Should You Create a Personal or Business Brand?

Chiquita banana-unsplash-Personal-or-Business-Brand

Part of what I do as a business owner is to teach live tech help calls where writers and other small business creatives can learn how to use the software they need to run their businesses better online. I offer my tech help calls now primarily to members of Ninja Writers.


But the members of my very first tech help group - I call them my “guinea pig” group - have transformed from writers trying to monetize their hobby to CEO’s who are planning and launching their small businesses.


I love seeing all the progress they’ve made with their businesses now that technology is less of an obstacle to moving forward.


In the process of teaching business owners about the technology they need to write, get seen, and get paid, I also answer questions on techniques for branding, email list building, SEO basics, developing their messaging, building an online presence, identifying their audience, and more.


One of the first steps a business owner has to take when building a business is to build a website. The first step to building a website is to buy a domain name. In order to help with buying a domain though, we first have to talk about branding.


To do that, we talk about the differences between personal and business brands.
Deciding between a personal or business brand for your writing business or startup, is one of the early decisions you’ll want to make. If you buy a domain without committing to one or the other of these, you may end up having to redo your website or even buy a new domain name at some point.


You can’t always make the decision between personal and business branding when you first get started, but knowing the difference between the two can help you with choosing your domain name. Sometimes when you begin to think about your writing as a business, you may decide you need to have more than one brand or more than one domain, and that’s okay, too.

Creating a Personal Brand


A personal brand is just what it sounds like: It’s a brand built around you as a person. The way I explain it to people is that if the service you are offering or the business you are building would not exist in the same way if you sold it to someone else, then you want a personal brand.


For most writers, authors, and freelancers, a personal brand is going to be the best choice. If you want people to recognize your name and your face, then a personal brand is going to be a good route to go.


Authors and writers generally want to be known by their name, or at least their pen name.
If you decide on a personal brand, you’ll want to choose a domain that is yourname.com or some variation. It can sometimes be difficult to get your exact first and last name, especially if your name is common. If you can’t get your first and last name, then the next best option for a personal brand is to get a version of your name as your domain. You can do your first name, middle initial and last name. Or, try your middle name with your last name, a nickname with your last name, etc.


My first and last name wasn’t available. Neither was my nickname with my last name. I ended up with my nickname (Meg), my last name, and the word writes. If I had to make this choice again, I might use the word writer instead of writes, simply because writer is a better keyword.


When you build a personal brand, it will most likely reflect your personality and values. You’ll choose colors, fonts, and other elements, such as your photo or caricature likeness, and other images that will tell your audience who you are, what you do, and why you do what you do.

Creating a Business Brand


Part of our group time over the last several weeks has been used to share the progress each business owner has made with developing their website, landing page, and other marketing messaging.

We have a couple of people in the group who are developing a business brand. It’s so great to see how their writing businesses have evolved over time as they’ve learned more about branding, developing their messages, and using technology.
Your business brand should also reflect its personality.


Is your business formal or informal? Serious or fun? Are your services educational, entertaining, or something else? Answering these questions will help you market your business to the right audience and hone your messaging.


Consider SEO


Search engine optimization (SEO) is also critical when developing your brand. Having a keyword in your domain is also a good idea for optimizing SEO to help drive traffic to your website.


So if you are developing a personal brand and you write about health, for example, you might do your first name, last name, and add the words health writer or nutrition writer (more targeted). For a business brand, you might include words like wellness, fitness, or even just health in your business name.


If you’re ready to take your writing or other creative work from hobby to business, think about whether it would work best as a personal or business brand. Ask yourself whether or not you can ever imagine selling your successful business?


Think about how you want your business to be known in the world. Those who prefer to be behind the scenes rather than in the public eye might prefer a business brand.


Personal brands might be better suited for writers, musicians, and for those who want to be known as the face of their business, or for those who provide personal services such as coaching.


A Personal and Business Brand


For myself, I began with a personal brand, using a version of my name, as a freelance writer and consultant. It made sense then as I was primarily doing freelance writing, with a byline.
People who might buy my services need to know that I’m a real person. Using my name and photo in my branding, and honing my messaging around my personal values and interests, helps my clients know and trust me as a writer.


As my business is evolving, I’m also developing a business brand as Freelance Filter. For Freelance Filter, the focus is on helping small business owners learn to use the technology they need to do their own business better online. Freelance Filter provides helpful tutorials, software reviews and comparisons, and tech help services.


I can have other writers or staff involved in providing Freelance Filter services as long as I oversee the work to make sure it accurately reflects my brand values. Freelance Filter is a business brand that could someday be run by or sold to someone else if the opportunity arises.


