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Amid COVID-19, many individuals are using time spent sheltering in place to start a business or pursue a side hustle. If that sounds familiar, as you begin taking the next steps to create a professional brand, including drafting business plans and incorporating the business, you must also consider developing your personal brand.
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What is a personal brand?
Essentially, this is the story of you.
Who are you? What are your values? What do you stand for and believe in? How do you live these values and put them into practice?
Answering these questions should allow you to begin crafting your personal brand. As you do so, you will begin to establish credibility in your industry. The experience and expertise you accumulate, combined with a genuine, engaging personality, helps differentiate you from others. Your personal brand may give you the opportunity to collaborate with brands, network alongside other influencers you admire, and position you as a recognizable leader in your industry.
In short, creating a successful personal brand will allow you to achieve your goals and act as a real-life vision board for your future.
How to develop a personal brand
Don’t have a personal brand yet? Here are a few essential steps to get started:
Figure out what makes you unique
No matter what industry you’re trying to break into (or furthering your existing presence in), you need to know what makes you special.
Leverage the unique aspects of your background as part of your story. For example, I did not begin my career as an entrepreneur. I went to law school, graduated with a Juris Doctor degree and worked as an attorney.
Take a moment to review the many facets of your personality. Ask yourself the following questions to better outline what your personal brand may look like:
- What gets you out of bed in the morning? The answer cannot be the ringing alarm clock. What motivates and moves you forward?
- What makes you an expert in this field? Are there certain assignments or projects you can work on that challenge and excite you? What are they and do they share a common thread?
- What are your strengths and weaknesses? In order to develop a personal brand, you should understand what you are good at and areas you could become better at. This allows you to determine which unique skills you can bring to any given industry.
- How would others describe you? You may ask friends, family and mentors for a few adjectives that they immediately think of when they think of you.
Find your niche
As an entrepreneur, I work alongside small businesses to incorporate and form LLCs for their companies. Incorporation is a niche aspect of business. I have spent years working in it and studying it in order to provide expertise to my clients.
One of the best approaches for building a personal brand is carving out your niche. It would be very difficult to start out saying “I will be an entertainment influencer” and attempt to cover all aspects of the industry from film to music to art.
Find your niche by starting with a narrow focus on a particular subject. Let’s say you’re starting a book podcast. You would need to narrow it down to a specific genre of books that you enjoy, or concentrate on a particular book series.
Once you determine your niche, you may conduct thorough research to provide consistent, unique content to your target audience. Your audience will come to know you based on this content. As a result, you will start to develop a loyal following and build recognition that becomes part of your personal brand.
Once you understand your story and niche, you may begin creating content that positions you to be noticed in a certain industry. Your target audience will come to expect this content from you, and it’s important that you remain consistent.
Personal brand consistency means a few things. There is the consistency in creating and sharing content, as well as engaging with your fans both on and offline. You may find that your personal brand develops in a manner that doesn’t allow for radically different stories.
As you start creating your personal brand, be mindful that everything you share should be consistent. This consistency is why your audience is interested in following your content in the first place. You may opt to make personal social media accounts outside of your branded ones strictly for close family and friends, where you can deviate from this brand.
Don’t copy another identity
One of the biggest mistakes individuals make when entering the personal branding space is trying to be someone they are not. There may be certain influencers you look up to and admire. Does that mean you should do exactly what they do in order to be successful?
No. Just keep on focusing on what makes you special and the story you have to tell with your audience. Don’t try to copy someone else’s identity or personal brand for yourself. Your audience will notice, and they will not view this behavior favorably. They may even stop engaging with you. Listen to the beat of your own drum and let it draw attention to your brand in a positive manner.
Live your personal brand
The Deborah you read blog posts from online is the same Deborah I am in person — upbeat, thoughtful and enthusiastic about small business success. Live your personal brand! Be genuine and passionate about your interests. Listen to others. Offer to stay connected on social media accounts like LinkedIn or via email. Once you have built a personal brand, live it in your day-to-day life.