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Burned Out on Your Personal Brand

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Younger workers embraced the idea of a personal brand as a way to get ahead, and carve out some power and security in their careers. But posting through it has its drawbacks.

Kahlil Greene’s father works as an accountant and his mother does something involving “administration,” though he doesn’t know the details. His parents rarely spoke about the goings-on of the office when he was growing up. His mother sat in a cubicle farm — he remembers this from “take your child to work day” — and then she or his father picked him up from the Boys & Girls Club and they talked about other topics, like “Judge Judy” or Serena Williams. Their work never bled into their personal lives.

That made it tricky for Mr. Greene, 22, to explain to his family why he had turned down a job offer from McKinsey to build his online brand as “the Gen Z historian.” He has drawn over 500,000 followers on TikTok, LinkedIn and Instagram to his posts about history and politics; his money comes from brand deals and public speaking. To Mr. Greene, it seems natural for his source of income to be something all consuming, something he thinks about while falling asleep and talks about nonstop with friends.

“There’s no clear delineation between my work life and my personal life,” he said. “Sometimes it can be exhausting.”

Mr. Greene, in other words, finds his job and self inextricable. Like many other millennial and Gen Z workers, he is his brand. This can feel freeing. It can also feel grueling.

Kahlil Greene
Kahlil GreeneCredit…Elianel Clinton for The New York Times
Kahlil Greene

In interviews with more than a dozen people who have built lucrative personal brands, they shared that nothing made the benefits and drawbacks of it clear like the pandemic did.

Since 2020, many workers have had the chance to redefine their expectations of employers. More than 40 million Americans quit their jobs last year; most hopped or swapped roles, seeking higher pay. Remote work helped some to prioritize their needs outside the office, while a tight labor market allowed many to assert bolder workplace demands. For many people, leverage meant the ability to create emotional distance from their employers, to draw stricter lines between who they are and what they do.

That also meant a new set of challenges for those who work for themselves: It’s tough to find boundaries when employed by “Me Inc.”

For the millions of people who monetize their online presence in some form, the downsides of this type of work are becoming more clear, especially in a moment when so many are rethinking their careers. Building a personal brand blurs the divide between an identity and a job. It puts pressure on families. It demands that every intimate experience is mined for professional content.

“It’s very hard to disconnect when you are building something that is personal and also a necessary component of your economic life,” said Katie Sullivan, associate professor of communications at the University of Colorado Colorado Springs. “It’s ‘I will co-opt my own self in service of this labor.’”

Jesse Israel, for example, an entrepreneur in Los Angeles, has a mindfulness brand. Mr. Israel, 37, ran a record label for years, which took off with MGMT, before the stress drove him toward meditation. He realized he had a knack for leading guided sessions and he began to cultivate a public profile, drawing thousands of people to community meet-ups that he called the Big Quiet. His soothing, emotive persona landed him on tour with Oprah. Then personal life interrupted his personal brand: During the pandemic, Mr. Israel began to suffer from debilitating depression.

“I’m sitting at the dining room table with my mom, crying,” he recalled, describing a period of loneliness, illness and career instability. “I’m like, ‘Mom, people think of me as a mindfulness expert and I feel like I’ve lost my mind.”

Mr. Israel, whose mental health has now recovered, experienced a challenge unique to the upside-down working world of the 21st century: His work relied on his personality. When his sense of self lurched, his work went with it.

Unlike other professional phenomena, personal branding announced its formation loudly and clearly (on brand). Tom Peters, a management writer, popularized the term in a 1997 Fast Company article, later linking the idea of brand building to the all-American entrepreneurial spirit of Benjamin Franklin and Ralph Waldo Emerson.

Jesse Israel, a meditation influencer and founder of the Big Quiet.

“We are C.E.O.s of our own companies: Me Inc.,” Mr. Peters wrote 25 years ago. “To be in business today, our most important job is to be head marketer for the brand called You.”

Mr. Peters, in a recent interview, said he had realized that with organizational bureaucracies disappearing, workers could no longer trust the prospect of a steady career ascension. “Slowly climbing the ladder by sucking up and then sucking up some more wasn’t going to work,” he said. “You were as good as your ability to get your boss to think you were the second coming.”

