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by Lynn S.Schwebach


Steps to Building a Personal Brand Australian Cockatoo Illustration

Illustration by Lynn S. Schwebach

I have helped other businesses with branding, but sitting down and doing it for my new art business was like jumping in a cold lake on a winter day. Naked. It’s a lesson in taking the advice you dish out to others, and applying it to your own life.

But I learned a lot. The biggest lesson? When you take the time to thoughtfully and introspectively define yourself and your values, personal branding works. (To help you understand what personal branding is and how it helps you and your business, see my articles, “What is Your Personal Brand?” and “Personal Branding Builds Self Confidence.”)

I now have a clear branding statement for Schwebach Arts, which specializes in fine art paintings and photography. From my branding process, I was able to come up with a tagline for my Etsy shop at schwebacharts.etsy.com and my upcoming website schwebacharts.com. Best of all, I have a clear roadmap for future messaging, finding great keywords and hashtags, and setting myself apart from thousands of others selling art. (Yes, artists are small business owners and personal branding is essential for sales!)

Here are the steps I took and I recommend to you as you start on your personal branding journey. I taped a large piece of paper to a board, and wrote out the answers to the questions listed below. I keep this board in my office adding to it everyday as I discover new ways to define myself, my art, and my life.

Building a Personal Brand Chart

Step 1. In a few paragraphs, define yourself. Who are you, what do you do, and what do you value?

This is the most important step in building a personal brand. You have to know who you are and what you value before establishing how others identify you.

Imagine a fellow partygoer asking you what you do. Just answering accountant sounds dull and stodgy. Let’s say you’re an accountant who has a strong inclination for helping others so you work for a number of charities. You also spend your weekends volunteering for a nonprofit organization for disabled children.

“I’m an accountant who specializes in charity work.” This statement immediately differentiates you from other accountants. Now think about what you value and how that parallels what you do. You are passionate about “altruism” “compassion,” and “selfless giving.” These values are the principles that form the framework for your decisions, your beliefs, and your life’s purpose.

When defining yourself, ensure that you include your core values. For instance, core values of financial independence, determination, optimism, variety, and dependability might signal an entrepreneur. Core values of imagination, uniqueness, and originality demonstrate someone who is creative.

Does your profession or job match your core values? Do your actions in the world reflect your core values?

Be brutally honest. You must back up what you portray through your personal brand, or people will label you as a fake.

Step 2. Compile a list of everyone in your target audience.

It’s great to know who you are, what you value, and what you aspire to in your life and career. That’s the first step in developing a personal brand. But you aren’t going to get anywhere unless you identify the people who will help you achieve your goals.

Your target audience might include managers or project leaders within a company, customers, or community members. The audience might also be colleagues in your field or potential employers. You must know whom you’re trying to reach with your personal brand, and channel your efforts into reaching those customers.

Identify your customers and write them down. Be specific.

If you’re an attorney who practices estate planning, for example, write down individuals aged 55 or over needing wills and trusts. If you want to work for an ad agency within 30 miles of your house that focuses on digital marketing and Search Engine Optimization, write it down.

Step 3. Explain how you are unique and specify your promise.

Most of us buy products based on brands. We do this based on a promise—a promise of value. Personal branding is also built on a promise. It tells your customers what you promise to deliver, and how that promise differs from others or the competition.

Identify what makes you unique. What makes your target audience think of you before all others? Do you promise something more or better or different than your competition?

Step 4. Write your brand statement.

Assimilate what you’ve written and write a statement that identifies your specialty (based on your values), why you are unique, and your target audience.

Writing this statement might occur a few days or a week or two after you’ve had time to think about what you’ve written to the prompts.

Use this statement as your branding guide. Shorten it if it’s too long, and add it as a tagline to your logo, business cards, e-mails, and stationary. Introduce yourself at conferences, networking events, and weddings with your statement, remembering that you can always go back and revise it if your journey changes.

Step. 5. Brand Statement Examples:

“A divorced woman who specializes in helping divorcing couples find mutually acceptable custody solutions, and helps each get back on the road to mutual happiness for not only them but for their children. ” From About.com; “How to Write Your Personal Branding Statement.”

“I bring creativity and enthusiasm into the lives of professionals using my expertise in career development with an intelligent, customized approach.” From Susan Chritton, M.ED. Personal Branding for Dummies (John Wiley & Sons, Inc. 2012), 121.

Lastly, here is the brand statement that I developed (so far) for Schwebach Arts:

“I create art that opens doors within the hearts and minds of those who struggle to describe emotional states with words, because intense, complex feelings open these individuals to new levels of self discovery and understanding.”

From this statement, I developed the shortened tagline: “Art That Opens Doors”

Let me know what you think about my branding statement and tagline, and watch for my next article on branding focusing on building self-confidence through personal branding.