Oftentimes, especially in the freelance world, we try to maintain a work / life balance by keeping who we are out of what we do for a living. Finding a way to thrive in the overlap between personal and professional is what it means to have a personal brand, and it’s essential for living what you love, staying happy...and getting hired.
Having a personal brand is understanding and embracing that business is personal. When you are capturing, shaping, and sharing who you are with your client it deepens the relationship and the trust – leaving you with positive client experiences and a total dream job. A personal brand is the packaged and definitive you – both the surface-y things, like your personal style, and the deeper stuff, too.
Here are 5 tips for cultivating your personal brand both online and off:
1. Be memorable. Part of what makes me memorable to my clients is having a head full of blonde dreadlocks and having a distinct and unapologetic personal style. But it has even more to do with my attitude, point-of-view, and gifts of knowledge. A personal brand is far more about what you do than what you look like. A personal brand is what makes you memorable while networking, but it’s also what gets you hired. So ask yourself, what is going to stand out about you at first impression? It doesn’t have to be surface-only, but you’ve got to start with a spark before you can turn it into a sustaining flame.
2. Tell a story. Your personal brand is what you want others to know, do, and feel. Your stories add up. They set the tone and intention of what you’re sharing with others. What are the behind-the-scenes stories of your business and your life that you love sharing? Why are you telling them? Do you want to make people laugh, to gasp, or to reassure them? Or do you want to tell helpful, how-to stories and share some of your own tips and secrets to success?
3. Be personal. Recognize that business is personal. Yes, it pays the bills, but at the same time you’ve made it your purpose to help another human being with your talent and skills. If you can strip your preconceived notions of what you and your client are supposed to look and talk and act like you can really start to get to the core of who you are. You’ll start to get cozy in that work / life overlap. If you aren’t a corporation, stop acting like one. If your clients have a more casual style, maybe it’s okay for you to be more casual, too. Over time a personal brand can actually attract dream customers that end up being – well, a lot like you.
4. Be likeable. This tip will take you far, and is the follow-up to “be personal.” It sounds like a no-brainer, but being likeable isn’t just about being nice. It’s about ditching industry jargon, writing (and speaking) the way you really talk, being honest about what you can and cannot do, and being a bit more transparent about your creative process and why you make the decisions you do.
5. Become your own number one client. One of the best ways to bring who you are into what you do is with passion projects. A passion project is something you work on out of true, artistic desire. It’s a project you work on for your own creative fulfillment – it may have nothing to do with your specific craft or industry and it’s certainly not something you are creating specifically to sell, though that’s not to say it couldn’t be part of your portfolio or potentially become a product you could one day sell.
Editor's Note: Kathleen Shannon is a branding and business visioning consultant for creative entrepreneurs as a co-founder of Braid Creative. She is a nationally award winning art director turned free spirited champion for business-minded creatives. Her “don’t-just-dream-it-do-it” style pervades everything from her work to her life, home, food and adventures at her personal blog Jeremy & Kathleen, which has been featured on Glamour blog, A Practical Wedding, Making It Lovely, A Cup of Jo and We Like We Love. She’ll follow a whim from painting larger-than-life stripes in her living room hallway, to trekking the foothills of Mount Everest – just to have a good story to tell.