How to Grow your Personal Brand as a Creative
So you’ve built a personal brand, but then what? You’ve clarified what you want to be known for, created a brand strategy to communicate that, and started sharing it with the world, but what do you do next? Let brand coach and strategist Hollie Arnett of Maker & Moxie show you the way in her third and final article in this series on all things personal branding.
Just like your favorite houseplant, you’ve given your brand all the core things that it needs to survive – clarity, creativity, and consistency (or in your plant’s case, light, water, and nutrients) – and it’s ready to thrive. It’s now up to you to help it do that by caring for it, checking in on it, and continually feeding it!
And like any good caretaker knows, different seasons bring different needs. As your brand’s caretaker, there are eight different needs, or goals, that your brand will require at different phases of its growth.
Let’s dive into what each of those goals could be, when you might need to focus on them, and how to achieve them.
Brand visibility is all about how many people know who you are. So when people talk about increasing their visibility or getting more visible, they’re talking about getting themselves noticed by more people.
Simply put, the more people know who you are, the more potential there is for opportunities to come your way.
According to Unbounce, the average website conversion rate (the percentage of people who book or buy) for business services is 8.7% – this means, for example, that if 100 people discover you and check out your website, on average, 8.7 people will book in with you. But if 1,000 people know about you and click through to your site, 87 of those people could book in with you!
So the more visibility you have, the more opportunities you have for clients, customers, collaborations, and other connections.
Focusing on visibility can be especially helpful if you are needing to drum up more leads, are changing your niche, or are launching something new. But visibility isn’t just about reaching more people, it’s about reaching more of the right people.
A smaller audience full of your ideal clients is going to be more engaged than a huge audience of people who don’t need your services, so if you’re trying to increase your visibility, make sure it’s intentional.
You can estimate your visibility by adding together your followers and subscribers across all of your marketing channels. So if you have 1,000 Instagram followers, 500 YouTube subscribers, and 250 people on your email list, you could estimate that your visibility is around 1,750 people. Some of these people might follow you on multiple platforms, and you likely have additional connections in real life, but this calculation will give you an approximate number. From there, you can set a goal for how much you’d like to increase your visibility, whether that’s 10% per month, or 2x in the next quarter, or another measurable goal, and work towards making it happen!
One of the best ways to do that is to collaborate with someone else whose audience is full of your ideal client!
Be a podcast guest on their podcast
Run a joint workshop together
Collaborate on a piece of work
Write a guest blog post for their website
Mention your favorite brands on social media
Host an Instagram live with up to three others
Start a side project together
Invite them onto your YouTube channel
These are just a few ideas for how you could collaborate with a creator or brand to get yourself in front of their audience and introduce yourself to them.
Melinda Livesy is a brand identity designer turned brand strategist who has mastered brand visibility. Four years ago, Melinda was featured on The Futur’s YouTube channel being coached by renowned brand strategist and coach, Chris Do. The Futur and their founder Chris are one of the most well-known branding agencies and educators in the world, and their channel has over 1.7 million subscribers. That initial video that Melinda featured in currently has over 340,000 views and Melinda has since been in almost 30 other videos on The Futur’s YouTube channel. That’s approximately 340,000 people who might not have known about Melinda before then and do now, from one video! And most importantly, their audience is full of Melinda’s ideal clients, so this opportunity was about quality as well as quantity.
Melinda’s first video on The Futur’s YouTube channel, with over 340,000 views.
Now you might not score a feature on The Futur and their millions of subscribers right off the bat like Melinda, but you could be a guest on a podcast that reaches 500 people a week, collaborate with a fellow creator who has 1,000 subscribers, or write an article for a brand with 50,000 followers. However you choose to increase your visibility, what’s important is that you’re reaching a new audience of ideal clients or customers and letting them know who you are!
Once you’ve got some visibility, your goal should be to increase your brand awareness. This is the amount of people who think of your brand in relation to a specific niche.
