Personal branding is the art of aligning what you want people to think about you with what they actually think about you. Although you cannot control what people think, say or feel about you, you can influence the perception that they have of you in a positive way.
Brand perceptions usually relate to businesses and organisations, but they can also refer to individuals, especially in the professional service space. These perceptions will be key for winning more/better clients or creating professional opportunities for an individual or a business.
Personal branding is not just for CEOs or corporate executives. Independent consultants, designers and many other freelance professionals also need to build credibility and a positive image of themselves to expand their business.
Crafting your personal brand involves a self-discovery process that covers three different aspects of branding: vision, voice and visuals (the three Vs).
CREATING YOUR PERSONAL BRAND VISION
Your brand vision is what you want to be known for. It starts with a soul-searching journey in which you will discover who you actually are and how you can build a better version of yourself.
1. Know yourself
- List your personal attributes – describe yourself, from they way you look to your personal qualities and weaknesses. You can start by writing down a bio that covers both, professional and personal aspects of your life. Then make a word cloud of key words that summarise your story.
- Get external feedback - ask family and friends how they see you, to look at yourself from an outsider’s point of view.
To help you with this self-discovery process you can take this template from my Brand Discovery Workbook, which enables you to gather data regarding your personal attributes. You can also share this template with family and friends to request feedback from others.
2. Find your essence
- Identify your core values – these are the things that are most important to you and drive your decisions in life.
- Discover your passions - things that you love doing, you are best at and bring more happiness to your life.
- Find your differentiation – what makes you unique and different to others, why people will choose to work with you over everyone else. If you can’t think of any differentiation specialised yourself in an area of expertise or a skill that is relevant to your field.
3. Determine your vision
Think about what your aspirations are, what you want to accomplish in life, and where you want to be in a few years time. Compare this with where you are at today and formulate an action plan to get to that point.
FINDING YOUR PERSONAL BRAND VOICE
Once your vision is clear you can now articulate your message and the tone in which you speak to and connect with your audience. Your brand voice will embody and express your personality and set of values.
4. Find your target market
Figure out who is your ideal client, who needs your services and is willing to pay for them, and learn as much as you can about them. The more you know about your market the easier will be to select the right channels and the appropriate messages to communicate with them.
Your target audience goes beyond your potential clients or customers. They are also bloggers, influencers, local community, and anyone else who can contribute to your business or your career success.
Find out more about who your stakeholders are in this other previous post on Key Relationships For Small Businesses.
5. Articulate your message
- Craft your personal brand statement - an elevator pitch that expresses your essence in a sentence.
- Create a style guide - Put in writing your tone of voice, copywriting style and guidelines.
6. Implement a personal communication plan
- Find the right channels to connect to your audience – Make a list of every channel that you will need to deliver your message (website, blogs, social media, emailing, events etc)
- Determine the social media platform that is right for you – you don’t need to be everywhere. Select the social media channel that helps you connect easier with your target market and find out how to communicate with them through that platform. To identify the social media channel that is right for you also read this other post on Social Media Platforms For Small Business.
- Build industry credibility – press articles, blog features, client testimonials, costumers reviews, social media followers, etc. will build credibility in your business. In this other post, I explain some Simple Ways To Build Online Credibility.
- Follow the 3 Cs of Branding - clarity, consistency, and constancy.
BUILDING YOUR PERSONAL BRAND VISUALS
Everything that people sees from you speaks about the way in which you do business and how much you invest in every client and every project. To complete your personal brand, you can create a visual identity that brings clarity and consistency to your style.
7. Define your visual style
Have a logo and a visual identity system with a specific colour scheme, typography, design elements, etc. and ensure consistency by creating a visual style guide. You can learn how to create this guide and download a template in this other post on How To Create A Brand Style Guide For Your Business Or Blog.
Start by putting together a brand mood board, with a collage of images that represent your personal and professional style. From fashion images that inspire your wardrobe, to products or brands that usually fill your bag or your desk, as well as colours, people, and places that you love.
For many designers and creative professionals is also important to have a signature style that can be showcased through a portfolio.
8. Build your online presence
In today's digital world, Internet will be the first place where people will go to know more about you, who you are, what you do, how you do it, who your clients are, etc.
- Website – It must tell your story and showcase your expertise through a portfolio, case studies, etc.
- Blog – research and write about different topics in your area of expertise, which will increase your industry knowledge and position yourself as an expert in your field. A blog will also help you connect with your audiences through blog comments and guest posts.
- Email signature – it’s your business card in the digital world. In this other previous post, I explain How To Create An HTML Email Signature.
- Social media channels - follow and start conversations with your stakeholders, engage your followers with interesting content and drive traffic to your blog and website
- Emails and enewsletters – develop a mailing list and reward your subscribers by offering exclusive content, offers and specials, etc.
9. Create your offline brand assets
While businesses usually rely on digital communications and materials to promote themselves in the Internet, the textural beauty of printed collateral can set you apart from everyone else in the real world.
- Business cards and stationary – From beautiful designs to high-quality paper or emboss, foil or letterpress finishes, everything talks about you and your personal style.
- Professional photographs – invest in a professional photographer to take headshots, and hire a stylist to produce your portfolio or catalogue images, to ensure a professional result.
- Presentations and marketing collateral – every document (online or printed) that you put in front of your clients must be properly branded and have a professional look.
10. Embody your brand essence
The way you speak, what you wear, how you network, everything will impact in that brand perception that others have of yourself as a professional. Make your wardrobe consistent with your brand visual style, what you say in-line with your brand voice and act according to your core values and vision. Make yourself the main vehicle of your personal brand.