For decades, heightening business competition had prompted corporate brands to distinguish themselves by selling not just a product or aesthetic but a story. Apple’s “1984” television advertisement, inspired by George Orwell’s book, was about the freeing futuristic powers of a Mac computer; Coca-Cola’s “Share a Coke” campaign positioned the beverage as community glue. Mr. Peters remembered that his own 1997 article was published in Fast Company with a chic advertisement for Procter & Gamble soap.

Then, as brands that sold warm and fuzzy stories went through rounds of layoffs, and shareholder-focused policies erased worker trust in their employers, belief in the power of branding began to shift from the company to the employee. Management gospel, like Mr. Peters’s, urged workers to cement their professional reputations by developing their own brands.

Dan Lair, an associate dean at the Metropolitan State University of Denver, studies the troubles of personal branding. His interest in the subject came from his experience being laid off. Mr. Lair, at age 25, got a job in corporate marketing. It wasn’t the most thrilling work in the world, but it was a way to make rent in Missoula where, he noted, “you can’t eat the scenery.” Mr. Lair was hired in the summer of 1999. By the winter of 2000, after the company’s acquisition by an East Coast-based firm, he was fired.

“I felt dumb,” he recalled. “This was a company that very much branded itself as a family. It was built around two dynamic founders. A couple months before we’d had this big retreat at a summer camp that I had been to as a kid. There was this sense of shock that this could actually happen.”

But he was equally disillusioned by the notion that workers should have to steel themselves for economic uncertainty by building personal brands that would make them indispensable. It felt to him like what the sociologist Zygmunt Bauman called an individualized solution to a social problem. And Mr. Lair did what many people do when they end up citing sociology to explain phenomena in their daily lives: He went to graduate school, and studied personal branding.

For some entrepreneurs, brand building at first is more dopamine than drudgery; there’s a thrill in the full exposure it demands.

Alexa Heller, a millennial who built a yoga teacher brand, used to feel it was important to be fully candid with her Instagram followers. She posted about making efforts to stay celibate, taking months off from sex and dating. She posted about insecurities bred by her acne. She attracted thousands of followers on Instagram, which she also used to boost her yoga classes, by treating her followers like close friends.

She felt the angst of compressing every strand of her personality, from the professional to the highly personal, into a single persona. Friends sometimes questioned whether various members of her online audience — relatives, business associates, potential suitors — might judge her ultra openness. “One of my girlfriends was like, ‘Well, if a guy reads your profile he’s going to be freaked out,’” she recalled.

When she switched career paths in 2020, from yoga to real estate, seeking more financial security, she realized that there was a different kind of rush in maintaining boundaries. She hid some of her old posts. She started to share online only about work. She still wrote down reflections on anxieties and ambitions — but now in her diary.

Modern interpretations of the “brand called you” present a trade-off of sorts. Workers are no longer reliant on the fecklessness of an employer that could at any moment pivot, downsize or cut wages. There are heaps of corporate data pointing to those possibilities: Over roughly the last four decades, typical hourly worker pay rose 17.5 percent while productivity rose by nearly 62 percent and C.E.O. compensation by 1,460 percent, according to the Economic Policy Institute.

But with personal branding, the line between who people are and what they do disappears. Everything is content; every like, follow and comment is a professional boost.

“It sort of shifted the responsibility for those kinds of disruptions from particular companies to the person themselves,” Mr. Lair said. “It’s sort of, ‘Now you are the one who’s supposed to solve this problem.’”

And many of the workers whose careers were shaped by the rise of personal branding are feeling its growing pains.

Kanchan Koya, 43, has seen the pressures that her brand breeds for her family, for example. Ms. Koya’s brand, Chief Spice Mama, which has over 230,000 Instagram followers, offers nutritional tips that draw from her history of gastrointestinal illness. She knows that her followers engage excitedly with her more intimate captions, so she mines some of her own experiences for content.

Kanchan Koya, the author and founder of the food blog “Spice Spice Baby.”
Kanchan Koya, the author and founder of the food blog “Spice Spice Baby.”Credit…Philip Vukelich for The New York Times
Kanchan Koya, the author and founder of the food blog “Spice Spice Baby.”

