In marketing terms, branding is anything – from your business logo to your tone of voice – that identifies you and helps you stand out in the marketplace. Although branding has always been an essential part of running a successful business, there is increasingly an emphasis on building a personal brand as well as, or even instead of, your business brand.
Why? Because ultimately people like to do business with, and buy from, real people.
If you’re about to set up a freelance training business, you may be trying to decide whether to create a business brand or concentrate on building your personal brand, which might mean using your own name as the name of your business.
If you already have a business brand, is it worth creating a personal brand too? As with most things in life, there are two sides to the argument.
The pros of a personal brand
Personal branding can be incredibly important if you’re a freelance trainer who works without the support of a team. By building a personal brand, you can create expectations with clients about your values, skills, experience and what it’s like to work with you. The difference between whether or not you secure a training contract can come down to chemistry with your clients – do they feel you will personally be a good fit for their organisation? Building your personal brand can help you build a positive first impression.
Many experts feel that building a strong personal brand can open up professional opportunities. When people make referrals or recommendations, they can look to how you brand yourself as a signpost to the qualities you bring and, if people come to recognise your personal brand, this will help you build your reputation as an expert within your industry.
For the sake of transparency, if you do decide to build a personal brand, you should create most of your own content as people expect personal brands to come with a personal touch. That’s not to say you can’t outsource key tasks but you should maintain a high level of input as customers of your personal brand will expect this.
Reasons you might think twice about personal branding
As a solopreneur, you might find it harder to gain traction with a person-centred brand initially as people won’t know who you are or what you do, whereas a business brand can make this more obvious. Over time, however, a personal brand has the appeal of a backstory, history and personal involvement that clients engage with.
An extension of that is that, if you build your freelance training business around your personal reputation, people will expect to deal with you personally. While this is fine for solo freelancers, if you plan to develop a high growth business, expand your team, work with associates or even sell your training business one day, being known for your personal brand could be a hindrance. After all, if you are no longer part of the business or behind the scenes, does the business have the same value to customers who were drawn to your personal brand? If your vision for the future includes a wider team, you may want to concentrate on growing a business brand that has more scope for growth.
If you’re a shy person, being known for your personal brand may make you feel too exposed or vulnerable. It’s also important to consider that in the unlikely event of negative publicity, criticisms could follow your personal brand (and consequently, you) like a bad smell.
When building your personal brand, it’s worth thinking about your name. Do lots of people have the same name? Is it difficult to spell or remember? Is your name available as a website domain? This could even be a deciding factor. If someone else has built their personal brand around the same name as yours or people will struggle to spell your name, you might decide to build a business brand instead.
Choose what’s right for you
While there’s no right or wrong answer to this debate, experts agree that there are three main questions you should ask when trying to decide how to pitch your branding:
- How much do you want to be involved in your business?
- How long-term are you thinking?
- Are you looking for an exit?
If you want to remain a solopreneur/freelancer, build your professional reputation as an expert and don’t have plans to sell your training business, then you may decide a personal brand is the way forward. If you’re focused on high growth, stepping back from the daily running of your business or selling it as a going concern in the future, then a business brand would be the more logical choice.
Do you have a personal brand as well as, or instead of, a business brand? Has this helped or hindered your career as a trainer? How do you respond to personal branding? Is there anyone you follow because they are the brand? I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments below.
Have you discovered The Complete Trainer yet? It’s a rolling programme for freelance trainers where you cover everything from marketing your training business to mindset, knowing your numbers and more.