Whether you intentionally build your personal brand or not, you have one. You deserve to be in control of it.
Personal branding is a blessing and a curse in a world of overcrowded social media platforms and instant access to information. Building a personal brand can help you control your career’s narrative and bring the right professional opportunities to your doorstep (or DMs).
But it can also feel overwhelming and challenging to find your sense of direction. Choosing the right platforms, deciding to create content or not, and defining your target audience might not be part of your job training.
Not every professional has to make reels or build a YouTube channel. But understanding why personal branding is important can help you navigate your career on your terms, grow your professional network, and stand out.
What’s personal branding?
Personal branding is the strategic and intentional process of curating a public image to manage people’s impression of you. You’ll express your unique personality and skills to control the narrative around who you are and what you offer.
Like a professional reputation, everyone has a personal brand — whether you purposefully develop it or not. The key to branding yourself effectively is learning to control how you communicate your brand through consistent and coherent marketing strategies.
Here are a few places where you communicate your personal brand:
Social media profiles like LinkedIn, Twitter, and TikTok
Physical materials like business cards, headshots, and portfolios
The way you dress for professional events, meetings, and networking opportunities
A personal website or portfolio page
The content you create, share, or are in, like podcasts, YouTube videos, or articles
Imagining yourself as a brand or business may feel strange at first. But learning how to self-promote, control your online presence, and craft a consistent brand voice will help you build trust, stand out to recruiters and potential employers, and engage with the clients and customers you want.
Why is personal branding important?
A successful personal brand speaks for you when you can’t speak for yourself. It builds your reputation, positions you in your area of expertise, and gives people a feel for what it’ll be like working with you.
Here are four reasons to build a personal branding strategy.
1. Stand out for the right reasons
A strong personal brand that thoughtfully takes advantage of different platforms and branding materials creates visibility. It increases the probability that people find your work, leading to professional development opportunities and business partnerships.
Taking the time to carefully construct a personal brand also reflects your work ethic, growth mindset, and ability to set and achieve personal goals. And in a job climate where employers prefer candidates with strong soft skills like leadership, flexibility, and curiosity, you can build a brand that sends the right message.
2. Build your reputation
With so much competition nowadays, a good reputation is more important than ever. Your personal brand establishes a clear identity and lets people know your skills and differentiators. And effectively communicating your knowledge and showcasing your personality can increase your credibility, build influence amongst colleagues, and positively position you in your industry.
It may also encourage professionals with similar skill sets or goals to contact you with opportunities to network or collaborate.
3. Reach the right people
A coherent and consistent brand across platforms helps you develop your niche and create clarity for anyone who comes across your personal brand. When you highlight what sets you apart, people contact you with meaningful job opportunities that reflect your goals and messaging.
This means you’ll waste less time working with clients whose needs aren’t concurrent with your offering.
Imagine you’re a graphic designer specializing in web design. Building your personal brand around your expertise may encourage more web design opportunities and filter out inquiries about advertising or print expertise. It saves you time and allows you to maintain your focus.
4. Control the message
Whether you’re a freelancer bidding for a project or a job seeker applying for a new position, chances are high that your potential employer will check out your online presence. And 76% of consumers look at a business’ online presence before visiting a physical location.
Your digital footprint is a form of digital marketing — whether it’s intentional or not. Controlling the message by curating what people see and don’t see is essential to staying in the driver’s seat of your career trajectory.
5. Foster a sense of purpose
Creating a personal brand requires careful self-reflection, critical thinking, and task prioritization. Similar to how your career might move in a new direction, your personal brand needs constant rethinking and development. Aligning your values and passions to your daily work can help you create a sense of purpose and improve your confidence in your career path.
How to build a personal brand: 5 steps
Personal branding is a reflective process that requires you to define your professional self, establish goals, and build a strategic path to communicate and achieve career success.
Here are five steps you can follow to cultivate an authentic brand identity.
The first step to building your personal brand is defining your professional goals and evaluating your unique value.
Here are some questions to ask yourself:
What are my professional strengths and weaknesses?
How do I want to position myself — maybe as a thought leader, freelancer for hire, or industry professional?
