(and how to live an epic freelance life) | TS #106
Great post from Wes Kao, co-founder of Maven, on how we should forget ‘personal branding’ and focus on building ‘personal credibility’ at work.
It resonated with a lot of people – comments are still rolling in.
I don’t like the word ‘personal brand’ or ‘thought leader’ – can we have a ‘personal brand’?? It feels icky and makes me think of hot iron branding, which is painful for animals.
But as Natalia Jaszczuk, Head of Learning at Learnlight, said, “if we have an issue with the word brand, maybe it’s time for another.
“I personally see brand as – ironically? – more straight talking. It’s how you are but also how you’re perceived. The package. There’s nothing wrong in wanting to focus on it, and certainly, it’s crucial to understand how your brand is perceived.”
The two go hand-in-hand. You can’t have a personal brand without credibility. But I don’t think you need to build credibility – if you’ve been working and learning your craft for years, you already have it.
But you need to invest in it, be intentional about it, communicate the change you’re making and be consistent – on whatever platform/medium you choose.
Personal branding is also on the rise – see this piece by Patrick Coffee in the Wall Street Journal on how more CMOs and marketers are investing in their personal brands – and turning to outside firms to further their career goals and help promote their companies.
“Marketers promoting themselves is hardly a new concept, but the trend is intensifying.”
We know personal LinkedIn posts generate far greater engagement than company pages, so it makes sense to do both.
Personal branding is also creating new markets for work – look at the fees these content agencies charge for their services.
I’ve been ghostwriting for a while. A book about a Russian escort in London (Belle de Jour days) and newsletters and social posts for COOs, CEOs, founders and DG’s. It’s usually a team effort. I provide a draft copy, and they flesh it out, add personal details and have the final sign-off.
Semantics again, but maybe we should stop aiming at ‘personal’ anything?
In the NUJ, it’s all about ‘collective bargaining', working together to improve pay & conditions for all. The union hashtag is #StrongerTogether. And we see that play out with our summer-winter of strikes – unions have power, and they say it like it is.
‘Personal development’ is a weird concept, too, as high-performance coach Brandon Burchard said in one of his Daily Fires. We should call it 'collective development' given we’re all learning from and influenced by each other.
At the end of the day, we all share the same goal: to build an audience and monetise.
How to shape your personal brand 💥
Wes shares a few ideas in the post – be good to do a deep dive into those.
Dorie Clark, the author of Entrepreneurial You, has done loads of research on this topic for her work and says it comes down to three areas:
- Content creation
- Social proof
She has a Recognised Expert self-assessment toolkit you can download to work out what you need to focus on.
I also enjoyed this piece by Tom Peters: The Brand Called You (can’t believe he wrote this in 1997, still relevant).
What it takes to be the CEO of Me Inc. and how to stand out and prosper in the new world of work.
“The good news is that everyone has a chance to stand out, learn, improve, and build up their skills.”
What is it about your product or service that makes it different? Give yourself the 15-words-or-less contest challenge.
Think about your feature-benefit model: “Ask yourself: What do I do that adds remarkable, measurable, distinguished, distinctive value?”
What do you want to be known/famous for?
“No matter how beefy your set of skills or how tasty you’ve made that feature-benefit proposition, you still have to market the bejesus out of your brand – to customers, colleagues, and your virtual network of associates.”
There’s no limit to the creative ways to do this – moonlighting and taking on freelance projects introducing you to new people.
I've just discovered Phillip Van Nostrand’s book/podcast: How to live an epic freelance life. He earns a six-figure income as a photographer and talks about what he’s done to improve his quality of life and have more experiences - not always paid, he’s a fan of the skills swap.
Teaching, mentoring, writing a column for your local paper, signing up for talks – a crucial skill we can all learn (can’t believe speaking and listening skills aren’t taught in school.)
Make people feel something for the change you’re making, says David Hieatt, author of Do Purpose.
Share your story – here’s Marianne Lehnis on why she started The Green Techpreneur.
Details matter! Your post-sale comms are just as important as pre-sale – emails, phone calls, meeting etiquette, visual branding, how you dress and show up, support/technical content – it’s all part of brand you.
It also helps to have a great tagline. John Espirian’s is ‘The relentlessly helpful technical copywriter’ and he uses it everywhere.
Welcome to project world
"One key to growing your power is to recognise the simple fact that we now live in a project world. Almost all work today is organised into bite-sized packets called projects.
"A project-based world is ideal for growing your brand: projects exist around deliverables, they create measurables, and they leave you with braggables.
"If you’re not spending at least 70% of your time working on projects, creating projects, or organising your (apparently mundane) tasks into projects, you are sadly living in the past.
"Today, you have to think, breathe, act, and work in projects."
Future you: Linearity is out, and your career is more like a checkerboard or a maze.
"A career is a portfolio of projects that teach you new skills, new expertise, develop new capabilities, grow your colleague set, and constantly reinvent you as a brand.
"What you want is a steady diet of more interesting, challenging, provocative projects."
Sticking that on my LinkedIn profile 😁
📌 We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act, but a habit. Aristotle.
Do you have an Ask/Offer on this topic? Email me the details, and I’ll share them next time.
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Tom Peters – The Brand You 50 (Reinventing Work) – FREE on Google Books
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