Is there anything harder than starting? You have an idea in your head. Probably LOTS of ideas. You want to build a personal brand that supports your business, but you feel paralyzed about where to start.
You’ve been watching other people step out to share more of themselves, establish themselves as industry leaders, and grow their business. You want to look as legit as they do from day one. The perfect color palette, a flawless website, and the social media that just seems to say all the right things. You don’t want to look like an amateur, but you don’t know how to bring it all together either.
So, where do you begin when you’re starting at zero?
Let’s talk about how you can build a brand from scratch with intention, but also the humility to give your business the best possible start.
Gain Some Perspective
Before you beat yourself up about how on Earth you’re going to build anything that looks like your favorite influencer’s platform or your favorite online guru’s audience size, take a small second to check yourself. (Don’t worry, we don’t think you’re wrecking yourself.)
Everyone has a start and it’s NEVER as pretty as their middle.
Take your favorite Instagrammer and scroll down to the bottom of their feed. Are their first pictures as stunning as their most recent? Did they have their hashtags and captions all figured out? Was every moment staged to perfection?
Everyone has a beginning and you can’t build to greatness without failing up. So take some comfort, first, in knowing that any beginning is going to be less refined than your middle. But you have to start somewhere! There is tons of clarity in action. You can’t get good if you refuse to start.
Establish Your Buckets
We like big buckets and we can not lie.
When it comes to your brand it is vital to establish your buckets as early on as possible. This should be the very first thing you do when trying to get some clarity on brand building.
What are buckets?
Buckets are the areas of focus your brand will revolve around. They are topics, products, and content that serve as the pillars of your budding business. Think of your entire life funneling into these buckets. What filters into your online buckets gets shared, everything else can stay offline. It’s actually good for you to maintain some privacy and intimacy that’s not available for the internet.
If it’s helpful, you can think of them as categories. Whatever you chose to call them though, they are there to help you focus your direction on specifics and steer clear of shiny objects that can get you off topic and confuse your audience.
This means that everything from your photos to the products you create to the brands you partner with to the items you Pin fits into these specific buckets. We recommend that you think about creating buckets like this:
- Your profession or expertise
- Lifestyle- Social/emotional
For example, if you’re an eco-friendly fashion brand, your buckets may look like this:
- Sustainable fashion looks, styling, and partnerships
- Helping women access sustainable looks for less, resources
- Environment/ human rights in the fashion industry/ slow fashion
- Family adventures
Conversely, it also brings clarity to what you WON’T be sharing. If the above bullets are your buckets, you aren’t going to post about formal wear for teens or partner with a big box store for a photoshoot.
Buckets establish your standards and narrow your vision so you can focus on the most relevant material to your brand. It also allows you to strategically create room to share things that reinforce your personal values and create a human connection with your audience.
Pinpoint Your Strengths
Once you feel set on your buckets, it’s important to be honest with yourself about your content producing capabilities. Regardless of the sort of brand you intend to build, content is essential.
You have a number of options when it comes to producing content for your brand:
- Written: Blog posts, books,, email
- Education: Courses, tutorials
- Audio: Podcasts
- Video: Live videos, YouTube
- Visual: Photography
- Person-to-person: Consulting calls, events
All of us have different skills, and while we can develop new ones over time, focusing on what you’re best at right from the beginning will help bring further focus to your brand. You have time to expand your skillset, but when you’re just starting out, sticking to what you’re good at will give you momentum.
Select Your Platforms
If you’re a great writer, a so-so photographer and are terrified to be on video, you wouldn’t want to start by trying to build a YouTube channel. Even if it’s what other brands like yours are doing.
Drilling down your skillset will naturally drive you towards particular platforms and show you how best to use them FOR YOU. And here’s the secret, no platform is right or wrong for your brand. A particular platform may be popular in your industry, but if it goes against your nature, it will be hard to use and stay consistent with.
Sticking with the above example, if your top skill is writing, you feel comfortable with photography and video is way out of your wheelhouse, you’ll likely be leaning more towards blogging, email and possibly Twitter. That doesn’t mean you rule out Instagram though. It just means you tweak your approach. So instead of obsessing over perfect visuals on IG, make sure you nail the caption. You can grow your photo skills later, but for now, use the tools that match your strengths to gain momentum.
Once you’ve begun creating content in a format that plays to your strengths, you can use social media to distribute and amplify your message.
Smart Early Investments
There are some essential brand items that may not exist in your skillset perfectly but are still pretty crucial foundational blocks for your long term success. In the early days, when you have a shoestring budget (or perhaps no budget at all) we strongly suggest hiring or bartering with a professional to help you in these areas.
- Website: Sure, you could start a brand from a social media platform, but the problem there is you don’t own that space. You’re relying on algorithms, and rules outside of your control. Social media can and should be a prong of your brand, but if you’re hoping for lasting success, you need a home base. And if web design isn’t in your wheelhouse, it might be worth hiring someone to set you up with a simple website to start.
- Branded Photoshoot: One thing we know about branding is that generic typically just won’t get you noticed. And while a branded photoshoot may seem like something reserved for celebrities, it’s important that people see you and/or your products with their own eyes. In a world of so many brand choices, the most unique thing about you is YOU. So even if your 12-year-old holds your phone while you pose with your creation, it’s a start! Don’t hide yourself.
- Email: For the same reason you need a website to have a source for your brand’s information you need a reliable way to communicate with your audience. Building your list will take time, but establishing a way to have direct contact with your fans early on is a crucial building block.
There are so many ways to start a personal brand, but categorizing your ideas, pairing it with your skills and selecting platforms based on the overlap of those two things gives you a strong launchpad that you can stick with long term.