Personal Branding 101: The Ultimate Guide to Marketing Yourself

John Krautzel
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Consumers are overwhelmed with marketing noise from businesses and professionals fighting to grab their attention, so a personal brand helps you connect on a human level, giving clients and employers a compelling image of what to expect when they interact with you or your product. Using your brand to market yourself and build lasting relationships can yield a steady stream of growth opportunities throughout your career.

Create Your Mission Statement

When you think of branding, you probably picture big corporations with abundant capital. Companies build trust by creating a brand voice that makes consumers believe their needs are valued and understood. The brand story promises a distinct, consistent experience, and companies tailor their services and interactions to meet those expectations.

As an individual, you have the advantage of shaping your brand around your personality and passions. An effective marketing plan starts with a solid mission statement that defines what you hope to learn or gain, how you measure success and the image you want to project. If you're invigorated by the process of developing new businesses from the ground up, that passion serves as both a selling point and part of your brand story. If you enjoy the challenge and social interplay of teaching others, make it your mission to build connections through instructional roles and expert consulting.

Know Your Selling Points

People want to know their transactions have value, whether it's a hiring or purchasing decision. Think of yourself as a free agent with a nonlinear career to pinpoint your value proposition outside of a company structure, says business management guru Tom Peters. Adopt a feature-benefit model you can easily convey in person and through marketing content. For example:

1. Feature: You analyze the details. Benefit: You catch mistakes and save money for businesses.

2. Feature: You have high integrity and emotional intelligence. Benefit: Your dedication to delivering a satisfying experience yields customer loyalty and high retention rates.

Identify what makes you unique and compelling, and use those features to guide your brand. When designing content for your website, resume, business brochure and products, choose stories, testimonials, case studies and career highlights that illustrate how your skills benefit others.

Master Word-of-Mouth Marketing

Never view any marketing opportunity as too small. You are surrounded by other free agents who can identify with your contributions and reinforce your brand message as they branch off on their own career paths. Project the qualities you want to be known for at work and in your local community. Instead of telling people you're a hardworking team player, show them by volunteering for projects that annoy your colleagues. The benefits are threefold:

1. Through deeper involvement in the company, you gain more credentials for your resume.

2. You build a network of people who feel gratitude and think of you as the go-to professional.

3. You develop a consistent timeline of skill-based projects that highlight your best qualities.

Talk to people whenever you can. Accept invitations to socialize with colleagues outside of work and embrace opportunities to meet their spouses, friends and relatives, who may have professional influence in relevant industries. Meet up with other professionals at networking events and show interest in what they do. Carry and hand out business cards, and ask thoughtful questions to understand what drives each person. These things help you simultaneously expand your influence and learn about available opportunities.

Market yourself by spreading your brand of ideas. Look for opportunities that credit you with a byline, such as local newspapers and company newsletters. Host local classes and workshops to gain visibility. At work, offer to lead training sessions to demonstrate how employees can improve results for specific business tasks.

Design a Content Strategy

Attract a wide online audience by establishing yourself as a reputable source of information. Create professional profiles that showcase your brand identity and credentials, and use content to drive traffic to those profiles. Focus on a niche in which you are highly knowledgeable, and publish articles that teach, inform and inspire your readers. For example, produce blogs, reports, e-books and YouTube tutorials that help readers learn a process, solve problems or achieve goals, such as starting a business.

A personal website should provide a one-stop portal to learn about your brand, your latest published content and your most recent or exceptional work. Consider using your own name as the domain, as this gives you greater control over your reputation on the Web.

Interact With Your Audience

Delivering valuable content helps you build an audience of potential email subscribers. Email makes it easy to keep subscribers informed about free content, products, promotions, press releases and speaking engagements.

You don't have to use every social media site, but be active and engaging whenever possible. Network online by contributing to relevant discussions and responding in a helpful manner when readers comment on your articles. Set up an email alert to track personal mentions online to maintain a positive conversation about your brand.

For successful marketing, you have to be confident enough to take credit for your skills and accomplishments. Use your personal brand to build a narrative around those impressive qualities, and present yourself as a product that can make work or life easier for your audience.

Photo Courtesy of Stuart Miles at


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  • Nancy Anderson
    Nancy Anderson

    @Abbey so very true. We are not raised to brag about ourselves but, in today's world, you need to learn to do that - to brand yourself; to find a new jobs. So try out the personal branding. Use it on a resume and cover letter and see if you get any responses. Your confidence will start to grow when you start getting responses. Now, what you do in front of an interviewer is a different story. You must have confidence and be able to sell yourself in order to succeed. May be one of the hardest things for most people to do. But what are the alternatives?

  • Abbey Boyd
    Abbey Boyd

    I think the one thing most people find most difficult about personal branding is putting themselves out there. It is hard for a humble person to sell himself to others. I find myself struggle with this often. I don't want to come across as overconfident. However, being less than confident can be worse. When a person sees you stumble over your selling points because you feel uncomfortable promoting yourself, they view you as weak and unable to compete. Be confident!

