Aug 5, 2021 7 min read

Personal branding: An entrepreneur's guide to building your brand from scratch

Personal branding: An entrepreneur's guide to building your brand from scratch

Personal brand building is more important than ever, especially for budding solo/entrepreneurs, small-business owners, and creators.

The concept of “personal branding” may seem like just another trend, but it’s been around forever. The most memorable folks in history have all had a personal brand (for better or for worse). Passionately curious Albert Einstein. Ruthlessly extravagant Marie Antoinette. Trailblazing conservationist and chimpanzee whisperer Jane Goodall.

Today, successful personal brands include everyone from Beyoncé to Elon Musk. And personal brand building is more important than ever, especially for budding solo/entrepreneurs, small-business owners, and creators. A strong personal brand can help build your credibility, generate interest in and opportunities for your business, and give you a competitive edge.

What is a personal brand?

Your personal brand is how you present yourself to the world. In marketing, the term refers to the process of positioning your expertise, personality, experience, and values in a way that builds trust with your audience and sets you apart from the competition.

Unlike a business brand, which is built around a company or a business entity, your personal brand is built around you. But the two feed into each other. Personal branding helps grow a business because it provides a more engaging and intimate connection with your target audience. Think Steve Jobs and Apple, or Gwyneth Paltrow and Goop.

Before, “successful branding” meant winning the annual Superbowl ad war or creating a globally recognized logo like the Nike swoosh. But now, with the rise of social media and influencer culture, creating a personal brand identity has become a powerful—if not essential—force in business. It’s why a majority of Fortune 500 CEOs are active on social media today, compared with just 39% in 2015.

The success of your business brands depends on the strength of your personal brand identity. They’re deeply intertwined, according to CopyAI Chief Marketing Officer Blake Emal. “It’s really hard to build a brand just based on a brand or a company. If you don’t have people attached to the brand, it’s difficult to get the recognition [you need]. Personal branding is where it’s at right now.”


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Why is personal branding important?

“It’s simple,” says Emal. “Business branding now is personal branding.” The way you present yourself to the public can make or break a customer’s decision to buy (and continue buying) from you.

From building credibility to attracting potential customers, there are many benefits to creating a personal brand. This holds true across many industries, whether you’re looking to launch a new line of vegan fragrances or develop a career as a tech consultant. Personal branding can increase your authority, help you engage new and existing audiences, and drive your business toward success.

You already have a personal brand, even if you don’t call it that. Whenever you post to social media, update your LinkedIn profile, or share a video of your cat on TikTok, you engage in personal branding. Rather than leaving that image to chance (and Google), budding entrepreneurs should manage their personal brand identity to ensure that you’re telling your story exactly as you want it to be told.

Personal branding is an investment in yourself. Despite the ups and downs of the economy (and life), creating a personal brand identity helps you stay relevant and marketable, whether you’re looking to launch your own business or land a corporate job.

“The way that I see it,” says Emal, “a business is never going to have as good of a Twitter account as our CopyAI co-founders Paul [Yacoubian] or Chris [Lu], or myself. When we all come together and become known as the face of CopyAI, that’s where the true power is.”

Personal brand examples

From Michelle Obama to YouTube star and stunt philanthropist Mr. Beast, our culture is saturated with examples of successful personal brands. What they all have in common is vision, consistency, authenticity, and value.

Take for example billionaire entrepreneur and high school dropout Richard Branson, who was an early inspiration for CopyAI CEO and co-founder Paul Yacoubian.

On his personal Twitter, Branson bills himself as a “tie-loathing adventurer, philanthropist & troublemaker, who believes in turning ideas into reality.” He boasts 12.5 million followers on Twitter—exponentially more than his companies, including Virgin Atlantic and Virgin Galactic. He’s also one of the most followed professionals on LinkedIn.

You already have a personal brand, even if you don’t call it that.

Yacoubian cites Richard Branson as a case study in the power of personal branding. Branson had an uphill battle. With little formal education and few business laurels to rest on, he had to convince fundraisers and talented folks to invest in his vision for an airline, one of his early business ventures.

How did Branson do it? “It’s because of the personal brand that he built around his mission and vision,” says Yacoubian.

