that pops up on the search results? Is it a random tweet that got a bit of traction? Or probably an article you wrote in high school?
While there’s nothing wrong with these search results, they aren’t relevant to your career. And that could be hurting your online brand.
Step 2: Conduct a cleanup of your search results
Now that you know the search results associated with your name, you can start removing the irrelevant ones.
Start with content found in your social media pages. Because you have access to the backend of your profiles, you can unpublish or delete images, videos, and comments that are not in line with your personal brand.
If you also spotted problems in your website, fix those as well. The important thing is to get rid of everything that doesn’t fit with your vision of your personal brand.
What kind of posts should you be deleting? Here are some guidelines:
- Unprofessional communication style
- Unprofessional behavior
- Criminal behavior
- Drug abuse
- Bigoted behavior
- Sexually explicit content
- Polarizing views related to politics, religion, gender, and race
Step 3: Define your personal brand
Once your images have been cleaned up, it’s time to think about your vision for your personal brand. You have to identify the unique elements that make you the person that you are.
To guide you, here are some questions you need to ask yourself:
- Who are you?
- What do you do?
- Where do you excel?
- What have you accomplished?
- What motivates you?
- What makes you unique?
- How do you envision your personal brand?
- What do you want to achieve with personal branding?
- What are your professional goals?
- Who is your audience or target market?
- How can you help your audience?
- What makes you different from your competitors?
- What makes you reliable and trustworthy? How can you prove them?
- How do other people describe you?
Are you struggling to answer these questions? Ask help from your friends, family, and co-workers to describe you to give you some insights.
By answering these questions, you become more aware of the different aspects of your personality, allowing you to start crafting your personal brand statement. It details the value you give to your clients, your X-factor compared to your competitors, and proof that you can deliver.
Keep your personal brand statement short and concise. Focus on a few key points you want to emphasize.
As a template for your statement, you can say: “I help [your target market] achieve [results you want to generate or value you want to give] by [skill you’re offering].”
Step 4: Create your brand identity
Check out the websites of people with strong personal brands like Ramit Sethi and Marie Forleo, and you’ll notice that their website design is impeccable.
That’s because more than 90% of online searchers base their first impression on a person’s website design. Plus, it only takes them 50 milliseconds to come up with that decision.
Aside from looking the part, a beautifully designed website can also make your personal brand easily recognizable, no matter where you decide to interact or post online. After all, professional design is what separates the real experts from everyone else.
You can start by creating your logo. If you can’t afford to hire a graphic designer to create your personalized logo, you can use online resources like 99designs, LogoNerds and Logo. You can set your budget in 99designs, while logos start at $29 for LogoNerds. Prices start at $20 in Logo, and they also offer plans to get your business off the ground after getting the logo.
Later on, you can hire a logo designer to customize your logo once it’s time to redesign your website.
Step 5: Optimize your online and offline presence
It’s not enough that you clean up your social media profiles. You also have to make sure that you create a positive impression when people Google your name.
Ideally, you have an online profile on various platforms relevant to your audience. For instance, you’re a graphic artist. To showcase your work and results, you need to create profiles in the following platforms:
- Personal website
Depending on your offer, you can also make profiles on LinkedIn, Twitter, BrandYourself, SlideShare, Medium, About.me, CrunchBase, Quora, and other similar sites. You can even have additional profiles in two to four other platforms exclusive to your industry.
But take note that it’s not necessary to have an account in each one of these platforms. You run the risk of spreading yourself too thin, leading you not to update some of them as frequently as you want. This can hurt your personal brand more than not having a profile on those platforms at all.
To optimize your social media profiles, website, and blog, make sure that:
- You use your full name on all profiles and domains
- You use a professional photo
- You’re consistent in the name you go by
- You fully fill out all profiles
- You add keywords to your profile and focus on your key industry skills
- You include your location when possible
- You take advantage of header tags in your content
- You quantify your accomplishments whenever possible, like emphasizing on the number of articles you’ve written, the sales you’ve closed, or the dollars you’ve raised
Keep in mind that it takes some time for Google to index these social media profiles. It can be frustrating in the beginning since you’ll only notice incremental changes. But as long as you have a solid search engine optimization (SEO) strategy, you can ensure that your profiles rank on top consistently and receive regular engagement.
Another thing to take note of is that your brand is more than just an online persona. You also have to take care of your reputation offline—at home, in the office, and even in your daily commute.
Step 6: Build and nurture your audience
No authority figure or influencer started his journey by having tens of thousands of followers.
Even if you’re new to personal branding, you have plenty of options to choose when it comes to increasing your audience base:
It refers to contacting people and organizations whom you think might be interested in your offer to create awareness about your brand. It can be as simple as tweeting someone or sending a message on LinkedIn.
Other examples of outreach include pitching, cold calling, and emailing.
Did you know that 85% of all jobs are filled through networking?
Though often misunderstood, networking is really all about making a sincere connection with another person, with the possibility of developing a mutual business relationship down the road.
Take the opportunity to network in events, such as charity events and gallery openings. You may also try networking in online forums and niche groups on social media. If you fail to reach out during an event, you can also send an email or LinkedIn message to spark a conversation.
And when you meet a new person, don’t be shy to meet them again for an interview or a casual coffee chat.
Step 7: Build your credibility
Now that you’ve defined your personal brand, it’s time to get the word out and show your target market that you have something to offer. But to turn from a nobody to somebody, you have to convince people of your authority, credibility, and trustworthiness.
