How to Build an Awesome Personal Brand (& Why You Can’t Afford Not To)

Written by Wholegrain Team - November 23, 2015

Branding is a powerful force. Take Apple. Its iconic logo is unmistakable and has no need for the brand name to appear alongside it. It represents innovation and outstanding design, and that branding permeates everything Apple does.

Many people mistakenly believe branding is reserved for companies or famous people – thought leaders and celebrities. But that’s not true. While business-level branding is common, branding is becoming equally important on a personal level.

Even if you don’t think you have a personal brand, you do. People form impressions of you when you meet. If they Google your name and hometown, they’ll probably see your Facebook or LinkedIn profile. So building an awesome personal brand gives you the opportunity to influence how people see you, which opens up a whole host of professional opportunities.

What Is Personal Branding?

Personal branding is about making everything you create visibly yours. It comprises all aspects of your business: your name, visual cues – your logo, colour choices, design – and other elements such as your tone of voice and your values. It’s evident in the way you conduct yourself – how you schedule your time and even how quickly you reply to emails.

In essence, whether you’re a one-man band or a small-business owner, your branding is what’s going to help you stand out from your competitors.

Why Is Personal Branding so Important?

How your business is branded is a contributing factor to its success, but it’s often not enough on its own. People want to do business with other people, not with nameless, faceless organisations. Large brands, like Apple, have built up such a reputation that people trust them to deliver on their promises. But if you run a small business it’s much more of a challenge to establish this level of credibility without an emphasis on personal branding.

It’s also about memorability. Competition is tough in today’s business world and your skills and experience will only take you so far. How you brand yourself, how unique your offering is, will be the thing that makes you memorable. So when people want the products or services you offer, you will be the one that springs into their mind. That’s the power of personal branding.

Personal branding isn’t restricted to the CEO of a company either. If you want to improve your career opportunities, building up a strong personal brand will help to establish your reputation in your industry. Which could lead to you being headhunted for your ideal job, or lead to better clients and contacts for your current employers. Either way, it’s a win-win.

So how do you go about building up an awesome personal brand? Like this…

1. Determine Your Area of Expertise and USP

Start by figuring out what you want to be known for, and get specific. Whatever your field is, the chances are competition is fierce so positioning yourself as a marketing expert, for example, will see you lost in a sea of sameness. But if you choose a niche for your marketing skills, you may have a smaller potential audience but they will be much more relevant and therefore receptive to what you’re offering.

Now think about what sets you apart. What are your strengths, your passions and your values? Think about what’s important to you, and also ask your friends and business colleagues how they perceive you and which elements of your personality stand out. This will help to make your brand authentic and will make it easier for you to remain consistent, which is the cornerstone of a successful brand.

2. Build Your Identity

If you’re a freelancer or one-man business, you need to think of a relevant, memorable name – and don’t forget to check the availability of the URL and social media handles before you commit. You’ll also need to dream up a tagline that highlights your specialised skillset and makes it immediately obvious what you’re all about.

Figuring out your visual identity can be great fun. Your logo is at the heart of this – you can keep it simple by choosing an interesting font, or consult with a professional logo designer to capture the essence of your brand in a figurative logo, be it the tools of your trade, or a depiction of you or something symbolic to your values. You also need to decide on a colour scheme that reflects the feeling you want to portray.

The important thing with your visual identity is consistency – use the same logo and colour scheme for your website, your social media profiles and any marketing material.

3. Demonstrate Your Expertise

Time to practise what you preach. The best way to build up your reputation online and demonstrate your expertise is by writing valuable content. People are creatures of habit – if they find a useful source of information in a particular industry or niche, they’ll return to it time and time again and recommend it to their friends and colleagues where appropriate.

Start blogging on your website – try sticking to a consistent schedule like weekly or fortnightly – and offer guest posts on relevant sites so you reach a wider audience. Spend some time commenting on other blogs in a similar field and offer useful advice to encourage people to follow you and see what else you have to say.

Once again, you must be consistent and make your words count. Know your brand and your values, and communicate that in an authentic, compelling way. Write with personality and make sure you demonstrate plenty of enthusiasm and energy for your subject.

4. Flesh Out Your Social Media Profiles

Social media plays a huge part in building your personal brand, and you want a consistent image across all networks, whether that’s your logo or a clear shot of your face alongside your business name. Profile consistency is reassuring to people and helps to build trust.

Develop a clear biography and positioning statement and cut it down as appropriate for the network you’re using, which is generally a medium-sized profile for Facebook and LinkedIn, and a short Twitter profile which works for all other networks such as Instagram or Pinterest.

Use your social media accounts wisely. Post regular updates, and don’t be afraid to repost content to catch new followers or followers in different time zones. Use your updates to communicate your brand voice, your USP and any interesting information or beliefs you have about your industry.

5. Network, network, network

Networking is just as important in the online world as it is in the offline one – perhaps even more so. Be clear how you want your brand to be perceived and identify key influencers in your area. Then reach out and engage with them. Make sure you don’t just ask for their help – show your admiration for their work, perhaps say how it’s influenced you, and gradually build up a relationship, taking the time to engage with their content. Don’t just stick to key influencers in your industry either; think about the habits and likes of your target audience and identify other people who could be valuable in spreading the word about your brand.

That said, don’t neglect opportunities in the real world too. Participating at local networking events or speaking at local events will help to establish your reputation locally and engage with a whole new audience. The more opportunities you take to build your brand, the better.

Be Your Brand

A personal brand isn’t something that magically appears overnight; it must be nurtured carefully and given time to grow naturally. You need to pay careful attention to how your audience responds to your content and continually develop your direction until your focus is clear.

Consistency is crucial, both in your visual identity and your voice, and that voice must be authentic to you – your strengths and weaknesses will be the strengths and weaknesses of your brand so embrace your good qualities and ensure they shine through your vision, positioning statement and the very essence of your brand. And don’t be afraid to periodically review your branding and reinvent yourself as your business grows and develops.

What do you think is the most important part of personal branding, and what strategies have you used to develop yours? Join in the conversation below.