I’ll start off with saying that I’m a business podcast buff—if I’m cleaning or doing cardio, I’m also listening to the likes of, say, Being Boss. One of the hosts, Emily M. Thompson of Indie Shopography, once said in the episode on Personal Branding, “Those who matter don’t mind, and those who mind don’t matter.” That philosophy had me dumbfounded for a week straight.
So what’s a personal brand anyways? And what does that mean for me and my business? That’s a great question, and you’re probably asking because, well, this isn’t something we were taught in school. And it’s so important. Let’s get down to it (I’m looking at you, new grads).
What is it?
What is your personal brand? It's YOU. The REAL you. What you bring to the table for an organization, how you present yourself to the world, and your sincere character as a professional. Period.
Why do I need it?
Some of you might be reading this saying, “I don’t have a personal brand”. WRONG. If you have a reputation, you have a brand (hint: everyone has both), and that can go one of two ways.
I’m not telling you to give a crap about how the world is labelling you. A personal brand isn’t about putting on a façade. It’s about taking your inside and portraying it outward, in a digestible, visible way. You’re giving the world (and potential dream clients) a sampler of what you’re all about.
Now, if you’re an entrepreneur, this matters even more. Your personal brand (and that of your business, as they tend to overlap when you’re a solopreneur like myself) is going to mean the make or break of sales. A well-crafted brand will do two very important things: it will attract your perfect-fit dream clients, and it will repel the nightmare pull-out-your-hair clients. That last one is especially important.
In the early, desperate days of business owning, it’s tempting to take on every client who comes your way. As you become more experienced you’ll realize that the nightmare clients, or even the ones who simply aren’t a good fit for your business, are sucking you dry of energy and inspiration, and just aren’t a smart investment of your time.
Heed my advice, and you’ll thank me one day. I can guarantee it.
What does it look like?
From your fashion sense to your mannerisms, your business specialties to your choice of words: these all make up your personal brand. It will follow you your entire career, and will influence how people perceive you, as a professional and as a general human being.
The first thing potential clients will see, particularly if you’re running a web-based business, will be whoever you’re presenting online. That makes it sound strategic, false and troublesome. It doesn’t have to be—there’s a secret recipe to it that only you know, and the ingredient is being your truest and most sincere self.
Maybe, like Emily of Being Boss, it means you’re going to swear like a sailor and you’re not everyone’s cup of tea. Or maybe like her co-host and branding guru Kathleen Shannon of Braid Creative, you’re a mom who’s a hippie dedicated to the woo-woo side of life, which turns some people off. Good. If that’s the case, then those very people are not the clients you want.
Sit down and consider what parts of yourself you want the world to see—especially the parts you’d most love someone out there to appreciate. Your transparency and sincerity will pay off.
If you’re still stuck, follow Kathleen’s advice: imagine you’re hosting a dinner party, and you’re inviting the 5 people you most look up to. Identify what it is about them that you wish you could embody, as well as what the world adores about them, and consider what that would mean for you.
You’re allowed to better your brand, just like you’re allowed to better yourself as a person. The Branding Police won’t come knocking at your door and take you away to the slammer.
Now go out and be you. You’ll rock it, I promise.
Gillian Sisley is a social media-savvy strategist hell-bent on engaging with people on a real, human level.
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