For as long as I can remember, there’s been a constant feeling inside me that I can only best describe as a pilot light of weirdness. This “pilot light of weirdness” could also be called your personal brand.
My pilot light comes in the form of my unwillingness to let the boundaries set by other people stop me from doing things differently. Your pilot light might be your creativity, the way you write, how you see the world, something unique that sets you apart.
It’s time you started to embrace your own inner pilot light and stop letting other people hold you back.
As I’ve grown older I’ve learned that people and society try to snuff out our pilot lights. People have experienced things in their lives that have caused them harm, stress, or anguish. Due to their own experiences, they project these feelings on anyone within reach.
Often times, people don’t even realize they’re projecting their fears on others. But at the same time, they don’t have the self-awareness to take a step back and realize people need to experience things for themselves.
The fears and hesitations of other people shouldn’t hold you back.
Once I came to this realization about my inner pilot light and decided I no longer wanted the fears and hesitations of other people to hold me back, I started actually adding fuel to my pilot light, effectively creating a roaring blaze of weirdness. Little by little I started giving myself permission to chase my big ideas and in ways that felt 100% authentic to me.
I didn’t know it a few years ago, but I was starting to build my personal brand.
This continually-added “fuel” (read: chasing my big ideas and ignoring the fear of others) has led to some of my most successful moves in business. At the same time, I’ve been able to create a name for myself and stand out from people in the same entrepreneurial space. Projects like IWearYourShirt, BuyMyLastName, SponsorMyBook, and BuyMyFuture, are all examples of turning my pilot light way up and embracing who I am and what I stand for.
But let’s dive a little deeper. When I say “fuel,” what exactly do I mean?
When I made the decision I was going to write a book about my entrepreneurial journey in 2013, I did what any well-intentioned future author would do: I looked at the landscape I was about to play in.
I was immediately hit with the pilot light dimming question: “What do I possibly have to say about entrepreneurship that 50,000+ other authors haven’t already said???”
But the key word there is “I.”
You may not be a writer, but I guarantee that have your own unique experiences and personal views/stories that are different from everyone else. These specific things are your fuel!
I didn’t learn to embrace these things on my own when writing my book. Luckily I had a super awesome book authoring coach named Lizzie who helped me realize this. Had I not had her in my corner, I probably would have let imposter syndrome take over and it’s likely that I wouldn’t have written the most authentic and personal book that I could have.
During that writing process, Lizzie kept telling me to put more “me” into my writing. She kept pushing me to focus on how I would tell a story and how I would handle a situation or issue (that I was writing about). Those notes of encouragement from Lizzie were fuel on my inner fire.
I care more that I get an email or two per week from people who’ve read my book and how much of an impact it’s made on their lives. How much they’ve appreciated my unique outlook and the way that I write. And if numbers matter to you dear reader of this article, I’ve sold over 15,000 copies of my tiny self-published book. Not too shabby, eh?
Out of 50,000+ books on Amazon, I was able to stand out from all of them for a large number of readers because of who I am and embracing my unique personal brand.
This is OKAY! In fact, creating a product or service that’s already been created shows there’s a market for it. It’s much easier to build a successful business when a market already exists for your product.
Almost everyone knows that Google wasn’t the first search engine created. But because the founders of Google had their own stories, technical skills, and personal views, they’ve been able to build one of the most profitable companies in the world (leaving every search engine in the dust, even Dogpile!).
Whether you’re writing a book, creating an online course, building a SaaS app, doing coaching/mentoring, are a realtor, marketing consultant, public speaker, or building the next great search engine, there is a clear path to success:
Here are a few questions you can answer that will help your personal brand stand out from a crowded landscape:
Those items are your fuel for your pilot light. They are the things that will make up your unique personal brand. And trust me, they are also the same things that will help you make more money if you embrace and share them.
Everyone can compete with you on features.
Everyone can compete with you with knowledge.
Start putting more YOU into what you do and stop letting the fears and hesitations of other people dim your pilot light of weirdness.