There’s not really a right way or wrong way to brand your business.


Branding can even vary for different people who offer similar services. The important thing to do when branding is to make a conscious decision about which way to brand your business.


It will likely evolve and change over time. Richard Brandson, Elon Musk, and Bill Gates are examples of people who have both personal and business brands.


Once you make the decision between personal and business branding, you’ll find it’s much easier to make decisions about choosing a domain, designing your website and other marketing messaging, creating service offerings, and embarking on future endeavors.

It’s Time for You!

woman arms outstretched, it's time for you

I’m so glad you’re here.

There comes a time in every woman’s life when we realize there’s more to life than what we’re doing. For me that time first happened in 2003. As a single mom, it became clear there was more to life than working and taking care of my children. A friend reminded me to “make time for you.”

I started freelancing, but without guidance and purpose, I floundered over and over again. I was more than capable but it was hard to know what to do and when.

I searched the Internet without much luck. I did some freelancing but didn’t gain much traction. When you don’t have a destination fixed firmly in mind, even a map isn’t much help at all.

My guess is that you are capable but looking for purpose and direction.

It’s possible you’ve spent the majority of your adult life doing what everyone else thought was best for you.

Maybe you’re recently widowed or divorced, perhaps your kids are getting older and you have more free time. Or maybe your kids are grown and you’ve recently retired from your 9 to 5 job.

Regardless of the reason, you find yourself with more time on your hands and/or a desire to do something meaningful with your life for the next couple decades.

It could be you know what you need to do, you have a dream in mind, but the technology you need to learn is overwhelming.

Or maybe you just can’t figure out where to start.

Over the last year, I’ve been coaching other writers and small business owners about how to first identify their destination, then create their map for getting there, and navigate rough waters along the way.

If this sounds like you, I can help. For those who are interested in freelance writing or need to learn the technology to do their business better online, visit Freelance Filter.

How to Identify Your Purpose

Don't Waste Your Talent-Identify Your Purpose

What to do when you feel like there’s more to life than what you’ve got.

Do you ever feel like there’s got to be something more to life than what you’ve got now?

I’ve so been there.

For me, the time that stands out was right after my third child was born. It seemed life was just passing me by. I was just going through the motions of work, sleep, and single parenting without any real plan. Each day was a lot like the next.

Continue reading “How to Identify Your Purpose”

Here’s What Can Happen When You Dream Big

I spent ten years working with low income women and youth before I made the decision to relocate to Cleveland and work with homeless veterans. As a case manager for a veteran’s re-employment program, I was assigned to the largest men’s shelter downtown.

There were nearly 400 men there most nights. And sadly, a good number of them were military veterans.

Are you asking the right question?

One of the questions I used to ask students in my job skills class was this:

If you had access to the training and any money you needed, what would you be when you grow up?

How would you contribute to the world?

I asked this question to my first group of veterans in my job skills class. One man, who looked about forty years old, began to get tears in his eyes when it was his turn to respond.

I’m fifty years old. No one ever asked me what I wanted to be when I grew up. he said.

I told Steve* he could have some time to think about it as I continued around the room.

When just surviving today is the priority

These men had all volunteered and served their country, many of them had seen combat. They returned to find they didn’t fit into society any longer. The horror they had witnessed, and in some cases been ordered to participate in, had a deep hold on them.

Without treatment, they grew restless, frustrated, bored, angry, and in some cases abusive and self-destructive. They couldn’t see a way out over all the obstacles.

But what I discovered is almost every one of those men wanted more. They wanted to step into their place in society. I used to arrive at the shelter on Monday evenings and within minutes, there were a line of men, waiting to talk to me and find out how I could help them.

They wanted to dream big.

But they were stuck, just trying to survive one day at a time. All they could see in front of them were obstacles.

Many of them had chronic illnesses including respiratory issues and mental health issues, such as PTSD. Many were recovering from years of substance abuse to dull their memories and pain. Some had been to prison, served their time, only to find society still held a grudge.

There was not time or resources for planning. They had so much on their plate, connecting themselves to resources was nearly impossible.

They needed a way to look beyond the obstacles and see their true potential.

Stepping stones can get you to your big dream

When it was Steve’s turn again that first day in class, he admitted he’d always wanted to be a chef. We created a plan where he would wash dishes in a restaurant with a goal of working his way up to prep chef and then attending culinary school.

As a result of that plan, a dish washing job which would have seemed to most like a frustrating, dead-end job, now became merely a stepping stone to his dream career. Steve got his dish washing job within two weeks.

He could tolerate it because he knew it was temporary. He knew his destination.

