In the modern market, something like 70% of people would say that their end goal is to work for themselves, whether that is being the CEO of a Fortune 500 company, or simply being a freelancer in their field. Whatever it may be, more than ever, people are making their lives their business.
In the poetry and writing community, this is inevitably true. Our ‘brand’ is ourselves, our style of writing and whichever way we have chosen to present ourselves, that becomes not just a self, but a company identity. So once you begin to turn who you are into your business, where exactly do you start and stop? It’s a tricky line that either cuts into the success of your business, or eats into the stability of your personal life. So is there actually a moderation, in which you are a personal brand, with your own private identity, too?
“Branding demands commitment; commitment to continual re-invention; striking chords with people to stir their emotions; and commitment to imagination. It is easy to be cynical about such things, much harder to be successful.” – Richard Branson
Branding is difficult. Branding is really fickle, and sticky, and without some form of marketing experience, can just be a messy process, especially when it is yourself being branded. That does not mean it can’t be fun! It can! It is! You are creating a character, even when the brand you are selling is authentic to your true self, you are still creating a background, and mood to present to your audience and potential investors.
Here are 3 things to consider in the journey to chiselling down a successful and authentic brand, given to you by someone who has learnt the hard way the good and bad of personal branding:
This probably sounds really obvious to say, but too many freelancers and self-branded creatives forget who they are and forget their own personal skills and limitations. Play to your strengths, understand your weaknesses and adapt your identity to both. Whether you like it or not, you realistically cannot create a brand which is not at least 75% authentic to your own personal self. If you are presenting a ‘person’ as your business, you will find yourself failing to be consistent if that self is one that even you can’t believe. If you don’t understand who the self is you’re branding, how will your audience? Find something about yourself that you can be passionate about for years and which won’t be tarred by the need to market, to email incessantly about, and to advertise. You will thank yourself for it in the long run.
Be Wary of Your Mental Health and Draw The Line
Earlier I posed the question ‘is there actually a moderation, in which you are a personal brand, with your own private identity, too?’ – The question was rhetorical. It is crucial that you do. If you cannot look at your business’s brand identity, and then look at your private life and see no difference, then you’re going to struggle, and struggle primarily with your mental health. While, depending on your market and audience, presenting every element of your life won’t necessarily deplete you of recognition and sales, it will set you up for a slew of personal breakdowns.
This is coming from a writer who is essentially building his career on being a deeply emotional creative and has been open about suicide, his heart-on-sleeve tendencies with love and friendships and basically every aspect of his mental health. My brand, as bizarre and personal as it sounds, is my impassioned emotionality and also my love for the romance genre. The reason behind this is that I have been, and always will be, a very sensitive, deeply feeling person and building this into my brand means that I do not have to uphold a personality that I know I cannot handle when in deep pain. I can just be honest …. with some obvious filtering. If I am feeling upset, or deeply emotional I can funnel that into my writing, if I am fervently in love, or feeling strongly about the writing opportunity of romance, then I can be open about it because that is what people expect.
Don’t Be Afraid To Re-Brand
Okay, granted there are some nightmare stories out there about rebranding, but while it may be something to be cautious about, it is also a very good and often essential element to allowing your business or branded self to survive and thrive in your market. Something doesn’t feel right? Struggling to think of new post ideas or new business ventures? Then chances are your brand is off-kilter a little. Announce to your audience that you’re about to rebrand and ask for their opinions! Interaction with audiences will help to make sure they stick around as you move into your new direction, and will tell you what sells. BE AWARE OF YOUR AUDIENCE AND ADAPT.
For example, I have rebranded this blog and my Instagram more times than I can remember, but I am at a strong moment in time where I know what my brand is, I know what I post on my Instagram and I know what I post on here, and then I know what I post elsewhere. I know this because I know my audience and I know my self. That’s all you need, a good understanding of yourself, and an informed understanding of your audience. Looking at my statistics on both websites and looking at the most loyal visitors, my main readers are female (62%) between the age of 18-24 (49%) and are generally interested in love, emotions and books. On here I write How To’s and Reviews, to external magazines I pitch self-help advice pieces, and on my Instagram, I post poetry, reviews and self-help. It has taken at least 3 major rebrands to get here, where I can feel proud and confident about the image I am representing and selling. It can be long, but it works.
Self-branding is awkward, especially if you have already suffered from some form of an identity crisis, but you can make it easier for yourself by being honest with your audience. If you stay authentic, but also draw the line where you most feel comfortable drawing a line then you will come closer to having an attractive and consistent brand, ergo a successful one. Follow these basic steps and you’ll have a good starting point for creating a brand that suits you and your business.