You’ve finally made the leap to become an entrepreneur, content creator, or business owner. Now, how do you stand out in a competitive marketplace?

A strong personal brand is crucial to success in any venture. This often underrated difference can open doors to professional opportunities – such as a better job, industry recognition, and a wider network.

But what is a personal brand, exactly?

“Your personal brand is what people say about you when you are not in the room – remember that.” – Chris Ducker

Whether you’re known for your aesthetic snaps, savvy social media skills, or your ability to engage a crowd, you have a personal brand.

Often, we mistake personal branding as mere self-promotion. However, it’s far more than this. It’s the unique voice, image, and perspective that people recognize and resonate with as authentic to you’.  It’s your reputation and what you’re known for.

When given the right investment of time and money, a powerful personal brand will create memorable experiences for anyone that interacts with you.

So, how do you build a powerful personal brand?

Here are 5 key questions to ask yourself:

1) Who Am I?

Before you can be of service to anyone else, you need to define who you are. Learn about yourself and identify your unique story, values, and talents. Tap into your passion and the ‘why’ behind what you do.

You might come from adverse childhood and want to impact those with similar experiences or have the desire for more time freedom because you value time with family and friends. You may be devising a plan to leave your boring 9-5 job, or maybe you’ve decided to pursue a creative, fulfilling hobby full time.

Whatever your story is, people trust authenticity. So, it’s important to know who you are and to stay true to this.

Being authentic also includes understanding what you’re ‘not’. To avoid inconsistencies, think about what opportunities you’d say no to, and why, as well as what sacrifices you’re currently making to achieve your goals.

2) Who Is My Audience?

Everything you create revolves around the people you’re serving. Take the time to learn about them. Look out for what their interests are, what challenges they’re facing, what dreams they have, and what steps they’re taking in order to get there. Similarly, include demographic data about their age, where they live, how much they earn. The more detailed you are, the more likely you are to resonate with them.  

You can do this by studying your audience in person or online by asking them to fill out a quick survey. If you can’t contact them directly, find where they are hanging out online and pay attention to the conversations they’re having (e.g. Amazon book reviews, the comments sections on Youtube videos) and who they find as an authority in the industry (e.g. who they’re following on Instagram and Facebook). It’ll also be important to note what questions your audience is asking, and what value you can offer to fulfill their needs.

This process can often seem overwhelming, so remember that rather than trying to appeal to everyone, focus on creating specific audiences that you can serve.

3What Makes Me and My Brand Unique?

While you’re probably inspired by others in your industry, it’s important to bring your own understanding and uniqueness to your work.

Take a look at the qualities you have. Are there any that set you apart from everyone else?

These are your strengths.

Or maybe you’re not the only one doing what you do, but, instead, your strengths lie in how you do this. Do you bring a new, creative angle? Do you specialize in relating to a specific group of people? Are you incredibly efficient in what you do? Do you have a polarizing opinion and aren’t afraid to tell people all about it?

These abilities are what make you unique. Showing this off throughout your personal brand will help people understand how different you are from your competitors.

4What Is My Message?

In Silicon Valley, many bootstrapping startups learn to prepare an ‘elevator pitch’ to sell their ideas to potential investors. The purpose is to summarise their idea into a memorable phrase so that it can be easily conveyed to anyone at any time.

You’ve just taken an exciting leap into this fast-paced world; you’re going to want to tell everybody. Don’t bore them with your life story. Craft a short message that sums up what you’re all about. Keep it simple and relevant, reflecting the value you have as a solution to their problems.

5How Will I Seize This Opportunity?

For most cases, the beginning of your journey as an entrepreneur or content creator is where you have your greatest opportunity. You have a low-investment endeavor in front of you, which means you’ll have the chance to experiment and face objections with minimal pressure to succeed for the sake of your livelihood. The stakes are low, and the only person you have to manage is yourself.

“Move out of your comfort zone. You can only grow if you are willing to feel awkward and uncomfortable when you try something new.” – Brian Tracy

SoHow Can You Take Advantage of This?

By finding ways to gain exposure for your work and continuously providing value.

Many young entrepreneurs and content creators showcase their expertise through social media, blogs, speaking events, and networking conversations. They engage with as many relevant key influencers and individuals as possible and are continuously innovating their approach to being memorable. So, the more opportunities you decide to take action on, the better.

And if there’s anyone who’s successfully executed on these key strategies to becoming more memorable, it’s content creator Joel Elman, known as @joel on Instagram.

While most 26-year-olds were climbing the corporate ladder, Joel was calling it quits at his full-time job to travel the world and create visually stunning content. In the pursuit to stand out in a crowded industry, Joel went to great lengths to create a powerful personal brand that would be remembered.

“It was always frustrating to hear that no one could remember ‘Joel Elman’. I thought to myself, ‘imagine just having my first name, just four characters.’”

To give him the advantage he needed to be different, Joel knew he needed to acquire the simplified name @joel on Instagram (which happened to be Instagram’s 160th user). So he dedicated the next 8 months to achieving this.

But it didn’t come easy. It took Joel numerous attempts to get @joel’s attention.

“I messaged @joel if I could purchase his name; however, he never replied. Three months passed and one of his posts came up in my feed…I commented on it saying ‘good composition man! Check your dm’. To my surprise, he replied to my message asking what my offer was. ”

Little did Joel know, the name alone received about 15 password reset emails and 10 people messaging him asking to buy, per day.

However, it wasn’t until another 5 months from that point where they had agreed on a price and terms due to the complexity of international payments. To fasten the process, Joel offered to fly from England to Stockholm, Sweden to meet @joel in person to acquire the name.

Has acquiring the name helped strengthen his personal brand?

Joel sure thinks so.

Since January 2018 alone, @joel’s account has seen an organic increase in:

  • Impressions by 1,121%
  • Engagement by 160%

His brand’s growth and interactivity has lead to increased business results which include both aerial cinematography and stock footage. Today,  Joel goes by @joel – a traveling aerial content creator who lives his dream by continuously innovating his presence online.

And while working tirelessly for this branding difference may seem minor to most, his focus on uniqueness and building a compelling brand was exactly what Joel needed to gain the exposure and stand out in a crowd of ever-growing cinematographers.

“I worked harder than ever to make it happen. Was it worth it? Absolutely!”

Whether you’re crafting your message or studying your target audience, building a powerful brand will help you rise above the noise and become known in your industry.

So, what strategy will you work on to kickstart your personal branding today?Opinions expressed here by Contributors are their own.

Mark Escano

Quit 6-figure 9-5 job at age 24 and founded a creative content productions agency through partnerships with some of the world’s most influential brands & thought leaders that impacts millions of millennials worldwide. Work featured in Forbes, Entrepreneur Magazine and Fox News US.