What do you think of when you hear the word ‘brand’? Apple? Coca-Cola? McDonalds? These are all indeed brands, but brands aren’t just companies – brands can actually be anything.
A brand can be defined as a feature that identifies something as distinct from others. Examples of things that can be brands include symbols, designs, names, sounds, reputations, emotions, and human beings. Yes that’s right – people can be brands, and that includes you.
A lot of people don’t think of themselves as brands, and don’t think of branding themselves like a company brands themselves. Pretty much every individual has a brand, whether they know it or not. Your personal brand is built from various things, including how you present yourself to others, how they experience you, what they think about you, and how they react to you.
Personal branding is particularly important in business, as a personal brand can define your reputation, how you work, and your employability. You need to define what people think of when they hear your name – although you can let a brand be defined on your behalf, it is better to guide your personal brand and make it stronger and more appealing to others.
Building a personal brand is not just important because you already have one to build upon; it can also provide a number of benefits – it can open up professional opportunities, produce great ROI, and allow you to create a vision for your brand’s future which can lead to industry recognition and better contacts and clients. A brand also enables you to stand out from the crowd, which is particularly important when applying for roles. Personal branding allows potential clients to associate your personal brand with something they need, and also a feeling of trust and long-term success.
There are a number of ways you can implement personal branding, so we’ve gathered together the key ones that will really help to build and enhance your personal brand:
Determine Your Vision
Like businesses must create a vision, a personal brand must also begin with creating a vision. In this vision, you’ll need to consider how you want your personal brand to be perceived. These questions may help you with the decisions associated with this:
• What are your unique strengths, skills, and attributes?
• How can you stand out?
• What do you want others to associate with you?
• Is there a specific subject matter that you want to be recognised as an expert in?
Once you have decided upon these things, and you think of yourself as a brand, you can be more strategic about your personal brand.
Determine Your Target Audience
No matter who you’re selling yourself to, you’ll be looking to build a community of people who can all be resourceful to you in various ways e.g. employers, peers, influencers. By identifying exactly who you’re selling to, communicating your brand message will be much easier. Once you’ve determined your target audience, you’ll need to get exposure in the spaces where they’re spending time.
Build & Control Your Personal Brand Online
The internet is a key part of our personal and professional lives these days, and this means you must build a great deal of your personal brand online. Potential recruiters/clients/employers will often look up job candidates online, and so it’s imperative that you present yourself professionally online. To look for information about you, one of the first places recruiters/clients/employers will go is LinkedIn, therefore LinkedIn is a great and easy way to build your personal brand and make you stand out. Keep your LinkedIn profile up-to-date, and make sure there is plenty of engaging and impressive information about yourself, your accomplishments, and your career goals. There are some simple steps you can take on board to improve your LinkedIn profile, and enhance your personal brand.
One of the best ways to rank for your name on search engines is to create a personal website for yourself. It can simply be 2 or 3 pages with your CV, a brief biography, and links to your social media profiles. This will help you control your personal brand on search engines, and you can control your personal brand on social networks by securing social media accounts, which will also help you to build a strong community. Ensure that you post and share content that is in line with your brand and will appeal to your target audience, as all content contributes to your personal brand.
You can monitor your online presence by googling yourself and setting up alerts for your name. If you have a fairly common name, you can use a middle initial or middle name so as to differentiate yourself and get your personal brand known.
Build & Control Your Personal Brand Offline
You can control your personal brand in the offline world if you manage certain things, such as:
• Your appearance and how you conduct yourself in public.
• How you interact with colleagues and clients.
• How you deal with problems inside and outside the workplace.
• Your expertise and how you can position yourself ahead of everybody else.
Continue Learning – Have a Mentor
You can always learn more and build upon your current achievements and skillsets. By continuing to learn and updating your knowledge you can make your personal brand stronger and fresher. When building your personal brand, you can look to mentors to learn how they became successful, then use these tactics to make your own personal brand successful.
Separate Yourself from the Competition: Be Yourself, Be Unique
Although it’s important to take influence from others including mentors, it’s also important to be yourself and be unique so as to separate yourself from the competition. To be unique, you need to identify why you’re different, and use these differences to make yourself positively appealing to others. You need to be your very best self, and think of your personal brand as your unique promise of value.
Associate Your Personal Brand with Other Strong Brands
Your connection to other brands can either strengthen or weaken you – you obviously want them to strengthen you, so find and leverage strong brands that could uplift your personal brand. See if there are any groups or associations you can join.
Remember Your Personal Brand is a Contractor, Not an Employee
When you wrote your first ever CV you probably had a section called ‘Career History’ with a list of companies (i.e. employers) that you previously worked for, and although this is the right layout for the shop/office junior type role you applied for when you were 16-18, it’s not right for a contractor CV. A contractor has clients not employers, and referring to employers isn’t the best way to present yourself if you have a Limited Company, especially when you take IR35 into account as this may make it seem like you are actually an employee. It’s similar for those using an umbrella solution – it’s better to put the umbrella company you use as your employer, instead of the companies you’ve contracted for.
Experienced contractors may find it advantageous to abandon the ‘Career History’ section and replace it with a full ‘case study portfolio’ CV. This portfolio consists of 8 to 10 case studies and a simple career summary – the case studies can be specifically chosen and re-ordered every time you apply for a position.
We hope these tips for implementing your personal brand help you to create a strong and ever-evolving personal brand. Although personal branding is an easy thing to undertake, you can always outsource parts of it if you do not have the time for it. You can also outsource your accountancy and administration. ICS provide specialist accountancy, tax and legislative advice to contractors – to find out more please call us on 0800 195 3750 or talk to us online.
As a self-employed individual, you can become a member of The Association of Independent Professsionals and the Self-Employed (IPSE), who ICS is accredited by. You can also become a member of specific industry-related associations, such as The Building & Engineering Services Association (B&ES) for contractors in the Engineering and Construction Industries, and The Rail Industry Contractors Association (RICA) for contractors in the Rail Industry.