For example, if someone asks me for a copywriter or a graphic designer for a particular kind of business, there are a few people who come to mind right away as a perfect fit. Your goal is to be one of those people in your own niche!
If you’re an illustrator for software companies, you want your name to be the first out of people’s mouths when the brand lead is suggesting artists to their colleagues.
If you’re a project manager for entrepreneurs, you’re aiming to be the go-to person that business owners recommend to the people in their mastermind group.
If you’re a brand strategist who crafts branding content for creative brands, your goal is to be the one that people think of when they’re asked for a referral (like I was for Charli Marie who recommended me for this series!)
Making sure people are aware of who you are and what you do is the first, most important step to getting referrals and recommendations, because people will be able to confidently communicate that to their friends and colleagues, and you’ll be the first person they think of to suggest.This is definitely something you’ll want to focus on if you’re pivoting your positioning or looking for new opportunities.
It takes five to seven impressions for someone to remember your brand, so it’s important to always clearly and consistently communicate your message across your whole brand.
Oxford Comma, a copywriting studio whose brand awareness is abundant, have got this down to an art. From their Instagram page, to their website, and beyond, their brand is crystal clear and always consistent.
On Instagram, Oxford Comma’s bio clearly communicates and solidifies their position as a copywriting studio. Their name is seen three times, and 'copy' is mentioned three times too, so it’s repeatedly reiterated in your mind that Oxford Comma is a copywriting studio.
Oxford Comma’s Instagram bio.
And it’s not just their bio that increases their awareness – their content consistently communicates who they are and what they do. Through the copy, the topic of the content, and the content itself, they’re making it clear that they’re a copywriting studio writing good copy for bad bitches who value culture, creativity, and community. Through following them, their name becomes synonymous with these things and next time someone asks for a copywriting studio, they’ll come to mind!
Oxford Comma’s Instagram content
And the party continues on the Oxford Comma website. Their header, homepage, and about content, among other elements, all communicate and reiterate what their brand is all about.
Oxford Comma’s website about page.
You know how you see red and yellow and instantly think of McDonalds? Or scroll past an ad and know straight away that it’s Apple? That’s brand recognition.
Brand recognition is all about how many people recognize your brand name and symbols such as logos, packaging, brand colors, products, etc.
It’s the moment when you’re scrolling through Instagram and a post from an artist you love catches your eye as you recognize the color palette. It’s the experience you have when you’re browsing the supermarket and spot the Ben & Jerry’s section from the other end of the aisle because you know that packaging. It’s the feeling when you’re looking for a YouTube video to watch and see the thumbnail for a new video from your favorite creator standing out in your subscription box.
Being able to recognize these characteristics of your favorite brands brings your feelings about that brand straight to mind and makes you want to tap through, add to your shopping basket, or hit play.
And the reason you recognize these brands is because they’re consistent. Whenever you see their brand online or in person, the logos, colors, fonts, patterns, imagery, and other visual elements are the same. And each time you do see their brand, it becomes more memorable.
This is particularly important when you’re trying to grow a product or service that already exists, because you want to consistently be recognized in that niche.
Kei Maye’s brand identity is recognizable from a mile away. The combination of her color palette, typography, patterns, layouts, and content makes it super easy to spot Kei’s posts as you’re scrolling through instagram. It stands out and stays consistent, so you’ll see it in your feed and know right away that it’s a new post from Kei. This is the kind of recognition that you want to create with your own brand.
Kei Maye’s creative, consistent brand identity on her Instagram page.
You can do that the same way Kei and all of your other favorite brands have: with consistency. When you’ve built your personal brand, create a document that outlines the visual elements and how they should be used, a folder of assets so you can quickly grab on-brand colors, fonts and imagery whenever you need them, and a set of templates that help you easily create consistent content.
Color increases brand recognition by up to 70%, so if you’re going to be consistent with anything, make it your color palette!
It’s all well and good having a huge audience, but what will really make a difference is having an engaged audience. Engagement looks at the amount of people who interact with your brand.
