Last updated on April 30th, 2020
Personal branding is a promise; a promise of quality, consistency, competency, and reliability. It’s not just businesses but also people who require branding of what they do. With so much competition in the market, they need to be seen in a particular light amongst their peers and community. The concept of personal branding is picking up fast with individuals who want to make career choices of their own. Creative people, such as graphic designers, aspire to stand out from the crowd and build a certain perception about what services or products they offer.
Branding is not anymore the sole prerogative of businesses. In the modern highly-competitive world, the realm of branding has spread to individuals. People are making different career choices. They want to differentiate themselves from many other entrepreneurs in their respective industries. Therefore, they want to stand out from other businesses and individuals. For isntance, motivational leaders and influencers are branding themselves.
So, if you are a graphic designer, you need to project yourself differently. People should have a certain positive perception of what you do as a graphic designer. You can control their perception. After some efforts, as a designer, you reap the benefits of personal branding in many ways.
But personal branding requires a lot of planning and patience. It requires some guidance from an expert so that you can avoid the unwanted pitfalls of branding. Considering that, Designhill, the leading creative marketplace, conducted a webinar with Brandon Groce on personal branding, especially dedicated to graphic designers.
Here Is the Video Of The Webinar
Brandon Groce is a digital strategist. He has worked with leading brands like LG, Hilton, and Disney. He has been helping designers build their brand. Also, he has helped designers increase their skills, get hired, and well paid.
During the webinar, Brandon shared his own experience on how to work on yourself to build your own identity and gave tips to the design community. He explained different aspects of personal branding from what he learned from his own mistakes and how he progressed to achieving his goals.
Here Is What Brandon Advised The Designers On Different Aspects Of Personal Branding. Have a look!
Designhill: What is a Personal Brand?
Brandon: “Personal Branding is a competitive edge against everybody else in your field.” – Brandon Groce
A personal brand is just anything that helps you specifically stand out uniquely. It’s nothing more important than that. And it’s just helping other people identify you as a unique person.
Now, why exactly the personal brand is so important is because it is a competitive edge against so many other people you’re competing against in the marketplace. For example, I always say I am not the smartest tool, or I am not the best designer out there. There are so many other things that I’m inadequate at. But the thing is, is I can get visibility where my counterparts are not getting it.
You don’t have to be the smartest and skilled person to get visibility. And I’m just really excited to kind of give you guys no hope, but you don’t have to be the best at anything to do the best in your field. That is why branding is important.
Branding is a competitive edge against everybody else in your field.
Many people might have the skill, but a lot of the time, they don’t put in the hard work to get visible to get hired.
So that’s what we’re going to talk about today. So how to get seen for your work? How can you get seen for what it is that you’re good at doing in your market? For instance, I wanted to get known for design inspiration, or at least as a designer. To achieve that, I posted and curated content specific to my niche every day for a year, making a name for myself. It helped in making me seen as a thought leader in that space.
For example, you may want to be a thought leader in marketing. Then do something every day, whether it’s blogging, videos, or curating content. I always say curating content is probably the best way to go about it because we get tired. Creating content, creating videos, creating something every day is not possible as it is a tiresome and strenuous job.
I always say curate first and become known for a specific topic. You should find topics or think of yourself as an aggregating news source. A lot of people in your industry want to know what the best things are. So think of yourself as like, what can you bring to your industry that people are looking for.
Designhill: Why does Personal Brand matter?
Brandon: You are supposed to be a whole source of information for people, whether that’s learning something new, helping people do something. It is like giving knowledge or helping with a service. How exactly does a personal brand help you do that? It positions you to build relationships.
A lot of people ask me about social media to help me build clients? I did not have any client list two years ago. But now I can work with great clients such as Adobe, Disney, Dannon LG and Hilton. I started to do design, animation inspiration consistently; people knew me for those things. They were looking for inspiration for what they wanted to do. They found me and got the motivation that they can do it.
You don’t have to do everything that you are curating or putting out on the internet. You can build a network of people who know how to do those things. For example, people come to me and say that they saw that thing in my Instagram feed. Can I do that? I say that I cannot do that, but I know the person who can do that job.
That is a business model.
A lot of people don’t realize that you can build connections with other people who do know how to do these things and get transactions off that.
For example, if somebody sees my work and they’re asking for a logo. But as I don’t do the logo, I can outsource that to a logo designer whom I met online through my brand building. In this way, it bridges that whole network. A client comes to me, I go to a service provider, and then I build that triangle of the network. The only reason that you should be building a personal brand is to build a network. Through networking, you will be able to move into work that you want to do. So personal branding helps with networking massively.
