The Complete Guide to Building Your Personal Brand

The Definitive Guide to Marketing Automation

Written by Neil Patel & Aaron Agius

Chapter One

How To Create Your Personal Brand Vision

Welcome to the first chapter on how to build your personal brand!

If you’ve made it this far you’re likely interested in creating and building up your personal brand so you can do one (or more than one) of the following:

  • Find a better job so you can earn more money and be happy to go to work every day
  • Win more clients for your company to increase sales and increase your earnings
  • Land better clients for your company to make your company more efficient
  • Grow your professional network so you open more professional opportunities
  • Build online communities to further increase professional opportunities
  • Lay the foundation for future success; however you define it

Your personal brand is what separates you from everyone else in the world.

The first step to creating your personal brand is to organize your thoughts and create your personal brand vision. This is the way you want yourself to be perceived by others and also how you want to live your professional and personal life.

Lisa Cruz (@lisaredshoespr) didn’t want to be another bland PR executive so she injected personality into her personal brand vision:

To be the best in public relations while having fun, kicking @#$, and always pushing the envelope for employees, clients and myself. To use communications to make the world a better place.

In this chapter, we’ll take you through the steps to create your brand vision.

Who You Are

Lida Citroen (@LIDA360) said on Social Media Today:

The foundation of personal branding rests on authenticity: The ability to tap into your genuine, humble, and individual human qualities from which your identity, personality, and character stem.

The following steps will give you a better understanding of who you are today and from there you can more easily figure out where you want to be in the future. Lida Citroen (@LIDA360) said on Social Media Today:

Step One Set Your Values

Your values are the things that drive your life. They’re at the core of your being and you refer to them when making decisions. Maybe you don’t always refer to them, everybody makes bad decisions sometimes, but you when you make your best decisions in life you usually consider your values.

For example, a person might have the follow set of values:

  • Family
  • Friends
  • Community
  • Ambition
  • Intelligence

These values define the things that are most important to the person. When faced with a decision such as taking a new job, the person would consult with their personal values. They would ask themselves what the best choice would be in terms of their family, their friends and the other values on the list.

There is no limit to the values you include can include on your list. They are your values. Consider the people, feelings and situations in life that make you most happy. That is usually the place where you’ll find your values.

Step Two Prioritize Your Values

According to JVS Chicago (@JVSChicago), values are important for businesses:

It’s wise to hire people whose values are similar to the company’s. Candidates who have values similar to the hiring company’s are more likely to meet the company’s needs, and they tend to adapt faster to a new role.

As you go through the things that make you happy in life you’ll realize that your values aren’t all created equal. The list in the previous step could be listed in priority based on the things that person values the most starting with family.

There will be situations in life when you’ll be faced with decisions that put your values at odds. For example, you might be considering a new job. It might fit into your ambition and intelligence values, but if might require more time away from your family and the job might not have the same community values that you have.

The goal of building your personal brand is not just to get a better job or to grow your company. It’s about finding happiness with your professional life. The decisions you make will be more likely to lead to happiness and follow your values.

Many of us know people that have success in their profession, but lack happiness because they didn’t realize how highly they valued their family life. And it works the other way too. There are people that have a wonderful family, but they feel unfulfilled because they lack professional challenges.

Prioritize your values and you’ll know how to approach your personal brand vision.

Step Three Identify Your Passions

Your passions are the things that you like doing with your time. Some of your passions may overlap with your values, but they are generally different.

For example, your top value might be your family and one of your passions might be going to dinner with your spouse or playing with your kids. The value and the passion intersect, but there is a slight difference. In this step you’re task is to identify your passions so you can figure out the activities that give you the most reward in life. A key to creating a successful personal brand is to identify your passions and make it your goal to experience those passions in your professional life.

A passion is something that interests you. Passions intrigue you and make you want to investigate. They make you want to get better for personally driven reasons. A passion is something you would do even if you weren’t being paid or even something that you would pay for yourself if you had to.