Branson’s personal branding is successful for a few reasons:

  • Vision: From his earliest days building Virgin Atlantic and selling $39 flights, he’s always had a clear vision of what he’s creating and why, and he shares that passion with his audience.
  • Consistency: His personal brand is consistent with his business brands: They’re all built around adventure, innovation, and fun.
  • Authenticity: Branson is famously flamboyant and a daredevil—and his exploits are not just publicity stunts. Rather, they reflect his true nature as a disrupter and a maverick.
  • Value: Whether through his companies or his charity foundations, he delivers services and experiences people want, and that will improve their lives.
A picture of Richard Branson, the innovator with massive personal brand.

“Richard Branson was all about solving this problem for someone, the customer’s problems,” says Yacoubian. “And he always had fun doing it.” On top of that “there was such an amazing match of energy between how he wanted to run his companies and how he wanted to live his life.” The cohesion between the two “created this vibe that people wanted to associate themselves with, both as employees and as customers.”

Surveying the vast array of personal brands can be a great inspiration for creating a personal brand identity of your own. There’s the personal branding of Front co-founder and CEO Mathilde Collin, whose belief in radical transparency permeates her every decision, from making Front’s product roadmap public to sharing her own charity portfolio.

Compare that with Wistia co-founder Chris Savage, self-proclaimed “CEO and loudest talker” of the successful video software company. Whether it’s via his Twitter feed or “Talking Too Loud” podcast, Savage’s personal and company brands are intertwined, consistently reflecting his belief in creative risk-taking, work/life balance, and building great products.

How to start creating your personal brand

Personal branding has evolved into an entire industry in itself, with experts, consultants, and professionals you can pay to help you. You don’t need a team of experts to get started, though. Here at CopyAI, we’ve seen tons of entrepreneurs and solopreneurs successfully launch themselves—and their brands—into the world by walking through the following steps.

Image source: FOCA Stock

Define your goal: What is the mission/purpose of your personal brand?

“First and foremost,” says Emal, “you need to figure out what your actual goal is. For me, I was building a personal brand for a long time because that’s what business books said to do, or because [famed entrepreneur] Gary Vaynerchuk told me to, but I didn’t really know why I was actually doing it.”

Define your target audience: Who are you looking to serve?

Authenticity is part of what makes a great personal brand, and you definitely want to be yourself. But you still need to balance that with providing relevant content to your target audience. Take time to understand the needs and values of your target audience and identify where they intersect with what you have to offer.

Assess your areas of expertise and passions: What are you going to teach/serve your audience?

It’s not enough to sell something. You need to sell something people want. Says Emal: “You need to figure out what you’re going to teach people and how you’re going to serve them. [In the early stages of personal brand building] it’s about teaching and giving away your knowledge for free.”

What if you don’t have a defined skill set or value proposition yet?

Don’t worry if you haven’t developed your skills, says Emal. Instead, share what you're learning on your way to acquiring that proficiency. “If your goal is to build a personal brand around blogging but you haven't actually written anything yet, start there. Begin writing an article a week and document your process for ideation, outlining, and drafting content. Share what you're learning along the way and show your progress to your audience.”

Decide how you are going to serve your audience: How can you provide value to them?

For budding entrepreneurs, one of the easiest ways to provide value is by creating content—like YouTube videos, podcasts, blog posts, how-to guides, etc. You’ll likely be giving things away that you could otherwise charge for. “And that’s OK,” notes Emal. “That’s what helps build trust and establish you as somebody that knows what they’re talking about and that people like listening to.”


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Set measurable (and realistic goals): How will you track your progress?

Last but certainly not least, set a goal to measure your personal brand’s performance. This could be as simple as increasing your Twitter followers by 300 per month or getting X new subscribers to your free email newsletter. Use a benchmark that makes sense for you and that can provide some quantifiable metrics.

The next step: use CopyAI to define your brand mission

Ready to take the next step and start defining your brand goal and mission? CopyAI wants to help you! Our AI-powered copywriting tools have everything you need to start creating your personal brand—including a “brand mission” generator. Get started today for free!

Chris Lu
Chris Lu
Founder @ Copy.ai
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