But recently she has begun to bristle at the responses that evokes. She received direct messages asking her why she is taking photos of her baby daughter instead of focusing on mothering. Her husband has asked her not to include him on her Instagram; he’s part of her personal life, but doesn’t want to be part of the public brand.

“I’ll be super honest right now, where I’m at with social media — if my business wasn’t intertwined with my social media presence, I would be on it 90 percent less,” Ms. Koya said. “I just don’t feel like it’s natural for us as humans to have so many people in our business.”

Plenty feel that public exposure isn’t worth the toll. Sadhbh O’Sullivan, 29, a British-Irish journalist, stopped using her Twitter. The chance to boost her writings didn’t justify the revulsion of selling her personal life, Carrie Bradshaw style, and she’s made peace with the twinge of envy she feels for friends trumpeting their talents to land flashy new jobs.

Sarai Atchison, 25, built a comedy social media brand during the pandemic after finding herself addicted to watching YouTube personalities like the movie commentator “Dylan Is in Trouble.” But in March she decided to take a job doing promotions for the Colorado Rockies. She found an unexpected relief in work that doesn’t draw on the emotional ups and downs of her own life, from heartbreak to social anxiety. The coming-of-age aches stay in her journal, without prompting worries that discretion is undermining her ambitions.

“Putting yourself out there is cool, and at the same time, in the back of your head you don’t know how somebody is going to take your brand,” Ms. Atchison said. “It’s hard not to take it personally because it’s you.”

And some are tempering their exposure by sharing with social media followers more thoughtfully. Maybe not every breakup and depressive episode warrants public translation. Mr. Israel, for example, has embraced an approach that his mentor called “sharing from the scar, not the wound.” When Mr. Israel’s feelings are raw, he waits before conveying them to his audience of tens of thousands.

“When work was directly tied to my identity and sense of self-worth, I would ride these crazy waves,” Mr. Israel said. “I started to realize how important it was to build my sense of self, my self-worth and an identity around things that made me special as Jesse and not my work.”

Even Mr. Peters, the original brand evangelist, is dismayed by the extremes to which people have taken his message. “Use social media,” he said. “But you have to have something to talk about.”

He recognizes that his own brand is outdated — or as he put it: “I’m talking as an incredibly old fart.”

If you are interested in original article by Emma Goldberg you can find it here


Finding your creative voice: An essential guide for building your personal brand

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Every designer needs a great portfolio. But that’s not just about presenting great work. However accomplished your projects are, people will be unwilling to hire or commission you if you don’t know how to write an About page or confidently pitch yourself.

In a nutshell, you need to become your own brand. And that means finding your unique creative voice: the way you present that brand to the world.

In this article, we’ll explore ways of discovering what makes you unique as a creative and finding your own creative voice. I’ll share how I’ve done this myself for Creative Boom, the platform I founded 13 years ago, and where you’re reading this article now.

First, though, we’ll look at some examples of creatives who found their voice to show you what the result looks like in practice.

The four creatives we feature below are all graduates of the Wix Playground Academy, a free, five-week online programme that supports and encourages emerging designers by helping them build a personal portfolio.

Four creatives who’ve found their voice

1. Ben Eli

Ben Eli is a London-based multidisciplinary designer currently designing for the independent streetwear brand, Lazy Oaf. The text of his homepage and bio convey what he’s about clearly and effectively and is infused with brightness and humour. That sense of personality is mirrored perfectly by his offbeat mix of typographic styles, to the extent that you don’t even have to read the words to get the idea.

2. Noa Beyo

Noa Beyo is a third-year undergraduate student based in Israel. Still, from the confidence and in-your-face effectiveness of her portfolio site, you’d assume she was an experienced creative director. Her ‘About me’ information is beautifully brief and to the point. And in presenting it, she gives some tried-and-tested design devices, such as a rolling ticker, a fresh and startlingly inventive lease of life.

