Like it or not, a personal brand is the best way to stand out above a crowded talent pool. For better or worse, personal branding is a necessity—especially when you consider 90% of recruiters are simply going to perform online research before reaching out to you. Personal branding is not just an exercise in looking good for recruiters and clients, though—it can be a fun journey that strengthens your work, your values, and infuses your career with new life. Coming up on 2024, these are some of the ways you can refresh your personal brand and head into the next year with confidence:
Hone in on your authentic values and style
Perhaps you already know your values and work style from past personal branding exercises. Wherever you are on this journey, chances are you need to brush up on your current wants and belief system for your brand. Ask yourself and your BFFs what sets you apart as a collaborator, communicator, and creative. Gather insights, maybe run some tests, and come up with clear, concise values for yourself and your career goals. Not sure where to start? This episode from NPR’s podcast Life Kit can help! And when it comes to style, think past your creative or aesthetic style and more about how you approach projects, your work/life needs, and your quirks, and use this list to help steer you toward collaborators and clients with compatible vibes to your own. This exercise will give you the confidence to fine-tune how you present your personal brand to the world.
Show how you can handle diverse projects
It’s no longer helpful to show your repetitive success on one type of project. In order to remain competitive in this job market, you’ll need to broaden your skills and showcase a wider net of expertise in your portfolio. In crowded job markets with tight budgets (like this one), clients are more likely to hire those with a broader range of skills. And, thanks to our limited attention spans, your portfolio needs to be image-and-video focused, neatly organized, and with concise but helpful descriptions (AKA, easily scannable). Showcase your favorite, most exciting projects, the ones that really reflect your personal values and style. If your website portfolio is both enticing and diverse, clients will be eager to speak with you.
Document your processes and share them
Not just for Instagram artists anymore, documentation is important for all lines of work now. People want to see the way you think and understand the world. By documenting your creative and methodical processes, you can give clients an insight into how you approach both challenging and everyday projects. Plus, you’ll get to know yourself and how to talk about your processes in future interviews. We love the way Tobias van Schneider also frames project documentation and mini-sites as an opportunity for some free press and media highlights. But you can do it through any medium. Some people might even turn this documentation into full-on side hustles, finding out that they love to teach their processes to others on YouTube, Domestika, Skillshare, or other teaching websites. Either way, documentation is an investment in understanding how you work for you and for those who want to work with you.
Craft consistent content and build your following
Marketers will know this is not a new idea but the keywords for personal branding in 2024 are “thought leadership”—a skill that positions you as the go-to person for your niche audience and network. Those who establish thought leadership are the ones consistently creating content (ie, blog articles, thoughtful LinkedIn posts, thinkpiece Reels, etc.) while working and speaking with others. Building a following isn’t as easy as it once was—we get it. Algorithms have gotten in the way of attracting large swaths of strangers to come follow your journey. We’re not talking about that type of following, though. We’re talking about networking directly with people you admire and potential collaborators. We're talking about building a niche community within your existing connections. By crafting consistent content and opening up dialogue through comments and emails you’ll find your people as well as new opportunities. This tip is an ongoing but worthwhile venture and it will take a long time. As long as you keep your goals small, your content consistent, and your connections genuine, you’ll start to see others investing in you and your brand.
Stay relevant by staying on top of new skills
Finally, you have to acknowledge that the world is changing rapidly, especially with AI technology. Clients want to work with people who aren’t afraid of working with new software or venturing into unknown territory creatively. Embracing new skills is never easy, but beginning with the skills that interest you most can make it feel easier… even exciting. Research where your career is headed and the new technology that’s being introduced. Find what excites you and begin learning in your spare time and even document what you’re learning for others to see. Then complete your learning with a personal project that puts your learning into action. Who knows, you may get a great piece for your portfolio out of it and others might take notice.
Your personal branding is an extension of you, of how you represent your work and where you want to take your career. Now that you know what next steps to take, how will your personal brand take shape?