A Beginner's Guide to Create a Personal Brand
Updated: Oct 4, 2020
After serving as a brand ambassador for two different companies, one of the most common questions professionals ask is how to create a personal brand.
Branding is a marketing term, and it’s a sign of the professional environment today that we need to learn how to market our biggest asset—ourselves!
Just like any major company knows, this takes time and purposeful curation. And it can seem overwhelming when you are starting on your professional journey.
While it may sound like it’s easy to figure out your personal brand (it is YOU, after all), it isn’t. It takes time, purpose, and a lot of trial and error. Give yourself grace, room to grow, and get started with these tips.
Below is a quick video overview to help you get started creating a personal brand. If you would like more in-depth action items (there's only so deep I can go in 3-minutes), keep reading below for more information!
In addition, I was asked to join a live webinar hosted by Brandon Rhodes in conjunction with UCF's Rosen College about marketing yourself. The full recorded webinar is at the bottom of the article or can be found here if you are interested in learning more!
While the video above gives a quick overview of some basic tips to start curating your personal brand, I wanted to provide a little more context and actionable items below. This is what has worked for me, so as I like to say—take what works for you and leave the rest!
Identify Your Strengths, Layer with your Passions
Everybody has a unique skill set to offer to the world and sometimes the most difficult task is identifying your personal strengths. Your personal brand emerges when you find a blend of skills and passions that are uniquely you.
When I began my website, I fashioned myself as a “travel blogger” because traveling is one of my passions and writing is one of my strengths. And while writing about travel and sharing my vacation photos was a great passion project, it wasn’t enough to curate an easily identifiable brand in a busy field.
Over time, I’ve discovered that my greatest (and perhaps most marketable) strengths are communication, storytelling, and working with people. My areas of expertise include professional development, content creation, and public speaking. And I do like to sprinkle my personal passions into my brand to pique interest—which include traveling, a healthy lifestyle, Disney, and sustainability.
When I started focusing on ways to maximize this set of skills layered with my personal interests, professionals started reaching out with questions, gratitude, and opportunities.
How can you identify your strengths?
Brainstorm and select 3-4 strengths, talents, areas of expertise, and/or passions that most clearly identify you.
Take a personal assessment—a couple of my favorites are the Strengthsfinder (rebranded as Clifton Strengths) assessment or the Enneagram test (Free version)
Determine which strengths are most marketable—travel blogging is fun, but it’s a crowded field and I was competing with travelers with far more experience and knowledge than myself. But my combined unique professional experiences, love of people, and communication skills were strengths that set me apart.
Gather feedback—my website is a great resource to see what kind of articles perform best. When I realized my audience was excited about professional development, I started to focus on playing to those strengths.
Ask a variety of people what they think your strengths are—you may be surprised at what you discover!
Identify any unique talents or side-hustles you have—whether it’s baking, designing cards, or photography, side hustles can provide great insights into unique talents that make you YOU. It doesn’t even have to be relevant to your current (full-time) job.
Don’t forget to maximize those strengths! Double down on learning and practicing to really home in on those skills.
Seek out subject matter experts in your field—I knew nothing about visual branding, so I looked for other bloggers to learn the basics about HEX codes, SEO, and basic web design.
Head to YouTube—this platform is one of the biggest search engines in the world and you can learn to do just about ANYTHING on this platform. I learned most of my (modest) photography and editing skills from YouTube.
Take free online courses—you can find these through paid platforms like MasterClass.com, free platforms like Coursera, or even through online influencers. I learned some basic search optimization tips for Pinterest (another huge search engine—who knew?) from an online blogger.
Join clubs—find clubs that align with your passions to practice your craft. Bonus—it’s a great way to network! I learned a lot from my fellow Toastmasters prior to my ambassadorship.
Trial and error—the greatest teacher!
Create Valuable Content
Once you have curated a unique set of skills, passions, and areas of expertise, you have begun to form a unique brand. Now it’s time to package it and provide value for others.