3. Gang Buron-Yi

Hailing from the Netherlands, Gang Buron-Yi is a branding designer currently working with Google Brand Studio in London. His bio tells you everything you need with alacrity and quiet conviction, and we love the clever insertion of colourful icons to evoke a playful and fun mood to proceedings.

4. Asreen Zangana

Many talented designers fail to showcase their full personalities through their portfolios. If you need inspiration in this area, then just turn to website and visual designer Asreen Zangana. Rather than hide behind bland jargon and buzzwords, he’s refreshingly honest and direct about what he has to offer and all the more convincing for it. Plus, this conventional-smashing approach is nicely matched by an out-there design that shouldn’t work but somehow does.

How the four found their voice

It’s no coincidence that all of the four creatives we featured above have benefited from the Wix Playground Academy, an initiative by Wix Design to promote excellence in web design and contribute to the creative growth of emerging designers everywhere.

Its five-week programme puts a strong emphasis on finding your creative voice, as design lead and mentor Yotam Kellner explains: “We help people who haven’t had any experience in designing and building a portfolio through workshops, mentorship and training. It’s a structured, intensive course, and quite stressful to finish a website in just five weeks. But one of our graduates, Sofia Noronha, is now at &Walsh, Jessica Walsh’s agency, in NYC.”

Building a portfolio isn’t just a technical challenge, stresses Dafna Sharabi, academic consultant and content curation at Wix Playground Academy. “You need to be bold from the start – search for your inner designer,” she explains. “You need to try different things, experience new things. That’s why the Playground offers the chance to play, to experiment. We want our designers on the course to pay attention to those moments when they’re passionate about what they’re creating. And then it’s a case of: How do they translate this into words via their website? And their brand?”

At this point, you’re probably wondering what kind of things the students learn at Wix Playground Academy. Well, I was asked to host a session on finding your creative voice as part of the course. And so here, I’ll share some of the main tips I included in my talk.

Read on to discover how to find your creative voice in practice and the methods you can use to share it effectively online.

Write a value proposition

Writing a value proposition is a good starting point to find your creative voice. Get this right, and it can act as a guiding star or anchor as you navigate choppy seas throughout your career.

To be frank, a value proposition is a positioning statement that explains where you’re coming from and what you offer. It can be as long or as short as you like, but three paragraphs are usually about right.

It doesn’t have to be perfect. This thing is going to change many times over your career. So don’t overthink it: just get thinking about:

  • how you help others or improve their situation
  • the benefits you bring
  • how you’re special and differ from your competition.

Once you’ve finalised your value proposition, you can use it to improve your brand, your about page, your social media bios, and how you pitch yourself to potential clients or employers, or even journalists.

Why would someone hire or work with you? What benefits do you bring? How are you different from the rest? Your value proposition will reveal all.

So how did I write my own value proposition? Read on, and I’ll explain.

How I wrote my value proposition

Creative Boom originally began as a side project and a hobby, but it eventually reached a point where it had taken off and started to provide an income. It was time for me to write a value proposition. But I found it really difficult to define who we were or what our platform stood for.

This is when I went back to basics and thought, okay – what value does Creative Boom bring? How does it solve our audience’s problems? What benefits does it offer? How does it differ from the competition?

From here, I created our value proposition: the main reason anyone would want to click on Creative Boom. It’s a simple positioning statement that explains why we’re relevant, what value we might bring, and why anyone should follow us rather than our competition. Here it is in full:

Celebrating, inspiring & supporting

Creative Boom is one of the UK’s leading platforms dedicated to the creative industries. Founded in 2009, we deliver inspiration, insight and advice to seven million creative professionals each year.

From artists, graphic designers and illustrators to photographers, filmmakers and animators – we help creatives at every stage of their careers, that’s whether they’re graduates, working at an agency or in-house, freelancing or leading a team.

By exploring creativity through our online magazine, podcast, and entire network, we honour our original ethos: to celebrate, inspire and support the creative community, particularly the underrepresented, offering an inclusive space where everyone feels welcome.

This text explains why we’re relevant. Fundamentally, we’re about solving creative professionals’ problems by being a friendly and inclusive community that helps them progress in their careers.

It explains the value we bring is by offering inspiration, insight and advice – plus the chance to be featured to enjoy some free exposure and benefit from SEO.