Passions can be both personal and professional. For this exercise, you should identify both personal and professional passions. This will give you an idea of the things that drive your professional life, but also the things that you want to be doing when you’re not working.

For example, a person might have the following professional passions:

  • Design
  • Smartphones
  • Technology
  • The personal passions for this person might be:
  • Family
  • Travel
  • Outdoors

These passions, along with the person’s values provide a clearer vision for where the person wants to be in two, five or even twenty years. Once you’ve identified your passions it starts to become clear the type of profession you’re best suited for and one that would bring you happiness.

You can tell in the example above that the person would probably be happy in a profession that involved designing smartphone technology for the travel or outdoor industry, but the profession would have to leave time for spending time with family and probably for taking family vacations.

Step Four Identify Your Ideal Traits

The next step is to identify your traits. These are the unique aspects of your personality that help to shape the person you are. Traits are things that give others a key inside your brain.

There are a few different theories on personality traits. One is the Big Five Personality Traits.

The Big Five include the following traits:

  • Openness to experience
  • Conscientiousness
  • Extraversion
  • Agreeableness
  • Neuroticism

Each of the traits is measured or assessed on a scale. Each person falls somewhere on the different scales and that makes up your personality. You can take a test on the Big Five Personality Traits for free here where you’ll be asked to answer questions based on your scale of agreeability.

This test will give you insight into your personality and your traits. It’s hard to disagree with the results and you’ve probably been relatively the same for your entire life. However, if you want to make a change in your personality you can identify the ideal traits that will make up your personal brand.

For example, if you’re relatively closed off to new experiences it might be to your benefit to work on being open to the possibility of trying new things if that’s the person you want to be as you build your professional brand. The test might also show that you don’t have a high level of organization. This could be another area to focus on with your personal brand.

Again, there are no right or wrong answers when it comes to traits. You’re simply identifying where you stand now and how you want to develop your personal brand. You can always change, but it’s good to know where you are now so you can make a plan for change if you feel you need to change.

Step Five Discuss Who You Are With Family, Friends And Peers

Finally, discuss your findings with those that are closest to you – family, friends and peers. There are you own assessments of who you are and those are important, but it’s good to get an idea of who you are from others too.

Ask people what their perceptions of you are. Ask them about what they think your values are, what your passions are and what your traits are. The outside perception might differ from your perceptions or they might align closely.

Either way, you’ll have more information about the person you are and you’ll be better able to understand where you can make changes to go where you want to be in your professional and personal life.

This guide is about building your personal brand so you can find a better job, get more clients for your business and to live a happier, more fulfilling life. You might think that your own perception of yourself is the one that matters, but building your personal brand is about how others are going to view you and what you stand for.

So it’s essential to get feedback from family, friends and peers so you understand how to align your personal brand with your goals.

Where You Want To Be

Now that you have an understanding of who you are you can move into the stage of figuring out where you want to be. This is both for your professional and personal life. For example, from the previous section you may have realized that design is an important element of who you are. This understanding can start to lay the foundation for where you want to be, which could be a design lead for a smartphone application design and programming firm.

But we’re getting ahead of ourselves. There are a series of steps to take to figure out where you want to be and how you can layout a path to get there. In this section we’ll take you through these steps and by the end it should be clearer on the type of career and life that will give you the most enjoyment and satisfaction both professionally and personally.

Step One Determine The Aspects Of Your Life That Have Been Rewarding

You might not like your current job. You might not like the jobs you’ve had in the past. However, there is a good chance that there were points in your life that made you happy. We’ve already taken you through the steps to identify the things that make you happy and that give you passion in life. Use those memories to find the aspects of your life that have been rewarding.

For example, you might have worked in customer service. Dealing with angry customers can be a challenge and maybe you didn’t enjoy that aspect. In fact, maybe you disliked it very much. However, maybe you took pride in finding a solution for customers that made them satisfied and that was beneficial for the company. You might not want to be a customer service representative in the future, but maybe a career path in sales with the eventual goal of becoming a sales executive or top-ranking executive in a business is a desirable path.