What are my short and long-term career goals?
What’s my personal work philosophy?
What personal values are important to me?
What personal interests can I incorporate into my professional brand?
Building a set of goals and then understanding who you are and what you value will help you create a blueprint for your personal brand strategy.
2. Identify your demographic
Your demographic is potential customers or followers you can categorize by shared characteristics such as their location or job. This is the audience whose attention you hope to capture. The more insights you have about your demographic, the easier it is to engage with them.
3. Examine your existing brand
Open a search engine, type in your personal or business name, and note what pops up. What you see is what potential employers, clients, and consumers see.
You should also examine your social media profiles and anywhere else you have a digital presence to get a sense of the brand personality you’re already expressing.
Remember that you don’t have to be on every platform available. Make sure you’re on a few strategically-chosen digital spaces that align with your goals and audience.
4. Redefine your style
A strong personal brand is consistent across platforms. Your audience should be able to recognize your work no matter the app they’re on.
Here are a few ways to define your style:
Consider your brand personality, like whether you’re a strong authority figure or more down-to-earth and relatable. Choose a few action verbs or personality traits to establish your persona.
Although every platform has its own design limitations, it’s important that people immediately recognize your work. You can achieve this by choosing a color palette, fonts, and logo you use across your online accounts and website. You should also write a personal brand statement you can adapt to different accounts and choose a set of topics to post about.
It’s not always what you say but how you say it. The right tone is essential to communicating your brand and speaking to your demographic. Think about how you want to express yourself without getting hung up on an industry status quo. It’ll help you be more authentic.
5. Build your footprint
Creating brand recognition and awareness takes time and consistency. You’ll want to research what times, content topics, and formats perform best for your target audience and use this information to create and schedule content. To ensure you’re consistent, use a post scheduling app and plan your posts ahead of time.
4 personal branding examples
If you’re unsure where to start, here are four hypothetical professionals from different industries with personal branding tips you can shape to fit your needs.
1. Human resources specialist
You’re an HR specialist who wants to run seminars and workshops for established businesses and startups. Your demographic includes business owners, entrepreneurs, and other mid to high-level professionals.
To build your credibility and sell your services, you might create the following personal brand strategy:
A website with information about your services, your mission statement, and testimonials
An Instagram account with infographics about HR trends
An educational video series on YouTube about topics like building employee value propositions or creating healthier workplaces
You’d also create a personal brand statement you can adopt across platforms, a logo for your website and socials, and a set color scheme and font to help visitors immediately identify your content.
You’re a full-time employed actuary wanting to maintain a reliable, professional reputation.
To build credibility in your professional network, you might:
- Create a LinkedIn profile with a professional headshot, updated CV, and shared articles about your industry
- Print business cards
- Make a professional email signature with links to your socials
- Limit social media use to work-appropriate posting
You’re an economist working in public policy who wants to educate the general public. Your demographic is politically active and community-minded students.
To create visibility and reach your target market, you might:
- Use a down-to-earth and relatable tone and enthusiastic personality
- Create a Twitter profile to share local public policy opinions and content
- Make informational reels on Instagram and TikTok
Real estate agent
You’re a real estate agent wanting to expand into residential and commercial properties across the county. Your demographic is a mixture of investors, entrepreneurs, and potential first-time homeowners that are high earners.
To build a reputation and appeal to a varied group of people, you might:
- Craft a monochromatic color scheme, subdued font, and serious tone
- Create tutorials and house visit videos on TikTok and Instagram
- Take out web and print ads
- Make a website showcasing current listings
- Build a LinkedIn profile to share insights about real estate and investment trends
- Create business cards, brochures, and other branded materials for potential leads
Show yourself off to the world
No matter your professional goals, taking charge of your personal branding puts you in the driver’s seat regarding your career trajectory. You control the narrative — and that sense of control might encourage you to achieve bigger things than you’d originally thought possible.
Start by self-reflecting on your goals and values, examining your current digital footprint, and building a strategy to effectively express your message. Then reflect as time goes on to ensure your online presence accurately represents you and your values.