Designhill: What are the dos and don’ts of personal branding?
Don’t do more than one thing
Now let’s talk about the dos and don’ts of personal branding. A lot of people try to do too much. But I am very focused on Instagram as it is so simple, and I’m able to generate a lot of traffic through this platform. So, the big don’t is don’t do more than one thing. I only focus on design inspiration and showcase the highly professional design animations in the industry. People come to me because of those inspirational animations.
So, focus on one thing so regardless of where you guys are, in your journey, as an entrepreneur, as somebody who’s working in the house, focus on being known for one thing. If you are good at cutting grass, be known as that person who’s good at cutting grass if you are good at the development to be good at or being known as the best developer.
Don’t try to serve all sections of customers
Now, another thing is that there are already a lot of people who are good at development, cutting grass, creating designs. You have to take it a step further. You should generally know where you want to be good at, or where in your skillset, you want to be good.
What people will visit my business will make me unique. For me, it is the design, really high-quality design animation. So that’s on the topic of design. It’s in animation. And it’s like top class cutting edge animation. So it’s three tiers, the design goes into animation, but like the top bleeding-edge animations that you don’t see anywhere else.
Similarly, you could be somebody who cuts grass, but only cuts. You can cut grass only for very large organizations and do large landscapes. Or, you can be the grass cutter who, instead of just cutting grass, actually designs shrubs. So, if someone hires your service, then you turn their shrubs into animals. These are two different value propositions. So you have to be unique in your positioning.
Do Something Unique
You should find out what other people in your market are doing too much of the same thing. Then, go in the opposite direction. So, if everybody is cutting shrubs to look like dogs, you cut cats. If somebody is doing an xyz type of website, show people why your type of website is way better and why it’s more functional for their business.
When building connections with people, do not try to push your services down their throat. That’s not personal branding. Instead, meet people and build connections first. Then, at the end of that, you will have a whole network of people where you can do business because they just like you as a person.
Designhill: How to find a niche?
Brandon: When you have a large network, you can call that like your mom or dad. They will help you out with anything. In the same way, leverage your relationships with your network of people.
For example, this is how I was able to work with Adobe. I was constantly posting content created by the people in their network. So, I was constantly pushing up design work on my Instagram feed. I found designers who were highly connected with Adobe, and I was pushing up content in my timeline. When they see the design works, they find those works awesome.
I knew that Adobe would see because I already had numbers granted. This was around when I started having like 10,000 to 20,000 followers. But you have to put in that hard work of showing up every day in just curating and creating content and providing value to those who are following you. Or at least putting out value so that people have a reason to follow or have an interest.
Finally, when you have a good number of followers.
You’re able to know If you have something that you can leverage in the audience. You can tell people that you have X amount of followers who enjoy the type of stuff that you’re outputting. I would love to do work with you guys. They can come back and say yes or no.
But you know, being able to leverage your personal brand and your influence is a huge perk of this branding. You can leverage your personal brand to what you are good at doing, or if they are not interested in what you do, you still have an audience.
In my case, it’s an audience, and I kind of want to bisect or explain that here. My value proposition is I have an audience to bring to brands, whereas other people might have the skill to bring to brands.
Designhill: How did you get credit when you first started?
Brandon: You are always a personal brand, and no one ever starts with credibility. I had no credibility. The only credibility comes from doing consistent actions towards a consistent goal. I do the same thing today that I did when I first started. It just so happens that now I have more eyeballs on me.
Consider These Three Basics
I have more followers because I continue to do the same thing over and over again, every day. I find the best content on the internet and post it on every single day. And, I used to post three to four times a day. But it’s a lot of work of what hashtags do I grant. I don’t even get stuck on hashtags. I don’t think they’re important. For me, the most important is value to the people I’m trying to attract? Then, the second most important thing is how I can create it consistently. And, number three is how do I distribute this?
Ensure Consistent Actions
It is about doing consistent actions that a particular audience would like. So, for example, I knew that half a million other accounts were doing very similar things on the internet. So, I thought that what they are doing is working and I also want to do that. They never put a personal face in front of their work and pose just as an inspiration page. So, I thought that I would also teach you how to do it. I just reverse engineered what was already out there and made a small tweak to it. And it was not just showcasing cool stuff to teach people how to do it.
Designhill: What steps can one take to build my personal brand being socially introverted?
Brandon: A lot of people think that you have to show your face to do business. This is not the case. If you just go on YouTube and watch media channels just showing news and telling the story on top of it, you’ve never seen their face. Still, they have millions of subscribers.