Likewise, this is about more than your professional life. Assess the aspects of your personal life that have been the most rewarding. Use those experiences to help define the type of personal life you want to have in the future.

Create a list of these aspects. Don’t limit the list. This is like a brainstorming exercise. List out all the things in life that have positive until you’ve gone through every stage of your life.

Step Two Narrow Down The Aspects To A Potential Vision

Go through your entire list of positive aspects and put them in categories. Then narrow the categories another time and another until you get to just a few categories. At this point, you’ll start to see a potential profession that would make you satisfied in your professional life.

Step Three Create An Ideal Career Ending

Now that you’ve narrowed down the list to a few categories you’ll start to see the type of profession that will make you happy. The purpose of the previous steps was to narrow the focus from a vague idea to something more specific.

For example, you might have had an idea that you wanted to be a marketing executive at the start of this chapter, but now you will have the understanding of yourself that you want to be a marketing executive for a technology firm and specifically a firm that works in mobile technology.

Create a description of your career ending. This is what you’ll be doing on the day you retire or when you start winding your career down or even at the end of your life if you plan to work until the day you. Be as specific as possible. Yes, things likely won’t go exactly the way you write them down, but by writing them down you’ll give yourself a clear vision of what will make you happy and satisfied in life.

Step Four Take Steps Back From The Career Ending To The Present

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Once you’ve determined where you want to end up in life you can start winding the steps back. You might want to end up as the marketing executive in a mobile technology firm, but you likely won’t get there tomorrow. There will likely be many steps in the way to get there.

Start with your end date and list out the next step that comes before it. It might be that before becoming the marketing executive that you are a sales director. Before that you might be the lead of a sales team. Before that you might be the top sales representative for a specific region and before that a mid-level sales associate and before that an entry-level sales associate.

There might be multiple paths to your eventual ending. You can lay out different paths, but rank them in priority by the one that is most likely to yield your ideal ending and the one that has the most appeal to you because you’ll spend much of your life working in these positions.

Step Five Compare The Vision Against Your Values

Now that you have the steps laid out for your career you have to compare it to your values. You’ll probably be excited about the prospects in your career now, but you have to check with your values before getting started.

For example, you might want to be a marketing executive, but if it requires you to spend enormous amounts of time away from your family or if it takes away time from your community involvement and those are two important values then you’ll have to reassess your path to your career ending.

There is usually a balance in your career that can yield both success and satisfaction as it relates to your aspirations and your values. Check your career path against your values and find the balance and path that will give you the most satisfaction in all areas of your life.

Others Worth Emulating

Think you need to start from scratch? Think again.

I remember spending a good amount of time watching and learning, and then emulating what others were doing. It was natural to copy what seemed to be working. But over time you branch out, do your own thing, experiment and your own personality, brand, value emerges.into email subscribers & leads.

Ben Yoskovitz (@byosko)

Throughout this process you’ve probably had people in your mind that have provided inspiration. It might have been a parent that set a good example for you and who is someone you look up to in life. Maybe it’s another relative or someone that you admire from a far in an industry that you’re passionate about.

Step One List The People You Admire

As we said, by now you probably have had people in your mind that you admire. You’ve been thinking about their careers as you’ve built the vision for your life. But now it’s time to take those thoughts to a deeper level; a level where you can take action on the knowledge you have of those people and their careers.

So take each of the people you’ve been thinking about and create a list. Next to each of the names add descriptions about the people and what they’re doing in their lives now. Also include reasons why you admire the person.

Step Two Take A Deeper Look At Their Lives

Once you’ve listed out the people for your list it’s time to take a deeper look. Many of us tend to look at other people’s lives and only see what we want to see. Or we might see only what they want us to see. Either way, it’s easy to focus on the positives in someone else’s life and forget that they have problems and frustrations like everyone else.

This step is about taking a deeper look into each person on the list to figure out if you missed something obvious that would not fit into your personal brand vision. Often you’ll find that someone you admire is very successful in their professional career, but that they might not have a family or maybe they’ve had struggles in their personal life with one aspect or another.

