Have you given any thought to your personal brand?
I hadn’t, up until a few months ago. “Branding yourself” was just a buzz-phrase to me. Something I heard about regularly, but didn’t really notice.
Boy, was I wrong to do that!
I had personal branding confused with conjuring up some radical image of who you thought you could be and pushing it on people.
As it turns out, branding is all about being authentic and making sure the message people hear about you is true to your goals.
So today, I’m going to explain the four steps of creating your personal online brand, along with why you should do it and how it’ll help your web-writing business.
Branding: What’s the Point?
In a nutshell, personal branding is the process we use to market ourselves to others.
Don’t confuse it with self-marketing — it’s a lot easier (and a lot more fun, if you ask me).
Really, it’s the compilation of all the information about you that’s available on the Web, especially when it comes to social media platforms. The sum of all this is your personal brand.
Your goal, then, is to make sure that whatever your personal brand says about you is what you want it to say about you.
Why brand yourself in the first place? For these benefits:
- You’ll be the go-to person for whatever specific skill you zero in on
- You can be an asset to your clients and professional network
- A solid brand to stand behind gives you terrific self-confidence
- Complete strangers — and new clients — will reach out to you, unsolicited (a plus if you dislike self-marketing)
- You’ll direct your ship, instead of becoming a gerbil on your client’s wheel
Most people think branding is something only big companies and celebrities do. But if you put some thought into it, you can use the same strategies and gain the same benefits. This is especially true thanks to social media, which effectively levels the playing field. Done right, you can have just as big a presence as a large company can.
What you want is something that realistically portrays your strengths and weaknesses. Something that tells people what you’re good at, what you love to do, and which professional skills you’ve mastered.
Step 1: Discover Your Brand
Business strategist Glenn Llopis says fewer than 15% of people have bothered to really define their personal brands and only 5% work consistently to personify it.
My goal here is to make you part of the 5%. After all, they’re the ones who move ahead in their goals to reap profits and fulfillment.
First, let’s talk about end-goals. The biggest reason for branding yourself is so you can make a living doing something you love — in this case, web writing. So, do yourself a favor. Spend a lot of time thinking about it.
Don’t just brand yourself so you can say you’ve done it. Instead, invest time thinking about what you want to do for the next several years of your web-writing career.
- Start by thinking about what you’re good at along with where you want your web-writing career to take you.
- Set mini-goals (like a specific client you want to work for, or an income goal, or a niche where you’d like to be well-known).
- Write down a Mission Statement. Don’t bother filling it with fancy wording and business terms — it’s for your eyes only. The point is to spell out what you want to do, stand for, and earn.
If you have trouble zeroing in on your goals or what you’re good at, ask your network what they think of you. A kind word of caution, though — this can be both a humbling and eye-opening experience.
Take the advice of Dan Schawbel, who wrote an article on Mashable with the perfect way to explain this:
Your self-impression = How people perceive you
If you’re still feeling wide-open about your options after taking the steps above, test-drive new opportunities by doing specs in different specialties and niches. Once you’ve found a keeper, move on to the next step …
Step 2: Choose a (GREAT) Name
Most of the time, your best bet is to use your name as a brand. Or, if you’re sure of the direction you want your web-writing career to take, come up with a hybrid of your name and that career direction.
My first business name was “Tree Copywriting.” The reason? I like trees. Might have been smart if I’d targeted the arborist market, but that wasn’t my goal. As I got smarter to the ways of freelance writing, I changed my business name to “MTM Copywriting” — my initials, and my focus.
If you want to be more specific and plan to zero in on a specialty, you could choose something like “[Your Last Name] E-newsletters.” Just keep in mind that including a career direction in your brand name will tie you to that direction.
Also — like they tell us in beginner-copywriting classes — steer clear of “cute” and “clever” (as in “Write Now Web Writing!”) And for heaven’s sake … don’t be blatantly pompous (like “World’s Best Web Writer”).
Remember, you want this name to go far. It’s the moniker you’ll use (ideally) for your business, website domain, email, and all of your social media profiles.
Throughout the naming process, remember your goal: To make it easy for people to find, follow, and get in touch with you.
Step 3: Spread Your Message Carefully and Consistently
This step is a lot easier than you might think, especially if you take advantage of all the automated blogging and social media services out there.
Once you’ve figured out your business name and direction, set up your basic profiles (or change existing ones to match your new branding direction). Tackle both online areas and offline, including print pieces like your business card.
Then, set up a website. I recommend WordPress, which is extremely user-friendly and won’t leave you with a cookie-cutter looking website.
From there, start sharing. Blog, post, and write up useful, useable, interesting content that informs your key audience. Don’t just try to put words on the screen; make it a point to share helpful tips that your clients and prospects can relate to.
As you start putting your commentary out there, make a conscious effort to ensure your brand message and appearance are consistent across all platforms. This includes:
- Your website
- Your blog
- LinkedIn profile
- Facebook profile
- Twitter profile
- Email address
- Business cards
- Resume/cover letters
Step 4: Ask for Feedback (Key Tip!)
You know how big companies have a Board of Directors that approves and disapproves things as they relate to the company?
Get yourself something like that.
Ask a group of trusted peers to assess your efforts and take a look at your online presence. Welcome their feedback, and do the same for them in return. Don’t just ask once you have everything set up, either. Check in with your “advisors” every three months to make sure your message is consistent, clear, and appealing.
Some Final Motivation …
If you still feel hesitant about building a personal brand, look at it this way: It’s not so much about self-promotion as it is about leadership and cementing your good reputation in the web-writing world. It represents your value as a freelance writer and helps people more clearly understand what you do, how you do it, and why.
And at the end of the day … it lands you more clients, builds profits, and puts you solidly on the path to a successful freelancing career.