When I first got started in content marketing, I was floored that while most “successful” freelancer writers made around 40-60k USD a year, there were some charging upwards of $900 an hour.
While those 1k an hour people definitely were highly skilled at what they did, they also had something else that contributed to the price tag: Name recognition and a powerful brand behind that individual name.
Whether you’re interested in creating a name for yourself as a social media marketer or you want to help your solopreneur clients create a name for themselves through social media, it’s essential to understand the value and strategies behind personal branding.
What Is Personal Branding?
Personal branding is the process of marketing an individual to create a distinct reputation and promote their visibility.
It’s not really any different from branding a business aside from the fact that you’re focusing on the perspective of how customers view an individual person.
You can have a high-visibility brand like Grove Collaborative, for example, who is known for being focused on clean, safe products that are eco-friendly. They’re a “green” company with great customer service. That’s their brand.
Individuals can have brands, too. An iconic example that everyone knows is Gary Vaynerchuck (also known as “Gary V”). He’s known as being innovative and a determined hard worker that values authenticity. He’s “real.”
It comes down to treating your individual reputation as a brand, and determining what you want people to associate with your name and how to go about creating that association.
Why Personal Branding Matters
Personal branding allows you to cultivate a professional image that you want to represent yourself, which becomes especially valuable if you want to have your own business or be seen as an influencer in some way.
Branding gives you some amount of control over how others see you professionally, which can help you attract the type of clients and professional opportunities that you’re looking for.
A social media marketer, for example, could brand themselves in any of the following (and even sometimes overlapping) ways:
- A data-driven social media marketer who is in touch with all the cutting-edge strategies and features right when they’re released
- A social media expert who specializes in creating, managing, and nurturing communities through Facebook Groups
- THE Facebook Ads expert that you need to call if you’re an eCommerce business
- A boutique social media marketing and branding expert who can help you determine who you want to be on social media
You can even niche down, until you’re known as the go-to Instagram marketer for beauty brands, or a leading expert in paid social ads to the point where you’re asked to speak at conferences and on webinars.
If you want to stand out from your competition and make a name for yourself to get new clients (read: have clients start coming to you), advance your career, and gain new employment or professional opportunities, personal branding is the way to go.
How to Get Started with Personal Branding
Ready to create or revamp your personal brand? Let’s go step by step through the process of what you need to consider when launching your personal brand and how to get started.
Think About What Makes You Unique
When creating a personal brand for yourself (or your clients!), it’s important to think about what makes you unique and what resonates with you.
Trying to be someone else or to fabricate an entirely made-up persona won’t work. If you’re introverted by nature, trying to seem glib and hyper-confident will absolutely fall flat.
There are plenty of different facets that make you unique.
Think about your personality. Have people always said that you’re reliable? Funny? Quick-witted? Techy? Analytical? Even brash? These are all qualities you can work into your brand.
Then take a look at your past experience. Where is most of your experience? What did you enjoy doing most? Maybe while working at an agency you spent a ton of time on engagement management and realized that Instagram Stories were your favorite part of the job. Or perhaps you know that you love working with eco-friendly brands, businesses in the finance industry, or small businesses getting started.
Finally, consider your interests. I’ve known some freelancers who have built strong personal brands around working with nonprofits because that’s an important interest they had. Others have excelled when targeting clients in the food and beverage industry because they were self-proclaimed foodies.
Make a list, looking for highlights that you really want to make standout features of your brand.
Consider the Audience You Want to Reach
If you know what type of clients you want to reach, you’ll typically want to tailor your personal brand around their typical needs and preferences.
I’ve seen marketers who are brash and not-quite-but-almost-are rude in public posts, being loud about how wrong major brands are about their social strategies. While this can attract a few high-value enterprise clients who like that energy, this almost definitely isn’t the approach you’d want to take when working with small businesses that would be intimidated and run fast.
What audience do you want to reach, and how should that impact the brand that you put out? This is important to understand before you start creating content or jumping on platforms, and the “who you want to be” will be defined by “who you want to work with.”
Determine The Types of Content You Want to Create
Personal branding is most effective when you’re regularly creating some sort of content that helps show off the brand while building an audience. This can include blogging, social media posts, live videos, and filmed video content.
It’s common to see social media marketers turning to LinkedIn to share both articles and long-form posts with the intent of driving engagement and visibility. As more users engage with their posts, more people outside their network will see it, too, helping them to get the name brand recognition that they want.
