In the age of saturation, a powerful personal brand equals better business. With the internet full of lookalikes and intense competition, having a distinct personal brand is more important than ever. If you’re looking to start an online business, book clients, or simply amplify your message, a distinct brand acts as your own personal marketing team. Promoting your brand will allow people to connect with you, support you and your work, and even give you their money!
My followers online know me as a successful 20-something digital marketer, entrepreneur, and blogger. They know I started my first business at age nine and went on to be the head of marketing and communications for a global company before I turned 22. They know they can turn to me for tips on financial planning, career transitions, and figuring out millennial life. They trust my advice and know that I support them through every step of their journeys. My story is my brand and has helped me find success in an increasingly competitive landscape.
Here’s how you can cultivate trust, and a memorable brand you can turn into income.
1. Find your unique story
The most important thing you’ll do on this list, discovering your unique story is key to developing a memorable personal brand.
Do a deep-dive of what makes you unique, and what you as a user connect with. Chances are a strong story that evokes an emotion is what you’ll find. Find your calling card, something that is memorable. Think of it as your adult college essay.
People connect with stories that they can easily recall. A memorable story assists them in seeing you as a person behind your content. Did your parents have you pay for half of whatever you wanted growing up, leading you to love personal finance? That’s Erin from Broke Millennial‘s calling card. Jenna Kutcher‘s obsession with mac and cheese and sweatpants has allowed her to connect with her customers as a relatable producer of content (and gain her hundreds of thousands of followers in the process).
Trust is the most important thing you can cultivate. By sharing a personal part of you and establishing credibility, a user is more likely to trust you, your products, and your information. Use your story as a mission statement; a driving force for your brand messaging. Use it to establish a valuable connection with potential customers.
2. Establish your brand
Turn your unique story and your chosen skill set and industry niche into a recognizable brand. Take your wow factor, incorporate it into your brand, and start to flesh out what your value is to your ideal customers. Make yourself easily-discoverable online, and start to build a community around your story.
a) Create a portfolio
You need to create a professional website with work samples, a section that tells us who you are and what you’re about, and how you can be contacted. You want it linked everywhere you are: a guest blog post, your Twitter profile, a bumper sticker. People who like you should know exactly how to get ahold of you.
b) Be active in communities
Building and fostering community interaction is a great way to showcase your thoughts and ideas and get feedback from your target audience. Although many users on social media can often be mean and negative, there’s a whole world online that is incredibly supportive. Through Twitter Chats (like #Orcachat!), linking useful articles when users ask a question, and supporting other creators’ work, you can behind to build a loyal following.
IRL, connect with others at creative meet-ups, networking events, or conferences. If you’re in a major city, look for free panels and events to connect with others in your industry or events clients might frequent (Lean In and CreativeMornings are some of my favorites.)
c) Thought leadership
Take out a piece of paper. Write down three skills that you have. They can be as precise as you want (instead of copywriting, maybe it’s copywriting with 140 characters.) My three would be content creation in digital marketing, negotiating, and mentoring others. Now, how many of those skills have you acknowledged publically? How many have you explored in a way that is useful to others? Begin to feel what it’s like to share knowledge, and brand yourself as someone who knows what they’re talking about (because you do!)
3. Turn your brand into work
You’ve developed your brand and a following, so now what? How do you turn your work into profit? Well, if you think of yourself as a business, you and your services are the product. You become your own product development team, your own hype (wo)man, and your own ambassador. You’ve got this!
a) Know your audience/pain points
If you’re developing a product (or if you ARE the product), the first rule is knowing there is a need. When I was launching my freelance digital marketing services, I asked questions like: Do brands need social media strategy? Are there customers out there who will pay for it? Who are my customers? What matters to them? Consider your product and how it adds value to people’s lives.
b) Pitch yourself
So you think your dream clients will just find your content and want to hire you? I wish. Pitch yourself to organizations that could use your services (and you know which ones do through research!) or offer to write guest thought pieces for a blog. Contact podcast hosts in your area, offering to be a guest. Google the conferences in your niche, and reach out to the hosts with your information. When you find a brand or person you’d like to work with (that’s going to pay you!), pitch them and pitch them hard.
c) Leverage your community
Remember that community you built? Now it’s time to leverage it. When you’re gearing up for a launch, ask your community to share it with their friends. Recommend they join your email list. Retweet their content and they’ll do the same with yours. My incredible community of fellow female entrepreneurs and bloggers have supported me through every pitfall and success (and they’ve made me better.)
Cultivating a personal brand definitely isn’t without its hard work or challenges, but putting in the heavy lifting in the beginning can lead to speaking opportunities, your next client and/or mad cash. Go conquer!
Tori Dunlap is an award-winning digital marketer and entrepreneur. Founder of Her First $100K, helping millennials live life victoriously. Obsessed with finding cheap flights, reading a good book in the bathtub, and you. Follow her on Instagram here.