This past Saturday, I had the honor and privilege of presenting a skills workshop at the June social of the Nevada Interpreters and Translators Association (NITA) here in Reno, Nevada. The topic of the workshop was personal branding and the questions every professional, freelancer or not, should ask himself or herself to spark reflection about personal branding and draft a personal branding statement. In this post, I would like to describe what we did during the workshop so that you, too, can think about creating or refining your personal brand.
First of all, what is a personal brand? Let’s think about it in relation to a “regular” brand. When you hear the word brand, your mind probably jumps to a few big, well-established brands, like Apple, Coca-Cola, or BMW. When you think of these brands, what other things come to mind? How do they make you feel? These thoughts, feelings, associations, assumptions, and (marketers hope) desire to buy are all part of the huge asset that constitutes a brand. Those same thoughts, feelings, and associations can be tied to people, not just things. Your personal brand is what first comes to peoples’ minds when they hear or see your name and what sets you apart from others.
It is important to keep in mind that, whether you have spent time cultivating a personal brand or not, you already have one. This is why it is important to take a few simple steps so that you not only have a say in what your personal brand is, but start controlling the message as well. The biggest, most well-attended branding and networking event on the planet is taking place 24/7 on the World Wide Web, making it the easiest place to start working on your personal brand.
Even if you’re not on social media, chances are there is already information about you on the internet. So, the first step to developing your personal brand when you’re starting from scratch is finding out what your current personal brand looks like. How do you do that? Start by searching for yourself. Go to Google, type in your name, and click “Google Search.” What do you see? I myself have to compete with an Olympic skier from Austria named Benjamin Karl whose results are always higher up than mine. If you have a particularly common name, try with your middle initial. Take stock of what you see. If there is information about you on the first page already, you’re doing something right! If not, don’t fret. SEO, a whole other can of worms that you can get a primer on here, is one great way to get search engines to find you and your content online, but in the meantime, developing a personal branding statement is important so that you have something to hook the people who find you.
After the workshop participants searched for themselves, we started to brainstorm personal branding statements by asking ourselves five key questions. If you want to participate as well, read the following prompts and write down your answers on a piece of paper as you move through them:
- How would you and others describe you, both as a person and as a professional? Personal brands are just that—personal—but building a brand that is both personal and professional is the first step to being able to capitalize on your brand. If it helps people relate to you on a personal level and helps you land a gig, what could be better?
- What do you do, exactly? Think about your personal elevator pitch. What one- to two-sentence statement will unambiguously describe what it is that you do to an uninitiated individual?
- What are you really good at? In business lingo, what are your distinctive competencies, those things that you do better than your cohort and that make you stand out from the crowd?
- What do you love about what you do? Bringing an authentic sense of passion to your brand can really make it stand out. If you don’t love anything about what you currently do, work on branding yourself in a way that will move you in the direction that you want to go.
- Who benefits most from the value you create? In other words, who is your end customer? Keep in mind that there is a difference between an end customer and a user. If you sell dog food, your end customer is not the dog, but the dog’s owner.
Your answers to these questions will become the foundation for your personal brand statement. Take a look at your answers. What jumps out at you? What would jump out at others? Not sure? Ask someone else for their honest opinion. Think about how you could distill everything you wrote into one to two sentences.
Need some more help or prompts to get you started? Research the top players in your field or people with brands that you admire. What do their social media profiles, websites, or blogs say about them? What do articles that are written about them say? Tess Whitty, who has a fantastic podcast on Marketing Tips for Translators, and a website chock full of other resources, has a great personal branding statement in her “About Me” section: I am passionate about helping freelancers take their translation or interpreting business to the next level by providing no-nonsense practical tips on how to market professional services and run a successful business. Talk about clear, concise, and standing out!
Building a personal brand is a never-ending and lengthy process. That said, the effort that you put in to it can make a real difference. I started making a concerted effort to build my personal brand as a 2017 resolution, and I can honestly say that it has been fun, challenging, and rewarding. I would encourage everyone who is reading this who hasn’t done so already to start thinking more about their personal brand and to share this post with anyone they think might benefit from building a more robust personal brand.