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. One question that always comes up involves whether to create a personal or business brand.
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.
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.