What is personal branding?
Before the industrial revolution and the rise of giant factories, all businesses were small and personal branding was a result of word-of-mouth.
Even if you go back to history, you’ll find people whose actions gave them a personal brand that defies the test of time.
- Jesus Christ became the symbol of Christianity by sacrificing wholeheartedly.
- Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) came to confirm and complete the message of Adam, Abraham, Moses, Jesus, and other prophets.
- Mahatma Gandhi led India to its independence using nonviolent civil disobedience (a tactic still employed by NGOs today).
- Mother Teresa was an international symbol of charity.
- Martin Luther King Jr. defied the oppression of African-Americans.
Personal Branding Today
Entrepreneurship is on the rise, and young people are working on startups in hope of building their own business and quitting the 9-5 job.
Go on Instagram and you see personal trainers, fashionistas, bloggers, photographers, coaches, dietitians, and pretty much any field trying to make their way.
If you’re one of those, you might be asking yourself:
- How will I stand out from the crowd?
- How can I build a successful online business?
- Do I have what it takes?
The answer is your personal brand.Absorb what is useful, reject what is useless, add what is specifically your own. – Bruce Lee Click To Tweet
Your personal brand creates the emotional ties with your customers.
It’s a reflection of your personality and the tool to the impression you want to leave on people.
Once you establish your brand identity and strategy, you will start attracting the community and build an authentic relationship with them.
When that community starts sharing your content, more people will be approaching you for your business.
That’s the power of your personal brand.
With that being said, here’s a full checklist that will guide you building your own personal brand.
1. Your Mission
Ask yourself: “WHY am I doing this?” or “What is the purpose of my business?” Find the core mission of your business.
Identify your unique skills. Don’t copy what others are doing; you will never stand out if you are not authentic.
Research your target audience and find out what they struggle with. Your product should eventually solve that problem.
2. Pinpoint your Niche
After identifying your strengths, you now know where you can make an impact. Choose your field and narrow it down to one specific area, then become an authority in that area.
If you’re a dietitian, you’ll find hundreds of others online hustling their way to your clients.
Instead, narrow your field to child nutrition or pregnancy nutrition or sports nutrition and focus all your efforts on that subject. You can even label yourself as a pregnancy nutritionist.
People tend to appreciate specialty over the general practice.
3. Target Audience
Understand who your audience is and what they need from you.
Why do they follow your content?
Where are they usually active? Are they on Instagram or Linkedin?
What is the problem you can help them with?
Answer those questions and you’re ready to connect with them for business.
4. Brand Values
Personal branding is a business activity, and you should treat it as such.
How will you do business? Figure out your communications, customer service strategy, etc.
Is it based on trust? Would you visit a dentist who doesn’t have a good reputation?
How will you build loyalty? That’s the key to repeat business. Remember that it is more expensive to find new customers than to keep your current ones.
You’ll spend more advertising money for attracting new ones, while you can just prioritize customer service to keep your clients happy.
5. Brand Ethics
Brand ethics will guide your way. Learn to say no if something doesn’t align with what your business stands for.
6. Brand Message
Have a consistent brand message and make sure you communicate clearly across all channels. Remember that each channel is fit for a certain type of content.
You might shoot a long video on facebook and a behind-the-scenes skit on Instagram.
7. Buy a Domain Name
This will be the backbone of all your online efforts. Personal branding is not complete without it.
You will be surprised at how easy it is to start a blog or website. I started this blog in 30 minutes and it only costs $4/month (paid annually).
Stay away from free domains like www.yourname.wordpress.com because if you don’t take your business seriously, your audience won’t.
Choose a name for your business and check if it’s available for purchase below then follow instructions. Check my step-by-step guide.
Having your own custom domain increases the credibility of your personal branding.
8. Professional Email Address
Once you own your domain, you can now create a professional email address like [email protected]. This will add even more credibility to your business.
The face of your business and core of your identity is your logo. I recommend hiring a professional graphic designer to do it for you if you can afford it.
If you’re on a budget, you can do it yourself with a free logo creator online or buy a cheap stock logo to start with.
Just make sure it’s simple and reflects your brand identity.Your brand is more than your logo; it's a complete extension of you. Click To Tweet
If you find your customers online, you NEED a functional and appealing website.
This is where you can add all the information about your business like your mission, products, testimonials, and people will be able to easily find you on Google.
It’s your office on the internet!
Depending on the size of your business, your budget, and your experience, you have few options:
- Hire a web designer/developer to build a custom website
- Choose a free theme on WordPress and customize it (they will sometimes have their name in the footer of your site)
- Buy a professional theme on WordPress and customize it to your needs.
11. Business Cards
Personal branding doesn’t stop on social media. You have to show up at relevant events and conferences.
Even if you’re not planning on attending those, you never know when you meet a potential client or someone you can collaborate with.
Taking a business card out of your sexy business card holder implies you’re a serious person. Always have these in your pocket, even if you’re out for fun.
Make sure your cards are attractive and have a clear call-to-action.
12. Social Media
Your presence on social media will be fundamental to your personal branding strategy.
Secure your social media handles as soon as you secure your domain and make sure they are consistent across all channels like @mohdmortada.
Next, find out where your audience spends most of their time. If your audience is professional, they might be active on Linkedin and if they are university students, they might be on Instagram or Snapchat.
Focus your activity on those channels and before you know, you’ll be driving traffic to your business.
Claim your territory. Choose a dedicated space, organize and design it to motivate you to work. It might be a corner of your room, inside your closet, or a dedicated office.
Make sure it’s your uninterrupted bubble; a place where you pour your creative magic.
Try to brand it and make it reflect your brand; it will inspire you to work.
