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Solopreneur: What Is Your Brand?

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At a cocktail party, no one is going to walk up to you and ask, “What is your personal brand?” Nevertheless, as solopreneurs your customers are deciding whether or not to buy your product or service based on it.

Oprah Winfrey’s brand is not talk show host—it’s authentic living and self-improvement. The same holds true for Martha Stewart. She is not a cookbook author or a television host, she’s a domestic guru. These two women’s personal brands are the basis for their mega-successful corporations.

Branding expert, Dan Schawbel says, “The future of personal branding is a marketplace, where the top talent receive the most visibility and everyone else sinks to the bottom. We will be treated like products and be rated and commented on, where positive interactions equal new opportunities and negative ones diminish your brand value publicly.”

Most businesses aren’t REALLY that different. If you’re a realtor, you sell houses; if you’re a chef, you cook food; if you’re a clothing designer, you create dresses ... you get the picture. However, no one confuses The Corcoran Group with ReMax. Similarly, folks who follow Mario Batali are probably not Rachael Ray fans. Why?

The Corcoran Group is associated with high-end properties; in comparison, ReMax is the local yokel realtor. Mario Batali is a chef and restaurateur who specializes in complex Italian dishes, whereas Rachael Ray, a self-proclaimed cook is famous for cooking meals—even a turkey dinner in thirty minutes. You will get the same vibe from Corcoran Group realtors in whatever city they operate in. When The FoodNetwork cancelled Batali’s show, “Molto Mario” in 2007, his fans moved with him to PBS.

That’s the market power of brands. People are buying not only your product or service but also the feelings about quality, values, and effectiveness that your brand evokes for them.

Your Personal Brand:
What is a personal brand? It’s how your audience perceives your worth, relative to people who provide similar goods/services.

The good thing is that a personal brand is that it’s yours to establish and shape.

The Goals of Your Personal Brand:

 * To help you stand to out in a crowded marketplace.
 * To display your unique talents and experiences. A personal brand says, “This is who I am and what I do.”

Elements of Your Personal Brand:

 * Your Public Appearance: your clothing and hairstyle, hygiene, and overall appearance. (Are you neat or unkempt? Fashion-wise, are you Stevie Nicks, Donna Karan, or Laura Ingall?)
 * Personality: Your translated values, goals, identity, and behavior.
 * Your Public Communication: Your website, stationary, search results on Google, customer service practices and participation on social media platforms such as Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn.

Distinguish your Personal Brand by:

1. Identifying the qualities or characteristics that make you distinctive from other people who have a similar business. What have you done lately—this week—to make yourself stand out? What would your customers say is your greatest strength?

2. Clearly identifying and distinguishing the benefit of buying your good or service? Do you provide stellar customer service? Are your products eco-friendly? Do you provide more value for the buck? Have you worked with well-known people/businesses in your town or city? (the prestige factor).

Like it or not, you promote your brand whenever you present yourself to the public. It doesn’t matter if the interaction is face-to-face or in cyberspace. As a solopreneur, the more lucrative course is to be conscious of the message that you are sending out.

Please be aware that the new word-of-mouth is the Internet. If someone is deciding whether or not to hire you, they’ll probably do a Google search on you. You won’t be a strong candidate if nothing comes up. However it’s worse if some unflattering and/or unprofessional pictures or comments you’ve made surface—unfortunately these also become part of your brand.

Strive to be the person whom people like, trust, and eagerly want to do business with.

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