Why Being Yourself is the Key to a Personal Brand

This past weekend, I delivered a workshop and hosted a roundtable conversation on personal branding. This was the first time I had the opportunity to engage with a group of creatives on this topic and it was an interesting exercise, to see what aspects of personal branding pose a challenge for different types of people. Thanks to the feedback from this past weekend though, I now have a better understanding of which aspects of personal branding I need to clarify and break down, as well as what kind of tools I can provide to clients.

The most critical aspect of launching a personal brand is to do a self-evaluation, because your personal brand should be unique and authentic to you, your values and your personality.

This takes out the ickiness that some of us may feel about personal branding or self-promotion, period. You don’t want to be fighting against your personal brand, because it plays to your existing strengths and what comes naturally to you. For example, one person in the roundtable said that she had a hard time with Instagram, because she doesn’t like taking and posting pictures of herself and yet (to her) it seemed that successful Instagrammers are the ones who do precisely this. This is a perfect example of how you can start identifying your values - consider what comes easily to you. For this woman, what comes easily is documenting objects. That’s her strength; I haven’t seen her photographs, but clearly there is something about documentation that excites her and draws her interest. Lean into it, don’t fight against what is easiest for you and definitely don’t “should” yourself (ie. I should take pictures of myself to be successful). So often are strengths are so natural to us, that we can’t even recognize them as strengths. We just assume everyone exercises the same skills. Not true.

Some other questions to consider in order to uncover the authentic you and what feeds into your personal brand:

1) What do you tend to complain about?

I’ve found that listening to the negative thoughts can be a useful means to uncovering what is important to you. For example, if you grumble about having to wear a suit and tie every day, but relish the thought of putting on jeans, then working in corporate jobs that require formal attire are not the right fit for you.

2) What do you first pay attention to when you pick up a newspaper? Which sections of a bookstore do you tend to visit?

This was a question I was once asked in a career book and I found it revelatory, because it helped me uncover themes of interest, like self-help, lifestyles, biographies, the arts.

3) What kind of contribution do you want to make to the world or to society, if money was not a factor?

As artists, we sometimes get caught up on focusing on what will sell to audiences or clients, which can taint our personal brand. Don’t let money or sales misdirect your self-evaluation. What do YOU actually want to work on? This is the whole point of personal branding, in my view, to allow you to craft the career and find the niche the makes you feel good about yourself. Remember that personal branding is a long-term game you’re playing, it’s different from marketing, which is where you can focus on speaking directly to audiences.

Another aspect of self-evaluation is also confidence building. The ability to be yourself and put that out into the world can feel intimidating sometimes. So another tool you can use to aid in realizing your interests, inspirations, dreams and goals, while also boosting your self-confidence, is to create a vision board. I use to pooh-pooh on these and while it does still strike me as a bit cheesy, a vision board has ultimately been a powerful tool for helping me realize my…well, vision for my career. If you’re a tactile person, you can do it the old school way, with a large white Bristol board, then use magazines to find text, quotes and images that inspire you. Or you can also do it online. I do mine through a Google doc, but there’s also Pinterest, Canva and multiple other free resources available via a simple Google search. Once you create your vision board, look to it at least once a week, to stay motivated and inspired.

I would love to know whether you found these questions and exercises useful. Let me know how the process goes for you and once done, tell me, is there anything else you’re still struggling with in terms of self-evaluation? As always, I'm here to help.