Over the last three years, I have realized that the most important thing when it comes to building up a business online is your personal brand.
Even if you are working as a blogger in a blog network, you need to be focused on building your personal brand over anything else, or you could be left without a job if the winds of change happen to hit your current employer.
If you are a blogging building up your own sites, it also is in your best interest to build your own personal brand. Building your own brand online takes a lot of work, and forces you to think in a different way about your content, your work, and how you build your site. Building a brand online requires you to network, socialize, try new things and really put yourself out there in a way that goes beyond just posting something and forgetting about it.
Each piece of content you put up should have a piece of your personality within it, so that your readers can really connect with you and become passionate about your writing.
The first piece of advice I always give to a budding blogger is to spend time networking. When I first got into blogging, I wasn’t very good at networking, and I feel like it really limited my career options, not that I am complaining about the last few years, but if I had worked harder on networking, who knows how far I could have gone in the same amount of time.
Some of the small attempts that I did make at networking helped secure me jobs, and get my name known by a few people. In fact, without contacting Jacob Gower for an interview, I doubt I ever would have got the full time job with him that lasted two years. Without taking the time to submit an application to Darren Rowse to guest blog and following up on it, I doubt I would have been chosen to write on his laptop blog.
These small movements in the networking space are what catapulted my career and it really isn’t about getting to know the biggest internet celebrities, or the bloggers in positions you want to be in, but keeping your eyes open for opportunities, and being passionate. The more you can share your passions with others, the more chances you create for yourself to build powerful and lasting connections.
Get Out and Socialize
This brings me to another key aspect of building your personal brand: socializing. If you always just stay in your house, in your protective bubble so to speak, then you will never get to that higher level when it comes to building your personal brand. Finding events you can attend like conferences and blogger meetups can really help you connect with your peers and open up new opportunities.
While living in Ottawa, I was one of the founders of the Ottawa Blogger Meetup with James Cogan, and as the group grew the local news paper picked up on it and sent someone to cover the event. This ended up with me and others getting our picture in the paper as well as a long article that heavily featured myself as well as other bloggers in the Ottawa area.
This was thanks to attending the event, and is becoming more and more common as blogging related news hits the mainstream more and more. I am always hearing about some of my colleagues getting themselves and their sites mentioned in major newspapers or even on television. This helps build your personal brand in leaps and bounds.
Don’t get me wrong though. You don’t have to be covered by traditional media to make meetups and conferences worthwhile. Just meeting peers with different talents can quickly help you. I have done many jobs in trade for help with my weaknesses. I write posts for them, they do design work for me, and both of us do better in our careers over the long term.
I have also been to conferences and events where it was just nice to unwind and take everything in, something which can really quickly recharge the creativity battery that can run down from time to time.
Build Something of Your Own
Another thing I recommend for every blogger is to start their own projects, and especially ones where money isn’t a concern, and where you feel safe to test the waters in various ways. It could be a personal blog, or about a specific topic, but the idea is to have something of your own where you can learn, play and expand your talents in ways that any blogging work might not let you do.
This is also a place where you can continue to build your personal brand, allowing you to create a single message.
When I was blogging on a dozen different sites, I didn’t feel like anyone had a central place to understand who I was, what I do, or what I enjoyed, and so I started finding ways to pull things together. First I started doing roundups on my personal blog about what I was posting about on other blogs, and then moved all of my thoughts and ideas over to this blog, and built my super feed, which is a Yahoo Pipes to Feedburner implementation that allowed people to subscribe to one feed and be able to read all of the posting I was doing on dozens of blogs.
I loved building these little projects as they helped me tie my brand and work together.
Add Variety to Your Life
One of my favourite things was to try various mediums when putting my message and brand out there. I was the co-host of the WordPress Podcast, and still am the co-host of the TechCanuck Podcast. I enjoy the audio medium, though not editing. It also woke me up to the fact that there are so many different ways to put what I had to say out into the world, and by trying to do things with audio and video, I was expanding my audience and building new ways for them to connect to my ideas.
One of the things I enjoyed the most, but didn’t always turn out the best was live streaming on Ustream. It allowed me to interact with people in a whole new way. I was answering their questions live on video. While they didn’t really need to see me, as I was just a talking head, it was still quite an experience for me.
Sometimes writing all of the time can get boring and adding in special things like audio, video or other multimedia can help freshen up a blog and even bring it to the next level. I am always considering bringing the XFEP podcast back because I enjoyed recording it, but the production time is definitely a lot higher than posting some text.
Give Freely of Your Time
The last thing I wanted to talk about in this part of my retrospective is the idea of giving freely of your time. So many of the things that have gotten me to this point have been thanks to finding time to give a friend or network connection some of my time and help them towards their goals. Usually, if they are a good person, this pays huge dividends for you in the end, and if it doesn’t, sometimes just being attached to certain brands online can help boost your career. I think being able to name drop, while a little snob-like, can help remind people how relevant you are, at least until you become a name people recognize.
If Darren hadn’t let me work on his laptop blog, would Jacob have felt compelled to hire me on? If I hadn’t worked on FineFools, would I have ever made some of the friends I have today that have taught me things that have helped me in various ways?
Sometimes working on guest posts for other blogs can lead to full time jobs. Sometimes co-hosting or guest hosting a podcast can open all sorts of doors, and sometimes teaching someone something new on your blog can lead to book deals. You need to be patient and willing to give freely of your time. If you are always chasing money, then you will miss out on all of the secondary benefits and opportunities that will come your way.
Building a business around blogging is hard, but building a brand online that you can leverage in a variety of ways is easy and definitely worthwhile. I can’t even count the number of times that my career has been boosted in some way thanks to the continual work I do on networking, socializing, building my own projects, trying new things, and giving my time freely to those around me.
If you feel like you are stuck in your blogging career and aren’t reaching the heights you want, then you are probably missing one of these important factors that go into building your personal brand, so go back and brainstorm on what you can do to get to that next level.
This post is part two of three parts. The third part will be the 500th post on this blog and as part of my work towards this milestone I will be working on improving this site greatly, so please keep checking back.