Over the last 5 years, there has been a huge movement to grow your ‘personal brand’. An increasing number of people who work for themselves or within organizations are reaping the rewards from being ‘known’ online as an expert or leader in a particular field. Whether you are a one man band or one of 400,000 thousand, having a strong personal brand is becoming more increasingly important to your success.
There are a ton of definitions around personal branding and what it is and isn’t. Your personal brand is your online reputation, it’s what people know of you who don’t see you every day in the work place or at the gym. The act of ‘personal branding’ is investing in your brand and controlling the narrative so you’re seen the way you want to be seen. By spending time (and often a bit of money) defining and building your brand you can open doors for yourself you didn’t even know were available. Let’s take an example of someone who works in a large corporate in Marketing. Let’s say this person, let’s call her Sally, is particularly good at marketing fast moving consumer goods. Whether Sally wants to go out on her own and start her own agency or her own product or wants to stay within the organization, being ‘known’ as being excellent at marketing is going to benefit her and her own business or the organization she works for. Climbing the corporate ladder or going out alone, being established as being BLOODY GOOD at what you do is going to help.
You might be a fitness fantastic, a keen cook/chef, a tech whizz, a vegan, a fashion fiend, a productivity princess, a hilarious comedian, a carpenter who makes awesome furniture, a dog groomer, a teapot collector, a traveler, a yogi, a jewelry enthusiast, a project manager, a developer, a florist, a businessman, a barista, a barrister! Whatever it is, the world is interesting and waiting to watch you, read about you, learn from you and be inspired by you. NOTHING is off-limits, there are millionaire kids who sit in big chairs and play video games FULL TIME. If you have a passion, you can turn it into a brand. Brand yourself for who you TRULY are and watch that passion create results.
Firstly, it’s not for everyone, I get that, many people want to stay hidden away, in the back office, and to those people, I say absolutely fine and no pressure at all to build a brand, I don’t believe it’s for everyone (Gary Vee, below, does). However, what about those people who are passionate about something, who want to be known for that topic, who want to share a message or affect change, or want to grow their career at speed or start their own business, to you I say, GET GOING. My only requirement when I work with anyone on their personal brand is that they’re PASSIONATE. This is why I love what I do, I could be working with an entrepreneur, a cook, a personal trainer or someone who just loves puppies and we can apply a similar process to define and build their brand. We live in such an exciting time where you can make money and build a business around the most abstract things from your bedroom, or a beach. As long as you have a laptop and a ton of drive, you can get started with little to no money. When it comes to personal branding, it’s important to spend time really zooming in on ‘what you want to be known for’, that one thing that sets you apart, that makes you stand out, your USP. We don’t need more generalists, we need more experts, more passionate content creators. There is almost unlimited growth in any topic you can think of, but niching is key.
“Everyone – EVERYONE – needs to start thinking of themselves as a brand. It is no longer an option; it is a necessity.” – Gary Vaynerchuk
The google test – when you google your name, what comes up? Is it what you want to be known for? When you ask people, what do they say? When you go to a networking event or a sales opportunity, can you cover it in a few words with enough passion and clarity that the person you’re talking to remembers you? THAT is personal branding.
Ok, so if you’re still reading I’m hoping that you are bought into the fact there is a large proportion of people who should be and need to be investing in their personal brand. And you also can see that there are a large number of resources and people like me (Personal Branding Specialists) who can help these passionate people get started. You also agree it doesn’t take a ton of money or experience, just some drive. So, what is stopping people? Why are people using the ‘maybe someday’ excuse? Time? Hmm, if you really want something then you find the time, you make sacrifices, you wake up early. We all save the same amount of time in the day, yet some people achieve so much more…so it’s not time.
Fear is an evil, it lives amongst us, keeping us in boxes, prevent us from reaching our potential. It’s that little voice that tells you not to bother, that it can’t be done, that there’s no point. Fear is one of the worst contributors to the lack of fulfillment, purpose, and happiness in our day to day lives. Once you can master fear, the world really is, your oyster.
There is something quite scary about putting yourself ‘out there’. You open yourself up to comments and criticism from people you know, people you kind of know and people you don’t know at all (these bottom feeders are known as ‘trolls’). You are also putting faith and belief in yourself to do something that separates you from the rest, which declares that you really care about something and you’re going to share your love and passion with the rest of the world. These 2 types of fear: fear of what people think and the fear of failure are the 2 biggest limiting factors to people stepping out and growing their brands in whatever way they wish.
‘Care what people think and you will always be their prisoner’ Lao Tzu
Whenever someone steps out of the line or puts their head above the crowd they are pretty much guaranteed to have a line of people keen to tear them down. Call it a tall poppy syndrome, call it jealousy, call it whatever you want, it’s going to happen and it’s a horrid thought. Anyone who’s in the public eye deals with it, whether you’re building a personal brand or famous actress or a politician. It’s a very real fear because it is likely to happen. This fear held me back for years, not actually because of a fear of the faceless trolls you were going to comment vile things on my pages (which has happened) but more from the people that are in my immediate network, friends, family, or people that I work or worked with.
