We’re mixing it up for this #ama and turning the questions around on you. This week’s Ask Me Anything expert is you, our DSN+DEV+OKC community! Cara Bell, the organizer for DSN+DEV+OKC asked the Slack community questions about building a personal brand. From your logo, to communicating with clients, imposter syndrome, and much more, this #ama dives into what makes this creative community successful.
Ask Me Anything is a weekly forum on our #ama Slack channel that gives the OKC creative community the opportunity to ask the featured guest questions about their creative and business-minded processes. From working with clients, their inspiration, favorite projects, and tricks of the trade, no question is off limits.
Dig into this one hour conversation and don’t miss out on our next #ama conversation on Slack.
Good morning @channel
Today’s AMA is a little unique, I’m turning the conversation around so that you get to answer questions ? Next week will resume as normal.
Whether you freelance or work on a team, I want to know how you promote yourself and what your goals are for self promotion. What’s your personal brand?
Since imposter syndrome is real, and we are all working towards promoting our own brand in different ways at different speeds, I think it’s important you take a moment to be proud of where you’ve come from so far, and see that others didn’t get to where they are at overnight either.
Feel free to answer as many questions as you like, but don’t feel like you have to answer all.
I love this Cara! ?This couldn’t have come at a better time, really looking forward to some insight from the group!
@ryandavidk if you have a specific question, feel free to ask!
1) When I say personal brand – what does that mean to you. Please define:
I’ve heard it described as the word that people people associate with you. Almost like a middle name. Like Stephen “The Website Making Guy” Bell. People aren’t going to come to you if you do 20 things reasonably well. They’re going to come to you when they need one thing done great.
It’s kind of the same as restaurant branding. I think it’s way better to be the Chipotle-style branding (people visit you when they want a burrito) instead of the Chili’s-style branding (okay, I have no idea why people like Chili’s, but there are lots of options).
Really like @stephenjbell’s definition.
I feel like personal brands also encompass the type of energy one puts into the world. Like a mission statement type thing, but less semantically defined and more defined by action and/or aesthetic. (Hopefully that’s not too much of a woo-woo description)
@emilysmart I like that idea – sometimes I feel like I have to adjust my energy and too often I come off as negative, which doesn’t match my intentions
@stephenjbell, agree x 100, EXCEPT CHILI’S HAS MOLTEN CHOCOLATE CAKE. That is the reason people go to Chili’s lol.
@the_tiffanylea Counterpoint: If there were a restaurant that only served molten cakes, I’d completely be on board with that.
I like these definitions, but it raises a question for me. Is a personal brand something we have whether we know it or not?
@carabell_okc YES. Plus there’s the female struggle of balancing coming off as negative, but smart, or positive, but ditzy.
@danlefeb, yes I think so. Everyone has a personal brand no matter what.
@danlefeb I’d say yes although reach plays a big part too. Someone with unintended branding plus small reach can quickly make their brand into what they want it to be, but someone with unintended branding but wide reach has some work to do.
Very good food for thought @the_tiffanylea and @carabell_okc.
I agree, aside from types of work we do and services we provide, a client should have a unique experience with any one of us as far as our style and how we relate to our clients. Also love the restaurant analogy. Probably best to avoid being the “Cheesecake Factory” of creatives. 😉
@danlefeb Because I’ve done a lot of humor-based creative work, I’m maybe mostly known for that, which is great when a potential client is looking for that take on their brand, but I’ve found myself having to tell some folks here and there that I don’t just do humor, so it can be limiting. We try to sell that our process and the experience is fun, regardless of how much “fun” the brand or message is.
Makes sense @brianwinkeler
2) How do you differentiate your brand (ex. what do you do, how do you do it, who do you do it for?)
Don’t know if I have enough to contribute on this yet, but I’d LOVE hear others’ process on defining and differentiating their brand.
For @the_tiffanylea and I, it’s been an ongoing process for Toast because our brand has evolved and grown so much in purpose from when we first started it. I think we’re still in the process of narrowing down and finding exactly what niche we fill, but we operate with basic underlying principles that guide our choices and decisions and inform our brand.
Okay: I would like to think that Toast is known for
1) Community involvement. We try very hard to be a force for good in Norman and OKC.
2) Female empowerment. We believe in all things feminism and we don’t work ONLY with female entrepreneurs, but we do love when we get to.
3) Relationships. We care a lot about our clients and their business and we try to build bridges between our clients to create a community that can empower each other. We love giving gifts and cards and try to ensure that no relationship ends with the last payment. Once you’re our client, you’re our client forever.
@emilysmart, does that sound right? Anything I missed?
3) Do you have a logo and/or website for yourself? Plz share:
We sure do. toastoklahoma.com. And here’s the blog about how and why we built our logo: http://www.toastoklahoma.com/blog/why-toast
Once we decided that we were going to pursue our business, we were left with a challenge any new business owner understands: finding the right name.
I personally do not have a brand for myself outside of Toast. I know @emilysmart does because she is involved in the community as an artist separate from Toast. For me, I funnel everything I do through Toast and I invest too much time and energy into Toast to create and maintain a personal brand separate from it.