There are tons of people that you can find online who build businesses and also do build personal brands but never show their faces. But the differentiator for me was, I’m going to show my face and show people how to do the things. So there are always ways to grow.
You just have to do a lot of googling. Find out answers to questions such as what industry do you want to be in? Who are the top people in that industry? What content do they create? On top of that, who shows their face, and who doesn’t? The people who don’t show their faces, they’re most likely introverted too. I am not going to blanket statement that, but that is a way for you to execute, to not have to show your face or be drained by a mass of people.
Designhill: What are the metrics to determine whether one is on the right path or not?
Brandon: There are two types of metrics. But in the beginning, there weren’t any metrics. I just continued to post content when nothing was going well. I just showed up. So your first metric should be to just go blindly towards your goal. But my first metric in this could be different for anybody because I just throw things at the wall and see if it sticks.
So the metrics to see for Instagram could be that I had more likes and followers than the last week. We’re talking about metric changes, such as from month to month or from week to week if you’re putting in as much work as posting four times a day.
But the metrics you’re looking at is who’s valuing what you are putting out, Find out their profiles or the designers or the people that you are trying to target. What do they like? What do they like more about looking to see who else they follow? Those are the metrics that are important to the people that are following me or liking my content or me.
Designhill: Should we have two Instagram accounts, a Professional and Personal, for Building a Personal Brand?
Brandon: Yes, because if I were to post the dog in the middle of my feed, tomorrow people would ask me why I do that. So business accounts should focus on one thing only. If you come to my Instagram account, you see it’s one thing, only design inspiration in design lessons. Those are the only two things, but they’re all around in the design niche.
If you were to come to my page, and there were like three dogs, the next thing, maybe two cats, and then the design thing. Then, it leads to confusion as the visitor can not exactly say what I do precisely. So separate from your personal stuff from the business one.
Designhill: When starting to work, how do you manage the fact that you mostly can’t deny clients to make your income without sacrificing the personal brand you’re trying to create?
Brandon: That is a good question. it’s very difficult to do that. For example, I stayed in a full-time job until I could constantly work with the same type of people for my business, and only get that right type of people. So I had a lot of headache for like two years because I was doing two full-time jobs. I was doing my full-time job, and I was doing my business. But I could not manage.
The stress of having to constantly say yes to the projects I did not want to do was so difficult because I would have to take low pay. I needed the money, so it was hard to negotiate. And I couldn’t build the brand. I couldn’t see a way to build this brand. If you know Rand Seagal, he has been a freelancer through and through. I highly recommend that you guys check him out. He’s very large on YouTube, as well, but I just don’t have the experience to answer that question in terms of how to build a business from scratch. I decided not to do that is that you have to deal with projects that might not be suitable
Designhill: How can anyone can get more one-on-one clients?
Brandon: This is a great question. A lot of people that I talked to feel they can sit back and let people just come in and hire them. That is the wrong way to go about this. For the longest time, I had to go out and approach people and say, hey, my name is Brandon Groce. This is what I do. And this is a value to you because I’ve seen on your website or somewhere online that you need help with this. And this is how I can help you.
You are not going to be able to get as much work from a personal brand at first. Rather, you should be going out and selling your services and what it is that you provide to other people. So that is how you get more one on one clients if you’re just started reaching out.
Designhill: Do you use hashtags in your favor?
Brandon: I am bothered by hashtags. People think that they’re so important. They’re important to help platforms, categorize what it is that you posted, and help other people find stuff that they want. But hashtags are important to an extent. You should figure out what are the least, most, and medium-level competitive hashtags.
Highly competitive hashtags have over a million people in that category, medium level of hashtags have hundred thousand to 50,000 people. You should use a mix of the high, medium, and low hashtags that are in your niche. You need to be using hashtags that people use.
Do Some Research
Do a little bit of research and go into people’s pictures of the specific people, people you are trying to target. For example, there is this person that inspired me. He has got 400,000 followers. I researched the type of people who liked his content. I clicked on his content. And, I found the people who comment on new stuff and clicked on their accounts. I came to know that this person was a designer.
And I also went into their followings to figure out who else they are following. I found that they like to follow other designers as well. They follow a lot of female designers. That way, I can continue to post those hashtags.
With a little bit more research, I can also figure out what people like my stuff? What do they use in their hashtags? I just copy and paste my hashtags. That’s how not important they are. I literally would go to people who had large followings, copy their entire hashtag list, and put it in mine.
The success leaves clues, and if that’s working for them, that should work for me as well. If you have no idea how to do any of the research, do just copy and paste somebody else’s hashtags that are already successful in your niche.