A few years ago I had a conversation with my cousin once about this when I was deciding to embark on my second stint of blogging after having my confidence knocked after a nasty comment the first time I’ve started. He said that the key thing that you should always bear in mind is that people actually don’t spend that much time thinking about you. The pass you on social media while scrolling on the train or on the loo and sometimes pass judgment or a comment but more often than not, rarely even notice what you’re doing. The only time anyone takes much of an interest in what you’re doing is if you do something REALLY out of the ordinary or if you do something that affects them, either way, you’re doing something right, you're invoking emotion in someone because of what you’re saying or doing.
I would say it took me 5 years to get over this fear, from the first nasty comment to deciding that I was no longer going to let the fear of what people think to stop me. I treated it like any fear, and fully exposed myself to it, like holding a spider or going to the top of a high building. I recorded a vulnerable, very open video, uploaded it to youtube and shared it on all my social media channels. What was the result? 99% wonderful, kind, supportive comments from people telling me I was brave, inspiring and strong. 1% was vile but let me tell you, the reality was no way NEAR as bad as the fear, I deleted it and moved on and instead chose to feel pity for that person taking time out of their day to say something nasty, what a dreadful existence, I hope they find happiness somehow.
Finally, and this is important. People make comments and give opinions because they are often envious of your courage to do something different. Not because they don’t want you to do it, but because it highlights their own fears to themselves. When I quit my corporate job and moved to Bali I noticed that a lot of people struggled with it, not because they cared about my career or life, but because it caused them to question their own decisions. When people ask me why I moved I tell them it’s because I wasn’t fulfilled and happy in my current lifestyle, it just didn’t fit me. Nor would moving to Bali fit everyone, but it was a choice I made to seek fulfillment. Always bear in mind that we are all the hero of our own story, the lead character in the movie of our lives and what others do often makes us look at ourselves, feel inadequate and lash out with unkind words when really, we should be thanking them for making us look within ourselves. Think of it like this, when you go to a pizza restaurant with someone and they order a salad your often irrationally annoyed, not because it actually affects what’s going into your tummy but because you now feel you should have a salad too because it’s the healthier option blah blah blah. Often you encourage them to have a pizza, telling them ‘you’re too good’ or ‘don’t you just want to enjoy your life’ even though this salad eater is perfectly happy with their order and couldn’t care less what you order. Standing out online is like this, but it’s seeping into their phones, their laptops, and their life. Understand why people judge, then you no longer care.
So, what would I say if this is your fear? The first is to accept it’s going to happen and the second is to actually celebrate it when it does. I’d rather be talked about than be insignificant or worse, irrelevant. Choose to see through love, not fear and stand proudly with your message but don’t for one second, let it stop you, because the reality will never be as bad as you think it will be and the positives of living your passion and, ideally, your purpose will drown out anything you don’t wish to hear.
Once you’ve got past fear one and you’ve committed to doing this thing, whatever it may be, it may be to start a blog, an Instagram page, a YouTube channel or a podcast you’ve now got one more barrier to climb, the fear you place on yourself. Once you enter the world of business books and personal development YouTube videos you realize, very quickly, that there really and truly is no such thing as failure. It is just one step on the journey you take and actually should be encouraged. This is how I think about it:
There are people who never experience failure, they fly through school, they never get dumped, they get put on the first team, they get easy promotions, they find it easy to find a partner or investment, or a parking space. Life just works for them. HOWEVER, the joy this person feels for their easy life is not going to last their entire life. 1 of 2 things are going to happen:
1. The shit will hit the fan at some point and they will have NO clue how to handle it, having had 30, 40, 80 years of a smooth run. They will have little inner strength, little resources and no ‘get back up attitude’ causing this failure to knock them far more than it should.
2. Without the downs, we don’t know the ups. It’s possible that without the feeling of failure and what it feels like the fail, they don’t truly know the feeling of success, because it’s all been one straight line. These are the people who retire and get depressed, they don’t really know what they want and their working life has passed them by.
Failure teaches you more lessons than success, that is true of anything. There is not one successful person on this planet who doesn’t have a long list of failures and mistakes to their name. They will tell you the failures got them to where they are, taught them the lessons and gave them the strength. What they will not tell you is that they wish they hadn’t happened or they could have got to where they are without them.
Failure is to be celebrated, it’s a chance to readjust, to learn, to try again and to improve. In fact, failure is encouraged and the phrase ‘fail fast’ is being brought into the business world, the tech world. the marketing world and likely every other world. Speed the failure up, get it DONE, get good at handling it and even better and learning from it.
Your first stab at growing your brand might not bring you the success you desire, but it will do the magical thing of getting you going, getting you on the journey you need to be on to achieve everything you want to. I promise you if you have a burning desire inside your tummy that you’re meant for MORE. To have more, to be more, to achieve more it will not go anywhere. It will just grow and grow and end up pissing you off in those annoying moments where you’re trying to ignore it. Life WANTS you to have more, listen to it.
‘Fulfilment is a right, not a privilege’ Simon Sinek.
Simon is right, find something that fulfills you and if you aren’t ready to go ALL in yet, start building your brand around it, start talking about it, teaching it, sharing it, connecting with people similar. It is the first step to slapping fear in the face and becoming who you want to become.