The short answer is no. The long answer is “maybe a little.”
Personal Brand is an incredibly personal topic. After all, you’re choosing how you plan to project yourself to the world, personally and professionally.
And while I wouldn’t say I like the idea of someone basing their personal brand off someone else’s, there’s nothing wrong with being inspired by how someone else has built theirs.
After all, I have lifted a lot of inspiration from Justin Welsh and bits and pieces from several other women and men who express themselves in a way that I resonate with.
There is a danger of losing yourself in someone else’s narrative.
- When you don’t define your values, you inherit theirs
- When you don’t refine your voice, you mimic theirs
- When you don’t have a goal in mind, you may end up copying theirs
Let’s drill down on those dangers a little more.
Define values you can live with
We all have things that we wish we were better at.
I wish I could paint and draw. I wish I were better at administration and financial tasks in my business. I wish I could speak another five languages.
Those things are aspirations. They’re unlikely to happen in my life, but I like their idea.
Some things show up with you whether you’re having a bad or a good day.
Even on a good day, I’m no good at life admin. So it’s not a value that I live out now.
But I show up as authentic and approachable even on my worst days. So that is a value that would appear both important to me and something I can live up to.
I am well aware of a specific danger when I teach values in my personal branding classes.
When I state my values, a big chunk of the class thinks, “yes, I like those too – they will become my values.”
By skipping the sometimes awkward step of self-examination, you’re just simply looking at the values of someone else and bolting them onto yourself.
The issue here is that these may not be values you can live up to – and once you start telling people what your values are, they’ll quickly realise that you’re falling short of them.
Define a voice that is yours, not a copy of theirs
When I first set out to seriously define and express my personal brand, this was a challenge for me.
For some years, I had built up a big bag of certifications, accreditations and qualifications on various digital technologies and platforms.
And while my values were well-defined, my voice wasn’t.
So with this rather large swag of knowledge, I set out to show the world how smart I was by copying a few people’s styles that I really liked.
My delivery style became a mash-up of Justin Welsh, Ash Rathod, Linda Malone and Amelia Sordell (look them up on LinkedIn to see who they are.)
What was missing, though, was me.
All of the above are slick, professional and bold.
I am far from slick, often quite unprofessional, and while I can be bold, I also wrestle with imposter syndrome daily.
Once I realised that I was becoming a clone of others (thanks to a good friend for calling me out on that), I set about working on what my voice was.
Unsurprisingly, it came down to matching my voice to my values.
Here’s how that played out:
Value 1: Honesty
Call out my own mistakes. Celebrate the success of others. Credit other people’s work where I have used it.
Value 2: Authenticity
Use my own life stories – the good and the bad. Own up to the things I am challenged by. Express disagreement when I feel it.
Value 3: Approachability
Invite conversation. Answer every comment I can. Join other people’s conversations. Make myself easy to find and contact.
Value 4: Vulnerability
Be both a professional and an emotional human. Share my struggles and strategies. When someone has better solutions, recognise them. Pivot when things aren’t working.
Value 5: Effectiveness
Everything I share needs to teach, entertain, inspire or provoke thought. If a post doesn’t match at least one of these, don’t do it.
Once I had defined these actions based on my values, my voice emerged.
And that voice was clear, empathetic and warm.
A far cry from the copycat voice that I had earlier been using.
Why are you doing this?
This probably should have been my first point in this article.
This is where all your efforts to define a set of values, refine a voice and execute a strategy will flow.
And that flow will either run like a river out to sea or will be channelled to where that water is needed most.
So, where are you going with all this personal brand stuff?
If you can honestly say it’s about enjoying the attention (and there’s nothing wrong with that), then you have a goal. And while that goal may not be very useful beyond a few hits of dopamine when someone says something nice, it’s still a goal.
Very few people who start working on a personal brand have an endgame in mind.
My goal is to grow a business that allows me to work with whoever I want on whatever I want from wherever I want.
A big dream!
I’m not looking to make millions, necessarily. But I have an aspirational lifestyle in mind.
For me, freedom is a big driver.
I like to open my laptop computer at a cafe and get to work without having to check in with bosses, write reports and justify my employment every few months.
I want to work from my parent’s kitchen table frequently because they’re old and I miss being nearby to them.
I don’t like being in one town for too long. It makes me nervous and anxious.
So everything I am doing now is building towards this picture of freedom in my mind.
Yours may be completely different.
- Paying off your mortgage early.
- Spending more time with your kids.
- Travelling regularly.
- Working four days instead of five.
You need a destination in mind so that the journey has a purpose beyond just curiosity and activity.
Personal Brand is just a utility in your toolkit that allows you to do this.
When someone wants to work with you because they know, like and trust you, then they do not need to be in the same building as you.
The Bottom Line
It’s easy to say to someone, “just be yourself,” but that isn’t automatic for many of us.
Starting with exploring your values, you can begin to build an idea of how you might express yourself to the world.
Once you know how to express that voice while keeping your end goal in mind, you are in the flow of your personal brand.
The best part of your personal brand is that it’s not the same as anyone else’s. Your unique abilities, your combination of skills and experience, and that special way you connect with others combine to form a beautiful and effective way to move through your personal and professional life.
Dante St James is the founder of Clickstarter, a Meta Certified Lead Trainer, a Community Trainer with Meta Australia, a digital advisor with Business Station, an accredited Digital Solutions advisor and presenter, and the editor at The Small Marketer. You can watch free 1-hour webinars and grow your digital skills at Dante’s YouTube Channel.
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