Your personal brand is almost synonymous with your business brand when you are a solo-entrepreneur. So, when I was pitched the following story, I knew I had to share.
Editor’s Note: This article was originally aimed at people looking for a job. However, the information was so applicable to solo-entrepreneurs, I convinced the author to make a few adjustments to make it more relevant to you.
5 Steps to Defining a Personal Brand
By Steven Starks, Senior Career Counselor at University of Phoenix
In today’s increasingly competitive market, it is critical for entrepreneurs to differentiate themselves from the competition.
To stand out in the market, entrepreneurs — especially solo-entrepreneurs — must be able to demonstrate a strong personal brand that’s visible both in-person and online and that communicates the value they offer in a way that resonates with potential clients. At its core, a personal brand is a person’s unique promise of value.
Discovering a personal brand begins with a bit of self-reflection and research by thinking about morals, ethics, and perceptions, and ends with honing the ability to communicate and deliver on the individual’s promise of value. But let’s be clear, a personal brand is about living and breathing those values every single day, not about meaningless self-promotion. It’s about building a reputation. If the promise of a personal brand is exaggerated or fabricated, then it becomes worthless.
To help define and develop a personal brand, follow these five steps.
1. Identify Brand Attributes
Everyone has a personal brand, whether they know it or not. One way to discover it is to ask questions that can help uncover personality traits, strengths, interests, and values. Through this, you can start to get an idea of what makes you tick, including the moments in life and work where you shine; the interests and passions you daydream about; and the values that are important to you.
With those attributes in mind, you can begin to formulate a personal mission statement for your brand. This mission statement will capture the purpose that drives you and the outcomes you strive to achieve. Once you’ve reflected on your own brand’s perception, you should seek feedback from others and evaluate whether or not the way you perceive your brand aligns with the way others perceive it.
2. Develop Goals
When you are regarded as an expert, people are more likely to buy into your brand. But, it will be hard to get others to buy into the value you offer if you haven’t taken the time to define what you want to be known for in the first place.
Clearly developing goals for what you want to accomplish will enable you to know where to invest your time and energy to enhance the skills, reputation, and professional relationships necessary to build a fruitful business. Start broadly — you shouldn’t limit the scope or size of your goals and dreams or prematurely judge whether or not you’re realistic.
3. Define the Audience
All successful brands know their target markets. They research their customers to understand what they want and need, so they can offer products and services that solve their problems, make their lives easier or offer them a pleasant experience. Similarly, entrepreneurs need to know who their target market is.
There are numerous ways to discover your target market. You can start with Internet research to learn more about what interests you, what products and services you’d like to provide. Then, you can conduct an informational interview by talking to potential customers of those products and services. Once your research has been completed, you can begin “business experiments”, like volunteering and freelance work. These opportunities allow direct exposure to the type of business of your interest and are ways to test them out before deciding to commit to a specific business.
4. Tell a Story
How you market yourself to your target market is part of your personal brand. Each web page, social media post or email to your list should be designed to influence the potential customer. Business owners seeking clients need to persuade prospects to check out their products and services and, eventually, purchase from them. Sending a clear message about how you can contribute to your prospect’s goals is critical to achieving this goal.
One way to establish the central theme of a personal brand is to develop a one-to-three-sentence personal brand statement. The goal of this statement is to quickly communicate your skillset, experience, education and perceived outcomes of working with you. This establishes credibility by providing evidence, such as years of experience, specific examples of success stories, and competencies earned through education and working with other clients.
5. Promote the Brand
An important part of promoting a brand is to evaluate the current state of your online presence. You should remember that when you engage in online activity, you leave behind a digital trace of information that is associated with your brand. If you don’t want a potential client to see something about you online, you should delete it and refrain from posting similar content in the future.
Once you have committed to building a brand, there are a few steps you can follow to stay on track. Each month, connect with people in your network, ask them how they are, and try to add value to their life, business or work. Another helpful step is to reflect on what you’ve accomplished and set new, forward-thinking goals. Once a year, enhance your education and competencies by learning something new or taking a class. And use that new knowledge to refresh your business and online bio, at least twice a year. The University of Phoenix offers certificate programs and continuing education courses that can help you learn the skills and competencies to demonstrate professional development.
In today’s market, individuals must engage in continuous learning and constantly build their personal brands to stay prepared for unexpected changes as well as advancement opportunities. These five steps can help form the foundation of a personal brand. Now, it is up to you to take action and define and build your brand.
About the Author
Steven Starks is a Senior Career Counselor at the University of Phoenix. He has been with the University for 11 years, also serving as a career coach for five years and a senior academic counselor. Starks is a National Certified Counselor and a featured career coach with TheMuse.com. Previously, he worked in the mental health industry providing individual and group therapy for clients struggling with severe mental illness, abuse, and trauma. Starks holds a Master’s in Psychology from the University of Phoenix and a Master’s in Mental Health Counseling from Walden University.
Want to develop your own personal brand?
Then enroll in the Personal Branding 101 workshop!
In this 22-minutes workshop, recorded live, you’ll learn the basics of personal branding. You’ll learn:
- What personal branding is
- Why it is important
- And how to develop your personal brand
This workshop includes video, audio, and a PDF workbook.