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How to Build a (BIG) Personal Brand Online

How to Build a (BIG) Personal Brand Online

By Pat Flynn on

Establishing yourself as an THE expert in an industry and mastering the ability to sell YOU is not an easy task, nor is it one that can happen overnight. However, with some hard work and smart strategies put into place you can begin to create a personal brand that can pretty much take you anywhere you want to go.

I’ve been lucky enough to experience building a personal brand first hand, and although it wasn’t intentional from the start, I’ve learned a lot about what kinds of things need to happen before reaching that tipping point where people begin to mention your name when your niche or topic of choice comes up in conversation.

Fact: Building a Personal Brand is Not For Everyone

The first thing you need to know is whether or not building a personal brand is right for you.

There are a number of things to consider before focusing your energy on building a personal brand, such as:

  • If you succeed, you will be in the spotlight – a bright one. Can you handle the attention? If not, then creating a brand around YOU probably won’t work out very well.
  • It might get to a point where your every move is watched very carefully – almost paparazzi style. The more popular you get, the more doubters, haters and trolls arrive to try and knock you down too. If you can’t take criticism very well and feel you might lose focus because of it, then again a personal brand may not be for you.
  • When your brand, websites and products sell because you’re the person behind them, it can be very difficult to sell your business or pieces of it. If you’re looking for an exit strategy, then it won’t come easy with a personal brand.
  • Building a personal brand is a long term process with long term goals. If you’re looking to “get rich quick”, then you’ve got to look elsewhere.

Some people think that you need a personal brand in order to succeed online, but you don’t. We just hear more online success stories from those with personal brands because they are the ones sharing everything.

The First Thing You Must Do

Before you can obtain mass amounts of readers, followers, subscribers, customers and fanatics, you’re going to need to build trust.

Would you give away your name and email address to someone you didn’t trust?

Would you pay for a product from a person who has been known to not fulfill their end of the deal?

Of course not!

Big personal brands succeed because they earn bigtime trust.

So the question is, how does one build trust?

Put the “Person” in Personal Brand

People connect with other people.

Real people.

Not websites or products or fancy offers.


The idea is to incorporate (your) personality onto your blog or website, which accomplishes a couple of things:

  1. It makes you and your brand seem more real. The more real you can become online, the easier it is for people to trust you; and
  2. It helps you stand out from the competition, because no one is just like you.

Now, this doesn’t mean you have to share every single detail about your personal life on your blog or website, but there are chances to share bits and pieces of it that can help you connect with your audience in a very memorable way.

For example, a lot of people have commented on the picture of Keoni and I in the “about me” section at the top of my sidebar. People instantly see that I’m a dad and that family is very important to me.

Also, a few weeks after April and I were married I posted a wedding dance video (with a surprise in the middle) that a lot of readers who I’ve actually met in person bring up in conversation.

Don’t let the fact that you’re doing business online stop you from being personable and sharing things about yourself that you’d normally feel comfortable sharing in person with someone.

Stories Rule

You have to have a story.


When a story begins, we keep reading to see what happens. When a story ends, we remember and reflect what we had just heard or read.

For personal brands, a good story will attract new readers, keep them engaged and help them remember who we are later.

That’s powerful stuff.

Darren Rowse from Problogger has a story: when he first launched, it wasn’t making any money. It was only after his wife told him that he had 6 months to make it profitable or else that he started to really get serious with blogging, and we all know he has one of the top blogs in the world now.

Yaro Starak from started blogging back in the 90s about a geeky card game called Magic The Gathering (that I played too, hehe). That’s where he learned about blogging and now he has a million dollar business teaching others about blogging and online entrepreneurship.

And Me

I’m not afraid to admit I have a great story to share. I’m sure that you would agree that at least part of the rapid growth of SPI is due to my inspiring story:

I get laid off.

I start an internet business.

I make even more and works much less.

Of course, your story (and everything else about you and your personal brand) should always be truthful. Bend the truth a little for marketing purposes and somehow online karma will come back to bite you in the butt.

Illustrate Expertise

If you want to be the go-to person for information about a particular topic, then you must prove to be a reliable source for that knowledge.

You can achieve this in several ways:

1. Your Content

When building a personal brand, you are your content. People are consuming you and your wisdom, thoughts, beliefs and opinions – all through your content. Always aim to provide the highest quality and unique content possible.

Also, be sure to stay consistent. A person who publishes content religiously will be seen as more of a trustworthy expert than one who does not.

Lastly, be confident in what you have to say. If you always say things like “I believe…” or “I think…”, really what you’re doing is selling yourself short.

Women dig confident men, and readers dig confident writers.

2. Content Mediums

The channels you use to deliver your content have a direct effect on you and your brand as well.

  • The design, look and feel of your blog or website can drastically change how people interact, consume and share your content. You can have the best content in the world, but if you have a crappy looking blog, you will seem like less of an expert than you really are.
  • Expanding onto other mediums to deliver content, such as videos and podcasts, can drastically increase the authority and trust you have within your industry. You’re no longer “just a blogger” or “just a writer”, but you’re an all-around expert in your field. Through my own experience, I can confidently say that the results are very clear.

3. Products

Products such as eBooks, software, membership sites and courses often come with an instant increase in authority and trust.

This is exactly why many people go through the process of working with a publisher to get a book published, even though the process is long and drawn out, control is yielded and profits are slim to none.

Once you’re “published”, however, you are seen as an instant expert. Tours, interviews, speaking gigs and an increase in consultation fees are usually the results of one publishing a book.

For those of us who aren’t in a position to publish a physical book, we can easily create digital products (like eBooks) that can have the same effect.

You have to be careful here though, because if you put out a low-quality, no-value product it can really do some damage to your personal brand. On the other hand, if over-deliver with your products a lot of good things will happen as a result.

4. Recommendations From Others

The best kind of promotion is promotion that is done for you and your brand by others.

Many of you, I’m sure, ended up on my blog not directly from me, but from another person that you know.

What if instead (before you knew about me), I emailed you out of the blue and asked you to come visit my site about earning a passive income online? Chances are that most of you would not even think twice and you would immediately delete that email.

Recommendations from others about you are much more powerful than recommendations of yourself, from yourself. That is why it’s important to not only focus internally on your brand, but externally as well – connecting heavily with other people and brands in your industry.

Don’t think of them as competitors, but as business opportunities and relationships.

How many times do you eat at a restaurant because you heard from a friend how great it is, or maybe you read reviews on yelp or saw it featured in the news?

Same idea.

Lessons Learned:

Here is a summary of what we covered about building a personal brand online:

  • Decide that building a personal brand is right for you.
  • Understand that before anything else can happen, you must first earn people’s trust.
  • Become personable to show people you’re real and help you stand out from the crowd.
  • Use the power of stories to engage your audience and help them remember who you are.
  • Leverage your content, content delivery methods, products and build relationships with others in your industry for maximum results.

And as a final thought: be real, stay humble and always put your audience first.

Is there anything you’d like to add about building a personal brand? What helps you trust someone online and view them as an expert?


p.s. Happy Valentines Day 🙂

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