And our unique differentiation is that we’re not elitists. We’re cuddly, and we want people to feel included when they visit our site.

Alternatively, I can break this value proposition down to just this one sentence: “Creative Boom is a friendly and inclusive platform that delivers inspiration, insight and advice to seven million creative professionals each year.”

Helping you evolve

A value proposition like this helps establish your brand voice and promote yourself to others. It keeps you focused, remembering who you are and what you stand for.

That means that however much your practice evolves and changes over time, you probably won’t need to rewrite your value proposition. Indeed, summarising the core principles that drive you can help when going through big changes.

Indeed, the 10th anniversary of Creative Boom in 2019 led us to embark on a major redesign, it also provided invaluable when, a year later, I launched a podcast, inviting both emerging and established creatives from all over the world – as it did in 2021 when we launched our online shop.

What really helped before I did all of this was knowing my voice and reading back aloud that value proposition.

Beyond the value proposition

Writing a value proposition is a great start in building your personal brand. But it will only go so far. For all your self-promotion, from designing your portfolio site to the way you post on social media, you have to add a dash of your unique personality, too.

If you’re struggling to find a consistent creative voice throughout all these activities, one strategy can be to create a mood board of all the things you loved as a kid – whether that’s watching Snoopy cartoons, listening to Queen or writing fan fiction. Because ultimately, business is about people. And people love people.

Here’s another tip: find a photograph of yourself that makes you smile and pin it to your wall by your desk. Look at it frequently. Remind yourself to be kind to that wonderful human. And remind you to check in with yourself once in a while. To remember who you are and what you stand for.

And one further tip: create a document today, right now, that is your Feelgood List. Whenever someone says something nice – via a tweet, an email, or in real life – write it down and add it to your Feelgood List. Because, trust me, you’re going to have days when you don’t believe in yourself. When you’re confused or lost, this list will help.

Do these three things, and no matter what the creative world or life throws at you, you will stay on track, keep improving, be a success, and most of all, thoroughly enjoy the adventure.

For more tips on finding your creative voice, listen to my podcast interview with Meg Lewis in which she shares her story on building a personal brand and finding her creative superpower.

Your About Me page

Now let’s get down to some specifics. Your About Me page is key to establishing and promoting your personal brand. For many people, it’ll be the first thing they ever read about you, so make it rich and full of life. It’s your first impression so tell people who you are, what you do, and your background. People want the juice.

Include your full name, too, because many don’t, which drives journalists insane. Another bane of our life is website contact forms, so if you have one, at least provide an email address.

And if you really want to impress the media, have a ‘Press Area’ on your website; here’s a great, if outdated example. Alternatively, just add a sub-headed title on your About page, reading ‘For Press Enquiries’, then underneath, say how you’re available for interviews.

A bonus is to add in a note that you’ve got a decent microphone, so you are available for podcast interviews. And also, mention you have press packs available, plus professional headshots. It all helps.

Check in with others

Do you know what’s funny, though? We still lose our way – quite frequently, which is why it’s good to check in with others now and again.

If you’re a freelancer, that might mean your regular clients and collaborators. If you’re a salaried designer, that might mean colleagues and managers. For us at Creative Boom, it means checking in with our audience, and we do that by carrying out an annual survey and asking people for their feedback.

Here’s what some people think of Creative Boom, and as you can see, it nicely matches our value proposition.

  • “Creative Boom is personal. It’s your friend. It’s a WALL-E Pixar character that’s not a big publishing corporation.”
  • “Everything Creative Boom does comes from a place of genuine passion and positivity.”
  • “Creative feels very inclusive and maybe not so London-centric compared to others in the field.”

I share these not to boast but to show you that positive feedback can reinforce your knowledge of where your distinctive creative voice lies. Conversely, if you’re getting mixed or negative feedback, it’s a sign that your creative voice is not coming through, or maybe you’ve misidentified what your true voice is.

The work is worth it

It might sound like a lot of work and hassle. But believe me, it’s worth it. Case in point: at the beginning of 2021 – thanks to finding my creative voice – I finally let go of my PR business to work full-time on Creative Boom. My platform has grown so fast since then, that it’s become the success I always hoped for and dreamed of.

