What is a Personal Brand? (And Why You Need One)

If you’re confused about the term ‘Personal Brand’, you’re not the only one. Before the rise of social media having a personal brand was something that was only necessary for public-facing careers like being a politician or a celebrity. Now we’re all somewhat ‘public-facing’ aren’t we? The fact we can google ourselves and we show up in web searches is both terrifying and exciting.  

Potential clients or employers can dig for dirt without ever meeting us and giving off the wrong digital impression could be missed opportunity. 

Maybe you can’t delete that old YouTube channel that’s tied to your elementary school email address, but you can develop an easy strategy today to uphold your employable and charismatic reputation (and hope it drowns everything else out). This is the magic of personal branding.

What is a Personal Brand? 

girl sitting on gold chair and laughing
Business Coach Lauren Saunders, @laurencsaunders

A personal brand is a perception or impression of an individual based on their experience, expertise, competencies, actions, and/or achievements within a community, industry, or marketplace.  

This definition implies others have the authority in determining how your brand should be defined and while everyone will always have an opinion, don’t underestimate the level of control you have in shaping their thinking through personal branding. And how you control this is by determining what values and stories make up your personal brand and then promoting the hell out of them. One of my mottos, that sums this up nicely, is: define yourself or be defined.

Do I Need a Personal Brand? 

To say you need a personal brand is a bit dramatic, but I personally think everyone could benefit from thinking about their personal brand.

And I want to be clear on this: creating a personal brand is as big as a commitment as you want it to be. You don’t have to create an elaborate strategy around promoting yourself, but you also might find that this may be of value to you (e.g. if you are an entrepreneur or small business owner). 

girl with glasses reading a book
Small business owner Kaitlin McAloney, @thisiskaitey

There is absolutely no harm in gathering up your best traits and letting the world know about them. In fact, there are a lot of benefits, such as: getting head-hunted online, attracting partners for a new business venture, connecting with like minded people, using your social media platforms as a portfolio, and the list goes on.

Developing your personal brand is a great way to start thinking about what makes you unique and to get comfortable talking about it. 

Where to Start

Defining your personal brand can be a really fun and reflective process. Ultimately, it’s a process of getting to know yourself better and communicating that effectively to others. Here’s a few prompts to get you thinking:

What is your ‘why’? 

  • What pushes you when you’re feeling unmotivated?
  • What you love about the work you do?

What is your ‘superpower’?

  • What do you do better than everyone else?
  • What would your partner, friends, colleagues say is your best trait?

What are your ‘values’?

  • What do you admire the most in others? (e.g. honesty, open-mindedness, loyalty, etc.)
  • What is important for you to project to others?

Alternatively, Forbes has a great list, with some of these elements, that goes more in depth.

Jane Stoller holding up a bin labeled 'give away'
Author & speaker Jane Stoller, @organizedjane

Once you ask yourself these questions, you can start to see how the answers will inspire all types of different content. If you’re trying to promote your personal brand on social media, you can simply alternate between talking about these ‘topics’. Pair this written copy with intentional imagery and you have a recipe for success. 

To see behind the scenes of how a personal branding shoot works, visit my blog Personal Brand Photography Toronto: Copywriter Sarah Blake

Consistently reminding your audience of your personal brand allows people to connect with the things they resonate with and grow to really trust you. It puts you in a position of authority in your field, so don’t be surprised if people start coming to you for answers.

Personal branding is a simple, but powerful thing, and it can benefit those in any industry. Since I’ve integrated a simple personal branding strategy into my business, I’ve benefited from having deeper, more personal relationships with my clients and landing more jobs!



Want to DIY your brand photos? Here are 10 photos you can easily replicate at home with a smartphone and a tripod!

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