Written by Maria S.
Table of contents
Every time, more and more companies become more conscious of the importance of developing their presence on the Internet, and of using all tools at their disposal to define and promote their brand. This logic applies just as easily to people, and freelance workers and professionals. This is where personal branding or personal brand development come into play. It’s a concept that aims to differentiate individuals who wish to be professionally successful, in the same way that commercial brands would do it.
Personal branding arose as a concept in the late 90s in an article written by Tom Peters, “The Brand called you“. However, over the last few years, personal branding’s importance has been growing, becoming increasingly accessible thanks to Web 2.0. Nowadays, with a good planning and strategy development, anyone can build their own personal brand.
Why is it important to develop your personal brand?
We live in a very competitive world, and undoubtedly, with the current economic crisis, this competition has become ever so fierce. It’s indispensable for professionals to achieve, on the one hand, visibility on the net, and on the other, distinguish themselves from their competitors.
Developing a personal brand is about managing an individual’s image to communicate their most particular characteristics and values.
Building our personal brand will help us in our search for employment, but even more so if we are freelancers, as it will position us as experts in our field. This, in the long run, will contribute to increasing our client base.
How to build your personal brand
As we’ve already established, personal branding is based on communication and perception management. Moreover, it is a strategy, and as such, it requires planning and perseverance. Let’s see the main aspects that should be defined before we begin to communicate our personal brand:
The motivation to develop a personal brand usually revolves around two goals: either to get a job, or to get clients. Being fully aware of these goals and monitoring the results will help us to evaluate our personal branding’s strategy effectiveness, and to carry out the appropriate changes to make it work.
You need to ask yourself:
- What do I want to communicate?
- What makes me different?
- How can I give my work more value?
In this sense it’s clear we need to define, on the one hand, differentiating values, and on the other, products or services we offer and associate to these values.
This is probably where professionals get sloppy more often, and it’s something that should never be left to improvisation. Same as our message, our communication tone should be well-defined in advance, and to be consistent in everything we do (although it can and it should vary a little depending on the medium we use). We should choose one tone or another based on our field, our own personality and goals that we defined for ourselves. It can be approachable, emotional, informative, formal, informal, etc.
A freelance worker should establish communication channels for their strategy in the same way that a business does, selecting those means that better suit their goals and get them closer to the audience they want to reach. In this sense, social media is a powerful ally –LinkedIn and Twitter in particular– as these tools are unparalleled favourites for personal branding purposes. However, there are many other social networking services and expert forums, some of which may specialise in areas that are interesting to us. It’s appropriate to remind the reader that planning and perseverance are crucial, and getting an account in all possible social networking sites will be no use to us if we’re not going to be regularly filling them up with content.
With regard to social networking services, quality precedes quality: it is better to dedicate our time to a select few, maintaining a constant and coherent message and tone. Avoid being present for presence’s sake, as you might transmit an image that doesn’t represent you, in addition to a sense of abandonment for lack of updates.
And finally, our personal brand –that up until now might have seemed a somewhat abstract idea– should materialise into actions, to which we will apply all aforementioned advice. This is what we could call ‘content‘: if, for example, we’ve chosen a blog as our preferred communication channel, our posts and their scheduling will be these ‘actions’. Creation of quality content is essential if we want to stand out as experts. We can make ebooks, Slideshare presentations, blog posts, or even offline actions, such as lectures or courses.
As a matter of fact, it is highly recommended to combine both the online and the offline worlds.
If you’re going to make a lecture, you musn’t forget, for example, to publish photographs from the event on Flickr, a video on YouTube, or an entry in your blog summarising the experience. And, if you have a physical business card, you should absolutely include in it your website, blog or perhaps a QR code that will lead the recipient to said content by simply scanning it with their phone’s camera.
Personal branding and professional identity
Evidently, a commercial brand is composed of a name and a corporate identity. Our personal brand should be defined in the same manner. The way in which we design our personal brand will define our professional image that will be transmitted to our potential clients.
Should I use my real name, a pseudonym or perhaps a slight variation of my name? In this sense, it’s important to investigate what the competitors are doing. If your name is Juan García Henarejos, it would probably be a better idea to use your second surname, as the name “Juan García” is extremely common. Besides, don’t forget that your name shouldn’t exceed the character limit imposed by social media, which, as of now, is up to 15 characters.
Which are the keywords that define us and we want to appear in the search results for? Let’s remember that our personal brand is set to be developed both online and offline. For the digital environment we will use keywords that will improve our communications’ ranking in search engines. Moreover, selecting these concepts will also help us to be remembered more easily. For example: Juan Henarejos, creative baking; or Ruth Lledó, vintage tattoos.
- Visual identity:
A good image sells, and it’s our best ally to transmit these values we speak so much about. For that reason, the visual design of our brand must be carefully planned, by choosing the appropriate colour palette and typography that we’re going to use in our communication, as they will help us to transmit what we want. Sometimes it might also be convenient to design a logo, too.
It’s important to be aware of the fact that building a personal brand is a slow process, that requires persistence and patience. Nevertheless, I personally think it is a very gratifying work, because in the end, it’s our best way to sell ourselves.
Do you treat your online communication with the appropriate care? And have you developed your personal brand yet?