Step Three Rank The People With Career Arcs Similar To Your Aspirations

After looking at each person on your list on a deeper level you’ll know the people that best fit with the career arc similar to the one you’ve been developing up to this point. You’ll probably find a few surprises in your research. These surprises will be people that have had aspects of a life that you may have wanted to emulate, but after further inspection you realized that maybe their life isn’t the life for you.

Rank the people on your list based on your developing brand vision. Find the ones that closely resemble yours. It will be difficult to find ones that perfectly fit your vision and that’s okay.

Step Four Learn The Steps These People Took

Once you have a ranking of the people you admire most and that you’d most want to emulate it’s time to dig deeper into the those that rank highest. At this point you’re going to look into the steps that the top people on your list took to achieve their results.

For example, a person on your list may be the CEO of a very successful company. You admire the person they are now, but nobody achieves greatness overnight. They may have an accelerated path later, but there was likely a slow build early on in the process.

At this point it’s your task to look at the steps the top people on your list took to get to their current place in life. This gives you insight into how others have done it. You can compare it to the path you laid out for yourself earlier in this chapter.

Step Five Make Adjustments To Improve On Their Paths

The final step in this process is to make adjustments to the paths of those you admire the most. At this stage you should have a couple people on your list that are worth emulating. But you don’t want to follow their paths exactly.

Innovation works best when people look at what people have done before and make improvements on those previous achievements. So at this point you’re looking at taking the paths of the people you want to emulate and look for realistic ways to improve on their paths.

Developing Your Professional Image

Think your professional image is good enough?

One study found that: Only 15 percent of hiring managers say nearly all or most job seekers have the skills and traits their companies are looking for in candidates.

Throughout this chapter you’ve been doing some introspective thinking and work to determine who you want to be and where you want to go. At this point you should have a very good idea of those things and you can start taking action on carrying out the steps necessary to achieve your desired life goals.

In this chapter we’re going to give you exactly the tools you need to develop your professional image. This is another step in building your brand vision and carrying out the early stages of building your personal brand so you can experience success in your professional life.

Consistency

American football is the most popular professional sporting event in the United States. Each spring, executives from each team evaluate young players for the NFL Draft. These executives are faced with all types of decisions. One type of decision faced each year is the question of talent versus consistency.

In the 2014 NFL Draft there are two players. One, Jadeveon Clowney is seen as an extremely gifted and talented player. Another, Khalil Mack is also seen as talented, but not on the same level as Clowney. However, some executives prefer Mack to Clowney because Mack is seen as being more consistent.

While Clowney has unmatched talent, executives often prefer someone they can count on to bring the same level of performance to each game. Clowney has the potential to show flashes of brilliance, but he is also prone to more downswings in play that would leave teams at a disadvantage.

People in many arenas value consistency including business. People are generally more comfortable working with someone they can count on to bring the same level of commitment each day to the office.

You want to be someone that people can count on. You want to be consistent. This means committing to work routines and sticking to it all the time no matter what. Going in to the office every day at the same time and leaving at the same time. Being consistent with the time you take to respond to emails and phone calls.

Even doing something like creating your own blog and publishing regular blog posts. The same is true with social media. Being consistent with the type of content you take, the tone of the updates and the publishing schedule you keep are all things people look at when evaluating your character.

Make consistency part of your personal brand vision and practice it diligently. It will serve you well whether you’re looking for a better job or if you’re looking to attract new clients.

Creativity

Creativity is another quality people look for in those they want to work and associate with. People generally feel they have a certain level of creativity. But most know that there is a limit to creativity. Most people that go far in business have realized the power of tapping into the creativity of others. This is where you can show your creativity and pique the curiosity of potential employers and business partners.

The Internet has made it much easier to showcase your creativity on a public and accessible platform. People that successfully build their personal brands will launch their own personal websites (more on this later). On those websites, people will create portfolios that showcase previous work. The websites also often have blogs where the owner can write consistent posts on various ideas in their chosen industry. It’s a way to share thoughts and ideas with the industry including those that the person might work with in the future.

