With self-employment and freelancing becoming more popular than ever, personal branding is increasingly relevant. But beware, it’s about more than how you simply look online.
Building a brand and positioning yourself on the market – this exact form of marketing has never been more important. Anyone with a computer and access to the internet can start a company, offer services an build an online presence nowadays. In fact, ever-more people are doing it.
Let’s face the numbers: According to Europe’s statistical service Eurostat, about 32,6 million persons between the age of 15 and 74 years were self-employed in the European Union in 2018. Entrepreneurs account for approximately 14 per cent of Europe’s total employment. 20 years ago this number was only half as large. The same development can be observed for freelancing. At this day in age, there are 11 million freelancers in Europe – and the number is rising quickly. In the United Kingdom, France and The Netherlands, freelance growth has outpaced employment growth as a whole.
While the rise of this entrepreneurial spirit means that an increasing amount of people are possibly realizing their dreams, it also means that entrepreneurs and freelancers face more competition than ever. That’s why one needs to differentiate oneself from all the others doing the same thing. But how? Well, building a personal brand might be a strategy.
👀 Brand = Perception
Most likely, you’ve stumbled upon personal branding online already. But what is it, really? In a lot of cases, people immediately think of social media presences. But to understand, what branding yourself truly means, you have to understand what a brand is in the first place.
Basically, a brand is other people’s perception of a thing – or a person in the case of a "personal" brand. You can think of a brand like a relationship which exists in people’s heads. They associate a certain feeling and a certain performance with that brand. Or respectively, they associate that feeling with you – which in turn, shapes your reputation when you’re trying to establish yourself as an expert in your field. Regardless if it’s writing, design, programming, coaching or anything else.
👩🏻💼 Talking branding to a personal level
When you’re thinking about building a business – be it a food company, a travel agency or a bookshop – the concept of branding probably comes to your mind naturally. As a freelancer or entrepreneur, it’s no different. You are your company. And unlike a static company structure, you have a personality and stories to tell which can be used to promote your brand even more effectively.
With the help of your personal brand, you’re able to distinguish yourself from your competition and form a lasting impression in the mind of potential and already existing customers. After all, branding builds trust. If you come up to a potential client with powerful branding, they will not only perceive you as a trusted source for whatever service you offer. Because you embody it.
"Your brand is your public identity, what you’re trusted for. And for your brand to endure, it has to be tested, redefined, managed, and expanded as markets evolve. Brands either learn or disappear." – Lisa Gansky
Prime examples of good personal branding are widely known. Elon Musk, for example, has more Twitter followers than his companies Tesla, SpaceX, and SolarCity combined. The same goes for Arianna Huffington, Gary Vaynerchuck and countless other successful businesspeople. They all use their personal brand to leverage their internet exposure and attract customers to their companies. But don’t worry, you don’t need to post 10 tweets and 20 Instagram stories a day to brand yourself well.
📇 The process of branding
Now, the process of branding yourself online is simpler than one might suggest. In fact, most of us are already doing it privately. Whether you’re choosing the perfect photo for your Instagram feed or updating your job descriptions on LinkedIn – all of that is personal branding to some extent. But of course, a good personal brand goes far beyond that, particularly in a professional context.
First of all, you need some platforms to base your brand on. This can be the common social media platforms Facebook, Twitter and Instagram but also a personal website if you’re really serious about it. As always, think about where your target group – you’re customers – would most likely stumble upon you and focus on these channels first.
Secondly, you need to establish your brand in itself and define what you want to communicate. In order to do that, figure out what makes you "YOU". What separates you from all the other entrepreneurs and freelancers in the same field? What should people think of when they think about your freelance business? In this process, use stories and to communicate your honest personality. What do you burn for? What’s your deepest mission in what you’re doing? This can be your about-page or bio. Personal stories are an effective way to connect with people on a personal level and form stronger relationships – even in business.
Furthermore, establish some form of visual code for your brand presentation. It makes people remember you more easily. You might also get some high-quality headshots done by a photographer you trust. Humans are visual creatures.
And after implementing these basics, it’s time to put out content. If you’re not aiming to become the next Gary Vaynerchuk, a post every day or even every few days might do just fine. Everything more advanced requires an entire strategy – which can be very effective, though.
💊 Don’t overdose though
While establishing a personal brand on the internet can seem very promising, it’s also easy to overdose on it. Remember: Eventually, the point is to become authentic in who you are, intentionally telling your story and bringing value to this world. Don’t build your own reality TV-show. Be useful instead. Focus on others first. Share truths, advice and bring knowledge, entertainment and laughter.
Most of the time, you should be working on tasks and be useful.
By its nature, personal branding forces you to focus on oneself first rather than others. Therefore, it’s easy to get lost in it – and that’s the danger. Don’t spend more time on your personal branding than you need to. Most of the time, you should be working on tasks and be useful. After all, your branding is just a way to attract more customers – but to make a difference, what counts is the work you get done. It’s like grabbing a drink after work – good if done occasionally, bad if done obsessively.
💃🏽 You do you!
In a nutshell, personal branding is immensely powerful. It can give you the edge you need to gain more customers in an age of ever-more competition. In reality, branding yourself is not that hard. It burns down to two things:
Knowing who you are and
telling your story.
If you master these two aspects and set up your online channels accordingly, your brand is all set. Through high-quality content, you can then boost it to any extent you like.
"Be Bold, and Original. Tell ’em something that they don’t know" – Melinda Emmerson
Life offers so many aspects to master and personal branding is just a tiny fraction of it. Are you ready to unleash your full potential in even more areas of life? On May 14th 2020, we’re launching our biggest one-day-conference yet with the goal of guiding you become your best self. There’s a ton of speeches, workshops and content awaiting you! Early bird tickets are already available – so get one today. And we? We at the female factor – a community of female changemakers aiming to unlock your full potential.