My experience shows that a strong creative voice – your own brand voice – will guide you and help you have a successful venture or career. The rewards will come your way.

Wix Playground: Get involved!

Wix Playground celebrates design culture and creative freedom online. Its Playground Academy is a five-week intensive online program for new designers looking for the perfect reason to focus on developing their creative identity and building a stand out personal brand. Wix Playground also organises monthly events for creatives and publishes a free design newsletter. To learn more and get involved, visit the website.

Full article by Katy Cowan can is here

10 Reasons Why Your Brand Needs to Be Online in 2022

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The internet has become the great equalizer as opportunities continue to increase in the online space.

Online branding is simply leveraging all of the opportunities that are available in the digital world to position, package and promote your brand. Having a strong online brand or online presence helps you to build credibility, trust with your audience and will help to position you as a thought leader in your area of expertise — essentially creating social proof for your brand.

This can be through your brand or company website, LinkedIn profile, social media platforms, newsletters, blogs and podcasts. Your online presence even may include old images, profiles from company websites, published articles, recorded speaking engagements and even that video from that one time you thought you could be a good stand-up comic.

Here’s the thing, people are already searching for you online, and because they cannot find you, they are going for the next best option that shows up on the first page of their search result even if they may not be the ideal candidate. Why? Because they are showing up in spaces where you may not be.

If you still are not convinced that you should be looking at building your online brand strategy, let’s start with these 10 reasons why your brand needs to be online.

  1. Platform – Being online gives you an immediate platform. When you take your personal or professional brand online, you are creating a platform to provide value by sharing your knowledge and expertise. This allows you to be positioned as a thought leader in your field or industry.
  2. Amplification – Online access means brand amplification. You get to be seen, heard and experienced in a bigger way to a much wider audience and people can really get a “feel” of who you are by how you choose to show up.
  3. Visibility – With so many opportunities online, you can now become the star of your very own show. You can utilize multiple channels to share through video such as IG Lives and IG Videos, LinkedIn Lives, YouTube, Podcasts and so much more. Your audience can see the personality behind the offer and behind the brand leading to trust and connection.
  4. Connection – People are in the business of buying goods and services. They are also in the business of feeling, connection and emotion. Building an online brand helps you to connect with your audience in a real way that ultimately leads to a community of like-minded individuals.
  5. Searchability – Is your brand searchable and is the right content coming up for you in an online search? As you start positioning your brand online, ensure that you are using the keywords that your ideal audience would search for to find your product or services. Ensure that online profiles on active and inactive accounts all have relevant information.
  6. Collaboration – The opportunities to collaborate are endless in an online world. From speaking on virtual stages, guest speaking on a podcast, or inviting other experts to partner with you on a signature event. Start following, connecting and collaborating with like-minded professionals in your field to expand your reach and grow your audience.
  7. Builds trust – When people like you, they will trust you. When they trust you, they will recommend you. Showing up online allows you to connect with your audience in a way to generates trust and likeability.
  8. Expands your reach – With so many platforms to choose from, getting online automatically increases your opportunity to expand your reach. People no longer need to come to your physical location to get information, buy a product or recommend your services. Everything happens online and if the experience is great, your chance for shareability also increases. When you are online your reach multiplies.
  9. Lead generation and new clients – You have the opportunity to attract and cast a much wider client and lead generation net when your brand is being positioned online. The key thing is to ensure that you are always sharing immense value. Build trust, make the connection — the sale will come.
  10. Make money – When you have positioned your brand online, offered great value, created the social proof that showcases your knowledge and expertise and built a community, you can start saying hello to multiple opportunities to make more money. But first, people need to know you are indeed the right candidate for the job and that starts with consistently showing up online and giving value.

Think about your brand and how you are currently showing up or not showing up in your various online spaces — what currently shows up for you or your brand in an online search?  The key thing is to ensure that your content and social media platforms are always updated with accurate and relevant information about you, your company and your brand and you are offering great value to your ideal audience.

You can read full article by Naomi Garrick here

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