Every day I get the Gorkana newsletter straight to my inbox, around lunchtime, where I peruse the latest goings on in the media world in between a chicken salad and a cup of tea. I love reading who’s moved on (career-wise nothing morbid) and who’s got promoted – it feels like a sense of community amongst journos. But what hasn’t gone unnoticed is the amount of freelancers there announcing their new move into the world of endless pitching and tax returns. Granted, it’s scary and sad to think the reason numbers are increasing could be because the future of magazines is uncertain, but it’s also an exciting time to build a personal brand. Brand you.
Even if you’re not a journalist, whatever your profession or passion, positioning yourself as a brand and establishing a digital footprint is now more important than a CV. So much so that 75% of HR departments are required to search job applicants online and of all executive recruiters, 90% admit that they conduct online research of potential candidates. That means that if you don’t have a strong personal brand online, it’s likely that your competition, who does, will get the job over you. I mean, this probably won’t apply to the public sector – I’m pretty sure putting out a fire effectively or knowing how to do CPR is more important than if your websites on point!
But for the rest of us, building a personal brand is key if you want to establish yourself as a professional and an expert in your field. Since going freelance, I’ve been obsessed with podcasts, online seminars and stories from digital entrepreneurs and how they built their career. And regardless of what profession they’re in, it all started with an idea, a positive attitude and positioning themselves like a boss online. Being a freelancer is competitive – it requires a thick skin and a big appetite for success, but isn’t this all of us in some shape or form? Don’t we all want to succeed in whatever we’re doing? Damn right. So these are a few things to help you build your personal brand.
START THINKING OF YOURSELF AS A BRAND
First things first – you’ve got to get in the zone! You may not have a single staff member under you and sure enough, sitting at your dining room table surrounded by Next catalogues and last night’s empty red wine bottle ain’t no Adidas or Cocoa Cola. But that’s OK. The first point of buisness is defining your key traits. What are you good at? It doesn’t have to be something award-winning, it could be a personality trait like organisation – did you totally boss your besties hen do last year? It totally counts. Are you someone that can recite every line in Friends – that’s a good memory you’ve got there!
Once you have a pretty substantial list in front of you, you can start to see your strengths and how you can apply them to your personal brand. If management skills is your MO, could you offer yourself as a consultant to help others follow your lead? I think we’ve got a starting point!
FIND YOUR AUDIENCE
Now that you’ve figured out your traits, you can share them with the world! Knowing your audience is vital to position yourself exactly where you need to be. Where do your peers hang out online? How can you get the attention of the job you want? LinkedIn and Google + is always a great place to start, along with Pinterest and Instagram (if it’s visual), Twitter, online forums and communities.
Having a website or blog is the perfect way to showcase your work in a portfolio format. Having a plugin like Yoast can help optimise your site for SEO. I know, yawn, but so important if you want to crop up on Google for the right reasons and not just for those drunken Facebook pictures from 2005! Having a base like a website also means you can publish your links everywhere and start establishing that digital footprint. Pingomatic can send a message to all search engines that you’ve updated your site whereas sites such as Bloglovin (follow me here) can share your content to like-minded people. It also means you can delve into the world of hashtags to start building an audience and cropping up in searches by potential employers.
PUT YOURSELF OUT THERE
One of the greatest pieces of advice I’ve been given is get comfortable with being uncomfortable. Breaking out of your comfort zone is pretty much the only way you’re going to really grow your career. Sure, that nice and cosy place you’ve been camping out for the last few years feels warmer than a pair of Ugg slippers but it’s not going to get you to where you need to be. Starting a blog has probably been the most challenging thing I’ve done – I’m nowhere near where I want to be, but I wouldn’t have worked with some of my favourite brands without putting myself out there.
But the great thing to take home is, everything you put out on the internet will only reach a tiny percentage of your audience to begin with. So, if your work is full of typos or you tanked at that YouTube seminar, don’t sweat it, there’s always a second, third and fourth chance to get it right! If starting a podcast on your subject is what you’d love to do, start researching it and getting a plan together. If you’ve scored an amazing client – shout about it, get that news into the world because like attracts like and you’re more likely to get another client as a result.
ASSOCIATE WITH OTHER ‘BRANDS’
Surrounding yourself with the right kind of people will make all the difference to achieving your goal. I’m not saying if you’re a hairdresser you only have to be friends with other hairdressers, but if you want to build an online presence, make the effort to get to know like-minded people who are also on the same wavelength. Start with the three C’s: company, college, colleagues. Are there groups or communities you can join – online or IRL? Perhaps you can arrange monthly mentoring sessions with someone superior to you so you can pick their brains about their success or maybe your company has a website that you can contribute to which would give you another string to your bow. What hidden opportunities are available within your company which you have yet to tap?
A strong personal brand is usually attached to a strong story. Martha Stewart, Alan Sugar, Richard Branson – they all had an interesting starting point or a starting point that sparked their passion. What’s yours? Did you have bad skin as a teen which is why you became a dermatologist? Were you always maxing out credit cards so you became an accountant? If you need help to determine what your story is, grab a copy of Reinventing You by Dorie Clark – it’s amazingly inspirational.
Once you have a clear understanding of your personal brand, run that thread through everything you do and hammer it home. From your website design and your logo to your social media pages, your email signature , colour scheme and everything in between – keep it concise and 100% you.
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