You don’t need to be a social media influencer to have a strong personal brand. In fact, showcasing who you are and what you want to be known for can help you get ahead in your career, whether you’re in the market for a new job, changing careers, gearing up for a promotion at work, or trying to attract more clients as a freelancer.
What exactly is a personal brand? In addition to defining who you are and what you do, a personal brand determines how others—including future employers—will look at you. It’s a chance to put out your message, so that when people hear your name or see your photo, your personal brand is the first thing that pops into their mind.
Creating a personal brand is a process—and one worth going through. To help, we turned to a couple of experts from the Squarespace Circle community, whose members include successful online entrepreneurs, consultants, and website designers. Here, personal branding expert Karen Happel and business coach and digital designer Tony Howell share their tips.
1. Develop Your Brand Story
Developing your brand story is intrinsically an emotional process. After all, you’re sharing who you are at your core for everyone to see. The first step is getting clarity on why you are creating this story or what your long-term goal is—such as finding a new job or pivoting industries.
It can help to put notes down on paper, starting with a list of words that you think people would use to describe you. You’ll also want to define your skill set and target audience, what service you have to offer others, and why someone would want to hire you or work with you. From here, you’ll be able to put it all together in a brief paragraph or simple, to-the-point sentence that communicates who you are.
2. Build a Website
Once you have your brand story, you’ll need to create a place where you can share it with the world. That’s where having a website comes in. “Having a website is so important because it’s your home base for your message,” says Howell, who says you could start simple with a one-page site. (Squarespace has plenty of templates to choose from.)
When creating a more in-depth site, there are four essentials to include:
- An “About Me” page (which can also be your homepage): This should incorporate whatever you put together in Step 1, showcasing who you are, what you do, and anything else that shows off your personality (including interesting or fun facts about you).
- An experience/work page: Here’s where you can go into more detail about your previous work experience or services you have to offer (think blog or podcast, etc.)
- A contact page with your email address and links to social media handles. You can also create a form for people to get in touch with you, which is an option on Squarespace.
- Professional photography: Why create a beautiful website, and rely on a badly cropped photo of yourself for your headshot? You can invest in a shoot, or take advantage of portrait mode on your (or a borrowed) mobile phone.
For something more complicated—or to outsource the website building so you can focus on running your business—you could work with a Squarespace Circle member and have an expert guide you along the way. “I love building Squarespace sites for people because it’s so easy to teach them how to make updates and you don't have to get in touch with a mysterious coder to make tiny changes,” Happel says.
3. Promote Yourself
Now that you have a website, you want to get it in front of as many people as possible. In addition to including it on your email signature, it’s important to add it to your LinkedIn profile and tap into the power of social media by creating Instagram and Twitter accounts (and other social media platforms like TikTok, depending on your target audience).
There are plenty of ways both big and small to boost your personal brand, from engaging with others in your field to reposting relevant articles. (Here are more ideas on what you can do daily, weekly, and monthly.)
That being said, don’t worry about posting on every platform every day—especially in the beginning. “A lot of people make the mistake of trying to show up everywhere all at once, and then they burn out and never really get anywhere,” says Happel. “Having a website and using one social media platform to start is a really great thing to do because it allows you to focus your time on one place.”
And whatever you do, make sure to be consistent across all of your platforms, from your photo and username to your profile description.
4. Track Your Progress
Congratulations! Your website and social media accounts are up and running. Instead of just sitting back and hoping for the best, you’ll want to gauge how your website is actually performing by looking at specific statistics and data.
For example, Squarespace’s analytics feature lets you look at page views, where those views are coming from (did someone link to your website from Instagram, for example?), and which page on your site is the most popular, among other insights. These numbers can help you determine if you should make any changes—say, updating your website navigation to drive more traffic to a certain page or focusing more attention on a certain social media platform.
5. Have Patience
When it comes to building your brand, it’s important to remember that it will evolve organically. “It’s like a pointillism painting—you don’t just do it overnight,” Howell says. “It takes all of these little tiny impressions that add up over time.”