Create Your Personal Brand (Weekend Challenge)
If you’ve been putting off creating your personal brand (or are new to the concept) I wrote this guide to motivate you to take action – a lean approach to personal branding where one weekend is all you need.
Personal branding is the process of understanding yourself, determining how you want to be perceived, and creating a presence that reflects this ideal image.
It’s a personal and professional strategy for guiding the perceptions of others by focusing them on your strongest attributes, and a worthwhile undertaking, namely because:
If you don’t know where you are going, then you’ll get exactly nowhere
The personal branding process helps you get clear on your life vision as core to the exercise is establishing a purpose. In the absence of a purpose in life you risk floundering here and there and that lack of direction will fuel stagnation and discontentment.
You should live (and work) by a focused set of principles (that you define)
Even with a purpose in place you need a roadmap for achieving it. The personal branding process requires you to identify your values and assess how they will empower you to accomplish your goals.
You must communicate your unique value as it’s the only way to compete.
The global society we live in cherishes growth. In fact, even if you have some qualms with capitalism (on an ideologically level), it’s still hard to argue that humans don’t have an innate desire to thrive.
No matter the work you do or the field you are in, if you want to progress you must add value to the system — and if you want to convince others of your value then you have to show your worth.
You are always being searched online so should control what surfaces
These days no person or entity evaluates another person or entity without collecting data points. From casual encounters to formal partnerships, we rely on a certain amount of information to make judgment calls and establish trust.
The easiest way to gather information about virtually anyone or anything is through online search. I assure you that most of your personal and professional connections Google you, however you can influence what they see when they do.
Anyone whose success is heavily dependent on the viewpoint of others should especially consider creating a personal brand: such as if you are starting a sole proprietor business, looking for a job, or seeking to be promoted.
Personal Branding Weekend Action Plan
Now that we’ve got the why out of the way let’s focus on the how with a weekend branding action plan. All you need to do is block off any Saturday and Sunday (that works for you) then follow along.
By the end of the weekend you will answer the following introspective questions and use them to create a strong personal brand strategy and kick-off your digital presence. My 4Vs framework will guide you:
Who are you and what do you stand for for?
What do you aspire to achieve?
What’s unique about you?
What value can you add to others?
What’s your communication style?
How do you go about influencing others?
What’s your personal aesthetic?
What types of colors and other visual elements best reflect your personality?
Personal Brand Strategy
Answers to the 4Vs listed above. Read here for more info.
Personal Brand Statement
A short statement that summarizes your 4Vs. Read here for more info.
A set of rules that guide how you express yourself through words.
A set of rules that guide how you express yourself visually.
Showcases your bio and links to your blog and social media channels.
Blog (+First Post)
A blog set up on your website and populated with your first post.
Social Media Refresh
An audit of your two most important social media channels.
Out of scope
Though you will think about your visuals and gather inspiration, we will not focus on creating your brand identity (such as logos and fonts) as that would add too much to the 2-day process.
However, I will provide different options at the end of this feature for building on and enhancing what you develop over the weekend.
You will need to commit 8 hours on both Saturday and Sunday for this challenge. Just because you are packing all the work into one weekend doesn’t mean you should shortchange yourself by rushing through the exercise. Take your time.
How many different occasions have you worked after hours or over the weekends for your current job or school or some other initiative? This is no different. Consider it an overtime investment in yourself that will pay off more future dividends than you can imagine.
Feel free to break up your day how you prefer, however I recommend separating strategy work and execution into different days (because they require different levels of mental energy). I’ve also provided an estimated amount of time you should spend on each deliverable.
Most of the Saturday work will be brainstorming and writing. I recommend using a simple online writing tool such as Google Docs or the Bear App. You can also do this with pad and pencil but you’ll eventually need to transfer the text online so you can copy and paste into your digital presence.
On Sunday you’ll implement your brand by showcasing it online via your website and social presence. So long as you have a laptop or desktop and strong wifi you’ll be good to go.
