How to Brand Yourself Without Spending a Dime, Part 2
Career Growth

How to Brand Yourself Without Spending a Dime, Part 2

by Abby Roskind
January 20, 2016

Last week, we broke down the basics of personal branding on a shoestring budget. This week, we're getting into the details and resources. 

NOTHING IS ORIGINAL, AND THERE’S NOTHING WRONG WITH THAT. IT’S AUTHENTICITY THAT’S INVALUABLE.

Inspiration has been, and continues to be, directed by discovery, invention, and reinvention. This is a beautiful thing, as human beings don’t have the expendable resources to remake the wheel for every project.

That being said, establishing a unified online presence that will differentiate you from the crowd is an essential part of any successful enterprise. Arguably, it’s the most essential, because it publicizes your core identity to the world, what you’re all about, your raison d’être. Your brand is what your audience relates to, and it’s what has propelled businesses like Apple or Nike to mythical, cultural-relevance status. People don’t fall in love with things, they fall in love with the story. {Click to Tweet}

Check out some tips on how to establish your personal story:

1. PLAY FAVORITES

There’s nothing wrong with taking inspiration from others. Last year, I attended an awesome digital cohesiveness workshop with Eva Goicochea (chill—there's another on Feb. 27), where she asked all the participants to think of a brand they loved. A surprising number of us agreed that the women’s fashion line, Reformation, had stellar branding— why?

  • clean, simple website layout
  • quality over all else
  • eco-consciousness 
  • large/ bold graphics

If you can break down what you like about your favorite brands into specific categories, you can emulate those in your own brand. None of the qualities we came up with were specific to Reformation (tons of other brands use similar design—think Cos, Creatures of Comfort, Finery, etc.) but they were all meaningful and recognizable.

Try this: Come up with about 5 brands that you personally love and identify strongly with. Jot down what qualities/ aspects/ features affect you the most. Think about why they affect you. Make a board online and write down ways you can incorporate these elements into your online presence, i.e. what needs to change (big or small).

Your brand is what your audience relates to, and it’s what has propelled businesses like Apple or Nike to mythical, cultural-relevance status. People don’t fall in love with things, they fall in love with the story. 

2. DEFINE YOUR PURPOSE

Ask any marketing professional how to build a personal brand, and they will most likely mention mission statements or brand mantras. Many people who work online will advocate the mantra over a traditional mission statement because of its unfussy and user-friendly nature. It’s up to you, of course. I think even if you don’t end up using your mission statement frequently, it can still play a useful role. You can dust it off every so often to check your direction and see if what you’re doing is aligning with your end-goals. Mission statements are like you’re long-term fact-check.

Regardless of a mission statement, though, mantras are essential. A mantra is a short, quippy, descriptive way to communicate your brand personality. In the Hindu tradition, “mantras are words or phrases repeated to facilitate transformation.” This is something that you will refer to daily, making sure you are fulfilling your purpose. Some great examples:

Google: “Don’t be evil.”

Fedex: “Peace of mind.”

Navy SEALS: “Embrace the suck.”

Rick Ross: “I’m a BOSS.”

Try this: Set a timer for 15 minutes, then write down as many mantras as you can about yourself. At the end of 15 minutes, look back at your notes. What are some common adjectives? What about a voice or tone? 

3. HAVE THE TOOLS TO DIY

As we all know, this stuff doesn’t just magically fall into place over night. Branding is a full-time job at some companies. It’s important at the outset to understand what level of commitment you personally want to put toward maintaining your cohesive identity.

For many, a DIY approach is great; they have, or can easily acquire, the necessary resources. It can be a great source of joy experimenting with various strategies to increase numbers, boost engagement, and build partnerships.

Here are some free tools to help you get started:

* Every one of your social channels should have a purpose and a place, working to complement and not reduplicate each other. {Click to Tweet} It's better to not have the channel at all, if you think you won't use it often, than to try to have presence everywhere. Since social media is so critical, this article is worth your time.

Try This: These are resources you'll come back to constantly so set up a folder in your bookmarks specifically for branding and save them all. Today, spend 10 minutes on each of the sites above exploring what they are and what they offer. 

What type of verbiage, cadence, and descriptors would [your audience] use to communicate their interests? 

4. FIND YOUR VOICE 

Critical! I don’t know how many times I’m going to use the words critical/ crucial in this article, but take the hint. In an ideal world, you want your audience to be engaged. Beyond pretty web design or graphics (which almost every good business has), you should also offer great content.

It’s essential to decide your tone and messaging hierarchy from the start. Going back to mimicking your favorite brands, what types of people do they represent? What are their personalities and interests? What type of verbiage, cadence, and descriptors would those people use to communicate their interests? Understanding your message, and who will be consuming it, is your first step in dedicating yourself to a cohesive voice.

The context (i.e. the way in which your audience will consume your message) can change and vary. Test out a variety of methods for sharing, including email marketing, but remember to keep your soundbites succinct; they should be easily consumable and shareable. Creating a hierarchy is all about growing your awareness, developing loyalty, and educating your audience.

Try This: What is your tone? Write down some adjectives to describe yourself along with some adjectives that don't describe you. Example: Driven, not pushy. Innovative, not rebellious. Etc. 

5. BE CONSISTENT

Lastly, everything you put out in the world under your brand’s name should be consistent. Your brand’s story, personality, and associations should all reflect one thing: your mantra. {Click to Tweet} Once you decide on a color palette, stick with it. Use the same tools every time to edit your photos. Choose your personality descriptors wisely, the ones you most identify with. This is a commitment, which is why it takes a lot of time and mental energy up front so you can happily maintain a consistent brand.

In the beginning, it can seem like any amount of mistakes are unacceptable, and that everything needs to be perfectly aligned. Don’t mistake the need for having one voice, or one mantra, with the inability to experiment. Your audience will understand and be able to relate to subtle growth.

Again, authenticity is a major key to success (shouts DJ Khaled). Don’t force anything to fit within your brand only because it’s worked for someone else.  

Try this: Any time you're editing personal messaging, whether it's your LinkedIn summary or a new portfolio site, ask yourself if it fits with your mantra. 

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This list could clearly go on forever, and if you search online there are endless listicles on what constitutes the essential elements of creating a personal brand. This is our version, and you should definitely compile your own through mixing and matching.

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Have you successfully built your brand? What has helped the most and what has been the hardest to overcome?