Are you an entrepreneur seeking to create your personal brand, for the betterment of your entrepreneurial reputation and your company’s future success?

In this column, I will discuss the importance of a personal brand through examples from my life and iconic entrepreneurs. I’ll then dive into key strategies that one can use to begin developing their own personal brand so that people begin to recognize your name and associate you with given values.

How Others Have Done It

Who do you think of when you hear the word “black turtleneck?”…Steve Jobs

Who do you think of when you hear something about electric cars? Or space travel? …Elon Musk

Who do you think of when you hear about your local tech of startup ecosystem? … It varies depending on where you are and how involved you are, but I bet there’s someone that sticks out in your mind.

Personal Branding

Personal branding is the act of associating your name and your image with a given topic of expertise. When done correctly, others will have an immediate view of who you are as an entrepreneur. Most of the time, building a personal brand leads to increased respect from many groups of people…as long as you aren’t endorsing negative or super controversial topics.

For entrepreneurs, personal branding eventually becomes synonymous with the creation and existence of your company, but you don’t want your company brand to trump your personal brand. Hence, why it is important to work on both while you are growing your business.

At day zero — unless you have prior experience building a business or branding your identity — you are in a race to create awareness around the idea that is the staple of your startup and also your reputation as the entrepreneur leading the initiative.

How I’ve Created my Personal Brand as an Entrepreneur

In 2014 and 2015

Over the past 3 years, I’ve committed significant time to developing my personal brand as a serial entrepreneur in the eCommerce industry.

In 2014 as Portlight reached all-time highs, I set out to create a personal and company presence in the Orlando area. My co-founders and I began meeting with handfuls of entrepreneurs, investors, and successful business professionals to learn about their stories and share ours.

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Throughout the year of 2015, I must have met with at least 50 new people that I had never met before. In the meetings, I asked tons of questions about their experiences and shared my journey to how I got to where I was on that day. Through the short chats, I was able to leave a lasting impression on those people and further establish myself as a domain expert in eCommerce.

In 2016

In the past year, I’ve taken my personal branding to a new level through the launch of ConnorGillivan.com and its subsequent social media channels.

As I embarked on a new chapter in my life starting two new companies, I was ready to begin publishing my writing and lessons to the masses. For close to 10 years, I’ve written about entrepreneurship and the lessons that I’ve learned along the way, but I had yet to release them for others to read.

I surmised that the next step in solidifying my personal brand was to show others that the knowledge I’ve learned is and can be applicable to one’s own journey as an entrepreneur. I also determined that in order to develop further expertise as an entrepreneur, I must also brand myself as a writer.

The journey to building my personal brand has just started. While some may know of my writing, my start up philosophies, and my ventures today, it is a continuous goal to reach more people within the entrepreneurship realm.

How To Create Your Personal Brand

Here’s what you’ve been waiting for. Clear and simple steps for how you can begin to build your personal brand.

Step 1: Network

  • Create a list of 25 individuals within your community that you want to share your story with. Find their email address and write each person a personalized message introducing yourself and asking to set up a coffee or phone call. Express your interest in sharing stories and learning from their experiences. Every person won’t respond, but you’re bound to get a few meetings set up.
  • After meeting with a new individual and sharing stories, ask them if they know anyone else that may be worth speaking with. Networking through your connections is one of the most effective ways to expand your personal contact list.

Step 2: Align your image and content on the Internet

  • One of the simplest ways to set a foundation for your personal brand is to align your image everywhere that it appears on the Internet. On your social media channels, set your profile image and featured banner to be the same. On your Gmail accounts, make your profile image the same as your social media. Create a custom email signature that includes your image and organized information about you.
  • By creating consistency with graphics and content, people will begin to associate you with those images and words. As you grow your personal brand, your image and content should also grow. Invest in a professional photo. Update your content to keep it relevant. Get a logo made by a graphic designer.

Step 3: Guest Post

  • As you are establishing yourself as a domain expert in a given industry, seek out others who are already influencing the space. Create a list of 25 to 50 influencers within your industry, find their email addresses, and send each a personalized email explaining your background and asking for an opportunity to write an article for their site.
  • Guest posting will allow you to create more relationships with influential individuals within your industry and expose your personal brand to new sets of communities that you didn’t have access to before. Don’t be discouraged by individuals saying “no” at first. Start small and work your way into working with the industry experts.

Step 4: Podcasts and interviews

  • Another similar strategy to guest posting is getting onto podcasts and video interviews to share your story and voice. Research the top 25 podcasts in your industry, find their emails, and send a personalized message to each individual with a pitch for why they should feature you on their podcast.

Step 5: Build a website

  • Make your personal brand official by launching a website all about your expertise and knowledge. If you are a writer, set up a blog where you regularly write about your expertise. If you are more of a talker, set up a site where you regularly post podcasts with your thoughts on your industry.
  • Building a website has become increasingly simple with the dominance of content management systems like WordPress. I learned how to build my own site within 2 months and had it launched full of content for the public to review. You can do the same. Or you can hire a freelancer to build your site for you.

There’s No Wrong Place to Start

Creating a personal brand is one of the long term plays that you strive towards as an entrepreneur. Take the first step by following one of my suggestions and don’t be afraid to share your beliefs with your immediate community. Think of the ideals you want associated with your personal brand and make sure they are a reflection of how you act. No one’s going to buy your personal branding if it’s not true.

If you have questions, leave them in the comment section and I’ll gladly respond.