Branding is integral to your identity whether you’re an independent professional or a Fortune 100 company. From your name and logo to your company slogan and reputation, it’s how the public knows you. As a self-employed professional, you are your company, and establishing a strong personal brand is essential to the growth and success of your business. Here are nine ways to build a personal brand.
1. Be Recognizable
Some brands are instantly recognizable, even without words. Consumers around the world recognize Nike’s ubiquitous “swoosh” logo or the iconic golden arches of McDonald’s. These brands, however, represent rare exceptions—even Starbucks faced criticism over a logo change that removed their name. For the vast majority of businesses, the key to effective branding begins with directly telling people your name. When contacts or potential clients can quickly establish who you are, you’ve made an important first step in developing a connection.
2. Explain What You Do
Potential clients should never have to search for the basic information that defines your company or business goals. Some independent consultants address this by establishing a legal business name, such as “John Smith’s IT Consulting,” but whether you use a business name or your own, your overall branding should reflect a message that promotes and aligns with your area of focus.
3. Define What Makes You Different
While brand awareness is an essential first step of building a personal brand, to be truly impactful, your branding should take the message a step further by demonstrating the value or benefits you offer that set you apart from your competition. Offer innovative techniques, a unique specialization, or industry-leading expertise.
4. Stand Out from the Crowd
Your personal brand should create an impactful message that helps you stand out from the crowd—for the right reasons. Over the top branding that includes gimmicks or stunts may be effective in helping people remember you, but it can come at the cost of your professional reputation.
5. Stay Consistent Across Platforms
All of your branding efforts—whether part of networking, marketing, or any other area that increases visibility—should express a consistent theme and message. Visual components, design elements, key information, and especially overall messaging should not vary from one place to the next.
6. Review Personal and Professional Messaging
As an independent professional, you are often viewed as representing your personal brand—even in your personal life and actions. Keep this in mind in your public, non-business communications and actions, including social media networks. Differing messages promoted by your personal and professional actions could create a perception of dishonesty or lack of trustworthiness.
7. Build an Online Presence
A well-established personal brand also needs a well-established online presence not just in social media, but also on their own professional website. We go into further detail about professional websites, and the reasoning behind them, here.
8. Develop a Reputation, Not Just a Name
Handing your business card out to everyone you meet or advertising in every trade publication you can find may help people learn your name, but without a reputation, it can be difficult to make a true impression. That’s why it’s important to make establishing expertise and value a core part of your personal branding message. Here are some ways to approach this:
- Using a distinctive color theme throughout your visual branding, including on business cards, on your website, and as part of your logo
- Creative marketing efforts, such as the innovative use of social media
- Incorporating an area of expertise into your branding message
9. Get the Word Out
Using online outlets to share valuable industry information that educates or informs others can help to position you as an expert in your field and build personal brand credibility. This can be done by establishing a company blog, sharing information on social media networks, or actively offering assistance through forums. Encourage word-of-mouth promotion by requesting referrals from clients with whom you have established strong relationships.
To learn more about branding, read 6 Steps to Successfully Build a Small Business Brand.
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