How to build your personal brand while keeping it real
As a freelancer, you are your business. Sure, your clients are hiring you for the work you do and what they think you can do for their brand. They’re assessing your understanding of their company, your communication skills, and how you present your work. But they’re also hiring you because they think they’ll like working with you – they’re hiring you for your personal brand.
Communicating your personal brand can seem like a delicate balance. You want to be yourself while maintaining professionalism as a freelancer. But too often, we see professionals establish a brand that’s not true to who they are – to their personality and core values. This typically leads to unstable client relationships, lost trust and potentially a negative reputation.
With an authentic personal brand, on the other hand, you’ll attract clients whose values and interests align with yours. And by embracing your uniqueness, you’ll stand out among the competition. You’ll also have a lot more fun being yourself and talking about the things you love. Here’s your guide to building your personal brand authentically.
1) Use the channels that come naturally
Sharing your knowledge through writing is a great way to build a personal brand. But if you’re not comfortable writing (and if you’re not selling writing services), your time is better invested elsewhere.
Find the outlet that’s the best fit for expressing yourself authentically. If you love to write and have plenty of time to do so consistently, then use a blog or Medium to build your personal brand. If you’re great at taking short, entertaining videos, then consider Snapchat, Vine or Instagram. If you’re awesome at making long, educational videos, then YouTube could be perfect for you.
When deciding where you want to present your brand, think about where your most ideal clients hang out online; what services you’re selling (where will clients be looking for your services?); and what feels most natural to you – what’s going to be the most fun.
For example, photographer Kirsten Alana’s strong personal brand on Instagram led to her consulting brands on how to build their presence on the platform. Comedian Aaron Chewing landed multiple jobs using Vine, and Peep Lynn has found some of her favorite clients through Twitter and her blog.
2) Be real, be heartfelt
To truly connect with your audience, you need to seem like a real person, not robototic or fake. By speaking and writing from your heart, you become more relatable. And by being relatable, you will foster deeper, more genuine connections. As Neil Patel says, “You can’t fake authenticity. It’s hard to open up, to be real, to feel raw, and to share things that are, well, heartfelt.”
For example, Meg Lewis, designer and founder of Ghostly Ferns takes her not-so-serious outlook seriously. She has fun in everything she does, including client work. She wants to work with clients who also love what they do and have fun with it, and she’s made that clear in her personal brand.
Paul Jarvis is another designer and freelance professional who’s not afraid to be himself online. He truly speaks from his heart and doesn’t hold back. He embraces his critics with open arms. He knows his style isn’t for everyone and has built a successful business by relating to those who appreciate his openness and honesty. He attracts clients and students who he wants to work with and wants to help.
advice is a snake, made out of 💩, eating its own shitty tail, in the shape of an ∞ sign https://t.co/Ruhhyitpzp
— Paul Jarvis (@pjrvs) July 7, 2016
3) Give a glimpse inside your life
Let your audience get a glimpse of what your real life looks like. Share photos of you doing something outside of work – a hobby like ceramics, travel photos, you doing something active or cool, etc.
Much like speaking from your heart, this allows your potential clients to get to know who you really are. People like working with people who they have something in common with or who they admire. The more you let your audience into your life, the more opportunities you’ll create for deeper connections and stronger relationships.
For example, when Peep Logan goes hiking and camping, he shares the journey of each trip on his Instagram. He goes beyond sharing photos of the sights. He shares what his thoughts were, how his surroundings made him feel, and how those feelings relate to everyday situations.
I am 24 and lost. The path that I had followed for years, through each level of schooling, had clear direction. Where one year finished, another year began. There was finality and continuity and foggy clarity. What came next was known. And then I graduated college. 🌲 Although the path is still there, the space to creatively maneuver expanded radically. Despite career fairs digging trenches for those who want blinders and a predictable path, the rules of movement have changed. No longer am I tied to the trail of others. Terrifying as it may be, I am now at the mercy of my own ambition. I choose which peaks of success to summit, which rivers of doubt to forge, and which Yosemite granite field to rest. 🌲 Passing from Tuolumne Meadows to Glen Aulin, the trail took us to a granite slab so white I thought it was snow. Gargantuan in size, the stone masked the trail from clear sight. Like the moment after receiving my diploma, I was free to cross this section of the hike, or life, with my own crafted route. Run up to the peak or down to the river’s edge: my choice. 🌲 And when I’m done being lost, all I have to stop, breathe, perch on a boulder and peer. Speckled on the “snowy” surface, balancing cairns are always left by those who had found successful routes before. Guiding me back from my own reckless youth, the collective humanity appears as a safety net for those sauntering through the wide wild of our life. 🌲 #Yosemite #YosemiteNationalPark #TuolumneMeadows #Granite #FindYourPark #EveryTrailConnects #awesupply
A photo posted by Logan Stoneman (@log.stone) on
The result is his audience knowing that he likes to hike, sure. But also that he is a thoughtful and sincere writer. They feel like they know him as a person, not just a freelancer.
4) Share your struggles
With the good and the fun, comes the challenging, less glamorous aspects of our lives. In the spirit of being real, share your struggles and challenges. This lets your audience get to know your character and better understand the work you do and the effort that goes into it. For example, Meg – who you met above – shares her challenges and how she overcomes them on Twitter and Instagram in a very real, honest and authentic way.
One of my favorite things about being a freelancer is listening to my body. Last week, I was feeling completely unproductive and would sit at the computer doing nothing, producing awful work, and feeling extremely guilty about it. Because of this, I made sure to take a long weekend outside with friends and family to get away from my to-do list and the computer. In the middle of the weekend, I felt it. The creativity and energy came back to my brain and I stayed up until 3am working and making some incredible things. The next day I went back outside and spent the day with friends. The last couple of days I’ve worked from 9am-2am because I was having so much fun I couldn’t stop. Productivity comes in so many different forms and can arrive at any time for me. Being able to step away and admit when my body isn’t up to the task is something I feel so privileged to do. #houseofnonsense
A photo posted by Meg Lewis (@darngooood) on
The way Meg talks about challenges that many different people face – freelancers and founders – makes her relatable, approachable and likable.
5) Be bold to be memorable
There are many ways to be memorable. If you wear bright colors or write frankly without a filter, you will be memorable. If you create beautiful designs or take stunning photos, you’ll create a lasting impression. If you educate and share experiences, you’re going to be remembered. If you’re consistently helping people, they will remember your kind acts.
Being memorable is all about having an impact. And having an impact takes being different, which usually means embracing and highlighting what’s unique about you. Have unique taste? Curate the things you love on social media. Know a lot about music or cooking? Make a playlist or recipe blog for your audience. Show them that you care about them by sharing what you’re good at.
The gist here is to be yourself and to share your passions with your audience. By doing so, you’ll not only be memorable, but you’ll also be approachable. And by being approachable, you’ll build meaningful connections.
Striking the balance between bold and professional
Being bold and being yourself will make you memorable and will help you build important, lasting relationships with clients and colleagues. But it’s important to remain professional as well. That means being a respectful and responsible business owner. Being quirky isn’t a free pass to miss deadlines or breach contracts. You can be yourself while maintaining a necessary degree of professionalism. Whenever you’re putting something out to the public, we suggest asking yourself: “would I hire me?” If the answer is no, you should probably reconsider how you approach that specific topic.
Looking for a platform to build your authentic brand on? We just launched CloudPeeps Storefronts, where you can create a dynamic story around you and the services you offer. Create yours today. If you need some inspiration, check out Noell Bell’s awesome Storefront.
*Above photo by Leon Biss.*
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