For those looking to take their careers to a new level it can be difficult finding work to include in a portfolio. It’s especially difficult if you really haven’t liked your current job. Find what you can from your current and previous jobs. Turn the work into case studies. Tell the story of the project including the challenge you and the team were presented with and describe the path to overcoming the challenge and finding a solution.

Once you’ve done that, look for ways to build your portfolio. You can do this outside of your current job. You might find part-time paying work on a project basis. For some things you might have to work for little or no money. Think of it as an investment of your time in your future. There are such things as portfolio building experiences and it’s a reality you’ll need to accept in the early stages of your new career.

Build your portfolio with an eye on your career vision and keep building as you reach each next step.

Memorable

It’s easy to say that one should “be memorable”. Most of us want to be memorable, but we also recognize that it’s not as easy to do, as it is to say. The fact is that to move up in the world and to achieve your new career goals you will have to be memorable especially to the people that will play a role in your ascension.

There are lots of ways to be memorable. You can’t do them all so the best way to be memorable to people is to do things that are unordinary as part of your regular routine. These things will be regular to you, but seen as different and therefore memorable to the people you encounter.

In business, people that take things a little further are memorable. Think of the typical job application process. 95% of the applicants will send their resumes, letters and do the interviews. The 5% that are memorable are the ones that further investigate the company and provide a proposal on how they can help the company increase sales and profit. They’re also the people that send a follow up thank you note after the interview.

You can also be memorable by having a unique hobby. Earlier we went through the exercise of identifying your passions including the things you like to do outside of work. It’s good to have hobbies and it’s good to share stories from those hobbies with the people you meet. Instead of just another candidate for a job you will be the candidate that has a flourishing vegetable garden or the candidate that plays jazz piano at local lounges on the weekends.

To be memorable, go one step further in your relationships than others typically go. That will make you stand out and be passionate about your passions in life. You don’t need to do something crazy, but talk about your hobbies with the people you meet. They will be more likely to remember more about you if they actually know more about you.

Professional Photos

We asked Kristi Hines of Kikolani this question:

What one action, decision, or choice has had the single biggest impact in the growth of your personal brand?

Her response:

I noticed that my personal brand improved greatly when I started using a professional headshot across all of my social networks, author bios, and so forth. When I first made the switch, I received lots of compliments. And now, I get a lot of new client inquiries that include how the client found me based on seeing my posts on blogs and status updates throughout the web. I’m sure having that one, professional headshot is the reason people are able to easily identify me.

She further stated her case for professional headshots with the answer to this question:

If you were building an online presence from scratch today, what 3 things would you consider to provide the biggest ROI on your time and money?

Her response:

If I started from scratch, I would build all of my profiles and main blog using my real name instead of my blog name. I’d use that one great professional headshot from the start so that all of my mentions online would start with a professional look. And I’d come up with a great 160 character elevator pitch about myself that I could use on all of my profiles and author bios to brand myself.

It’s not too often that your casual photos will look professional enough to impress people. Even if you’re pretty good with your smartphone, that selfie won’t do for a professional photo to represent your brand. Even the photos your spouse, family member or friend takes likely won’t cut it. It’s worth the investment to have a professional photographer setup a shoot and take a few headshots. You want the photo to show who you are. If you want to be an executive you’ll want to wear a suit or proper business attire. The photographer will know how to setup the lighting and how to edit the photo to make you look professional.

Professional photography can be expensive. A photo shoot can cost sever hundred dollars. You’re taking up the photographer’s time and when it comes to finding a better job and moving up in the world, it’s worth a few hundred dollars to create a photo that will help get you where you want to go.

Pay the money if you can afford it. If it’s out of your budget, find a photographer that will work on trade. Offer to do some kind of work that they need in exchange for their work. You might be able to do some accounting work. Maybe you can write a few blog posts for their blog. Do yard work around their house if you have to. It is worth it to have a professional photo that you can use for years on all of your branding material including a well designed website, social media profiles and more.

