What is personal branding? Building a personal brand that stands out

When you think “personal branding,” it likely conjures images of Instagram influencers, Gen Z TikTok stars, and celebrities schilling corporate sponsorships. 

Personal branding can have the reputation of being only for the rich and famous — when in reality, everyone has a personal brand (yes, even you), whether you have intentionally crafted it or not.

When you harness the power of your personal brand, you’re able to differentiate yourself from the crowded landscape of the field you’re in, and can position yourself in a way that helps you rise to the top — whether you’re an independent consultant or company vying for a new gig, or an individual applying to new jobs. 

So, what exactly is a personal branding? Personal branding is the act of identifying what makes you unique, so that you can stand apart from the crowd. Just like how larger companies have brands that define how they speak, what their design looks like, and how their audience perceives them, you can do the same thing for your personal brand. 

Below are three brief exercises that will help you stand out, feel confident in the audience you want to work with, and get super clear on what you have to offer as you job search or look for clients. 

person using MacBook Pro

Define your shared values with your audience 

The biggest mistake I see individuals and companies make when crafting their brand is focusing on their offerings first. Yes, your offerings (the products, services, and/or skills you bring to the table) are important — but they’re not why people want to work with you. 

There are thousands, if not millions, of individuals out there who do what you do. You have to find a way to stand apart that isn’t just reliant on what you do, but why you do it. And this is evident through your values. 

Values are your guiding principles. They are why you do what you do — the fundamental, driving factors behind your brand. They are descriptors that sum up the approach you bring to your work, and are often one word, such as “innovative,” or “zealous.” 

To begin the exercise of exploring your core values, I recommend setting a timer for one minute for each of these questions: 

  • What do you do really, really well?
  • What motivates you?
  • What’s the highest compliment someone could give you?

After this exercise, read over your answers and highlight any words or phrases that are through lines. If these words and phrases don’t feel right, consult a list of common core values and/or a thesaurus. 

These words will chart the course of your personal brand, so take your time and nail down values that feel good to you before moving onto the next step.

Define your audience and what they’re looking for

In the first step, I shared that the biggest mistake I see clients make is building their brand on their offerings first. The second biggest mistake is not realizing that their personal values also connect to their audience. 

When defining your audience — the ideal individual or organization you would like to work with you — first and foremost confirm that your values will resonate with your audience. Although they may not share every value, they should be something they respect and/or admire. 

For example, if you value boldness and innovation, your client may not be bold and innovative themselves — but they are hiring you to fill that gap in their company, showing their desire for more boldness and innovation in their business. 

You may be open to working with anyone who shares your values, or you may want to define it further. Your audience can be defined by a variety of factors, such as the type of company you’d like to work with or for, its industry, size, and/or location. 

Some of the above factors may also be defined by your values — for example, if you value community, you may be looking for a client or job located near you so that you can work in-person. Take some time to write out who your ideal audience is and what exactly it is they’re looking for, always gut checking against your values. 

man in white dress shirt using silver macbook

Craft your mission statement 

After establishing your values and audience, it’s time to bring your offerings into the mix and craft an external-facing mission statement. 

A mission statement is a succinct, one-sentence definition of what it is that you do, which should pique the interest of your ideal audience and those that share your values. 

Your mission statement should make a few things obvious to the person reading or hearing it, all so it can be super obvious what type of value you provide: 

  • Who you want to work with (your audience);
  • What you want to do (your offerings); 
  • Why you want to do it (your values). 

Mission statements can evolve and look different depending on the organization. When coming up with your first mission statement, I have a tried and true formula that will start you off on the right foot: 

[Name or company] provides [value] [service] to [audience], so they can [what your audience wants].  

Here’s an example of what that could look like: 

  • Jane Smith provides innovative, bold accounting services to female creative solopreneurs across the U.S., so they can ditch the cash-strapped mindset and find financial freedom. (For a consultant)

And there you have it! A few quick exercises to narrow down your audience, make it clear what you value in a client or employer, and a way to communicate that externally in a succinct mission statement.

Anna Beyerle

Anna Beyerle is the CEO, brand strategist, and business mentor behind Anna Beyerle Creative.