  • Nancy Anderson
    Nancy Anderson

    @Amelia thanks for your comment. Have you checked around your local area for after work networking events? What about on some sites dedicated to writers? What about via LinkedIn? Great way to connect and network. As for as getting out the word, you could make up business cards - or have them made. This way you can simply hand out the cards when you meet new people. Hand them out to family and friends and ask them to pass them on should they know anyone looking for your skill set. Have some fun with the business cards - make them your own. The days of the standard name in big letters followed by the company name, address and contact information are pretty much over. Some people even put a brief resume on their business cards. Make them your own. Hope this helps.

  • Amelia Freeman
    Amelia Freeman

    This is so useful, thanks. This is something I definitely struggle with as a writer, and I'm jealous of my peers who have a much better sense of 'branding' than I do. This includes better websites, a (perceived) distinct personality, even specific fashion sense, and so on.

    Though I'm curious. Does anyone have tips about how to achieve word of mouth marketing if you're self employed? What are good ways to network with people in my field if I don't work with them day to day?

  • Nancy Anderson
    Nancy Anderson

    Thanks everyone. All great points. The article may make it sound easy but personal branding can be hard for many of us. To me, when I think of personal branding, I think of someone who likes to brag on themselves all the time. That certainly is not me. As @Catherine mentioned - shyness needs to be overcome. But, all that aside, the hardest part of personal branding is just getting started. Think about what you want to portray and how you want to do it. Try out a few different branding options and run them passed a friend or a family member and see what they think. Tweak it until it says just what you want it to say and then start updating your social media sites as well as your resumes and cover letters with your new brand. It just may be the way to get your foot in the door for your next job.

  • Terry Lutz
    Terry Lutz

    These are all good points. Developing a coherent brand is integral to being successful in business. It's a delicate balance, however, to cultivate a personal brand that doesn't just look like a cheap facade. Personally, I've found success by promoting traits that really are a reflection of myself rather than just what I think potential employers are looking for. For example, I'm far better at fixing things than I am at selling them, so it's more practical to market myself as problem solver rather than a salesman.

  • Lorri Cotton
    Lorri Cotton

    As someone who is struggling to determine what my brand is, I really appreciated this article. There is much to consider and this comprehensive guide will be extremely helpful, for figuring out exactly what it is that I'm trying to project. I have such an eclectic skill-set that it is difficult for me to find a straight line and follow it; to decide which of my passions I want to pursue. Thanks for this idea-packed article. It will definitely go in my "Getting Started" file.

  • Tara Avery
    Tara Avery

    Thank you for this insightful and interesting article. In my own experience, I can't begin to highlight the importance of meaningful, genuine interaction with potential clients. I think learning to value our own skills is a real challenge, but once you really figure out what makes your skills unique or useful, the potential for growth--as a business and as a person--is really vast.

  • William Browning
    William Browning

    Personal brand marketing is a way to bring the "me" factor to the workplace. It doesn't have to be about "I did this" or "I'm like that." All you have to do is be yourself, gain experience and then make connections. It takes time to develop a brand just like a company. However, the end results are worth it. You get a chance to make lifelong relationships on your way to career happiness when you market yourself the right blend of confidence, swagger, skills and accomplishments.


    Branding myself is something that I've always had trouble with. I'm a little shy so word of mouth marketing, as you described, doesn't come that naturally to me. I think that the only way I can get over my fear of networking is by forcing myself to do it. Thanks for your suggestions. I think the best approach is to treat every interaction as a potential networking opportunity.

  • Jay Bowyer
    Jay Bowyer

    When carefully crafted, a good mission statement really does help keep you on track toward success. As well as enhancing your ability to sell your skills, identifying what you're good at can really give your self esteem a boost. The better you feel every day, the better you'll do and the more successful you'll become!

  • Nancy Anderson
    Nancy Anderson

    Thanks for the comments. Networking is important at all levels in our lives not just for job hunting. It is hard when you are shy but, after you do it once, you will find that there's really nothing to fear. As Katharine found out, as a freelancer, networking is vital to her business. Remember, networking doesn't have to be "in person". You can network here on Beyond by connecting with others in your industry. You can network on Linkedin as well as Twitter and Facebook... instagram and any of the other networking sites. It certainly can open doors for you.

  • Shannon Philpott
    Shannon Philpott

    Great advice, here. The idea of word-of-mouth marketing and networking is crucial. In many industries, you have to know someone to get your foot in the door. I've struggled with networking in the past because I'm painfully shy, but once I overcame my fear of walking up to a stranger to introduce myself, many doors opened for me as a professional.

  • Hema Zahid
    Hema Zahid

    It’s crucial to focus on the benefits, whether you are working for a company or running your own business. Your boss or the client needs to know what they can expect to gain from your skill set. I’ve noticed that potential employers do express a greater interest when I outline how I can help the company achieve their goals instead of just pointing out my qualifications.

  • Jacob T.
    Jacob T.

    I believe the value of networking, staying active in the community and applicable industries and finding ways to demonstrate value are proven methods of gaining success. Here again, though, we have a 'plan' that requires the sublimation of the rest of your life (manipulate your colleagues' spouses at social events) in order to take steps forward. This is the kind of behavior that, in the long run, will benefit a company but seldom an individual.

  • Katharine M.
    Katharine M.

    As a freelancer, personal branding and networking have been crucial for me. One thing I've learned is that unexpected companies are sometimes in need of your services. I've done projects for companies that I wouldn't expect would have any need for an editor, but for various reasons, they do. Just a reminder that you never know where your next opportunity will come from.

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