Professional Website

Social media profiles are important for building a professional brand. Social networks have large communities and you should be active in the ones that are important for professionals (LinkedIn, Google+, Twitter, etc.), but having your own website is just as or more important.

We just talked about being memorable and taking things at least one step further than everyone else in your industry. Having a website is one step you can take that some people aren’t willing to take. Many do have websites, but many don’t and it’s an area you’ll need if you want to have a memorable personal brand.

In the next chapter we will discuss about building your personal assets including your website so stay tuned for more details, but know that a website is a requirement for building your personal brand. The website will need a professional design and content on the about page that effectively describes who you are and what you have to offer. You will also use your website to showcase your portfolio of work that we’ve covered and it’s where you’ll host your blog.

Here are our personal websites:

We’ll talk about these more in the next chapter, but you’ll notice that each website is professionally designed. Each has professional headshots as well as professional branding and logos. If you want to be recognized as a brand you have to do all the branding for yourself including professional design.

Email Signature

What kind of email signature do you have? Does it have your name, title, company and maybe a cute little quote about living each day to the fullest or about how success only comes before work in the dictionary?

These things are okay, but they’re either the basics or they’re something that everyone does. A proper email signature needs to have all the correct information and it needs to be designed so it looks professional while loading quickly on any email inbox server.

A great tool for building your professional email signature is Wisestamp.

Wisestamp has a number of templates for creating your signature. The templates are professionally designed and include all the correct information and assets to communicate who you are and what you stand for.

Items included on the Wisestamp signature include:

  • Photo
  • Name
  • Title
  • Company
  • Phone
  • Website
  • Email
  • Address
  • Social Profiles w/icons

These are all the essentials for a properly branded email signature. With Wisestamp, you can easily integrate these signatures into your personal and business emails. Now, when you send and receive emails with people they’ll have all the information they need to learn about you and to contact you if they’re interested in meeting or having a conversation.

Build Credibility

Credibility can be as simple as answer pressing questions with great answers.

We asked Chris Ducker the following question:

If you were building an online presence from scratch today, what 3 things would you consider to provide the biggest ROI on your time and money?

His response was:

I’d invest time on creating as much value-filled content as possible. People need answers to questions and solutions to problems. If you truly want to build a brand and be seen as a genuine expert and the go-to person in your industry, you need to exude everything about the industry in a command-able and memorable way – creating content that people genuinely want to consume and, more importantly share to their peers, is paramount.

Some of the items we’ve been discussion are included in your credibility. All the official items like a website, social profiles, professional photography and an appropriate email signature give your personal brand credibility.

But credibility can also be built by associating yourself with others. There are probably people in your industry that you can work with and associate yourself with to improve your credibility. If you can, you could offer to work on a project with another person. An example would be a designer and a programmer working together on a project.

But you don’t even have to work with someone to build your credibility.

We mentioned blogging a couple times in this chapter. Blogging or publishing any kind of content is a great way to build your credibility especially if you co-author posts with someone else or if you guest post on respected blogs.

You’ve probably seen logos on personal websites before or even on business websites. These logos are used to show companies the brand associates with. Businesses do it to show their clients and individuals often do it for publications where they’ve had articles published.

You can do the same thing for your brand. Offer to write guest posts on popular blogs. You’ll have to write your absolute best work to get included on the best blogs. It’s a lot of effort, but once the article is published you’ll always be able to associate yourself with the blog. That is a great way to earn credibility by association.

From here you can take steps to work with people and to continue to associate with other credible people in your industry. Through all of that you can continue to work in your job as a reliable person that can be counted on for quality work. These are the things that build credibility and that is an essential component of a great personal brand.

In the next chapter we’ll give you the steps you need to define your target audience.

But before we get into that, we asked some of our friends with recognizable personal brands the following question:

For those looking to create a strong online brand, which 3 online influencers would you recommend they follow?

Here are the responses:

Four ways to share