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A few weeks ago, I asked for blog post topics that my Instagram followers were interested in and had the following request:
“How do I brand myself without coming off as fake, aggressive or annoying?”
There’s so much to unpack here, so let’s skip the preamble and just get started.
Change your mindset
As soon as someone says something like “it’s all in your mindset” you might start running for the hills but there is some truth there, even for those of us who are a bit less woo.
Just read the question that was asked: fake. Aggressive. Annoying.
If you’re going into building your brand with those adjectives on your mind, you’re going to be fighting uphill all the way. Try thinking of other ways to describe branding yourself.
You don’t have to be fake; you can be authentically yourself. You don’t have to be aggressive; you can present what you offer and people will decide if they like it or they don’t.
As for annoying… well, I am annoying by nature. But the last few years I realised that most people are so focused on themselves and their lives that they don’t have the capacity to be focused on you.
Recognise that it might be hard for you, and that’s okay
It can be hard, but most things in life that are hard are worth doing. I think it’s worth cutting yourself some slack and realising that Rome wasn’t built in a day. If you’re not someone to whom marketing comes naturally, it might take a bit more time. I’m trying to think of another cliché to put here but I’m sure you can read between the lines.
Get an outside perspective
Now, if you asked me about my own branding and marketing efforts I’d tell you that it’s something I struggle with. And I know what you’re thinking – how can it be an area that I find difficult when it’s also what I’ve built my career on?
And the simple answer relates to the point before this one: it can be hard to do for yourself. In a way, many of us are blinded to our own accomplishments and what makes us awesome. In the same day that I’m having a wobble about my own brand, I can have a client approach me for help with their branding strategy and have a 5-page document about how awesome they are sent over in a couple of hours.
Sometimes it just takes another perspective, whether that be talking to a friend or working with someone like me who knows what steps to take to get the most out of your brand, even when you’re scared to open up.
Don’t be too inspired by others
When you’re trying to figure out your own branding, it can be tempting to find all the accounts that give off a similar vibe and obsess over them to try to… well, not copy. I would never accuse you of copying. But, let’s just say there is such a thing as being over-inspired.
Try to strike a balance between looking to similar brands for inspiration without making that the only style of brand strategy and content that you consume. Look outside what you’re immediately drawn to and be inspired by brands with different styles and try to find ways to interpret what you love about them in your own style.
Trust your instincts… and get started!
You can read articles (er, like this one) until the end of time and still never feel like you’ve got a grip on the best way to market yourself. Sometimes the best thing to do is trust your instincts… and do it.
The best way to be authentic online is to follow your instincts and do what feels right. For example, I’ve read a million posts about how I need to find a niche on Instagram, and stick to it so my followers know what to expect. By this, I assume I’m supposed to choose between sharing only cosy vintage-inspired snapshots or my design work. But that doesn’t work for me. I’d rather focus on the one account, and show people that I have many facets to my life and my work.
As for getting started, if I could describe myself in one way it would be that I am the type of person who learns by doing and I really encourage you to do the same. Try things out, see how they do. In design, we test and iterate. I never go into anything thinking I am going to get it right on the first try.
To sum it up:
- Frame your branding and marketing attempts positively. Avoid negative thoughts about how others may perceive you.
- Realise that you may struggle and it’s okay. If it was easy, everyone and their dog would be building a brand.
- If you’re having issues seeing beyond your own perception of yourself, get the opinion of someone else.
- Look for inspiration outside of your immediate circle to avoid emulating them too closely. Be yourself!
- Trust your instincts.
- Put it out there, test the response, tweak it and try again.
- Remember you’re learning (just like everyone has!)