I’ll say it:
I really hate the phrase “personal brand”.
And the reasons for my disdain will become obvious as we go on.
However, I can’t deny that this thing called “personal branding” exists.
Furthermore, I can’t pretend that I’m not a good example of what is possible with effective personal branding.
I’d be a foolish communicator if I tried to make everyone use a less irritating phrase just because I don’t like it. So while I’ll be using the phrase “personal brand” and its various conjugations throughout this article, just know that it really pains me to do so.
I also must give you one other warning about this article: This isn’t a well-researched article. I haven’t spent hours and hours reading about the subject in order to be able to write this post.
You won’t find a long list of footnotes at the bottom with further reading.
I learned how to build a profitable personal brand through trial, error, blood, swear, and tears.
Most, if not all, of the points I raise here are based on my own experiences getting:
- 90,000+ followers on Twitter
- 10,000 followers on Instagram
- 100k pages per month on my website
- 13,000+ email subscribers
When it comes to personal branding, I know what I’m talking about. With that said, I’ll probably miss something—or even beyond that, say something that you flat-out disagree with. That’s cool too.
My social media and internet presence are the ultimate proof that what I’m saying works and I know how to build a personal brand.
As Bruce Lee once said: “Research your own experience. Absorb what is useful, reject what is useless, add what is essentially your own.”
(Read: “How To Grow Your Twitter Following”)
What is personal branding?
Your personal brand is simply what you put out for the rest of the world to see and how that is perceived by people.
Back before the internet, your personal brand was simply your reputation. If you didn’t have dollar to your name, you still had your name.
Your reputation a.k.a. your personal brand could get you a loan, get your favors, and help you get back on your feet. A good personal brand can get paid just like a good reputation.
This is simple enough to understand. The hard part is successfully applying this understanding in order to build a successful personal brand.
Building a successful personal brand requires tact and foresight.
When you build a personal brand, remember that you live and die by other people’s perception of you.
Add to that the internet and social media.
In the old days, you could easily bounce to a new location if you ruined your reputation. There was no yelp, twitter networks, blog posts, or light-speed communication around the world.
You could be a sinner in one city, a saint in another city just a few miles away, and no one would be the wiser. Well the internet has changed all that, and you need to be able to take advantage of it from the very start.
This article is will teach you how to build and manage your personal brand.
It doesn’t matter if you want to make a living from it or you simply want to get a better job and take advantage of the power of networking. You need to build a the type of personal brand that’s going to make your life easier.
It’s better to exert some control over how to appear to others than have it be left to chance. Of course, that doesn’t mean you should make yourself appear “perfect” or project a false version of yourself.
As you’ll see, building a personal brand is about authenticity, transparency, and relatability.
How to build a personal brand
Building a personal brand is a simple, three-part process:
Live your life transparently,
Share what you learn and experience along the way.
Let’s start from the top:
Living your life transparently
The number one goal—above all others in personal branding—is to be authentic.
People don’t want fake and inauthentic; they want someone they can relate to and connect with.
Your personal brand doesn’t need to be squeaky clean and perfect. If it were, you wouldn’t be able to connect to people.
It’s easier to form a person connection with people when you show them that you are flawed, human, and perfectly imperfect, Remember: the goal of your personal brand should be to emphasis the “personal” over the “brand”.
However, this is not to say that you should totally ignore it.
What you say, what you do, and who you are must align. You should live and breathe everything you talk about.
You don’t need to be an authority on whatever your personal brand is build around. You don’t even need to be accomplished or have expert status.
Those things help, but lacking either one is not an automatic death sentence.
What *is* a death sentence for your brand however, is presenting yourself as an expert when you aren’t one.
Projecting a false image of yourself will—sooner or later—come back to bite you in the ass.
Geoff Beattie, Cohn Global Practice Leader of Corporate Affairs, says the following about what people think of authentic companies:
A brand that has values and morals and stands by them no matter what while honestly divulging its practices (flaws and all). In fact, the thing people most wanted was open and honest communications about products and services. And that finding was consistent around the world.
You may not be a massive company, you are still subject to the rules of human connection. In fact, a personal brand is held to an even higher standard when it comes to authentic communication.
Trust and “fan” loyalty are critical to the long-term success of your personal brand, and once you lose someone’s trust it’s damn near impossible to win it back.
“You know my first week looking crazy due to high demand, ‘Cause people don’t buy music in this day and age, they buy the brand”
-Logic, *44 Bars*
Like I said, you don’t have to be the best at what you’re doing.
But you must be *doing* something.
The more unique and challenging, the better.
It doesn’t matter if you’re just getting started, as long as you are taking action.
Embarking on a journey and letting others come along is a great way to build a personal brand. By sharing your own insights, successes, and struggles, you can become a source of inspiration for others—and you enable people to learn along with you.
