In September 2012, Bloomberg published a glowing article that hailed Tesla CEO Elon Musk as “the 21st Century Industrialist,” (emphasis ours) praising his vision and the ethic that drove his company.
Six years later, in that same month, Tesla’s stock plummeted in the wake of a bizarre podcast appearance by Musk as well as a slew of other worries surrounding his health and general level-headedness.
There’s much to be said about business leaders who lead colourful lives, but the primary thing you should take away from our little recap is this: a leader’s personal branding influences their professional outcomes.
Your life as a tradie owner may not be as dramatic as Elon’s, but your personal branding will affect your business success nevertheless. Your charisma, reliability, and expertise all come together to make or break your career as an entrepreneur—even if you prefer to work behind the scenes.
Tradies who are trusted and well-liked stand a better chance at convincing leads and navigating PR challenges. Conversely, tradies who neglect their reputations are more likely to be ignored, or worse, outright disliked.
It’s a challenge, to be sure, but the silver lining is that you don’t have to be a poet or a rockstar to craft an image worth admiring. For business leaders working in the age of social media, it’s easier than ever to create a strong and memorable personal brand.
To help you take advantage of all the benefits that personal branding has to offer, we’ve prepared a comprehensive guide covering the habits and practices that make for a great reputation. In it, we cover:
If you’re ready to learn everything you need to know about personal branding and more, read on.
I. Understanding Your Personal Brand
Just as every building needs a blueprint, it’s important to kick things off with a dive into what personal brands are and how they work.
What is a Personal Brand?
There are a handful of different ways you could view a personal brand.
At the most basic level, your personal brand is the summation of your personality, values, knowledge, and experience. It’s everything that comes to mind for the public when they encounter your name, as well as all of the information they find about you when they choose to look you up.
You can also think of your personal brand as a role to play: a character that’s based on your life, but one that embodies the best of your traits and habits. Obviously, this isn’t an invitation to be facetious—the only aspect that should be made-up is how consistently your persona can stay in business mode. Since you’re crafting a personal brand as a professional, it makes sense to give the impression that you’re always ready to handle a work-related challenge.
Finally, you can think of your personal brand the same way you would an ordinary brand—like one for a product or service. Look through marketing blogs for a clearer picture of how most brands are run. You’ll find that plenty of advice that applies to positioning goods also applies to positioning people.
At the end of the day, we find that personal branding is best explained in this quote by one of the century’s top authors for business, Seth Godin:
“A brand is the set of expectations, memories, stories and relationships that, taken together, account for a consumer’s decision to choose one product or service over another.”
Why Does Personal Branding Matter?
Personal branding may seem like a pointless exercise for the vain and self-absorbed, but this couldn’t be farther from the truth. Brands affect many of the decisions that people make in a given day, with purchase decisions being no exception.
By nature, the personal brand of any business owner extends to their business. We noted the example of Elon Musk and Tesla at the start of this article, but you can find examples everywhere from Steve Jobs to the many small-time business owners you’ve come to know in person. Their reputations invariably affect your perception of the shops and services they run.
At the most fundamental level, however, having a strong personal brand makes you happier— which is (or should be) the goal for any entrepreneur. A solid reputation invites more positive social interactions from the people around you, which in turn lends to happiness.
Taking better care of your personal brand is equivalent to taking better care of your business, and yourself. If you’re conscientious and balance it with the other elements of keeping your business or life together, then you needn’t worry about being vain.
II. How to Craft a Personal Brand
There are countless paths you could take towards creating your personal brand, and going over each one of them isn’t our goal for this guide. Instead, we’ll take you through four fundamental elements to personal branding that form the line between success and failure.
These are your reasons, your personality, your opportunities, and lastly, your strategy.
The best personal branding takes all four into account and uses them to guide the specific directions they take.
1. Understand Your Reasons
When it comes to running any successful project, you have to start with the why. Your reason or reasons for developing your personal brand will set the limits and bounds for your ideas, and be the source of your motivation to excel.
Identify the specific set of outcomes you want to reach by sharpening your image. There are any number of goals you may be out to accomplish, but it pays to isolate the handful that mean the most to you.