Over the years I’ve found this to be true for myself and for a lot of other people. You will be amazed at what you can tolerate if you know it’s temporary and if you see it as a stepping stone to your big dream.

After just a few weeks in that dish washing job, Steve was smiling every day in class. He was excited to tell us about what he was learning and the people he was meeting.

Steve moved into transitional housing not long after getting his job. Within a year, he got promoted to prep chef and I took him to buy his uniforms.

It was a proud day for both of us.

I ran into Steve right before I left Cleveland. He was still working as a prep chef but the restaurant owner encouraged him to go to culinary school and he was enrolled for the fall semester.

His life had completely changed in just a year and a half.

All because he was able to dream big.

How to dream big no matter what obstacles are in your way

If you feel like you have more to offer the world than what you’re doing right now, it’s time to dream big.

Close your eyes and picture what you’d like to be doing. Don’t let yourself worry about money, time, kids, bills, or health issues that might stand in your way.

What would you do if all those obstacles were gone?

Maybe it’s not a job or career, maybe it’s something else. Whatever it is write it down. Describe how it would feel to be doing that thing.

That’s your big dream.

Can you see yourself? Can you imagine how life could be different once you get to your big dream?

Now create your path

Now, this part is harder. Just like I did with Steve, you need to think about what you need to do to get from where you are now to that big dream. Make a list.

Maybe you need education, training, or to learn how to better use technology. If you don’t know what’s required for you to accomplish your dream, do some research and find out.

Think about how other people get started. Steve knew he couldn’t just walk into a restaurant and be a chef. There are steps he had to do first and those steps take some time. Figure out where you need to start and then what you need to do to start there. Steve couldn’t start culinary school right away, his priority was a job so he could get housing and pay his bills. Survival.

The dish washing job helped him do that and it helped him gain experience and learn more about the inner workings of the restaurant industry. Every day he went to that dish washing job, he was learning and gaining experience.

If you can’t find someone to pay you while you learn the skills that are required, volunteer in exchange for learning the skills you need. Work another job if money and survival is a pressing priority for you.

Start small and create a path of stepping stones to get you to your big dream.

Just like Steve, before you know it, you’ll look up from that path and find you’re close than you ever thought you could be!

Set Smart Goals and Boost Your Chance of Success

typewriter with goals

One trick from the 1950’s that you must use in your modern business to avoid failure.

It may come as a surprise to you that a process for goal setting which originated in the 1950’s could still be effective in your modern writing career or business.

But believe it or not, without this one technique, your business is setup for failure.

The SMART process of goal setting became well-known in the education arena thanks in part to the extensive Professional Learning Community work by Rick and Becky DeFour.

But the concept of SMART goals was originally associated with Peter Drucker, The Practice of Management (1954). Fifteen years before I was born! I first heard about Peter Drucker, when I was an Elementary Education major in 1988.

In the 1990’s, SMART goals was a popular trend for adult learning curriculum to enhance accountability and productivity.

This meant, throughout my decade as a community education instructor, certified life skills facilitator, and program coordinator at the college, the SMART goals process was an ever present focus for me.

Now, SMART goals are used in just about every phase of life, including healthcare, fitness, counseling/therapy, manufacturing, agriculture, HR/recruiting, big business, marketing, and so many others.

What Are SMART Goals?

It should come as no surprise then that SMART goals can be effective for writers and small business owners.

There have been several versions or variations of SMART goals over the decades but for most people SMART goals are ones that are:

S-pecific (clearly identified or defined)
M-easurable (something quantifiable that can be monitored, counted, and tracked)
A-chievable (under your control or influence)
R-ealistic or Relevant (a stretch from current status but not too much)
T-imely (they have a deadline or due date)

SMART Goals for Writers

As a writer, it can be very motivating to set and meet an annual income goal but you can take that one step further and set SMART goals for your writing business. These will help you to not only meet your income goal, but will help you to know what your next steps should be.

SMART goals guide the decisions you make for your business at any given point.

You can create SMART goals for your own business. Think about what your goal is for your business for the year. Do you want to launch a course? Or start a YouTube channel? Maybe you know you need to build your email list or launch a website or start a blog.

Whatever your goal is, write it down on a piece of paper.

Make it Specific

Now look at your goal and make sure it’s specific. Will you know when it’s accomplished? Is it something concrete you can do?

Here’s an example:

Goal: I want to build my email list.

Specific Goal: I want to double the number of subscribers on my email list.

Make it Measurable

Now that you have a specific goal, you need to make sure it’s something that you can measure.

It’s important to be able to monitor your progress and see that you are moving closer to your goal.

Measurable Goal: I want to build my email list from 100 people to 1,000 people.

