Updated: Feb 21
In 2020, if you’re not cultivating your personal brand, you’re behind! A personal brand is the most powerful tool you have & it’s not just for entrepreneurs or coaches, it’s truly for everyone. Yes, even those working in a corporate job with plans to climb the ladder & shatter that glass ceiling. Let me paint you a picture…
You’re a graphic designer working for an agency with zero thoughts of ever branching out on your own. You love creating & think it’s fun to share your work with friends & family via Instagram. In your Instagram feed, you share photos of when you went to Yosemite & hiked through the mountains. You share photos of your trip to Cabo with the girls splashing in the ocean & sipping margaritas on the beach. Then you share photos of your recent trip to Morocco & how your brain is filled with so much inspiration that could last you a lifetime.
Your IG feed screams your personality because afterall, you’re just being yourself- fun, relatable, down to earth & a bit cheeky. You’d prefer to keep your Instagram feed more for lifestyle photos of you & your friends, because you’re not trying to be an influencer or anything, but you enjoy sharing the creations you’ve worked so hard on so you post a couple of your best designs & keep the others in your Highlights. When you post them, you might slap a few hashtags up like #graphicdesignlife or #digitaldesign, just because.
Little do you realize, Susan follows the hashtag #graphicdesignlife & has been searching for the perfect person to create this design she has in mind for her business & your photo catches her eye. A glimmer of hope starts forming in her heart, she clicks on your profile, scrolls through your feed to get a feel of your personality. Oh, what’s that? She sees a Highlight labeled, “my designs” & taps through, low-key stalking you like an ex-boyfriend… she’s perfect, Susan thinks. She swipes out of the Highlight & presses “message” & sends you a DM to connect.
...you get the picture of what comes next!
Personal branding is everything! It’s the only thing that sets you apart from that other graphic designer next door. No one else has your knowledge or unique set of skill sets. When you build a strong personal brand, you have accountability with your name & you have zero competition. Why? Because people want to work with you & what’s in your head because what you have gone through in life has given you a unique perspective that no one else can replicate. That is why being your truest, most authentic self is so vitally important. I know, I know, you’re probably tired of hearing the word authentic- it’s quite the buzz word right now, for sure, but it doesn’t make it any less true. The more authentic you are, the more people will gravitate towards you. Sure, there is definitely strategy in building your personal brand & I’ll get into my basic framework for that in a minute but the first thing you must do is believe that what you know, what’s inside of you, the experiences you’ve been through, can help someone… many people, in fact! We’re all put on this earth to share our knowledge & expertise with people & remember that what comes easily to you does not come easily to other people- those people need you! Alright, so let’s into the framework of building your personal brand:
STEP 1: stop consuming so much content from others
I used to be incredibly lost in this world of branding. I’ve always been great with aesthetics but when I first got started, I couldn’t seem to figure out how everyone else had these beautiful, consistent, cohesive Instagram feeds & brands but I couldn’t keep it straight! You could literally tell what mood I was in that day based on the filter I used- not good!
So what changed?
I stopped consuming everyone’s content. I went through Instagram & did a big PURGE. I unfollowed most people & made myself detox. What this does is clear out all of the clutter. We are naturally creative- yep, all of us! The problem is that we’ve clogged up our brains with everyone else’s voice & style.
Take some time, go through your Instagram & either unfollow or mute people & give yourself a break. Detox from everyone else & start listening to yourself.
After you do this, practice listening to your intuition- this will help you in the future steps. Go to Target, look at things & decide right in that instance whether you like something or not. Sounds silly but I’m serious. Put yourself in an environment where you have to ask yourself if you like something & make an immediate decision. Go to a restaurant & boldly pick something that sounds good, don’t think about it. The objective of this exercise is to get in the habit of being decisive, do what you want & don’t overthink!
STEP 2: brand essence
A personal brand is your reputation; it’s what people say about you when you’re not in the room. Think about yourself as an experience. The best companies don’t sell you a product, they paint you a picture of the experience & how they want you to feel. How do you want other people to feel about you? Relatable, fun, authoritative, etc. Come up with three words to describe you & your brand.
Ask your friends & family what adjectives or words come to mind when they think about you or describe you to someone else. You’ll probably be surprised by the overlap!
STEP 3: your WHY
This is your purpose for everything that you do. You might immediately be thinking, whoa, i have no idea, but I would bet that you actually already follow your why but you might not be aware yet. If you’re anything like me, you’re probably overthinking it- so let me help you.
Write down all of the jobs you’ve had and/or experiences (such as volunteering or helping a friend). For each one, write down what about that time made you feel most happy, most fulfilled & most proud. Now go through each of them & connect the dots- I bet there’s a common theme. Also think about it like this- your WHY is a vision of the future that doesn’t yet exist. What are you working towards each day?
