The Yorkshire Post

Building your personal brand pays dividends

Jen Workman, Virtual Assistant and Founder and Owner of Business OwlLast year, I made a shift in my career. While my virtual administration company is still my main focus, I started to look at ways to diversify and use my skills in different ways. As a result, I’ll be taking on some auditing and assessment work this year.

I guess the initial shift was a mental one as I considered what I want to be known for.

Interestingly, this process sits within a wider shift among businesses, with employees looking to work flexibly to allow time for other interests and possibly additional work.

This flexible working pattern has given way for individuals to develop portfolio careers. Also, such is the nature of the entrepreneur that small business owners may naturally evolve into new areas and add new strings to their bow. On the flip side, turbulent times might force some small business owners to take part-time employment while keeping their dream alive. Either way, I consider my own shift to be part of the wider economic evolution of our post-covid world.

I’ve concluded that a focus on myself as a brand is a key component for growth this year. As a born and raised Yorkshire lass, ‘personal branding’ can be something I shy away from, using my business brand as a shield from the spotlight. But, as all the cool kids say, I’ve chosen to ‘lean into it’ this year.

And as I’ve started to explore this, I’ve realised it’s not so scary. After all, we know people are drawn to people and human experiences. A simple litmus test for this, is reaction to a social media post. Think of all the well-crafted posts you’ve read by organisations sharing important insights or information, then they share a spontaneous post about a team lunch and that gets quadruple likes compared with the former post.

I’d therefore encourage all business leaders and employees to look at their individual brand in some way.

Here are two ways I’ve started to do this.

Listening to what those who know me say about me. A client recently told me that I have a nice way of telling them off! I think this translates as having a reputation for not being afraid to tell clients ‘how it is’, but in a professional way. I think it’s probably also a Yorkshire trait of being straight talking. But the feedback felt like an accurate reflection of who I am and what I want to be known for. If you take the time to do this exercise, you may also find the feedback you get is aligned to roles you go for or the types of work and clients you attract.

Secondly, I’ve started to think about how I come across on all marketing channels and even in communication to clients.

It’s easy to hide behind the brand and adopt a formal voice which often doesn’t give much away. I’m trying to inject more of my personality and values into my comms. It’s taking a bit of work to understand what that means for me, but it’s a worthwhile investment of time and mental energy.

If Jeff Bezos’ quote that ‘your brand is what other people say about you when you’re not in the room’ is anything to go by, then what we say and how we say it, is crucial to making a shift towards a portfolio career whether self-employed, an employee or an employer.

This article was first published in the Business section of the Yorkshire Post on 2nd February 2024.