4) How do you communicate your brand face to face (without graphics)
“I make things easier for humans to use.” That’s what I’ve been saying when people ask me what I do for work. I started my career in graphic design, then web design, then web dev, then programming, and now IT/Business architecture.
I once told a plumber that I make small businesses look like big businesses so they can earn more money. I’ll stick with that for now ?
@jonfisher @clintprint I’m glad you guys reposted. I know we had a short convo a few weeks ago and I remembered you both had good elevator pitches!
“Ideas brought to life” is what I used when I did heavier freelance work. While I did a lot of design, my biggest strengths lie in production and bringing talent together for bigger projects. And that’s helped leverage me into what I do now I suppose.
5) How do you promote your brand online. Tools? Channels? Content? Details welcome. Follow up Qs welcome:
I show work ? Dribs, Twitter, and IG 😉
I was scrolling through our steed insta feed instagram.com/steedokc from last year and forgot how well we were doing. Our goal was just to post helpful tips on brand/customers and we got a ton of engagement and 2-3 inquiries a week!
We’ve done some business dev since then, and Instgram probably isn’t right for us right now, but I think it’s amazing how much reach people can have just by being helpful.
6) Practical tips for others starting their personal brand:
I think the personal brand really needs to have strong foundational principles – much like any brand – what do you stand for, what are your guideposts? At Saxum, we have 2 tenants – Trust & Risk-taking – every decision is guided by those two principles. These principles should allow you or anyone on your team that is making a decision to be able to be empowered to make the right decision. At Saxum – will this allow clients to trust our counsel? Will this grow trust with each other? Are we being courageous? Are we being curious? —
Principles make decision making easy – and that is the real struggle. When you are branding yourself, you can do anything! That is the hardest part – picking a direction and sticking with that direction.
Otherwise, your whole brand is based on arbitrary things and trends, which waffle and wane.
@jrobbins I think a lot about the risk factor when portraying myself to clients. Usually it’s by in person conversation, but I’m constantly listening for concerns that they bring up and trying to figure out the real reason they are bringing up those concerns – usually it’s because I haven’t eliminated all the risk.
That might be more to your trust point I guess ?
Your brand, or your theme, is like your business character. The person you create to represent your business. But you get to write the script and develop that character. What kind of character will you be? When you think about how you’d like to come across, you can focus on how to direct your brand.
Don’t overthink it. Ask friends and family how they see you to help your thought process.
7) Someone in OKC who’s personal brand you admire, and what makes them stand out? (or nat’l if you prefer)
I think Brian Winkeler (at Robot House) does a good job of this. Specifically, I like it when people do social media accounts that stick pretty closely with a theme, and I enjoy following his Twitter because he’s always tweeting about comics and comic art. You can tell he’s excited about this stuff, and it shows. https://twitter.com/WinkelerComics
He’s also very visible in the community by being involved with AIGA and other groups. I think it’s important to put yourself out there like that.
Aw, geez. I’m blushing. After an unfortunate, drink-fueled meltdown on Election Night last year, I’ve really tried to be my best self on my personal twitter and focus on sharing fun comics and comedy stuff (with very occasional political snark).
Is that meltdown archived somewhere?
This format might be a little hard to digest in just one hour. Things you don’t know until you try ¯\_(ツ)_/¯
I’ll be pulling the conversation tomorrow to post on the dsndevokc.com blog, so you have all day to scroll through the mess and add your answers ?
We’ll try this again I’m sure, but we’ve got a good lineup of experts over the next few weeks ?
This is a great idea. Can I add that I’m terrible at building anything for myself.
Anyone else have that issue? I can make all kinds of cool stuff for other people, but when I have to do something for myself I just fall apart. Lol!
totally @ben.parker — I must have built 5 different sites for myself and deleted them all
Thank God I’m not alone!!! ? It’s like designing for me is my kryptonite. I lose all my powers.
@ben.parker this is why I love the conversation. Do you think it’s baby steps that need to happen, or is it sticking to one direction like @jrobbins said?
tough to say. brands do evolve, their evolution is over many decades – but people, they can change drastically even over the course of a year.
so we are a lot more fallible.
that is why principles work. principles actually get less foggy and strong over time …
CONFESSION: When I needed a website for myself, I built it on SquareSpace just to be done with it.
You know, I’ve tried both of those things and failed miserably. I think for me it’s that building a portfolio isn’t exciting. At least for me. When I work on projects I get excited abut their brand and story and it really inspires me. When I look at my own brand it doesn’t excite me. Maybe I don’t view myself as cool?!?! ???
I have tried for years to figure it out.
Definitely the situation of the cobbler who’s children have no shoes. But I think @jrobbins is on to something. If we brand our principles, those are timeless and transcend style. The question is, how to start that process for ourselves.
If someone has ideas on that, I’m listening. I trust all these really smart people in this Slack channel!
I think Roberto Blake has a descent approach to this that seems to be working for him. If you sign up for his newsletter you get a free ebook download of his 7 point guide to personal branding
Every Wednesday Afternoon 2 PM. If you want to listen in or ask your own questions, get your slack invite here: dsndevokc.com/join-our-slack
Who would you like featured for our next AMA?