After determining that leadership development was an area in which I could offer value, I began to gather some of the most common questions professionals asked of me to create resources that might benefit a wider audience.
Create content that highlights your unique perspective, talents, or area of expertise. But always remember it’s about your audience, so present it in a way that directly benefits them. If you can provide value (education, entertainment, inspiration, validation, etc) then your content will set you apart.
Write articles about subjects where you can provide a unique perspective
Create videos that show off your creativity, humor, or knowledge—it doesn’t even have to be professionally produced if the content is useful or entertaining!
Share your side hustles or talents through social media stories
Offer coaching sessions or webinars to educate others
Record a podcast
Design a website
Answer questions on Quora--this is a little-known, but GREAT platform to provide value to others. I innocuously answered a question about South Africa a few years ago and it STILL receives hundreds of views per week. At one point, it was circulated by Quora as a trending answer (go figure) and people started asking me other travel questions.
Don’t wait until you have an interview to show off your expertise. Start creating content and putting it out into the universe with the sole purpose of helping other people. Once you have curated a cannon of valuable content, others will start to see you as an expert in your field and may even pre-emptively reach out to you.
Promote Yourself--You Are Your Own Best Publicist
Once you’ve created engaging content to benefit others, you need to promote it for the world to see!
There are a number of social media platforms to help you reach a wide audience. It’s up to you whether you would like to blend your personal and your professional platforms. It takes some finesse, but if you are able to integrate the two, it can be a powerful personal branding tool. (Using social media effectively can be an entirely separate article.)
Create a website or online portfolio of your work that you can link in your LinkedIn bio, email signature, and resume headers.
Share content you have created on LinkedIn. Use appropriate hashtags so your content can be discovered by others.
Cross promote professional content you have created on your personal accounts—share links in your Instagram bio or update your Facebook friends and family when you’ve shared something you have created.
YouTube and Pinterest are two of the biggest search engines. Create pins for your articles to promote on Pinterest or teaser videos to promote on YouTube.
If you make products or provide services, create behind-the-scenes footage on IGTV and promote through your personal Instagram account.
If you have answers performing well on Quora, consider making them into a blog post or providing the link to your Quora content on your LinkedIn account.
Find other publications to write for--Medium is a place I take a few more "risks" with my writing. Thrive Global is another platform I have used in the past. Find your niche publications and see how you can contribute. Don't forget to cross promote your publications on your LinkedIn profile, website, or other platforms!
Bonus: Learn about SEO (search engine optimization) for internet search engines. You can learn a new skill and have your work seen by even more people!
If you are marketing yourself in the professional arena, you are going to need to be your own best publicist. The more adept you become at promoting your content, the more successful you will be. Blindly sending resumes won’t be enough in the competitive market—but if you have a strong brand and online presence, you have a greater chance to attract opportunities that actually fit your strengths.
My final word of advice is to find a way to be unapologetically YOU and then wrap that up into a brand that is marketable to employers. You may find that your brand doesn’t appeal to everyone—but the best marketers know if you try to please everyone, you’ll end up impressing no one. Find your niche, double down on your strengths with valuable content, and deliver the package to an audience that will appreciate your unique skill set.
If you would like to learn more about how to market yourself, view our previously live webinar hosted by Brandon Rhodes below or at this link.
Additional questions sent after the webinar completed:
From my home page:
This site has been a lot of things. It started as a site to promote my photography services, then it became a place to document what it was like to be an expat in mainland China. It eventually morphed into a wannabe travel blog. And now it’s just a composite of who I am—a Disney Cast Member with insider tips and my thoughts on leadership. An aspiring conservationist, sharing my sustainability journey. A semi-creative person who loves to write stories and make videos and doesn’t care if they are SEO-friendly, as long as they make people laugh or think. And of course, an avid traveler and incessant planner who hopes to help other people travel more. In retrospect, I am glad I included “without borders” in my name. It’s given me plenty of room to grow.