Others strongly prefer video content, creating thriving YouTube channels full of how-to and screen-grab content that’s tailored to show up in searches for the types of results that their ideal clients might use.
There’s nothing wrong with using standard social media posts, either. Just make sure that your persona and brand voice is well-reflected across each media type that you want to use to keep things consistent. You don’t want to be bold and hilarious in a LinkedIn post and then soft-spoken and rigid in video.
Decide Which Platforms You Want to Use
The platforms that you’ll want to use to promote your personal brand will depend heavily on what types of content you want to create, the persona you’re developing, and the audience you want to reach.
Let’s say that you’re offering social media marketing services for accountants at an established firm where the partners are all 40+ years old. TikTok probably isn’t going to be your best bet for a client connection, even if you’re opting for video content. You’d be better off turning to Facebook and LinkedIn, along with blogging on your site.
If, however, you’re trying to build a name for yourself as a social media marketer who can help brands connect with younger audiences for their eCommerce fashion lines, go big on TikTok to show what you can do along with sharing practical tips on LinkedIn, too.
Getting the right platforms to enhance your brand is an important step, so don’t skip it.
Create Sites, Profiles, & Portfolios That Reflect Your Persona
You’ve got an idea know of what you want your personal brand to be, and how you want to build it. That’s excellent.
Now it’s important to make sure that not only the new content reflects your brand, but that your website, social media profile bios, and existing portfolios reflect it, too.
Let’s look at an example from a social media marketer named Shayla Bond.
On her website, she doesn’t say she’s “a generalist” which is sometimes unfairly looked down upon; she stresses that she’s “the Swiss Army Knife of Marketing” with everything coming in “a neat little package.” She backs this up with a diverse portfolio, and her site, images, and even logo are all professional. You get a good idea of who she is just from this bio.
Let’s look at another example from a well-known Facebook Ads specialist, Sarah Sal.
Sarah’s website is a completely different aesthetic, though still professional. She uses a copywriting strategy she’s nearly famous for (storytelling) to back up how her unconventional methods can generate unbelievably strong results. And knowing no one will take these claims at face value, she features a case study right there that backs them up.
These same tones should be used on all social media sites so that clients don’t feel that they have whiplash, and to create a more recognizable personal brand.
Always Be Authentic
As you’re defining your brand and creating content, remember to stay true to the most authentic version of yourself that you can. If you’re trying too hard to be someone that you’re not, it won’t work.
I’ve seen this too many times.
I know that right now, “edgy” content marketers are in… but that’s not who I am. I’m direct, but not overtly harsh. I build personal relationships with my clients where we chat about my dogs and their kids, but I prefer to abide by traditional “professional” codes otherwise.
I couldn’t try to be an edgy marketer that fits outside of a conventional professional mould. It would ring false, even if I got a few great zingers in my site copy, the second that someone jumped on the phone with me. And that kind of disconnect can be alarming to a client because no one likes to feel lied to or played.
Be you. Pick a personal brand that aligns with who you actually are, and never lose sight of that as you continue to build it.
Examples of Social Media Marketers With Great Personal Brands
There are plenty of social media marketers and experts who have created strong personal brands. We’ve already looked at a few in the post so far.
If you want to take a look at a few more marketers who have developed strong personal branding for themselves, check out the following:
- Andrew Vahl, who is known as one of the top Facebook marketing experts and has a huge store of educational content for beginner and intermediate marketers alike
- Jon Loomer, who has made a career sharing the latest advanced strategies for Facebook Ads in his courses designed to teach other advertisers how to get results
- Jenn Herman, who became a well-known Instagram expert partially by writing high-value content for major publications like Social Media Examiner
- Jeff Sieh, who created “Manly Pinterest Tips” to help brands targeting male audiences on Pinterest connect with their clients
Even if you’re seeking traditional employment with a private company or in an agency, there’s so much value to be gained by developing a personal brand that’s well-known and respected.
If there isn’t someone out there like you yet, that’s okay; give it a go and show the world what they’re missing. And even if there are others with similar personal brands, the world is big enough for that, too.
Make sure that you’re partnering up with brands and other freelancers who align with your personal brand to continually reinforce it, and don’t be afraid to adapt a bit as you go. We always evolve over time; our brands can, too.
Want to learn more about how you can create a name for yourself (or your clients!) in the industry of choice? Take our personal branding course today.