Designhill: How do you motivate yourself?
Brandon: When I first started, I did not expect to have a certain result at a specific time. My only goal was to post daily for a year, three to four times a day. Do not look at the numbers. For instance, if you do not have 10,000 followers by the end of the day, that can be demotivating. But you’re putting in a lot of work. As long as there’s small incremental growth, and you’re doing what you would set out to do each day. Set your mind on those things rather than on a number. This is because numbers change all the time.
Designhill: How can you use Instagram to earn money in your niche?
Brandon: There are tons of ways to make money. But you need large audiences. I do affiliate marketing work with Skillshare because about 297,000 people see my stuff each week. There are tons of affiliate sites that showcase or that have a lot of products that you can just help your audience get. Influencer marketing and affiliate marketing are the same. You just need a large number of followers.
Designhill: How did you expose your website and promote your new fashion brand?
Brandon: Personal branding is about bringing value to multiple people at once. But make sure you find people that can help you gain exposure and promote your fashion brands. So email and outreach to the correct people. Do your Google research and figure out who those correct people are. Find out what positions they’re in, and how exactly they can help you.
For example, I wanted to work for a mentoring platform. I didn’t know anybody there. I just constantly went on LinkedIn to figure out who was in charge of the mentor hiring process. So, I emailed them to tell who I was, what the valuable things that I have done, and how I can be a value to their team.
They then responded to me because they already knew what they needed help with. They started the conversation with me because I did my due diligence to figure out what they needed and filled in that gap. So figure out who can help you and meet those people.
Designhill: What tips would you give to establish and maintain good relationships in our design community?
Brandon: By helping somebody else build a relationship, that person will try to come back and help you. And that is what content does. You are helping people get what they want out of the internet. By doing that over some time, they become a part of your community. This is because they are trying to help themselves get what they want. They are learning about design and how to build websites, etc. You’re constantly giving that to them consistently so that they trust you. That is what building a relationship is all about.
Designhill: How to become unique to stand out and be known?
Brandon: I found these very successful UI design patterns with 400,000 subscribers. They have a comedy web page or Instagram page. I thought I was also going to teach design. So I do videos, tutorials. I Also do very comedic Instagram stories. So, the uniqueness is about what type of works are in the market and then borrow those works. Then, putting a small spin to those works. That is what makes you unique.
Designhill: How can you make your identity known when your work is being outsourced?
Brandon: If a PR agency is handling the job of your personal branding, you can still have your say. This is because you are supplying them with the content. You should control the story.
Designhill: What is the most difficult thing in building a personal brand?
Brandon: The most difficult aspect of building a personal brand is to ensure consistency. Many people give up at the beginning as they do not see enough changes happening rapidly. They get demotivated because they see the numbers. When they do not see a new follower today or last week and get demotivated.
But the motivation should be on top of or the reason to be doing things our way or proudness should come up come from is, I set out for myself, this many tasks to do today, and I got all of them done. And they’re still all going towards my goal, which is to build a brand to be known for something and to also accomplish what I say I’m gonna do on that day.
So because I’ve finished everything that I’ve done on that day, I’m really happy about that. if I lose a follower, okay, maybe we need to figure out why that happened. But I am not going to put all of my emphasis on the metrics. I am going to emphasize my work ethic.
Designhill: What is the first step one should take in rebranding after coming out of a bad job?
Brandon: Somebody built a personal brand for a few months or years. But suddenly, there is a need to rebrand due to a bad job. I’m not sure what exactly you mean by rebranding yourself. But I know what you mean by a bad job.
A bad job of branding should never affect a personal brand unless you did something wrong. But even then, it’s not necessarily that people will only know what you tell them. There are ways of saying things that allow you to be looked at positively. For example, in marketing in Chicago, you could say, Oh, you know, I’m not even sure if this is the correct place.
But Chicago or XYZ city is well known for its polluted waters. That’s negative. But you can also say, Chicago has amazing beautiful hotels, great skier or high rises. And it’s where exactly you’re placing the emphasis.
There’s good and bad in every area. But, find out how can you emphasize one good piece of information that makes you stand out. , You can emphasize why you are important and above other people in your industry, or in your marketplace. So, you should always deemphasize stuff that you don’t want to be known and emphasize the stuff that you are good at and you want people to know. That happens in marketing all the time. It’s not lying. It’s emphasis.
Just as branding is important to businesses, Personal Branding is of great significance to individuals. It helps create the desired perception of individual entrepreneurs, like graphic designers. Brandon suggests that using social media strategically and keeping motivation level up can help build an individual into a brand.