Brand Strategy (4 hours)
Answer the questions listed under the 4Vs framework above.
Once complete distill down into a short personal brand statement as explained above.
What you come up with may not be perfect but think of personal branding as an ongoing process. You can always refine at a later point.
Voice Guidelines (2 hours)
List 5 words that you believe strongly convey your personality.
List 5 words that strongly convey what you don’t want your brand to represent.
Now reflect on your brand’s primary audience (clients, customers, peers, employers, etc.) and decide what tone you want to use when communicating with them (friendly, formal, authoritative, casual, etc.).
Lastly consider the emotion(s) you want to stir up in your primary audience and why that is important to you.
Now summarize all of the above by completing the following statements:
My personality is (insert your personality)
My voice is (insert the tone you use)
I write like this (insert good example sentence)
I don’t write like this (insert poor example sentence)
I want to make people feel (insert the emotion(s))
(Insert any other thoughts about your voice here)
Style Guidelines (2 hours)
Create a private board in Pinterest and then search the platform for images you are visually attracted to.
Next, go on your favorite websites and pin any images you like to your secret Pinterest board.
Go through all of the pins and select 10 that you believe best reflect your style. Move them into a separate secret board — this is your personal branding mood board.
Make note of the colors, fonts, images and other visual elements of the pins you saved. Try to apply a broad theme to the mood board so it’s easier to describe.
Now summarize all of the above by completing the following statements:
I describe my personal style as (insert short description)
My favorite color is (insert color) because (insert answer)
I am inspired by these images (denote images) because (insert answer)
It’s important that I visually convey (insert answer) because (insert answer)
(Insert any other thoughts about your style here)
At this point you are will be finished with the strategic inputs for your brand. The next day you will use this information to build (or improve your online presence.
Today’s work assumes that you don’t have a strong online presence and walks you through the process of setting one up. You should still follow along each step even if you do because you will want to evaluate existing content against your newly created brand strategy.
Please have your 4Vs, personal brand statement, voice guide, and style guide handy.
Web Page (3 hours)
The purpose of the website is to have a single easy-to-access destination that summarizes your story and provides links to your work or more information about you.
If you don’t already have a website this will guide you through the process of setting one up on Squarespace. New websites come with a trial period so you can try the platform before committing. Be sure to have this guide and this guide handy to provide more detail on editing your site (that won't be covered in-depth here).
Now, navigate to Squarespace, browse the templates, and select your favorite one. I strongly suggest not choosing one from the Online Stores section because they will have too many features you don’t need.
In the screenshots that follow I will use the Henson template because of it’s relative simplicity. At this point you may not have professional photos of yourself or a logo and other brand elements so we want the website to still look good until you can get around to developing those elements (I’ll discuss them later).
Click [Preview] for your template then click the [Start with this design] button. Squarespace will automatically generate your website. Answer the questions that follow then put your name for the Site Title when prompted.
Navigate to [Settings[ -> [Domain] and click into the [Built-in Domain] section. Change this name to whatever you like (perhaps your first and last name or some variation). If you are ready, you can then navigate to [get a domain] and go through the process of getting a more professional .com (which I recommend).
Navigate back to the [Pages] section and under [Work] delete all of the pages listed there except [Bio/Contact]. Click the tool bar next to the [Work] index page which will prompt Squarespace to ask you to create an actual version of it. Do so and rename it to [Home].
Click the settings wheel next to the [Bio/Contact] page which will prompt Squarespace to ask you to create an actual version of it. Do so then rename it to [About].
Lastly add another page and title it [Blog]. These are all the pages you need for now.
Click the settings wheel again for [Home] and navigate down to the [Description] section. Update it with a short version of your personal brand statement (try to focus it on what you do).
Go back to the [About] page and update the [Banner] with a nice professional image of yourself (or delete it if you don’t have one you like). Once you are back on the [About] page you can edit the text. I recommend using the full text from your personal brand statement. Delete all the other sections on the page.
