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3 Important truths entrepreneurs need to know about personal branding


“I used my personal blog and reputation to launch and sell the first product and over the course of about 6 months, I migrated that audience to WooThemes. Today we have 500 000 customers and we’re a multimillion dollar revenue. I also managed to keep building my personal reputation which helped me create my new startup, PublicBeta.”

This was the response given by serial entrepreneur, Adii Pienaar, to a Quora question if he should work on his business brand or personal brand.

As entrepreneurs, we are faced with a multitude of tasks to handle. Hence you might be wondering:

‘Do I need seriously need another item on my to-do list?’

‘Why can’t I just focus on my business brand and things will figure itself out?’

‘How does this fluffy buzzword help my business?’

Or, if you have already realised how personal branding can help your career and business, you might be looking for actionable tips that does not suck up a whole lot of time.

In this article, we will cover both sets of questions. But first, let us explore why a personal brand could help you tremendously throughout your entrepreneurial journey.

An asset that lasts you a lifetime

As entrepreneurs, our greatest ambition is to build a business that last for decades, while positively impacting the future generation.

However the odds are stacked against you.

The reality is that 8 out of 10 entrepreneurs who start businesses fail within the first 18 months.

In addition most successful entrepreneurs typically hit their home run on the third or fourth try. Hence it typically takes a few failed ventures before accumulating enough field experience to get it right.

Rather than be pessimistic about the odds, I encourage you to think about growing an asset that could potentially outlive the lifespan of your businesses.

Yes, I am referring to your personal brand.

An apt example would be Joel Gascoigne of Buffer, the social media scheduling tool.

While Buffer has been wildly successful, people rarely talk about how his previously unsuccessful venture actually served as a launchpad for Buffer to thrive.

Joel’s first startup was 1 Page, a site that gave you the ability to create an online version of your business card.

During 18 months, he blogged and tweeted about what he was working on. Through this effort, he had built a tribe of 1,700 Twitter followers.

When he started working on Buffer, those Twitter followers proved useful when testing and validating ideas. This feedback allowed Joel to create a product fit for the market, setting the foundation that helped Buffer launch.

An edge in attracting investors

“Investors tell me that they invest in people, more than the idea. Customers buy from people, not from a company, at least at the startup stages. That’s why it’s important to build a personal brand, in parallel and before your business brand.”

Martin Zwilling, Forbes Contributor

In some cases, an established personal brand is the single most potent weapon for raising investor funding.

One such case is Jack Dorsey who founded Square, the software that facilitates payment transactions through your mobile device.

It took him only 2 weeks and 25 meetings spread across New York and Silicon Valley to raise $10 million.

That is pretty impressive.

When you dig deeper, you would realise that Jack Dorsey’s reputation as the founder of Twitter gave investors the confidence that his idea would be successful.

It is not a magic pill though

Having covered how a powerful personal brand can help propel you towards your startup goals, I must caution it is not a substitute for hard work and product fit.

Gary Vaynerchuck recently covered this topic in an article titled ‘Stop Asking Me About Your Personal Brand and Start Doing Some Work’.

Rather than only trying carefully package your online presence, you need to also focus on providing real value to your target audience.

This means actually working on projects that people rave about, as this naturally builds interest.

It also means taking action and accumulating field experience. Launching, testing, tweaking and re-launching. This allows you to share insights that people would want to read and share.

There are simply no shortcuts.

How you can get started

As a time strapped individual, how do you get started?

  1. Make notes about your activities: Similar to journaling, make it a habit to record down work-related observations. When you complete a client project for instance, do list down your current process, insights learnt and future improvement steps.
  2. Make comments about industry news: Through following various industry publications, you can start to identify critical trends and discussions. What is your opinion on this? While you might not be the expert (yet), curating the opinions of experts followed by your perspective is a great start point.
  3. Share on LinkedIn and Twitter: Once you have written up the content, it is now time to share it. This is where you can start distributing blog links on various social media platforms such as LinkedIn and Twitter. You should also practise reciprocation by liking, commenting and sharing on your connections’ posts.

To wrap it all up

In this article, I uncovered three truths about personal branding: It is an asset that lasts you a lifetime and helps attract investor funding. Yet it is not a substitute for hard work.

You need to grow both your brand and business skills simultaneously.

Over to you: Has this article encouraged you to start building up your personal branding? Or if not, what challenges are you currently facing?

I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments below.

About the author:

Bin Teo is the marketing manager at Social Star. The agency helps aspiring entrepreneurs launch their business, powered by personal branding. You can connect with him on LinkedIn and Twitter.