Common Personal Branding Goals among Tradie Owners
|Earn more leads||Book speaking engagements||Be more respected|
|Win more loyal customers||Earn readers for a book||Achieve popularity|
|Acquire more business partners||Run for a local gov’t position||Achieve higher status in a community|
|Expand to a new market||Start, lead, or join an organisation||Inspire others|
|Drive traffic through a blog||Feel more confident|
After figuring out the things you want from a venture into personal branding, sort them in order of priority. Having a ranked list will come in handy should you ever reach a point where, for example, you’d have to choose between one facet of your personal brand or another.
2. Examine Your Personality
The second factor is the glue that holds your personal branding together: your personality. While other entries in this section discuss technical matters, the factor of personality is where things get fun.
Step out of the headspace of what does or doesn’t work for your personal brand and reflect on the pure and unfiltered version of you—how you act by default, and how you naturally respond to various situations.
Take note of your observations, and ask yourself:
- What personality traits have served me best?
- What personality traits can I improve upon?
- What personality traits am I comfortable changing if it means reaching my personal branding goals?
It’s important to consider how you feel about your personality early in the game. We’d never advocate faking your way to the top, but it’s a big help to note what traits you’d be comfortable adjusting. You may find yourself in a situation where it helps to emphasise some traits that don’t come to you by default, or toning down on others that clash with your goals.
Other areas to consider include your sense of humour, your tendency to smile, your ability to recall names and faces, and your social battery (that is, how long you can last in a social environment before growing tired).
3. Identify Your Opportunities
The second element of personal branding is also one that’s frequently overlooked. Before you take the world by storm with a killer blog and an even deadlier smile, you need a good picture of the opportunities you have.
Every great strategy starts with inventory: take stock of your personal strengths and weaknesses, especially when it comes to communication. From there, you should have a sense of what opportunities are and aren’t available to you.
A great framework for this step is SWOT analysis, a popular tool used by professionals and organisations around the world.
Spare no detail and be exhaustive—if you find yourself doing very well or very poorly in an area you weren’t expecting, then you can always adapt down the line.
After you’ve reflected on the stuff you have (or don’t have) going for you, you’ll want to take your findings and compare them against the personal branding goals you’ve set. What you’ll have are your starting point (the results of your strengths and weaknesses analysis) and an endpoint (your goals).
4. Build Your Strategy
Your job now is to brainstorm ideas for how to get from A to Z. To do this, you’ll need an overarching strategy. We’ve discussed strategy at length when it comes to sales, but many of the same points apply.
Think of your strategy as the set of guiding premises behind your efforts, rather than a specific plan of action—that bit comes later. It’s the general approach you’d prefer to take, as well as the tradeoffs you’d be willing to make along the way.
This factor involves a deep analysis of your goals and opportunities vis-a-vis personal branding. You know where you’re situated and where you want to be, so take the time to map out the broad strokes of how you want to reach your desired outcomes.
To illustrate this point, let’s look at a fictional case study.
Person X is the owner of a construction business focused on building homes. Their goal for personal branding is to help boost their business by creating content and reaching more leads through a blog or website, and boosting their reputation as an entrepreneur along the way.
They’re charismatic, and a people-person when dealing face-to-face, but they can’t seem to get the hang of establishing a presence online—where, sadly, the majority of their potential clients and partners can be found. They have a firm grasp over their line of business and have ideas worth writing about, but no time or skill to come up with a compelling blog or social media feed.
In the case of Person X, their goals, opportunities, and limitations are clear:
|Assist business via blog||Charismatic and personable||Not the best writer|
|Boost personal reputation||Many great ideas for content||No talent for digital communication|
At a glance, their charisma looks like it isn’t suited for the goals they’re out to accomplish—after all, we’ve all had moments where it’s felt easier to get a point across through speaking rather than writing. Their safest bet might be to outsource the writing, and work with them to translate their ideas into digital form.
Since we don’t believe in wasting talent, we’d argue that Person X could still leverage their charisma by exploring media like vlogging or podcasting. With a loose set of talking points, they can get their bright ideas across while at the same time making use of their natural speaking ability.
In terms of meeting their reputation goal, the challenge would be to make sure they produce high-quality content that reaches their target audiences. The strategy would have to involve a big investment in quality and novelty (can’t be a copycat, after all).
When building your own strategy, take the time to study all the myriad ways others have marketed themselves and their wares. Ideas like branching into new media will only come to you if you’re in sync with wider trends in marketing, so keep your ear to the ground.