Higher brand engagement means that the people in your audience are interested in and enjoying your brand. This, in turn, means that they’re going to be more likely to book your services, buy your products, hire you, or collaborate with you!
So if you’re looking to increase those enquiries or prep your audience for a big launch, you might want to focus on improving your engagement rate.
Most social media platforms will tell you your engagement rate, but you can calculate it yourself by dividing your follower count by the amount of interactions your content got and multiplying that by 100. For example, if you have 1,000 YouTube subscribers and your latest video has 100 likes and comments in total, that’s a 10% engagement rate (100/1000 x 100).
When it comes to increasing engagement, there are three main things to think about:
Creating engaging content: Firstly you need to make sure that the things you’re sharing are things that people want to engage with. This means covering topics relevant to them, using content formats they enjoy, providing content they find valuable, and appealing to them as a person.
Encouraging engagement: When you’re sharing your content, make sure to encourage engagement. Ask a question at the end of your Instagram post, add a poll to your stories, include a call to action in your YouTube video, or encourage replies to your email newsletter. It might take a while for your audience to get used to engaging, but you’ll gradually increase engagement by encouraging it!
Celebrating engagement: And lastly, when people are engaging, celebrate and reward that! Create videos in response to TikTok comments, share quiz results on Instagram stories, pin comments on your Instagram posts, reply to email newsletter responses, or retweet Twitter mentions. Relationships are two-way streets, so if you’re wanting to build an engaged community, make sure to keep the conversation going.
Ran Segall is a designer and educator who has grown a hugely engaged audience. With over 300,000 YouTube subscribers and 100,000 Instagram followers (plus many more on other platforms,) Ran’s audience is definitely huge, but it’s also full of interactions.
The most popular video on Ran’s Youtube channel for his brand Flux, has over 1.2 million views and 750+ comments. That’s an engagement rate of around 400%! Granted, that video might be an outlier, but that’s still an impressive, engaging piece of content, wouldn’t you say?
Ran Segall’s engaging YouTube content
Ran achieves this kind of engagement by creating the kind of content that his audience wants to see, and making it engaging. He does the same on Instagram and uses story stickers and prompts in his post captions to keep the conversation going.
Poll stickers on Ran Segall’s Instagram Stories
Question prompt on Ran Segalls’ Instagram post.
Did you know that it costs five times more to attract a new client than it does to rebook an existing one? That means that it’s a smart idea to focus on creating a brand experience that increases loyalty.
Brand loyalty is all about the amount of people who come back to work with you more than once, so if you’ve got a service that already exists, increasing your brand loyalty can help you keep that service fully booked with clients who love you.
Loyal clients are invested in your vision, proud to work with you, and will choose you over other options every time (even if you’re more expensive to hire).
Those are the kinds of clients you want to keep around, and you can help make that happen in a few ways.
Have a clear and compelling vision, mission, and set of values: Often the reason that we choose one brand over another is because it aligns more with our own vision, mission, and values. So when you have those clear for your personal brand, it’s easy for potential clients or colleagues to choose to work with you! I don’t know about you, but I pay more than double to use eco-friendly, paraben and sulfate free shampoo bars from Ethique because I love their mission and their values are important to me too. The same principle applies for the people and brands we work with!
Deliver a wow-worthy brand experience: When people do work with you, as clients, customers, colleagues, or collaborators, you want to make the experience so amazing that they can’t wait to come back and do it again. I go back to the same cafe almost every single time because the food’s delicious, the atmosphere is amazing, and the staff make me feel so welcome as a regular, so why would I want to go anywhere else? You want to create the equivalent experience for your brand and keep people coming back for more.
Graphic Designer ByJenaMarie is a creative who has clients coming back to her on the regular. How? By creating a brand you want to support, and a client experience that you can’t get enough of!
Jena’s brand is warm, welcoming, and full of whimsy, and her mission is all about courage. ‘It's kindness. It's enthusiasm. It's warmth. It's mutual respect,’ she says on Instagram. That conviction is compelling.
