Updated: Oct 28
I can’t tell you how many times I’ve bought something at a steal thinking to myself “It’ll serve the purpose for now, I can always get what I really want later”... only to kick myself for not getting the thing I knew I really needed in the first place. Too often my impatient, price conscious self gets me a “great deal” but mediocre value.
Thankfully, I’m getting over my penny-pinching ways (slowly). I’m much more focused on what I want to achieve over the long term with the purchases that I make. So asking myself some or all of the questions below before shelling out any “coin” is really important.
How do I want it to make me feel?
How will it contribute to the lifestyle I want to live?
What do I want that purchase to say about me, my taste, my outlook on life and what I treasure most?
Will it fit with how I want others to perceive me?
And honestly, how much good use do I want to get out of that product or service because hey, I’m not penny-pinching any more but I’m still value-sensitive.
There’s a great lesson from my story here for anyone embarking on personal brand building as a lever for a successful business. I tackle this in the sections below.
It’ll serve the purpose for now: Is that what you want your personal brand to do?
One of the first things that I tell my clients who I'm coaching through personal brand building for professional transition is this:
“ A brand helps people choose. Your job is to know why or define why they’ll choose you”.
And people may choose because “It’s the right price”, or “It’ll serve the purpose for now”, just like I’ve done so many times. Now it may be fine for them to choose you for those reasons if you simply want to be a stop gap until they can afford what they really want, because as a friend of mine would say “trust and believe” they probably have something in mind that they want instead. They may not think it’s accessible yet but they have it in mind.
If you want those folks you want to serve go beyond “serving the purpose for now” you’ll really have to do some work to find out what they truly value. You’ll want to know what they really want to achieve from an interaction with you or from a product or service you provide. How would they answer those questions I mentioned above? (hint: you can ask them, but also listen to the things they say in casual conversations with you). If you know those answers you can become much more valuable to them.
For my personal brand coaching clients I know what they desire most is clarity about who they uniquely are and how they can use that to serve optimally for profit. They don’t come to me for a logo or a colour palette or a campaign, although that can come...after the clarity.
But do you have what it takes? Match Your Unique Skills and Characteristics to the Needs of Clients
Ok, so you have a clearer picture of what your client or potential client really wants to achieve, but do you have what it takes? Do you have the level of skill, the personal attributes, the experience, the desire, and the natural affinity to provide that solution?
If the opportunity has a great deal of business potential it could be worth investing in yourself to upskill in the areas needed but here’s the caveat; especially when you’re an independent consultant, a freelancer or any other solo operator seeking to thrive over the long-term, doing work that’s suited to your strengths (technical abilities) but more so your natural affinity is advisable (see the reference to brand archetypes in the next section).
So before jumping into a certification process or a pricey course, it’s best to understand what that natural affinity is (if you don’t already) and how, along with your skills, it intersects with what your clients want. After all, your personal brand helps YOU choose too.
Your personal brand helps YOU choose too
Being able to leave space to do your greatest work is an important decision-making function of defining your personal brand. This is where understanding your natural affinity comes in. The idea is to know when to say “no” and when to say “yes” to a potential client or project based on where you can provide the best value.
It requires some serious introspection and luckily there are thinkers who’ve developed tools couched in psychology theories to deal with this. One of these is the idea of brand archetypes - what are thought to be typical personality patterns found universally. These archetypes not only help us to identify what our innate tendencies and strengths are but how they are useful to potential clients.
Are you the Hero archetype who comes alive when helping others be courageous, the Outlaw who's determined to help people break the rules, or the Creator guiding your clients towards innovation? In total Margaret Mark and Carol S. Pearson outlined the characteristics and functions of 12 archetypes that can be applied to any brand in their seminal book in brand management, The Hero and the Outlaw: Building Extraordinary Brands through the Power of Archetypes (2001).
The Creator helps people craft something new
The Caregiver helps people care for others
The Ruler helps people exert control
The Jester helps people have a good time
The regular guy/gal helps people be ok just as they are
The Lover helps people find and give love
The Hero helps people act courageously
The Outlaw helps people break the rules
The Magician helps people affect transformation
The Innocent helps people renew
The Explorer helps people maintain independence
The Sage helps people understand their world
Once you can determine your dominant archetype, the benefit is twofold. You can craft your offerings around your natural affinity and you’ll be attuned to the kinds of needs you’ll appeal to in your target clients.
I’d recommend getting hold of a copy of the book (it’s in e-book and audio format if you can’t get the hard copy). But the takeaway here is that when your business revolves around your personal brand you want to know yourself so well that you become a boss at choosing the work that gives you the best chance to excel.
Know what you have that they need and hone it
Alright, so far you’ve found out what your potential clients really want to achieve from their interaction with you, your product or service; you know what you need to serve them well and; you know how to choose the types of assignments that you can really deliver the best value in. Congratulations, you have a process that’s grounded in how you uniquely serve - your personal brand!
It’s time to hone that process. As you engage in your visibility, operational, communication, sales, accounting, finance and product/service development activities remember how you uniquely serve. Evaluate your process, refine it, build on it. Be the best at how you do what you do and say it all the places you can find the people you can serve best.
I especially want to single out product and service development. What you offer should emanate from your personal brand to make it purposeful, true and sustainable. Trying to pick something that someone else is doing because it seems to be working out for them is dangerous territory. You should be aiming to carve out an area of specialisation, mastery, something that people will seek you out for. You’re not building a personal brand to blend in.
Finally, acknowledge that with time, growth, technology, crises, in short, change, your personal brand will evolve. That’s all a part of the honing process.