III. Assorted Tips for Personal Branding
There’s so much to be said about personal branding, and so little time to do it. To give you the best head start, we’ve curated a few of the most important tips for tradies looking to make a name for themselves.
1. Own Your Narrative
Stories are crucial to any brand. They help crystallise your desired image and they give your target market something clear and coherent to latch onto.
Your personal narrative is your life story, collapsed into a version that matters for people who might do business with you. Like study notes you’d find online, it’s a summary of where you come from, how you started doing business, what values propel you, and what mark you aim to leave upon the world.
Owning your narrative is more than having an “About Me” page on your personal website (although if you have a personal website, you should have an “About Me” page). It’s a matter of taking time out to reflect, and sharing the lessons you’ve learned throughout your life and career. Here are some examples you might like to check out.
By paying mind to your narrative, you become more relatable to people who are in similar positions as you’ve been.
2. Be Proactive
We can’t say it’s impossible to wake up one morning and find yourself with a stellar personal brand—some people do stumble into it. But without focus and hard work, you’re more likely to fall into obscurity than win over any fans.
Take initiative and explore various tactics for honing and promoting your brand. The sit-and-wait approach isn’t a strategy towards brand-building. It’s the equivalent of being good, and waiting for good to happen in return.
Real success stories involve people who chase what they want and recognise the role that work plays in catching it.
3. Know Your Audience
Ask any public speaker and they’ll tell you that it’s important to do some homework about the crowd you’re facing. Things are no different for tradies looking to engage in personal branding: knowing your audience is the key to connecting with them.
If you’re working towards better business outcomes, look into the buyer personas you’ve crafted around your target market. If your personal branding goals are more personal in nature, then build personas around the kinds of people whose attention would benefit you: think of what they do, what problems they face, how they use the internet, and what content helps them.
This perspective makes it easy to come up with more effective plans for reaching them.
4. Be Visible
We know a thing or two about tradie marketing, so trust us when we say that being active on more platforms is better than confining yourself to a tight niche. There are dozens of platforms to be heard, and each offers a hundred potential touchpoints a minute—closing the door to any of them without a good reason will do you more harm than good.
Take the material you’ve produced and see how they can be repurposed to best fit the different platforms available. You’ll want to master your website, LinkedIn, and Facebook for sure, but don’t ignore the people you might reach on Twitter or Instagram.
5. Be Competitive
More likely than not, your direct competitors are trying their hands at building their own personal brands. And even if they aren’t, then you’ll have to fight for people’s attention against all the other would-be influencers on the internet.
Do some digging to see if you can spot how your competitors are positioning themselves online, and find out what other forces are acting to pull your viewers’ attention. Track what makes them popular, see how they can improve, and enhance your approach based on what you learn.
6. Get Invested in People
Once your personal branding efforts pick up, you’ll find yourself interacting with people on a pretty frequent basis. They can take any form: customers at your shop, fans engaging with your content, and our personal favourites, people who want to make it very clear that they disagree with you.
No matter who they are, it helps to nurture a sincere investment in the people you encounter. The best brands take the time to connect with people, and recognise the potential they have to use their influence to the benefit of others.
Keep your content useful, answer questions as they come, and remember that tradie work often spares people a lot of stress and anxiety. Embrace the role that friendly experts have in improving people’s lives, and work to make the most out of that responsibility.
7. Be Honest
It bears repeating that we aren’t suggesting you fabricate about yourself to boost your personal brand. This means no fake degrees, no made-up personal stories, and as much as possible, no personality traits invented for the sole purpose of impressing strangers.
Beyond the fact that integrity is absolutely an ideal we should all work towards, faking a personality is simply unsustainable. Anyone with a track record for personal branding will tell you that lies are more of a threat to your success than they are a catalyst. Any lapse in consistency opens you up to negative scrutiny—and since a good chunk of what you do will be preserved online, you can surely expect that scrutiny to come.
Be true to yourself, and take the ethical route to success.
Personal branding is a powerful tool that can elevate careers, draw attention to businesses, and change the lives of those who master the art. It’s a worthwhile investment of time and effort, but a challenge to be sure.
This guide should give you a good handle on what personal branding is, how it works, and how to start personal branding efforts of your own. Of course, it isn’t fully comprehensive—there’s plenty more to know.