Plus, from her testimonials and projects on the ‘Gram, it’s clear to see that the clients who do work with Jena love the experience so much that they do so multiple times.
Chromatical Club has done a bunch of projects with Jena, from GIFs to Canva templates, to signage, and more.
Three different projects created by Jena Marie for Chromatical Club.
I’m betting that there’s at least one product or service in your life that you tell everyone about. Whether it’s the most comfortable shoes you’ve ever worn, the best book you’ve ever read, the most world-changing donut you’ve ever eaten, or some other wonderful work of art, you can’t help but recommend it as much as possible.
Brand advocacy is about getting people to do that for your brand. It’s measured by the amount of people who recommend you or refer people to you, and to improve it, you’ve gotta turn your audience into advocates.
According to Nielsen, 92% of consumers around the world now say they trust word-of-mouth or recommendations from friends and family, above all other forms of advertising. So if you’re looking for a new job, trying to get more clients, or working on selling your products, having a good referral network is the most effective way to achieve that.
But how do you create that referral network?
Make people want to recommend you: This is kind of business basics, but essentially, if you’re a good person, you do good work, and you get good results, you’ll get referrals. As someone who gives referrals quite often, I always want to make sure that the person I’m recommending is going to provide a great experience for whoever is asking, so if you’re great to work with, your work is great, and you really deliver, I can be confident in recommending you to anyone! And if you really want to secure those referrals, aim for more than good or great. Stand out by being amazing to work with, creating outstanding work, and delivering incredible results.
2. Make it easy for people to recommend you: Apart from being great at what they do, the thing that makes me confident in referring people to someone is that it’s easy to do. For example, if a copywriter has a clear website that explains who they are and what they do, and links to their work, social media, and a way to contact them, I’m much more likely to recommend them than a writer whose portfolio is on one website and their about info is all on another and there’s no way to contact them or find out more information. So if you want more referrals, make it super easy for people to do that.
3. Thank people for recommending you: When someone does send an opportunity to you, a simple thank you goes a long way. Send a quick email or DM to let them know how much you appreciate their referral. If you’re feeling extra grateful, you could also send a small gift or referral fee if that’s something that feels good to you. As long as you acknowledge their recommendation, they’ll feel appreciated and happy to do it again.
Wanna see it in action? Rachel Rodgers is a creator and CEO whose community is full of brand advocates.
Rachel’s business, Hello7, teaches women how to build wealth and is on a mission to help more women become millionaires. They provide immense value, create incredible transformations, and craft intimate experiences that wow their clients and customers. They solve problems and create solutions for their audience that have to be shared, and their audience can’t wait to tell everyone about their experience.
Both Rachel’s personal page and business page have the tagged tab of their Instagram profiles full of people (myself included) mentioning their book, podcast, membership, and content.
The tagged tab of Rachel and Hello7’s Instagram profiles.
And their stories are no different. This Hello7 highlight is full to the limits of the WSABM book being tagged and mentioned in other people’s stories!
They also thank and celebrate the people who are the most loyal advocates for their brand – inviting clients onto the podcast to tell their story, sharing testimonials on their feed and in stories, and sending gifts to people who invest in their programs.
If you want a referral system as good as Rachel Rodgers and a feed full of rave reviews in your tagged tab, then focus on improving your brand advocacy.
Ready to grow your brand?
So now you’ve got everything you need to care for your growing brand through every season of its life.
Every quarter, I recommend checking in with where your brand is at to determine which things you need to focus on that will help it thrive, and ultimately help you achieve your goals.
Whether you’re aiming for a new job, launching a side-hustle, venturing out in your own business, or just want to be known for the amazing work you do, your brand can help you get there, and I can’t wait to see it when it does.
Hollie is the founder of Maker & Moxie, a business on a mission to help creators build their brand, share their work, and own their moxie. With a background in graphic design and typography, Hollie offers brand coaching, strategy, resources, and events that help creatives find clarity and build a business they're proud of.