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Digital mentors and freelancers grow faster, of course, when they have managed to build a winning personal brand. Most, however, simply develop expertise in a subject, get a few clients or students, and wait for things to fall into their lap — expect the world to see their skills without branding and marketing themselves.
In keeping with the saying, “The best-known will beat the best”, your talent, if it is not broadcasted to the people and organizations that need it most, will likely result in a diminished career. By branding yourself comprehensively, you are not just improving the chances that you might get a better client roster, but also doing a service to those clients and/or students in helping them find you.
1. Start blogging
A blog can change your life. It gives you a platform to express thoughts and feelings, and the best part is that it’s a platform all your own — one that fosters a sense of ownership. Keep in mind that, even if you write just two to three articles a month, a consistent writing schedule will both help SEO and improve your thinking through the exercise of writing and editing. It is also therapeutic; I write 500 to 1,000 words every morning, which helps kickstart the day with positivity. The process will likely be challenging at first, but it improves over the months and years, trust me.
Share the resulting blog articles on all your social media channels, ideally including Twitter, LinkedIn, Instagram, Facebook and Reddit. Even if you do not have many followers to start with, keep sharing content. Even if you have just 100 impressions on the social share, you might have one follower with their own network of thousands more.
Your blog will also be your serendipity tool; most of the opportunities in my life came because of my own. When you put yourself out there, believe me, people wind up discovering you.
2. Launch a YouTube channel
Many people have hesitations talking in front of the camera, but it’s a skill that comes with time. I have been in the digital marketing space since 2006, but it took until 2016 for me to be truly comfortable making videos in which my face plays a part.
That said, if you are camera shy, you can always make a slide deck and record presentation-style videos (also called infomovies), produce doodle-type videos or add audio to a mindmap as you narrate. (You can check my Digital Deepak YouTube Channel for some inspiration.)
You can also embed videos in a relevant article on your blog. This helps the article rank better, and helps the video rank better on YouTube, to boot. (Remember, YouTube is the second-largest search engine in the world, after Google.)
3. Develop email newsletters
People might well visit your website, leave and never remember to come back. If you have a pixel on your website (code that makes note of who visits a page), there is a way to retarget them, but only up to a fixed time period and only on certain channels. The best way to bring back people to your website, YouTube channel and/or other digital assets is to build an email list. As they say, “Your network is your net worth”, and that network is controlled with an email list.
The best way to motivate people to give their email is to create a lead magnet. This can be an ebook, a short video, a mini video course or lessons delivered via an email sequence.
There are plenty of ways to deploy a lead magnet in a blog; you can use exit popups, OptinChat and in-line forms along with content or a separate landing page on the blog.
You might need to use email marketing tools to manage that database. Using one, you can create a drip marketing sequence to engage subscribers automatically without having to send emails manually. For my lead magnet, I have created a 10-part email series delivered once every three days, so, as soon as a subscriber enters my drip marketing funnel, they are engaged for the next 30 days without me having to lift a finger.
4. Start a podcast
A format just 21 years young, podcasts can be in the form of audio or video, and can be published on your blog as well as on channels like Apple Podcasts and Spotify. Video versions, more often than not, are in the form of interviews. On my channel, I have had in-depth conversations with experts lasting as long as an hour, which helps build a strong personal network and obtain branding by association, as your interviewees usually share this content with their social media followers. Also consider transcribing the interview to create additional blog content with embedded media.
Even if you interview one person per week, you will have done more than 100 interviews in just a span of two years. Some of that content, ideally, becomes evergreen…continues to help with branding for years as long as it’s not overly time-specific.
5. Foster a community
A personal brand is built around a tribe, a community of followers, which becomes stronger the more you interact with it. Basic types of interaction will involve replying to comments on YouTube, Twitter and other social media channels. However, if you want to foster a stronger sense of tribe, you should have your own online forum. This can be a stand-alone type or part of a Reddit or Facebook Group.
My first choice would be to start your own. That will involve the challenge of maintaining the hosting and handling some other technical matters, but the advantage is that it is your own platform and no one can ban it or reduce its reach among an audience. Create exclusive content for that community, including live interactions such as “ask me anything” (AMA) sessions. You also can do a YouTube live or live Zoom webinar. Whatever the approach, create a good culture by setting an example through your own behavior. If you are helpful and respectful to other people, others tend to be the same.
Members of your community are the early adopters of your personal brand. They will share all your content, comment on all your thoughts and will defend you when someone says negative things about you. I run a Facebook Group called Learn Digital Marketing, which has more than 200,000 members. I started it five years ago, and in the first six months, we just had 1,000 members, but I kept nurturing the community with content and the growth rode an exponential curve over time.
6. Write a book
A lot of people take a step back when I tell them they should do this. It seems hopelessly out bounds for most, but believe me, it’s easier than you think. The simplest way is to collect all your top blog articles and publish a Kindle book. (An ebook on the Kindle platform need not be more than 5,000 words long.) If you write two to three in-depth blog articles per month, you will cross that threshold very quickly, with a resulting ebook of approximately 25 to 30 pages.
Once you have seen the mini-success of launching your own Kindle ebook, you might be motivated to publish a longer work. A normal book would have at least 40,000 words. At an average of 250 words per page, that means a 5×7-inch book of 160 to 180 pages. Not every follower of yours is going to read it, of course, but being a published author gives tremendous credibility in a niche. The associated authority will help you get more readers for your blog and more subscribers to your newsletter, podcast and YouTube channel.
7. Speak at events
Never say no to an opportunity to speak. Even if the audience is small, talk to people. Every time you do, your speaking will improve. Every time you present, your presentation will improve, and content becomes fine-tuned through iterations. Don’t wait for perfection to deliver that content!
No matter how much we embrace digital channels, we are social animals and need the physical presence of other people. The pandemic might have slowed down offline events, but they are already picking up again. Meeting people in person also gives you a clear idea of who your audience really is. Lastly, speaking at events can generate great photos of you speaking and interacting with that audience. Such shots make you more “real” in the digital space and help strengthen a personal brand.
Related: How to Polish Your Public Speaking