More important than that, it makes you human.
People can connect easier with someone who seems to be kind of like them, rather than some super-human robot. This is critical to building a tribe and finding your “10,000 true fans”—which can enable you to pursue your passions full-time.
It’s not difficult to become interesting because most people are terrified of standing out.
They don’t want to take risks, go out on limb, and do something extraordinary. This is where you come in.
It is incredibly easy, simple, fun, and profitable if you simply refuse to be like everyone else and follow the same tired script for living that most other people consider gospel.
My personal brand is thriving because of the usual life I’ve lived. At age 34, I:
- Went back to school at age 28 to get a degree in Physics
- I enlisted in the United States Army at the age of 27
- I won a national title as amateur boxer
- I was a professional heavyweight boxer with a 13-1-1 record
- I’ve written two books
- Played competitive chess
- Failed out of college the first time I tried to go
- I struggled with alcoholism and got sober
- I grew up in a public housing on welfare
I know that I’m leaving out so much, but this much should make my point clear.
I wasn’t the best scientist, boxer, or soldier. I didn’t start out in life with advantages and I almost ruined my life with alcohol.
All of this has given me an interesting life and made it very easy to build a powerful and enduring personal brand.
You don’t need to live my life, but you need to live a life. The more unique and satisfying, the more easily you’ll be able to build a personal brand.
“My heroes have the heart to live the life I wanna live” —Gnarles Barkley, *Crazy*
(Read: “How To Turn Your Life Around”)
Share your experiences
It doesn’t matter what you do if you don’t put yourself out there.
To build a personal brand, you must find a way to share your experiences and learnings with a wider audience.
(I wrote an amazing book about doing this through Twitter)
There are a ton of ways to do that and in many ways, it doesn’t really matter what option you choose—as long as it’s the right one *for you*.
If you don’t write well, there’s Instagram and YouTube.
If you’re not photogenic, there are podcasts and blogs.
If you struggle with producing long-form content, there’s Twitter.
There’s a mode of self-expression for everyone. You can dabble in all of them, but to maximize your chance of success, it’s best to focus on one or two of these.
And remember that writing, vlogging, podcasting, Instagramming, etc., are all skills that can be learned—and in some cases, completely outsourced.
Don’t let your inexperience with these forms of expression be what holds you back. There are simply too many ways to successfully execute personal branding.
How do you find your niche?
I get asked this question every now and then by people just starting out building a personal brand.
My answer is that you shouldn’t *try* to find a niche:
Authenticity is at the heart of personal branding because it allows people to connect with you on a personal level. That’s why this whole phenomenon exists in the first place.
Rather than grab attention by touting the benefits and features of a product, you build a network of like-minded individuals who look up to you and care about what you have to say.
Because you’re building relationships and making *yourself* the focus—rather than a service or product—it doesn’t make sense for you to “niche down”.
Personalities don’t fit neatly into specific niches. So the more narrow and “niched” your personal brand is, the less authentic you will be.
The less authentic you are, the weaker your personal brand will be.
The weaker your personal brand, the less money you’ll make and the more likely it is that you’ll give and go back to blending in with the crowd.
So don’t worry about focusing on a specific niche for your personal brand; let the full range of your personality and passions shine through.
You’ll have options, make more connections, earn more money, and be able to help more people.
No niche, no competition
The reason why people race to find a “niche” they can flourish in, is because it is believed to limit your competition and stand out easier.
That’s why companies niche down, in any case.
But when you have a strong and authentic personal brand, no one can compete with you.
That’s because no two people are alike. No two people have the exact same hobbies, lifestyle, personality, and life story.
When you allow all aspects of your being express itself via your personal branding, a niche of one is automatically carved out for you.
Some have called me a social media influencer on Twitter.
For the sake of argument, let’s say that I accept this label:
Well, I’m not in competition with other influencers because my fans follow *me* due to *who I am*, and other influencers’ fans follow *them* because of *who they are*.
If you sell hot dogs, someone could easily find out where you’re sourcing your hot dogs from, open an identical hot dog stand, and steal your customers.
But if you have a personal brand, people can try to copy you all they want.
They will never be able to *become you*, which is ultimately why people follow you and not them in the first place.
How to Make Money From Your Personal Brand
Let’s be honest:
The reason why most people are interested in starting a personal brand is so they can make money.
Now, if the *only* reason you’re in it is to make money, you’ll probably not be very successful.
Building a personal brand takes time.
People looking to make a quick buck won’t have the patience or the passion it takes to stick with it. Building a personal brand is a long game that can take several years you can fully support yourself from it.
If all you care about is money, you’re better off starting a business.
