Written by Becca Edwards

Nov 13 ImageSo you know you need to create a personal brand. But how do you that?

Let’s be clear. If you want to learn how to “create” a “version” of yourself that people will flock to, you’ve come to the wrong place. I’m not going to give you a list of hacks to create your online alias for fame and fortune.

Most branding discussions have two major problems: either they promote a phony persona or they are without substance. Fake or fluff: pick your poison. Jeremiah Gardner wrote about the problem with “branding advice” and how it creates “The Personal Brand Myth.” He explains how many experts recommend you shape your outward appearance for your intended audience, and be your true self somewhere else. But let’s be frank:

“This thinking is bullshit.

“It’s bullshit because People relate to other People. People hire People. People want to do business with other People. As Simon Sinek put it, ‘The goal is to do business with people that believe what you believe.’

“The personal branding myth tells you to become more machine than human, more processed than raw and more fluff than substance. I believe the opposite. We ought to be focused on becoming more human in how we relate to those around us and less machine.”

One of the hardest things for creators to do is embrace ourselves. We want to be perfect and flawless, and we don’t want to take the risk of being vulnerable. Facing rejection: who wants to do that? But we’re people, and since the whole point of business and engaging is building relationships with others, we need to come to the table as people, too.

You already have a brand.

You are your brand. Your “brand” is who you are and what you do and who you want to be. It’s made up of your virtues and your faults, your victories and mistakes. All the values you hold dear, your personality, your history, your way of talking, of standing, of smiling, of thinking–they all roll together to create one individual. Because the internet and the wonderful people on it don’t want something that’s perfect and plastic. They want to see the reality that is you, with all your complexities.

It’s easy to look at Patrick Rothfuss, Joss Whedon, Mark Waid, or Felicia Day and think that’s how you should be. There’s no tried-and-true personality for awesomeness. You can be awesome in your own way.

WARNING: Being authentic doesn’t give you freedom you to break Wheaton’s Law and be rude, mean, or inconsiderate. Decrease world-suck, and be awesome instead.

Tips on building your personal brand:

– Build a Website. This platform is your base. It’s mission control, a library, an art gallery, and a storefront all rolled into one. Despite the ease of Facebook and other social networks, you want to have ownership and control of photos, stories, and posts. If creating your own website sounds really stressful and complicated, don’t worry. I’ll help you understand all your options and how to start it in another post.

– Pick Your Picture. People are going to associate your photo with everything you do. Choose an image that you really like and that represents you. Whether you pick symbol or a mugshot, you’ll probably be stuck with that for quite a while.

– Write Your Bio. Who are you? What do you do? Where do you work? What projects are you working on? What are your hobbies? What do you want to do? For some social networks, you’re only allotted 140-160 characters, so write your bio in that limit first. Then, depending on the medium, you can add more information. You can find an overview of how to write professional social media descriptions here.

– Your story. Even more important than fact sharing is telling your story. More than what you do and what you enjoy, share the moments that allow people to see who you really are. Remember when your furnace stopped working? Or when your son interrupted your work and you spent some time with him? Share your strengths and weaknesses. You’re not trying to hide behind an online mask: you’re trying to connect with others.

 – Talk with People. You know how frustrating it is when you text someone and they don’t respond for days? That’s how someone feels when you ignore their comments online. Genuinely connect with others through social media, email, blog comments, you name it. How you react and what you say reflects who you are as a person, so respond and talk like you normally do.

 – Give, Don’t Ask. The internet has been polluted with salesy self-promotion for far too long, and your audience is sick of it. You need to give more. You can still ask, but only after you’ve provided so much value that your self-promotion is welcomed. Share interesting and entertaining media, comment on the world, engage with others. Don’t be scared: people like you. And you’ll certainly be happier when they like you rather than a version of yourself you try to hide behind.

“Give, give , give, give, give … Ask” — Gary Vaynerchuk (@garyvee) February 23, 2013

Let’s put aside all the fiction (you know what I mean) and be more human.

Next up: Learn how to claim your name!