You may think that personal branding is something new. But it’s not. And you may think you don’t have a personal brand. But you do. You’ve just been calling it something else.
Your signature style, the first impression you always seem to make (good or bad), what you’re “known for,” are other ways you and people around you describe your personal brand. And intentionally, accidentally, or incrementally, it’s the personal brand you’ve been cultivating ever since you’ve made your entrance onto the stage (or stages) you’ve chosen: work, school, community – or the spotlight of your own creative business.
Subtle or bold, polarizing or completely plain vanilla, your personal brand is making itself known whether you like it or not. In fact, being completely plain vanilla is so extreme, one could argue it’s the hallmark of a personal brand in itself. “Oh that Kate, she’s so plain vanilla. But I love it. I love how what you see is just what you get, and I wish I could be so edited, I’m all over the place!”
How many of us just love taking personality tests: What’s your color? Your fascination formula? Your spirit animal? Your Mad Men character? Why do we love that “label” we get at the end so much? Maybe it’s because we love to identify with an uncomplicated idea, feeling, or message that sums up in a perfect little bow the oh-so-complicated people we are. And what is a brand if not a packaged look, feel and message that relays in an instant what it represents and the experience it will no doubt deliver?
The idea of a personal brand may feel flat, shallow or one dimensional… um, that’s because they’re supposed to be. Sort of. I’ve been talking about layers lately in my Letters for Creatives, and a personal brand is simply a layer of you. The outer one that lets people (i.e. peers, bosses, dream clients and dream followers) know what you’re about and what they can expect to learn and get to know from you if they care to venture past the outer layer.
An outer layer, unlike the name implies, isn’t just about appearances, though that can play a part. We’re creatives, and many of us visual creatives, so our own exterior styling can be an expression of our brand. But it doesn’t have to be. It can be how we tell stories, how we are great listeners, how we always cut to the chase with a zinger one-liner that leaves everyone laughing or cringing. But it’s hard to know what your outer layer is, when you, yourself inhabit a whole lifetime’s worth of layers under it.
Define your outer layer:
I love writing fill-in-the-blank statements to help make otherwise blurry ideas feel clear. Try filling in a few of these, and start to tap into your personal brand. You can fill them in a few ways, actually.
A. Fill these statements out one time based on your outward style.
B. Now fill these statements out a second time based on your conversation and words.
C. Okay now that you’ve touched on the personality aspect (remember, we’re not talking your inner values and core here, we’re talking outer-layer personality) fill these statements out a third time based on your work and/or business, and an easy way to do that is use your website or blog as a way to think about that outer layer:
1. First Impression. “People always think I’m ______ when they first meet me.”
2. Behind Your Back (In a Good Way). “I’ve heard people say that you can always count on me to ______________________.”
3. Apples to Oranges (Comparison). “I know that _______ wishes they could _____ like I do.”
4. Love You or Hate You. “But I also know that when I _______________, people either love it or hate it. That’s okay, it’s just part of my personal brand.”
5. Ah, The Twist (a.k.a. The Next Layer). But it always surprises people after they (meet me, work with me, get to know me) that I _____________________, and they really love/respect it.”
I know I said this was all outer layer stuff here. But the thing is, these are the kind of simple statements that start to hint at the deeper content and conversations that unfold along with the layers of you and your business. You can think of content as blogging or explaining what you do, but I would also challenge you to think of content as conversations: the working, learning, networking, selling, and sharing conversations that are constantly defining and redefining who you are – and what you do.
If you’d like to continue this “layered” conversation, heh, heh, you can always comment on any of the conversations we start here on Facebook.
Learn more about how to define and share that “outer layer” in our Braid ECourse for Creative Entrepreneurs, Personal Branding: Blending Who You Are with What You Do. This ECourse is great for both established or aspiring creatives and bloggers who want to bring a little more personality into their profession. Register and learn more here by this Thursday, November 14th.
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Kathleen here. This week I’m preparing for a 30 minute talk I’ll be giving at the Confluence Conference on Personal Branding. Along with sharing the typical highlight reel of the journey of how I got from here to there, I’ll also be giving a few tips on how to build and leverage your own personal brand so you can live what you love. While I’ve been writing, talking, consulting, and thinking about being your brand for a few years now I had a bit of an “aha / duh” moment while I was prepping my speech slides.
Personal branding is really just sharing your story.
Online (and offline).
For your fans (not your critics).
In your own words (no jargon-y industry robot speak!)
With consistency, courage, and boundaries.
If you’re thinking “Okay, great. But what’s my story!? How do I share it!?” I’ve got you covered. Here are 4 ideas for how you can structure and share your stories:
1. Where You’ve Been & Where You’re Going
This story is equal parts reflection and aspiration. When you address where you’ve been it gives you closure and confidence to move forward. What are your past victories and how have they helped you get where you are today? Or what kind of struggle did you have to overcome? Where are you going next? You can dissect the story of where you’ve been and where you’re going to any aspect of your life – career, creativity, health, relationships, travel & adventure, art, community… Pick one and tell a story about it. What I love about this kind of story is that you’re able to set intentions and manifest the life and dream job you want to live by imagining (and declaring) how you want it to be.
2. What You Know
A lot of the creatives we work with are super hesitant to call themselves experts. They feel like they don’t have enough credentials to be any sort of authority in their field. But you’re always an authority of your own experience. Own it. Be brave enough to say “I don’t have this all figured out but here is what I do know …” These stories can also come in the form of advice, how-tos, and DIYs. We like to call these your gifts of knowledge – and the more you share them the more you will begin to feel confident in your expertise. Lately, I’ve been sharing these kinds of stories in my Coaching for Creative series over on my personal blog.