But if you have a desire to express yourself and share your experiences with an audience, there’s nothing wrong with making money off it.
There are many ways personal brands can make money. They generally fall into one of two categories:
Selling your own products
Promoting other people’s products
Both of these demand the creation of their own individual posts.
Here I will say that it’s a good idea to diversify your revenue streams; you don’t want to become so dependent on one source of income that you can’t manage without it.
A good personal brand makes it easy for you to have multiple streams of income.
- I have a book about life philosophy
- I help promote a CBD oil that I use
- I run a Twitter consulting group
- I wrote a book about Twitter
- I wrote a book about sobriety
I can dive into a variety of areas because my personal brand reflects my varied personality.
But let’s ignore *what* it is that you’re selling. *How* do you go about selling it?
(Read: “A Basic Bro Beginner’s Guide To Making Money Online”)
How to Promote Products with Your Personal Brand
Share your own story and your own experiences with that product.
My successful affiliate partnerships (“affiliate” marketing is when you promote someone else’s product in exchange for a commission fee) have all been based on sharing my personal experiences with that product.
I only promote stuff that I’ve tried myself, and when I promote them, it’s because I genuinely like the products—not because I’m trying to milk my audience for money.
I have one the most popular review of Wim Hof’s breathing course in the world. It heavily focuses on *how* I used the course and what *I, personally* got out of it.
(Read: “Review of the Wim Hof Method: does it work?”)
When I began promoting Sabaidee CBD, I simply talked about how I used it in my daily life and how it helped me reach my goals.
I didn’t have to “sell” hard—just shared it with my followers and told them my experiences with it.
Again, authenticity and transparency are critical. Don’t promote products you don’t believe in or use yourself, and don’t abuse your followers’ trust.
You may make a quick dollar, but it’ll be the last one you ever make from your personal brand.
(Read: The Benefits of Sabaidee’s Organic Hemp Based CBD Oil)
If You Want To Sell More With Your Personal Brand, Sell Less
Companies exist to sell a specific product or service.
For personal brands, the product is secondary.
They are in the business of building relationships, which means you don’t have to—and also shouldn’t—spend all your time constantly selling stuff.
When you’re not selling, you can focus on building trust and growing your audience.
Make sure that you’re a *giver* rather than a *taker*; people are more likely to believe your recommendations when you aren’t constantly trying to get them to buy something.
People will also look forward to consuming your content because it generally comes with no-strings-attached, and on the few occasions that you do promote something for sale, they won’t mind that much.
A word about teaching “online marketing”
There’s no scarcity of people whose “personal brands” are based entirely around teaching other people how to make money online.
Not only are these committing the mistake of niching down and thus being inauthentic to themselves, they are basically engaging in a pyramid scheme type of business model:
they make money teaching other people how to make money, who then almost inevitably go on to teach other people how to make money, and so forth.
It’s not a sustainable business model, and it’s not something you should want to be a part of.
There are far easier and more lucrative ways to profit from your personal brand,
Can you be anonymous and build a personal brand?
Not everyone is prepared to expose themselves to the vulnerability that inevitably comes with building an authentic and transparent brand.
After all, you’re sharing what are often intimate details about your life, for the whole world to see. That can be scary.
For this reason, some people opt for anonymity. The problem with this is that when your face is not the brand of what you are building, then you are—almost by definition—not a personal brand.
Before you decide to build a personal brand behind a veil of anonymity, consider this blurb from a curiosity.com article:
Princeton University psychology professor, Alexander Todorov, humans are “wired to look to faces to understand the person’s intentions.” A 2006 study shows that people decide whether or not they trust someone new after as little as 100 milliseconds… that’s faster than a heartbeat. And, as it turns out, a lot of our judgments are pretty predictable. After looking at a series of photos with varying facial features and expressions, most participants found faces with stereotypically feminine/baby-like facial features and happy expressions to be more kind and trustworthy, while mature and neutral faces were deemed more dominant and untrustworthy.
Anonymity takes away from the primary advantage you have in building a personal brand: it makes you less personable by removing the human.
If you’re building a brand from a position of anonymity, you’re basically building a corporation or company. That’s not a bad thing, as there are pros and cons to each approach.
Your personal brand makes you an open book to the world and your fans. If you don’t want that, then don’t start a personal brand.
There are a lot of other ways to make money in life, but a personal brand most likely isn’t for you.
The Most Important Thing For Your Personal Brand
If you take nothing else from this article, just remember to strive to be your best self. If you do that, you can mess up quite a few other things and still do alright.
This is the ultimate point of having a personal brand: to make a mark on the world as you strive to become a better version of the person you were yesterday.
If you commit to continuous improvement with unmitigated transparency, there is no limit to the connections you can make and the impact you can have.