Establish your own unique theme with specific colors and style, especially on Instagram. If you do your own photography, use strong lighting and adopt one consistent style, use the same filter and props every time.
If you get your photos online, make sure you pick them under a consistent theme as well. You should also use photos with no usage rights.
In both cases, focusing on quality will propel your brand to new levels.
15. Professional Portraits
Use a professional photo as your profile image across all your online channels. Include it on your website in the about me section to give a human face to your brand. People find it more natural talking to a person. You can take your own photo if your have the skills, hire a professional photographer, or visit a studio.
Typography reflects your brand identity, so spend some time choosing one to three fonts max. Your font selection will depend on the business you’re in.
If you’re a fashion brand, you might go for some artistic fonts, and if you’re a corporate business, you might stick with more formal fonts.
I personally use Fira Sans for my graphics since it has 18 styles to choose from.
Whatever you choose, use your fonts consistently across your website, online and offline brand.
17. Brand Personality
Your personal branding should reflect YOU. Set a positive character and share your mojo with your community. Positive interactions with you will translate into positive emotions with your business or brand.Be yourself; everyone else is already taken. – Oscar Wilde Click To Tweet
18. Brand Colors
Color psychology is absorbed subliminally; it means your mind triggers certain emotions from it. Vibrant colors reflect energy while neutral colors might imply formality or sophistication.
Check the below infographic and choose your colors. Try to choose two (or three at most).
19. Blog Post Graphics
Create a template for your posts and modify while maintaining consistency.
Make sure you use the right dimensions on every channel. Here’s a guide for dimensions on major social media platforms. (px=pixels).
If you are not a designer, you can use Canva to create those or hire a professional.
20. Email List
Social media channels live on your advertising money.
The average organic (non-paid) reach of your Facebook post is around 1% of your audience.
So if your Facebook page has 10,000 followers, only 100 of those will see your post if it’s not shared or engaged with. If you want more likes, you pay.
That’s where the power of email marketing kicks in. Emails go to each and every inbox. It’s your best tool for direct communication with your audience. Only a few businesses take the time to create a newsletter or email sequence to connect with their audience.
21. Community Management
Being active and building authentic relationships with your community is a natural requirement for your personal branding.
Set an hour a day to reply to their comments or like them. More engagement drives more traffic.
Join relevant Facebook Groups where you can join the conversation and offer your bits of wisdom. This will later set you as an authority in your field.Connect, build trust, inspire, and be consistent. This is how you build a community. Click To Tweet
22. Eye on the Competition
You are not alone in the market and everyone wants a piece of that cake.
Survey the top competitors in your field, analyze their offering, then top it. What is unique about your brand? Figure out what you can do better and emphasize on that.
Dig deep, I’m sure you’ll find at least one thing you excel at.
If you’re serious about going to war, read the classic book The Art of War. It’s originally a military book but used by top universities in business schools.
23. Blog Frequency
Blogging is too time-consuming, but I love every second of it. You gotta love the process if you are to continue.
The average post needs 2-3 hours between research, writing, editing, graphics design. Longer posts, like this one, take even more.
Figure out your pace. How often can you publish new posts consistently?
Once a week? Twice? Daily?
I suggest you start with once a week to test your speed then build up from there.
If you are a slow typer, like I am, take some free typing lessons.
Set your pace and let your audience know when to expect your content.
24. Content Strategy
Time for a 5-minute exercise. Get a pen and paper.
- Write your main topic
- Write possible subtopics
Here’s an example:
Main Topic: Digital Marketing
Subtopics: Content Marketing, Social Media, Email Marketing, SEO, Mobile Marketing, etc.
These topics will be your conversation across all your channels.
Stick to your niche and don’t be tempted to drift away. Don’t worry about running out of topics, there are many ways to generate new content.
25. Brand Language
How will you communicate with your community?
Check out the difference in these replies:
- Dear Mr. Mortada
- Dear Mohammad
- Hey Mohammad
You see the difference in tone? Who you are and who your audience is will define how you communicate.
Choose your tone. Will you be youthful and energetic, polite, or crazy?
Be comfortable with who you really are!
Everyone is unique. That’s the beauty of personal branding.
26. Brand Story
If Eminem didn’t share his miserable childhood with the world, they wouldn’t have been able to understand where the rage in his lyrics came from.
Consider the stories of Adele, Tony Robbins, Richard Branson, and many celebrities. People are driven by emotions and if you have a story to tell, you’ll be ahead of the competition.
27. Balance your Brand
Find the sweet spot between professional and personal posts on social media.
It’s cool to slip a family photo, introduce your friend, your pet, or your childhood between these informative posts and motivational quotes.
People will connect with you on a more personal level, just remember to keep it balanced.
28. Writing Style
Similar to your brand language, you’ll need to discover your style of writing and apply it throughout your blog posts, emails and any written communication.
Will it be formal or informal?
Does it include emojis? How colorful will it be?
Are you a filmmaker who can add richer media?
Can you design infographics to supplement your story?
Developing a unique style that delivers the message in the most effective way will attract an audience that appreciates this style and keeps coming back for more.
29. Email Signature
Your email signature is one of those hidden elements of your personal branding.
Brand it by adding your own image, logo, or signature.
You can also add a short bio, your contact information, social media buttons, and website URL.
Some companies update them with current campaigns.
Here’s how mine looks:
30. Buzz Words
What three words best describe your brand?
I might label BMW with the words: speed, performance, and luxury.
Figure out your three keywords; they will protect you from distraction and help you decide what your personal branding stands for.
Well, this is certainly not a small list to deal with. I’m still improving my own.
Be patient, set a plan, make actionable steps and tackle them one at a time.
By the words of AC/DC: “it’s a long way to the top if you want to rock and roll”.