I always love real life examples so I’m going to share mine: my WHY is to help women evolve into their highest potential. To show them that it is possible to have it ALL- be an incredible wife, loving mom, badass entrepreneur, conscious philanthropist, attentive friend, …literally anything they want to be & do, they can do it all and be great at it! As women, all too often we’re told that we can only be one thing- if you’re a great mom then your biz will suffer, if you’re a 7-figure entrepreneur than your relationship with your husband won’t be fulfilling, and so on. So I’ve made it my mission to help women realize that they can have it all. ...therefore, everything I do, all content I produce, works towards that vision; whether it’s a product I create, service I offer or product I promote via affiliate marketing.
My other WHY is to make this world a more beautiful place. I’m allll for the aesthetics. That’s my area of expertise & what I do better than anyone else. Oh to live in a place where everywhere you turn is has a clear message & is aesthetically-pleasing... Having a clear why allows you to stay on track because you can always check back in to make sure you’re in alignment. Think of it as your north star. Your why is your guide for creating content & speaking to your target audience.
STEP 4: mood board
Okay, this part is FUN! A mood board is a collage of images, text, textiles, anything really, that conveys a general idea about a topic. Mood boards help you explore & define your brand identity. This is the best way I’ve found to find your brand theme. You can definitely go to Michael’s, grab a poster board then find images online to print or cut out of a magazine to glue down- that’s great… but I’m going to assume you’re busy so here’s the quick & dirty version: Pinterest!
Go to Pinterest, create a board labeled mood board- feel free to keep this bad boy private or let everyone see! What you’ll do now is literally pin anything to that board that you’re vibein.’ This could mean outfits, food, drinks, items, nature, textiles, color palettes,... you get the picture. Don’t hold back! Once you’ve spent some time collecting images, open up the board & on the top right corner next to the word ‘organize,’ click the icon of 9 little squares. What that does is allow you to see more photos at once- it’s much easier to view because what you're going to do next is look at the flow. Now you want to hone in on any themes. Feel free to delete any photos that don’t flow with the color palette you’re starting to see.
*this is why it was so important to do Step #1- when you stop consuming other people’s content, you naturally become more in tune with what you like. When you do this exercise, don’t think too much about it, just pin what you like- AKA make quick decisions ...remember that part?
STEP 5: color story
Now that you’ve created your mood board, you’re probably starting to see a color theme. A general rule of thumb is to pick six complementary colors that your brand will stay within. Creating a color story is very important because this guides the visual identity within your brand. These colors will help determine your editing style & what specific filters you’ll use.
For example, my brand is very Californian:
I stick to neutrals (black, white, tan- think sand or desert color, leopard print), greens (palm trees), blues (sky & ocean), & citrus (think mimosas/aperol spritz).
Anything pink, red, purple I generally stay away from. If I want to post something with those colors, let’s say I’m wearing a pink dress, I’m not going to worry too much… but what I will do is make sure everything else in the photo is extremely on brand: I’ll stand by a palm tree or very neutral backdrop. You get the picture.
STEP 6: target audience
This is crucial. If you try to attract everyone, you won’t be attracting anyone- it’s just a fact. I know, I know, you can probably help everyone with your knowledge therefore you don’t want to limit yourself but girl, you’re limiting yourself by not niching down! And just because you niche down, doesn’t mean you can’t help someone that’s outside of that realm! Honestly, you’ll have more people coming to you & asking hey, I know you help so and so but does this also apply to me?
You must speak to the one person. Know them better than they know themselves. Know what they do, where they live, what nail polish they wear, what do they like to do on a friday night, etc. This makes for creating content so much easier because all you do is say what would be helpful for them? When you find your target audience, listen to them. Figure out what they struggle with, what their pain points are, what their desires and goals are, etc?
*tip: a lot of times, your ideal client is a past version of you. You now know something of value that you want to help others with, think about who you used to be. What did you wish you knew? What did you wish someone would’ve help you with? Maybe it’s even a frame of mind? Think about it.
Okay, so I could literally go on forever about building your personal brand but I know you have a lot going on & I want you to go crush it! This is just the tip of the iceberg, my friend, so if you’re wanting to know more (and I know you are): building your brand story that actually attracts your ideal clients... how to write, plan, batch content… how the heck to use Instagram the right way for your brand, and so on… I got you covered!
I like to have everything in one place. I also like SPECIFICS. I need details. And I never understood why there wasn’t one place with alllll the juicy (necessary) details for building your personal brand. I wasted a lot of time, energy & money figuring this all out on my own- & trust me, you don’t want to do that! That is why, I’ve created an e-book with allllll the details for you for building your personal brand- think, this article x 1,000… because we get deep into it! You’ll become an Instagram ninja in no time with your ideal clients flocking to you- that in and of itself is major!
You won’t find all those specific details in one place anywhere else!
Anyways, I can’t wait to hear from you all! Please connect with me over on Instagram (@kate.obert), as I share a ton of free content all on building your brand!