If you’re a solopreneur (or an aspiring one), you know that you are your business, which also means that you are your brand.
For some, the idea of building a personal brand feels a little, well, icky. You might wonder, How do you build a personal brand without feeling like you’re selling your soul?
Actually, selling your soul is exactly what you should do. Stick with me, here…
Is your business a type of personal service like copyediting, coaching, writing sales copy, virtual assistance, or consulting? Then, honey, you are the product.
Be willing to show people who you really are. Bare your soul. The more authentically you present yourself and your business, the easier you make it for your ideal clients to find you. For that reason, I now build sass, humility, unvarnished truth, and even a little bit of kooky fun into my personal branding. That’s just me. In fact, it is so authentically me that it hardly feels like branding at all.
But I sure as hell didn’t get this personal branding thing right the first time…
When I began my coaching practice, I thought I was going to be everything to everyone. I didn’t want to turn off traditional boys club clients by showing my warmer, feminine side, and I didn’t want to turn off corporate clients by showing my quirky personality.
I considered getting a professional head shot done in the hectic financial district among the tough glass exteriors of the corporate towers. I would wear a tight bun, and a blue button-down shirt and black suit. I would get the photographer to shoot me from a lower angle, and I would cross my arms in a pose that says, ‘I mean business’. The idea was tough and corporate and intimidating. And it sooooo wasn’t me.
It’s pretty ironic that while launching a practice aimed at helping people become authentic in their work, I considered forcing myself to be something I wasn’t.
As new entrepreneurs, we so desperately want our business to take off that we run the risk of trying to fit the mold we think will make us the most successful. What we ought to do is build what we really are into our branding strategy.
Can you imagine the problems that the buttoned-up financial district version of me would have created for my business? Anyone looking for a hard corporate approach would be massively disappointed once they learned about what it is I actually do. At the same time, none of my clients who are a perfect fit would have found me. Or if they did find me, they’d take one look at my tough exterior and run for the hills. I’d attract the wrong clients and turn off the right ones. Disaster.
If you’re a new solopreneur (or want to be), consider the following five questions to help you develop an authentic personal branding strategy that is uniquely you:
1. How are you different?
Yes, you may offer a service that’s offered by two hundred others in your city, but there is something that makes you unique. Find that thing and use it. Ask candid friends and colleagues what they think is uniquely attractive about you and your business.
Once you know what sets you apart, work that mojo into your personal branding strategy. It will help the right clients find you, which brings me to the second question…
2. Who is your ideal client?
Who do you want to work with? And for heaven’s sake, move beyond demographics. “Professional women between the ages of 25 and 40” is not an ideal client. It’s 20% of the population. What does your client care about? Worry about? What do they want the most? What do you have in common with them?
Once you know who your people are, develop a strategy to reach out to them, and specifically them. Don’t worry about turning other people off. When you try to talk to everybody your brand gets diluted and you end up talking to nobody.
3. What clients don’t you want to work with?
This is a weird question, right? But it’s an important one. There are some people you just don’t want to work with. Don’t inadvertently attract them. For example, I do business consulting for budding entrepreneurs, but I have zero interest in working with large corporations that want traditional consulting on bottom-line topics like negotiation and sales. For this reason, I explicitly tell potential clients that I work with individuals and small businesses and that my work is unconventional and introspective. Zero risk of drawing in the wrong client.
4. What personal brands inspire you?
Who do you love that you just can’t get enough of? And what exactly is it about them that you love? Their witty exchanges with Twitter followers? Their gorgeous photos? Their soulful writing? The fresh and airy feel of their website? If you’re new to personal brand building you may want to simply watch and learn for a while. Conduct a few case studies. Notice what tickles your fancy. If you dig the vibe of someone’s brand, there are probably some clues there that could inform your own brand.
5. How can you use what you’ve got for branding?
Are you a good writer? Maybe you should start a blog related to your services. Are you a social media junkie? Awesome. Use your Twitter and Instagram accounts to garner a following of potential clients. Do you have experience from a former career that is relevant to your new venture? Flaunt it. If you’re funny, use it. If you’re tough and serious, use it. Leverage your strengths and interests to tailor your branding, and present a brand that is consistent with who you are. Keep it real and the right clients will find you.