3. Get Real
Getting a glimpse of what life is really like are my favorite kinds of stories to read and share. A professional composure is great and all but sometimes “getting real” and sharing the story of what life is really like will humanize you. As scary as it may feel, people like to do business with people. Flaws and all. These stories can be anecdotal, metaphors, or “day in the life” style.
I shared my favorite “let’s get real here” story in our Letters for Creatives when I told the story of one of our first meetings after launching Braid. It was 2-hours long with a used car sales man. Tara and I literally got in 3 words the whole time while this used car salesman with a lazy eye and sweaty lip went on for hours about how much integrity his business has (not). By the end of it I literally thought I might throw up on the desk we were meeting at. Tara and I both left shaken up and ready to throw in the towel and find a day job. (Instead we vowed to never work with used car salesman and wrote our Braid ECourse on Dream Customer Catching.)
De-mystifying the creative process is a great way to share the story behind the portfolio. What’s your working style like? How do you take your client through the life of a project? What’s hard about your job? What do you love the most about it? You’re not a creative robot on an assembly line – prove it with behind-the-scenes stories.
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And remember – you’re not just sharing these stories on your blog, Facebook, or Twitter. You’re sharing these stories in real life too with friends, clients, peers, and family. And you’re unapologetically telling these stories in your own words – with courage and consistency. Finally, don’t forget to use the tools in your toolbox – photography, design, art, and creative writing – to tell your story.
If you want to learn more about sharing your story, blending the personal with the professional, and leveraging who you are to live what you love, check out our Braid ECourse Personal Branding: Blending Who You Are With What You Do now open for registration. This complete at-your-own-pace ECourse will be in-session from November 15 - 24. Learn more and register here.
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I would say that ninety percent of the creatives we coach, consult, and do one-on-one branding work with have a blog that they don’t keep up with or want to start a blog but are either freaked out at the idea of writing in such a public space or simply at a loss of where to begin. Blogging is a great platform for blending who you are with what you do, sharing your gifts of knowledge, and proving that you are an expert at what you do. I’ve found that fear is the number one factor in holding people back from launching a blog and hitting “publish” on the regular. So today we’re going to tackle the roadblocks of writing and get you on your way to generating content like the confident, authentic, badass expert you are.
Blogging Fear #1: “I don’t know what to write about.”
• Start by writing about your life - be transparent, authentic, and open by sharing where you’re at right now.
• Limited categories (ie. food, work, style, design, and so on… ) and even a loose editorial calendar can help you find a lot of structure for your blog content. Our post, If You Had to Write A Book, might be a great way to brainstorm categories for your blog.
• Share the behind-the-scenes of how you work or how you helped someone beyond the final product. Or you can get even more specific and share more about your daily operations, struggles, and victories when it comes to doing your thing.
Blogging Fear #2: “I’m afraid of what everybody will think.”
• Oh boy. Every creative I’ve coached in the last week is afraid of what “everybody” will think. So I challenged them to name 5 specific critics. 9 times out of 10 they can’t name anybody. Not one person. (I’m writing more about this in my Letters for Creatives this week – sign up here if you want more on this topic).
• Brené Brown gave me great advice to share with you when it comes to fear and blogging: write for your fans, not your critics. And while you’re at it – share what is vulnerable, not what is intimate. With these two bits of wisdom in mind you’ll be able to write from an authentic, yet safe, place. You can read more about that in this blog post here.
• Know that you’re doing those fans, and your own creative business, a disservice when you hold back your gifts of knowledge.
Blogging Fear #3: “Nobody is reading.”
• A quick rebuttal I get from creatives who are terrified of what “everybody” will think is that “nobody” is reading. Nobody is reading because you’re afraid of writing!
• When you’re afraid of sharing your point-of-view your content becomes watered down and boring. When you can share who you really are without sounding like a robot you will attract readers.
• Ask for feedback. You’ll feel like nobody is reading if you don’t remind your readers to interact with you. Ask for comments, opinions, ideas – or you might even try telling your readers how to hire you. See what happens.
Blogging Fear #4: “I don’t have enough time.”
• Yes you do. Get off Facebook / Twitter / Pinterest / Instagram and start writing. You don’t “have” time or “find” time. You make it.
• Make time by setting a timer. I had 20 minutes to start this post before going into a meeting. I thought “Meh. What can I really get done in 20 minutes?” It turns out I was able to write the entire intro paragraph and a rough outline for this whole post in 20 minutes. I finished up the rest this morning (before another full day of more meetings) in my breakfast nook.
• Write during your most creative time of day. For me this is in the morning. If you need help pinpointing your most creative time of day check out our post on A Resolution for Routine.
Blogging Fear #5: “I hate my blog / website design.”
• Prove to yourself that you can consistently create content for 3 months, 6 months, or a year and then hire someone to pretty up your blog for you. You can move your blog content just like you can move your furniture around.
• Most people are reading your blog through an RSS feed anyway – that means they have no idea what your blog or site looks like. They’re only interested in what you have to say.
• When in doubt, keep it simple. One of my favorite blogs is Zen Habits. It’s meaningful content delivered on a simple white background with black text and no photos.
Finding your voice and an audience takes practice and time. And while it may take a little bit of courage to hit “publish” on the regular, it gets easier the more you do it. You’ll find confidence, creative fulfillment, and potentially clients, with each post that goes live. So blog on, friends. Blog on. There’s nothing to be afraid of.
If you’re still suffering from scattered ideas or analysis paralysis check out our Braid ECourse Shape Up Your Content: Tame Your Ideas and Tell People How to Buy You. This ECourse will be in-session from Oct. 18-27. Learn more and sign up here! P.S. We send out exclusive discounts and content to our ECourses in our weekly Letters to Creatives emails straight to your inbox. Sign up to receive those here.
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