This past week I’ve watched seven different young personalities on LinkedIn with fast-growing followings and great personal brands very publicly burn out.
They all appeared suddenly in my feed around three months ago, and just as quickly, they were making public statements saying that they are slowing down or withdrawing from social media completely.
Is it a lack of stamina? Hardly. These are content creators in their early to mid-twenties. They have tonnes of energy. What they lack is a reasonable expectation of what a personal brand involves.
Having a strong personal brand is important for anyone, especially for career-driven millennials. However, building your brand is also exhausting.
There are so many moving parts that require thoughtful planning. You must find ways to consistently and authentically present yourself online while avoiding anything that might backfire on you later. But this self-promotional checklist doesn’t leave much room for chilling out and getting “me time” despite a bunch of influencers saying that it’s given them back tonnes of time.
The pressure to build a strong personal brand feels almost like an obligation – as if we’re being tested, and our future job or client prospects hang in the balance based on how well we execute this strategy. However, there are plenty of ways to prevent it from becoming too much of a stressful burden.
Remember, if something doesn’t cost money, it will take time. And if it doesn’t cost time, then it will cost money. Or your mental health.
Here are some things that can help keep you from burning out when establishing and maintaining your personal brand:
Think strategically about your branding process
Think about how you want to be perceived by others. What kind of impact do you want to have on the world? In this way, branding yourself is a lot like branding a product. You want to consider your target audience, who you’re trying to reach and why they should be interested in what you have to say.
This process can help take some of the pressure off of you, especially if you’re feeling like you need to be an expert at everything right away. You don’t need to know everything about marketing or social media or any other aspect of branding your career.
You just need to know enough to get started and make progress which is going to be helpful as you continue to develop your skills.
This is where a few of the creators I mentioned earlier came unstuck. They did it all so quickly.
They went through the decision, the learning, the assessment of themselves, the execution of the brand, the development of a sales funnel and the creation of sellable assets all within 90 days. There were no noticeable experiments or pivots. Just repeated stunts, endless selfies and almost weekly announcements about some new product or service.
The whole process from zero to pedalling coaching and courses was pulled off within 90 days.
Any wonder it all came crashing down.
Set realistic expectations for yourself
The process of building a strong personal brand is not going to happen overnight. Or at least it shouldn’t.
It can take a lot of time and effort to get your name out there and build a following. It’s common to feel like you need to take on a lot at once, and if you’re not careful, it can be easy to burn yourself out in the process. You might feel pressure to be ultra-productive at all hours of the day, or you might feel compelled to take on too much at once. If you find that you’re feeling overly stressed and like you’re trying to do too much, it’s important to recognise that and make a change.
One area that those new to personal branding get caught up in is trying to be an expert in too many areas.
They may start with being an expert in social media marketing. Then someone asks them if they also understand WordPress. So they, fearing they may not get the money, suddenly swing around to learn as much as they can about WordPress in an hour. Next, they are asked about Klayvio. So they quickly morph into an expert on that too.
This almost manic behaviour drove my earliest years as a consultant and digital advisor. And it burned me out a few times before I narrowed my areas of expertise down to just two.
Communicate with your network and ask for help
Depending on your work environment and the people you work with, it might feel weird to open up about what you’re trying to do with your personal brand. That’s totally fine.
If you’re feeling like you need a sounding board, or you want to bounce ideas off of someone without having to explain the whole situation, it can be helpful to find an online community. Someone who is not in your office and who is not in your personal life can be great for giving you perspective without any judgement or pressure. You can also consider making an ask of your network of friends and family. Let them know what you’re trying to do and see if there is any way they can support you. It can not only be helpful to have a sounding board, but it can also be helpful to give back to your community by helping them with their goals, too.
I know this worked for me.
I let a few colleagues and friends know what I was doing. I asked a few of them to watch me to see if I get inauthentic and fake. So far, they’ve said nothing, but I am open to a time when they may.
In addition, it might be a good idea to make a connection with someone else who is a few more steps down the road than you. They have a lot of lived experience in this personal brand stuff. The obstacles you’re about to face are the ones they’ve already jumped over. Use them as a cheat code!
Take time off to care for yourself
This is pretty obvious stuff. But it’s about more than just getting rest and taking care of your mental well-being.
You become a more interesting person the more time you spent away from your work.
It’s where your unique perspectives come from. It’s where the interesting bits of your day come from. It’s the things that happen when you’re away from the work of personal branding that make you personal branding better.
It’s something of a paradox. Doing less personal branding creates more opportunities for personal branding.
If you’re feeling like you’re constantly burning the candle at both ends to get more content, take some time to explore ways to slow down and take care of yourself. If you don’t, you may find yourself burning out and losing sight of your long-term goals in the process.
Remember this is a personal brand that runs alongside your work. You’re not seeking to be an influencer whose branding is their work.
Building your personal brand is a long-term process, so don’t get discouraged by the idea that you will be working on it for a long time. Keep in mind that you don’t have to do everything at once or be everything to everyone all at once. Break things down into smaller chunks so you don’t feel like you have to rush or do everything at once and risk burning out in the process.
And most of all – enjoy time away from the game. You’ll be a more interesting person.