When you work in the corporate world, there are certain”rules” that apply to how you dress, act, manage and work within your group and company as a whole. But when you leave the corporate life (or were never in it to begin with), it’s easy to rebel against a corporate mindset and relax our standards of excellence regarding our personal brand.
Your personal brand is not simply the logo on your website or the copy underneath. Your personal brand is the way you act, speak and dress. It’s how you do business with others. Your personal brand is the face the general public and your clients see, hear and mingle with. Your personal brand is their experience.
Are you taking care to protect your personal brand? Are you projecting yourself as a competent business person? Believe it or not, your success lies in how well you do this.
Here are four ways you can ensure you’re protecting your personal brand:
- Under-promise and Over-deliver: It’s always better to work with less and deliver more. Not only does this show your value, it gives your client something to be delighted about. Think about it. You like getting bonuses when you buy something, right? So do your clients. Surprise and delight. This will do wonders for your personal brand and create brand champions of your clients.
- Dress the Part: I’ll admit – as a freelance writer, I’m often spotted walking my dog in the neighborhood in a T-shirt and sweats in the afternoon. I also love to wear jeans. But if I’m going to a networking event or a client’s office, I always gauge how I look as part of the equation. There’s still that expectation that I’ll look professional. Does that mean $300 suits? No. Personally, a nice pair of slacks and blouse or shirt work well for me.
- Be professional in your communications: It’s one thing to dash off an email to your sister. It’s another to do the same to a client and have it littered with typos or misspellings. Especially if you’re a writer or editor. It only takes a few seconds to scan what you’ve written to make sure there are no mistakes. Although the perfectionist in me will read it a second time just to be sure. It’s also a good idea to check the email address you’re sending it to, especially if it’s a forward or reply. I once sent off a reply message that wasn’t too complimentary to one of the people referenced in the original email. Unfortunately, I mistakenly sent it to the person I was criticizing. While it turned out fine, that was not a fun lesson to learn. A couple of other communication points: If you’re on the phone, don’t grunt responses. Show a little life in your voice. And in person, smile, be attentive and focused.
- Be a real person: In other words, don’t be selling 24/7. Get to know the people you’re talking with. Yes, this even applies to networking events. People like to be talked with, not sold to (at least not until they’re ready to hear a pitch). Hard sells don’t work and will turn people away from you and your brand. This point doesn’t mean, however, to share your marital woes, financial distress or other personal information. That would be too real.
Remember, if you’re a solopreneur or small business owner, you are your brand. There’s no way to escape that. Which means, it’s yours to enhance – or to lose.
What other ways can you think of to protect your personal brand?
Have you had an experience where you inadvertently dinged your personal brand?