(This is part 2 in a 4-part series on solo entrepreneurship – if you’ve ever considered starting your own business, or know someone who has, let’s explore together!)
A personal brand is similar to your reputation – just more professional and purposefully cultivated. You already have a reputation, and if you’re going to be a solo entrepreneur you’ll need to be intentional about having a great one! Here are 3 reasons you need to focus on building your personal brand:
Your Company is Not Your Brand
One of the areas that I see people get wrapped up in is leaning too heavily on their company as their identity. Personally, this has been a hard area for me to wrap my mind around as I started coding websites in middle school and have had to shift gears as the business has grown.
However, I am more than a company and it’s service offerings – and defining my purpose was first and foremost on my list before trying to define my company’s brand message and vision. I recommend that you place yourself under the microscope and start asking questions:
- What gets you out of bed every morning?
- What legacy do you want to leave with the world?
- Who do you want to impact?
Use this as a starting point and keep asking yourself “why?” until you reach the root of what makes you tick. Once you get there, then you can start figuring out how your personal mission connects with how you solve problems for your customers.
Now that you have defined what you want your impact to be at a personal level, it’s time to start defining how that is shown in your business.
The good news is that you already are unique – you just need to acknowledge your own unique personality traits and cultivate and market them in a memorable way. Your personal brand does not have to be loud or dynamic to get noticed (though that’s great if it is). Maybe you are a gentle advocate, or a deep, profound thinker – those could be fantastic personality traits on which to build a personal brand, depending on the type of work you do.
This is why it’s called a brand. Just because you’re a fascinating individual does not mean you have a brand – you’ve got to have a plan for letting the world know how amazing you really are.
It Builds Trust
The more people feel they know you, the more they will tend toward trusting you. As you create a consistent public image, you are telling people who you are. This will naturally cultivate trust.
Make sure you do this with integrity. You’ve probably met people whose public image didn’t match their personal reality, and it’s an unpleasant experience. Not only is this the ethical way to go, but it’s also easier too. Pretending to be something you’re not can be exhausting. You need to save your energy for building your business!
Give potential clients a vivid, consistent picture of who you really are, accentuating the most unique aspects of your personality that apply to the work you do. If it’s fake, most people will see right through it. But if you intentionally let the confident, honest person you really are shine through, people will instinctively know that you’re a person with whom they want to do business.
Create Your Online Presence
When was the last time you considered working with an individual without searching for their profile on some form of social media? It’s probably been a while. Your personal brand is more than your online presence – but never less. There are a few areas where you want to ensure your message is staying in alignment.
Social media is a powerful tool for building your brand, giving you nearly endless possibilities for customizing your public image. As before, make sure your social media presence matches your personality and makes it shine in the best way possible. The careful curation of your social media accounts will protect your credibility and make you more compelling to potential clients.
This should not be a facade. When potential clients meet you for the first time, they are expecting you to match what they’ve been seeing online for months (or years). It’s easy to fall into the trap of painting a grandiose image of what we can do for our clients – but we won’t be able to live up to that expectation once pen and paper meet to sign a contract for work.
Website and Content
Unlike social media systems, this is an area where you have full control. You control the visualizations, how people interact with you, and what every call-to-action should say. Your web presence should showcase how you solve problems for clients and what sets you apart from the crowd.
Use the pages of your navigation to paint with broad strokes (this content should be problem-based for a wider audience). If you’re going to write blog posts, make sure they talk about detailed problem areas that your potential customers need to solve. Use your blog posts to show your deep expertise in a particular matter (and then talk about that deep expertise on social media and link back to your site).
You do great work that enriches people’s lives – you’re not just in it for the money – so one of the kindest things you can do for others is promoting yourself with excellence. Your potential clients will notice you, trust you, and hopefully get the chance to work with you. And their lives will be better because of it.