Navigate to [Design] -> [Style Editor] and play around with the different options. To not overwhelm yourself I would have your style guide and Pinterest mood board handy and focus on just changing the color and style of the fonts and perhaps the background color of the pages.
After you finish go to [Settings] -> [Connected accounts] and add your email and social channels.
I’m very familiar with Squarespace so it only took me about 10 minutes to set up this example page. If you keep it simple it shouldn’t take more than a few hours.
Keep it mind you don't have to get it perfect today. It will take you more time and work to develop a finished product but this is definitely a great start for a few hours of work.
Blog +First Post (3 hours)
Now that you have a functioning website let’s write and populate your blog post.
In your 4Vs you discussed a lot about yourself and your areas of focus. I want you to generate a blog post that is relevant to you professionally but also resonates personally.
First, quickly sketch out the concept of your post. Perhaps it can be a problem that you have a solution to you. Second, come up with a compelling title (such as How to ...). Third, outline your post using the CAR communication method (Context, Action, Result).
Summarize what your post is about in the intro (this is the context or the problem), write out the body of your post (your solution or action), and then close with the outcomes (the result or what happens if your solution is followed).
Once you have your post written navigate back to Squarespace, click into the blog page, and paste your text. You have now published your first post.
Social Media Refresh (2 hours)
Your last exercise is to refresh your two most important social media channels.
I’m assuming that you already have a few social media channels set up. As a professional the first one should be LinkedIn and then you can choose the other to work on based on what you do and what you believe is most important to your niche.
You are going to do a quick audit of your two channels and make any necessary changes so that they look in sync with your new brand strategy.
For both channels, look at your basic profile information especially the bio section that summarizes who you are. Make sure the text is on par with your personal brand statement. Also, make sure your contact information is up-to-date (you may even want to add in your new website).
Next, take a look at your profile image. Even though you may not have a professional headshot or logo to use right now let’s make sure the image you use temporarily is reflective of your brand.
In LinkedIn, take a look at the text for the work experience and other summaries on the page. Do the words sound like they're in line with your voice? If not, rewrite them (refer to your Voice guide for help).
In your other social media channel look at your recent posts (especially images and text). Assuming that you don’t want to delete your old posts make a note of how you can improve these going forward to be more in line with your brand.
Finally, come up with a few new post ideas that are in line with your brand and save them so over the next few days you can post and start the process of improving your content.
More Personal Branding Resources
Your DIY personal branding weekend plan is in-depth and will culminate with you having a strong understanding of your vision, value, voice, and visuals. You’ll build a simple but effective website and you’ll clean up your top social channels and create new content that is in line with your brand.
If you took the challenge and got this far in the process congratulations! As a reward for your commitment, email me at firstname.lastname@example.org with a link to your website and I will give you a month free to my members-only premium repository of resources.
If you are motivated to do more work on your personal brand and online presence I have additional tools to assist you depending on if you want to continue doing it yourself or prefer to turn it over to a professional.
Financial Investment: None
Time Commitment: 2 Days (at your own pace)
What You Get: Sign up to access additional free resources (guidebooks, templates, etc.) that will help you craft your brand strategy and get more out of the weekend challenge.
Financial Investment: Low
Time Commitment: 1 Week (course length)
What You Get: Over the course of 7 days this course goes deep into the 4V framework and tells you exactly what you need to do to craft a strong personal brand strategy and identity. It provides a more thorough break down of the concepts and includes a comprehensive set of over 50 resources including where to look for assistance for your design elements.
Financial Investment: Moderate
Time Commitment: 2 Weeks (our turnaround time)
What You Get: If you don’t want to do it yourself my team and I can do it for you. In only two weeks we'll craft your brand strategy (the 4Vs) and design your identity (logos, colors, fonts, etc). You will only need to invest a few hours in completing a questionnaire and hopping on a couple of project calls.
I will include a 20% discount off my rate + free design improvements to your Squarespace webpage if you can show that you already did the weekend challenge. This is subject to availability as I only take on one branding client at a time.