Make it Achievable

Now that you have a measurable goal, you need to make sure it’s a goal you can achieve.

What is required to start your goal? Who will you enlist to help you? Is it doable and under your control?

I want to build my email list to 1,000 people and to do that I need to take an email marketing course, for example.

Make Goals Relevant or Realistic

Shaunta Grimes, founder of Ninja Writers has a great way to do this using an editorial plan she developed.

I used it about six months ago to set a goal for myself of replacing my fixed income with my writing income by December 2020. I’m halfway to meeting that goal already! By the way if you’re not already in the Ninja Writers club, I highly recommend it.

If your current email list is 100, it’s probably not realistic to set a goal of 100,000 in a year. But a goal of 1,000 in six months might be totally realistic for you.

Whatever your goal is, make sure it’s something you have control over and can realistically get done using your own efforts.

Make Your Goals Timely

The last piece of the puzzle for SMART goal planning is the T for Timely. This means giving yourself a deadline to accomplish your goal. By setting a deadline, you give yourself that little push needed to keep you from procrastinating.

This is especially important for writers who are self-employed. Set a deadline and stick to it.

Break big goals into smaller, sub-goals and give those deadlines too.

If you find you’re having trouble making progress toward your goals, it can help to post them on display where you will see them often throughout the day. It can also help to get an accountability partner or group to help you stay on track and keep you motivated.

Now that you’ve got the idea, I can’t wait to see what you accomplish this year!

If you struggle with finding clients, get my step by step guide to using Twitter’s advanced search feature to find writing clients.

The World of Self-Publishing and Why Authors Must Understand the Basics

Plus the two things you must get right when you self-publish.


I just had a conversation recently with a client about self-publishing. I’ll admit I’m not a book marketer. I’m not a self-publishing expert. But I’m a working writer who studied the self-publishing industry extensively when I wanted to self-publish my own novel.

In fact, at one point I wanted to be a book marketer and help other authors get their books seen by the right readers.

That is, until I researched self-publishing and learned how many things can tank book sales, if you don’t get it right from the start.

During my research over several years, I learned a lot about the self publishing industry. I also studied related topics so when I did self-publish, I would know what questions to ask to choose the best service.

In the process I learned a lot about what not to do when self-publishing.

The two things you must get right.

You absolutely cannot afford to get the genre of your novel wrong. There are very specific elements to many genres and sub-genres. If you get this wrong, people who love your genre of book won’t find it, which can mean low sales, if any.

Those who find your book in the wrong category, may hate it. If they are looking for cozy mystery and you give them horror, for example. At the least they will feel dissatisfied or deceived, which can result in bad reviews.

Your book cover is your only chance in most cases at a first impression on potential readers. I know that every genre and sometimes sub genre of book also has standard design elements for the cover. When it come to font, style of drawing, even color combinations, you have to get these elements right if you want to attract fans of your genre.

Get the design of your book cover wrong and you make a bad first impression.

Readers won’t even see your perfect blurb, your amazing hook, or that engaging first chapter because they never click on your cover.

Know what service your expert can and cannot offer.

Because technology has made the process of self publishing so much easier, many, many people have begun designing book covers, and offering self-publishing services, or book marketing services.

Not everyone is trying to run a scam. Some folks are simply trying to earn a living doing book cover design, something they’ve discovered they’re good at. They have that eye for visual design and produce great looking covers.

Others are trying to make money using their skill in technology to convert a manuscript in Word into an e-book in Kindle, Mobi, or some other format. The conversion of a manuscript into this format can be a frustrating thing to learn, so many authors would rather just pay someone to do it for them. Many of those offering design services are highly experienced in their craft.

Technical skill and publishing industry knowledge don’t always align.

But someone who is phenomenal with book design might not have the knowledge about the importance of those genre elements of cover design. They may give you exactly the book cover design you want, without realizing it’s the wrong design for your genre and will tank your sales. So it’s up to you, as the author, to know what the design elements are right for your genre and make sure they are in your cover design.

If you are considering self publishing a book, whether fiction or nonfiction, make sure you do your homework first. It’s your responsibility to know about genre, cover design, and the actual publishing process. It’s perfectly fine to pay someone else to do the tasks you don’t want to master. But the more you know, the better questions you can ask when you are vetting those experts.

For solid information on cover design, marketing, and the self publishing process, I turned to YouTube and found Derek Murphy of CreativIndie. I’m not affiliated with him in any way, I just feel he knows a lot about the industry, has experience, and is sincere in trying to provide the best information about self publishing he can.

If you’re going to self-publish, give your book a fair shot by making sure you choose the right experts for each part of the process.


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