7 ways digital mentors and freelancers can build a personal brand
8 minutes to read
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Digital mentors and freelancers grow faster, of course, when they have successfully created a winning personal brand. Most, however, simply develop expertise in a topic, get a few clients or students, and wait for things to happen to them – expect the world to see their skills without branding or marketing themselves.
As the saying goes, “The best known will beat the best,” your talent, if not diffused to the people and organizations that need it most, will likely result in a career downgrade. By presenting yourself holistically, you not only improve your chances of getting a better client list, but you also serve those clients and / or students by helping them find you.
1. Start blogging
A blog can change your life. It gives you a platform to express your thoughts and feelings, and the best part is, it’s a platform all your own that promotes a sense of belonging. Keep in mind that even if you only write two to three articles per month, a consistent writing schedule will help both SEO and improve your thinking through the writing and editing exercise. It is also therapeutic; I write 500-1000 words every morning which helps start the day with a positivity. The process will probably be difficult at first, but it gets better over the months and years, trust me.
Share the resulting blog posts across all of your social media channels, including Twitter, LinkedIn, Instagram, Facebook, and Reddit. Even if you don’t have a lot of followers to get started, keep sharing content. Even if you only have 100 impressions on social sharing, you could have a subscriber with their own network of thousands of others.
Your blog will also be your tool for serendipity; most of the opportunities in my life have come from mine. When you expose yourself, trust me, people find out about you.
Related: How to Become a Digital Marketing Expert Through Blogging
2. Start a YouTube channel
A lot of people are reluctant to speak on camera, but it’s a skill that comes with time. I’ve been in digital marketing since 2006, but it wasn’t until 2016 that I was really comfortable making videos that have my face playing a part.
That said, if you’re camera shy, you can still create a slideshow and record presentation-style videos (also known as infomovies), produce doodle-like videos, or add audio to a mind map while you tell. (You can check out my Digital Deepak YouTube channel for inspiration.)
You can also embed videos in a relevant post on your blog. This helps the article rank higher and the video rank higher on YouTube, to boot. (Remember that YouTube is the second largest search engine in the world after Google.)
3. Develop e-mail newsletters
People might just visit your website, leave and never remember to come back. If you have a pixel on your website (code that notes who visits a page), there is a way to retarget them, but only up to a fixed period of time and only on certain channels. The best way to bring people back to your website, YouTube channel, and / or other digital assets is by building a mailing list. As they say, “Your network is your net worth”, and that network is controlled by a mailing list.
The best way to motivate people to give their email is to create a lead magnet. It could be an ebook, a short video, a mini video course, or a course delivered via an e-mail sequence.
There are many ways to deploy a main magnet in a blog; you can use exit pop-ups, OptinChat and inline forms with content or separate blog landing page.
You may need to use email marketing tools to manage this database. By using one, you can create a drip marketing sequence to automatically engage subscribers without having to send emails manually. For my main magnet, I created a 10-part email series delivered once every three days. So as soon as a subscriber enters my drip marketing funnel, they’re engaged for the next 30 days without me lifting a finger.
4. Start a podcast
At just 21 years old, podcasts can be in audio or video form, and can be posted to your blog as well as channels like Apple Podcasts and Spotify. Video versions, most often, come in the form of interviews. On my channel, I had in-depth conversations with experts that lasted up to an hour, which helps to build a strong personal network and achieve branding by association as your interviewees typically share this content with their followers on social networks. Also consider transcribing the interview to create additional blog content with embedded media.
Even if you interview one person per week, you will have completed over 100 interviews in just two years. Some of that content, ideally, becomes persistent… continues to help branding for years as long as it’s not too time specific.
Related: The 5 best ways to build an audience for your content marketing channel
5. Foster a community
A personal brand is built around a tribe, a community of followers, which grows stronger as you interact with it. The basic types of interaction will involve responding to comments on YouTube, Twitter, and other social media channels. However, if you want to develop a stronger tribal feeling, you should have your own online forum. It could be a standalone guy or part of a Reddit or Facebook group.
My first choice would be to start your own. This will involve the challenge of maintaining the hosting and handling other technical matters, but the advantage is that this is your own platform and no one can ban it or reduce its reach from a public. Create exclusive content for this community, including live interactions such as “ask me anything” (AMA) sessions. You can also do a live webinar on YouTube or Zoom Live. Regardless of the approach, create a good culture by leading by example with your own behavior. If you are helpful and respectful of others, others tend to be the same.
People in your community are the first to embrace your personal brand. They will share all of your content, comment on all of your thoughts, and stand up for you when someone says negative things about you. I run a Facebook group called Learn Digital Marketing, which has over 200,000 members. I started five years ago and in the first six months we only had 1000 members, but I continued to nurture the community with content and the growth has followed an exponential curve over time .
6. Write a book
A lot of people take a step back when I tell them they should. It seems hopelessly off-limits to most, but trust me, it’s easier than you might think. The easiest way is to collect all your best blog posts and publish a Kindle book. (An eBook on the Kindle platform should be no longer than 5,000 words.) If you write two to three in-depth blog posts per month, you’ll cross that threshold very quickly, with an resulting eBook of around 25-30 pages.
Once you’ve seen the mini-success of launching your own Kindle eBook, you might be motivated to publish longer work. A normal book would have at least 40,000 words. With an average of 250 words per page, that means a 5 × 7 inch book of 160 to 180 pages. Of course, not all of your followers will read it, 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. Each time you do this, your speaking skills will improve. Each time you present, your presentation will improve and the content will be refined over the iterations. Don’t wait for perfection to deliver this content!
No matter how much we embrace digital channels, we are social animals and need the physical presence of other people. The pandemic may have slowed events offline, but they are already picking up. Meeting people in person also gives you a clear idea of who your audience really is. Finally, speaking at events can generate some great photos of you speaking and interacting with that audience. Such snapshots make you more ‘real’ in the digital space and help strengthen a personal brand.
Related: How to polish your public speaking