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How to build your personal brand, and why you need one

PHOTOGRAPHY BY NELLY SKOUFATOGLO AND HANA SCHLESINGE 

WORDS BY ALYCE GREER

It doesn’t have to be a painful process.

‘Personal brand’ doesn’t exactly have the best reputation. What do you think of when you hear those two words? I’ll go first. Real estate agent. Before I knew what a personal brand was, I imagined a middle-aged guy with greased back hair. He’s wearing a suit one size too small, and driving a cherry red car he can’t afford. When he smiles, his over-whitened teeth sparkle like in the cartoons.

But I’m not ashamed to admit when I’m wrong. I’ve realised a personal brand is less about creating a fake image, and more about finding what makes you unique and staying authentic to that. By having a clearly defined personal brand, you’re not saying “I’m deserving of being a ‘brand’”. You’re just showing you know exactly who you are and what you can bring to the table. It’s dressing for the job you want, not the job you have.


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IMO, you already have a personal brand, whether you like it or not. Life coach that works only with purpose-driven entrepreneurs? Personal brand. Lawyer that works from a glossy office and charges $8000/minute? Personal brand. Retail employee that’s constantly 15 minutes late, running in with messy hair and a half-eaten bacon and egg McMuffin? Personal brand.

If you’re already presenting to the world, you may as well put in a bit of effort to shape your personal brand and control how your dream companies or clients (or even Instagram followers) perceive you.

If you’ve got your eyes on a dream job, are keen to change industries, want to prove to your boss you’re ready for that promotion, or would like your side hustle to blow up already, it’s time to get familiar with your personal brand. Here are my top tips for defining a strong, authentic brand that will help you get to where you want to go, even if you’re not prepared to give up your morning Maccas run.

Paint a picture of your life in three to five years

Yep, we’re starting at the end. Where do you want to be? How are you viewed in your space? Are you the go-to expert, the one doing everything differently, focused on making an impact on the world? Write it out.

Ask your family and friends how they’d describe you

Your family and friends will have creative, honest and very nice things to say, unlike yourself, who will only come up with countless insults. Looking at the list, what resonates with you?

Choose your values 

Google ‘list of values’ to be presented with one trillion characteristics, from adventure to wealth. From here, choose your top five to 10 values. These should guide every decision you make, every job you take and ultimately, what you want to be known for.

Define your ‘secret sauce’ 

In other words, what makes you special? Try splitting this up into the benefits you offer, who you’re serving, the problems you’re solving and the big one: why you do it differently. By this stage, you’ll have a clear vision of what you want your personal brand to look like. Now comes the fun part: getting into character.

Your personal brand needs to filter through all of your communications: your emails to your Instagram captions to how you answer the phone. It’s how you dress which, let’s be honest, is the human version of branding. It’s the projects you take on, the people you work with, the platforms you hang out on, and the content you produce.

E.g: Do you write articles on LinkedIn, or do you host Instagram lives with influencers? Do you work with businesses making a difference, or businesses making bank? Do you keep your emails professional, or are they littered with gifs? Do you dress up every day, or have you never seen a suit IRL? Do you send thank you cards after an event, or do you send doughnuts? (Literal or metaphorical.)

All of these things (and more) work together to create your personal brand – just like the way you talk, act and dress define your personality. While you try it on for size, keep your notes handy. You can check in with these whenever you need to make a decision, reach out to new clients or create a content strategy. Most importantly, next time you’re thinking of posting that wasted selfie to your feed, ask yourself: is this the best choice for my personal brand?

Alyce is a contributing writer for Fashion Journal and the director and head writer at Bossy, a Melbourne-based copywriting and content studio. You can find Bossy here and here.

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