Every business owner wants to have a successful business where they get to do what they love without the fear that they’ll have to close up shop and go back to a job they hate, right? For the purposes of this discussion, success = freedom and flexibility. And joy, don’t forget joy!
But how do we get there? How do we make sure we’re building something that will succeed?
I don’t believe there’s any single blueprint or how-to manual, but there IS one thing I’ve discovered from my own experience that I feel significantly contributes to a successful AND personally fulfilling business (they don’t always go hand-in-hand, even though they should.)
I know the word gets thrown around a lot these days all willy nilly like, so let me be specific. An authentic brand is one that communicates the WHOLE of who you are or who your business is. One that speaks to your contradictions, your personality and – most importantly – your true values.
The more of yourself, your personality, your values – those intangible and complex things that makes you who you are – the more of THAT STUFF that you can bake that into your business, the better.
Why, you ask? Well, here are just a handful of good reasons:
When you declare your values, you attract the people you want to attract and you repel those that would be a nightmare for you. Right there on the About page of my website, I communicate clearly and directly what I care about:
If any of those things don’t make sense to someone or if they get scared off, perfect. They won’t ask me to design their brands and it saves me the risk of possibly working with someone that I don’t jive with.
I can genuinely say that the more I stick to these values and the more I consistently communicate them in everything I put out (including these emails), the more I get emails and project inquiries from people I would consider my dream clients. (And more quality project leads means more stable profit for my business, so that’s a very great thing.)
If you’re wasting time on people that don’t get you, it will drain your energy and that will negatively affect every aspect of your business.
If you have your own business, as I mentioned, your goals are likely two-fold: 1) financial stability and 2) flexibility with your time. I can say confidently that after one year of being in business and clawing my way through the dark, I finally have a strong semblance of both.
But how did I do it? I did it by finding all of you guys. People whose values are aligned with mine. Positive, self-made, driven, creative people. If you signed up for this list it means something I was doing spoke to you. It resonated.
And that’s because I made sure that I had a clear vision of who I was and who I wanted to serve.
To further illustrate how authenticity is the root of a successful business, here’s a handy dandy diagram I drew up (don’t worry, we do diagrams differently around here… it’s a flower!)
Here’s what’s hilarious about marketing: everyone is always trying to spy on everyone else’s paper, see what’s popular or what the best practices are for product launches, website strategy, copy-writing… literally everything. (And, listen, I get it, it can be tempting to try and “hack” the system by learning from those that have come before you.)
But the funny part is that, in doing so, you blend in with the rest of the herd. But on the other hand, the more you play to who you are and ignore “convention” or marketing to the middle-of-the-road masses, the more you in fact become marketable because you stand out. You become memorable.
A quick aside about this: when I was working on the branding for Made Vibrant way back last January, I intentionally baked in all the things that felt uniquely me: bright colors, lots of black and white, hand drawn elements, big, bold type.
But all the successful, popular blogs and sites I saw were minimal with tons of white space, muted colors, and airy, ethereal photos.
I freaked out. Are people going to stumble on my site and think I’m crazy? Am I doing this wrong?
But you know what, why did the Wall Street Journal reach out to me when they came across one of my blog posts? Why did Hilary Rushford, a busy lady with a successful business in her own right, agree to let me interview her for my self-made guide? BOTH mentioned that my brand and website made an impression on them and that’s why they wanted to speak to me. I spoke clearly to who I was and what I was about and that stands out.
That is what I want for you to remember.
Don’t be afraid to take a stand on who you are, because I’m telling you, THAT is what will guide you to a business that feels fulfilling and true to your soul.
This week your challenge is to write down five words that encompass the AUTHENTICITY of you or your business.
This exercise is one that I do with all my branding clients so that we can discover five tone words that will guide the visual style of their brand. When you’re making decisions in your business, you’ll be able to look at these five tone words and use them as your filter, your guidepost, your North Star.
For example, the Made Vibrant brand is supposed to be approachable, vibrant, empowering, creative and soulful. (Not every brand element has to include elements of all five, but hopefully the full experience of the brand encompasses all five.)