Here are three foolproof ways on how to build your credibility:
Publish content in the right places
Having a blog is essential, but it won’t get you anywhere if no one is reading it.
Publish content in places where your target market hangs out. For instance, if you mostly work with CEOs, then writing a LinkedIn post every day will put you front and center of your target audience.
If your clients are mostly artists, then you might meet prospective clients when you religiously post photos and stories on Instagram.
By knowing who your audience is, you get the chance to create and share something directly with the people who will most benefit from the value you’re offering.
Pitch to third-party websites.
Aside from publishing in your own space, you can also do guest blogs on websites with high traffic. This is especially important if you’re starting and you’re not yet well-known in your industry.
Having your content appear on reputable and trustworthy third-party sites exposes your personal brand to a whole new audience, cementing your credibility. They already have the traffic and audience numbers you need, so becoming a regular in a trustworthy site can suddenly give you a notable presence in your industry.
Once you do a guest post, you can leverage the attention to drive people back to your own site. Most sites allow you to add a bio and title for this purpose.
When choosing a site or platform to publish in, get to know the audience you’re producing content for so that you know what value to give them. Research also on the type of content typically found on the platform. Check out the top-performing pieces and analyze them so that you can replicate what made them perform so well.
You can find websites that publish high-quality guest posts through social media, search engines, and search tools like Topsy that help identify top websites within your niche.
Connect with the respected leaders in your industry.
Aside from creating content and publishing in high-traffic sites within your industry, you can also try reaching out to thought leaders and influencers in your niche to increase your circle of influence and strengthen your personal brand.
Getting endorsements or mentions from these respected industry leaders can give vast exposure to your personal brand, thus accelerating your personal branding campaign.
Not sure where to find them? You can do a quick Google search using the keywords “top [industry] influencers on [platform like Twitter, LinkedIn, Facebook].” You may also look at the people you’re recommended to connect with on your different social media channels
You may also connect with relevant publications, forums, and news sources within your industry.
Step 8: Engage with your audience
Connecting and growing your network can already provide you with the exposure you need to establish your personal brand. But if you want to take things up the next level, you also have to engage and nurture your audience.
Engagement ensures that people remain connected to you even after a long time. When people see you interacting with them online, your brand would appear approachable and human.
The more engaged your audience is, the more loyal they become. They are also more likely to support your products and services because they already know that you can deliver.
Here are some ways that you can engage with your market:
- Publish high-quality content in your social media platforms
- Respond as best as you can to comments and questions in your content
- If you notice general trends in queries and posts, acknowledge them and use them as a basis for your public content
- Publicly engage with prominent people and news sources in your industry through commenting, sharing, and retweeting
- Encourage your audience to like, comment, and share or retweet your posts
- Include calls to action to make your market act right away
- Share relevant content from other influencers to see what kind of content your audience responds to, helping you improve your strategies
Step 9: Regularly create content
Content creation is a must in your overall branding strategy. It costs 62% less than traditional marketing, but it generates three times more leads.
When you regularly update your site and other channels with fresh and evergreen content, you’re accomplishing three things: optimize your name for search engine results, develop your brand, and grow and engage your audience.
In terms of SEO, high-quality content with high engagement from your audience shows that your content is valuable. Over time, it translates to an increase in authority, thus helping you establish your personal brand.
You should also focus on link building, an SEO tactic where you try to get other sites to link back to your content. Link building earns you referral traffic from the site linking back to you, exposing your brand more. It also gives you a higher chance of ranking highly for your target keywords. The more authoritative a site is, the more valuable the links become.
And don’t forget to use keywords and key phrases that your desired audience is searching for. You can use free tools like Keyword Planner and Google Adwords to conduct keyword research.
Sites viewed by Google as high-authority sites often outrank their competition. It means that when people look you up online, they’re more likely to see your content and click on your link compared to posts that rank below it.
Moreover, being at the top of the search engine rankings fortifies your image as an expert. It’s a surefire way to increase your audience numbers and subscribers.
When creating a content strategy, you must know your audience well. Some people like long-form, in-depth content, while others like shorter and data-driven content.
There’s no one-size-fits-all strategy, so you can only figure out what your audience wants by asking them and trying out different approaches.
Step 10: Get a mentor
Ask any successful person online, and they’ll likely tell you that they got help from someone to get to where they are now.
People get mentors all the time. A survey of CEOs even showed that 80% of them hired a mentor to help them during the early part of their careers. Another research by Sage reported that 93% of startups say that mentorship is instrumental to success.
Establishing your personal brand and getting recognized as an expert in your field is a long and grueling process. But you can make the process a bit easier and make things happen a bit faster when you get a mentor to fine-tune your skills.
Before you approach a mentor, do prior research first about that person so that you have a background about him. It will also enable you to show interest in the person, showing him that you’ve put in the effort to get to know him before reaching out.
Explain why you’re getting in touch, sharing your intentions and desire for help. Also, discuss your goals and specify the things you want to work on and improve about yourself.
Don’t know where to find a mentor? Here’s where you can usually get a mentor:
- From family and friends
- From your colleagues, bosses, and extended network
- From local professional organizations
- From industry organizations and trade associations
- From your social media connections
No matter where you are in your career, building a personal brand is essential to help you match with your prospective clients and take your business to the next level.
But it doesn’t happen overnight. Being consistent and always providing value to your audience can help make your personal branding efforts a success.