I won’t share all five of last week’s coaching clients, but to give you more of an idea, some of their words included: graceful, free-spirited, quirky, and energetic.
Let’s encourage each other to be who we are, and let’s build some kick-ass business while we’re at it. What’dya say?
My style tends to bend toward this look a bit anyway – the high contrast, bright colors, graphic elements – so it’s no surprise to you guys that this week I selfishly chose these words from the word bank.
One subtlety that’s worth pointing out is that word “urban.” Urban might mean different things to different people, but when I picture that word I think of an old downtown concrete-scape. I think of exposed brick and plastered walls. Basically to me it means texture. That’s why I love the pink brick photo, the abstract art piece behind the neon dipped vases, and the wood that the stag head is on. If you swapped out “urban” with “clean” in this case, it would have been a very different board because I would have steered clear of those imperfect and textured pieces.
While I know the neon trend has kind of run its course, to me this isn’t quite that. It’s a really fine line between neon and graphic brights, but hopefully this treads that line. Anyway, I’ll definitely be keeping this one in my back pocket. Hope you guys enjoy!
If any of you have been following along from the beginning, you know I have a tendency to be a tad bit long-winded. I can’t help it – I love words! I adore how one word can carry with it SO much below the surface! Moods, perceived meanings, connotations… words are so much more than, well, words.
Anyway, that’s probably why I love coming up with these brand tone words. I use these 3-5 words in combination with one another to guide the look and feel of the entire brand I’m creating, and I choose them very, very carefully. I also find it challenging in the best way because it’s not the words individually that help form the final vision; it’s their collective feeling. For example… “vintage” might immediately bring to my mind one image (an eclectic attic of sepia-toned artifacts?), but balance “vintage” with “simple” and it changes that image (scratch the cluttered attic; I’m thinking a plain red hat box with a pair of white gloves resting on top). Once more, throw together “vintage,” “simple,” AND “youthful” and now I’m envisioning something completely different (a solid-colored bright orange tin lunchbox.) Kind of a fun game, right?
I have some branding projects in the works that will have mood boards for me to share, but until then I thought it might be fun to choose three random tone words and share a quick mood board inspired by the collective group of those words. I’ll consider it practice, and if there are any aspiring designers out there, hopefully these posts will serve to expand your visual vocab.
Below is a copy of my “Visual Vocabulary Word Bank” that I give to my clients when they fill out their Brand Exploration Questionnaire. I’ve found that simply asking someone to come up with their own tone words returns a lot of ”modern, clean, and professional” which is fine, but it doesn’t really offer up a specific direction for me to take things. I think going through each word and then selecting 3-5 helps them determine what they do and don’t connect with and what is important to them aesthetically.
(I’m constantly looking for new additions to the list so if you think I left any out, please leave them in the comments!!)
Today’s three random words are: Fresh, adventurous, and feminine. (Quite fitting for the beginning of a new year, if you ask me.)
To give you some insight on my process, this exercise is a mini-version of what I do for my clients. A lot of times I start out with a gut reaction in my mind (I realize that phrase doesn’t make a TON of sense but I think my creative friends will get what I mean) and I sort of meditate on these words as I scour my libraries of saved images. Then, as I go through, I pull out anything that feels like it speaks to my three words and my initial vision. From there I can start to see a pattern emerge, and my original vision starts to evolve and become much clearer and more defined. That’s when I really narrow down the direction, pick the images that are most representative of that direction, pull together a corresponding color palette, and voila – a mood board is born!
In this board specifically you can see what I mean when I say it’s the combination of the words that informs the mood. “Fresh” by itself might have directed me to some brighter hues, but when combined with “adventurous” and “feminine” the palette becomes softer and a bit more earthy for me. The teal and green speak to feminine botanicals and majestic waves. The pink and peach could be fresh wildflowers or the colors of a sunset after a long day’s adventure. So there ya have it – my interpretation of fresh, feminine and adventurous!
Let me know if this is something you might enjoy seeing here on the blog, or if you would interpret the brand tone words differently!