If you’re looking to build a personal brand business, you’re probably aware that it’s only a matter of time until your job is replaced by robots. Automation and AI are inevitably going to disrupt the entire workforce. So, how are you preparing for this change? How are you adapting to the new world?
Specifically, what’s the process for turning your ideas and skillsets into a legitimate business and media enterprise that’ll thrive in the creator economy?
In this post, I’m going to go through a step-by-step process that will enable you to create a personal brand business.
You’ll learn how to:
- Find your perfect customer
- Build valuable online assets that you own
- Establish an audience of subscribers who eagerly wait for your next post
- Create a media machine that runs itself
- Create a product or service line that monetizes while you sleep
Let’s get started.
Step #1: Establish your perfect customer
The biggest mistake most newcomers make is that they don’t get specific enough.
When you make the commitment to build a personal brand business, it’s only natural for you to want to speak to as many people as possible. “It’s good to have options” my Dad used to tell me. However, this advice will ultimately be your downfall.
Ask yourself two questions:
- What is my niche?
- Who is my customer?
The first step is to focus on exactly who it is you wish to serve with your content. You must reach the realization early on that you can not, and should not, want to appeal to everyone.
You want your content marketing to appeal to a certain person, a person in which you can serve better than anyone else in the world.
What does that look like?
Before you go any further, I recommend doing an exercise.
Take out a piece of paper and answer these questions with honestly and specificity.
- What is your perfect customer’s name?
- Where does he/she live?
- What is he/she struggling with?
- How much money does your perfect customer make?
- What does your perfect customer want?
- What is the “ultimate outcome” that your perfect customer is searching for when they buy from you?
Whether you’re branding or rebranding your business, the more specific the better.
Everything you do from this point forward is done with the sole purpose of serving your “perfect customer.”
Once you lay the foundation with your target audience, you’ll be able to move with precision and focus from this point forward. You’ll save yourself years of stress and frustration by making the commitment to serve a specific group of people who want what you’re offering.
Got it? Great. Let’s move on to step #2.
Step #2: Build a website
Why start with a website?
Isn’t it easier to create a Twitter account? Shouldn’t I create a Substack? Wouldn’t it be cheaper to create an account on Medium and save the time and money it takes to build my own website?
The answer is yes. It would be easier to do that. But, that would be a terrible mistake.
When you build a personal brand on Twitter or Facebook, or even on Substack, what you are doing is building your brand on a property that you do not own (commonly referred to as digital sharecropping). You must always own your media.
If you own the media, you own the audience. If you own the audience, you own the attention. If you own the attention, you make the money.
When you publish content on your own website, the growth of the content will compound over time. Each time you publish something new, it’s a new opportunity to be found and a new idea that will get shared.
As more and more traffic starts coming to your website, the value of your website will increase both in terms of the revenue the traffic generates, but also in terms of how much you could potentially sell your business for.
In addition, there are more nuanced reasons to have a website. You can:
- Control the branding
- Establish your SEO (more on that later)
- Use social media to drive traffic back to your site
- More effectively collect email addresses
- More easily convert traffic into sales, which puts cash money in your bank account
Why social media is dangerous, and how to use it properly
I’ve witnessed numerous occasions in which creators build their entire brands on social media, only to discover that one day the platform decided they were going to shut the accounts down.
Just recently, Jack Butcher had both of his Twitter accounts suspended. Luckily, he was able to regain control of @visualizevalue, but his other account, @value, remains suspended and he’ll never get it back.
For Jack, this was years of work that vanished in an instant. In all likelihood, his Twitter account was worth $1,000,000. But now it’s gone forever.
The reality is, when you build your brand on a third-party platform, you give away control of your audience. Twitter owns your Twitter following, not you. Facebook owns your Facebook following, not you.
So it’s always a better choice to build your personal brand on a domain, of which you own the hosting, and of which you have complete control.
The only thing you can ever truly own on the internet is your website and your email list.
How to build a website
Creating a website doesn’t have to be a huge ordeal. Many people overcomplicate this step.
You don’t have to spend $10,000 or hire a custom web developer. There are many affordable options that will make it easy for you to get your site up and running.
Here are a few options:
GoDaddy gets a bad rep, but one thing I do appreciate about them is their customer service. You can call them, tell them that you have no idea what you’re doing, and that you want a WordPress website.
They will walk you through the entire process on the phone. They will guide you from buying a domain, to setting up your hosting, to installing a WordPress application.
Important: Be sure to tell GoDaddy that you DO NOT want a “GoDaddy” site. GoDaddy is trying to create their own site builder product and it sucks. Make sure you tell them you want an actual WordPress install. Say it just like that.
Upload a WordPress theme
One of the great things about WordPress is that much of the “design” process can can skipped. You can upload prebuilt websites called themes.
If that sounds a bit technical to you, no worries. You can hire any decent freelancer on Fiverr and tell them that you want to upload a WordPress theme. They shouldn’t charge you more than $500. If they’re charging more, they’re ripping you off.
Hire a designer
I know it can be difficult to stomach the cost of custom design work, but remember, you are investing in your personal brand. This is an investment in yourself.
In some cases, especially if you build a personal brand business that is in the corporate space, it may be worth it to put up the initial investment for custom web design and development.
Custom sites can be expensive. They can range anywhere from $2,000 to hundreds of thousands of dollars. But the difference is clear. For instance, my agency site, Stodzy Internet Marketing is a customized WordPress site. It was expensive, but it was worth it.
One last thing
I’ve used WordPress throughout my career, but WordPress is not the only option. Many people who I respect say good things about using Webflow. I’ve never used it, but I can safely say that Webflow is also a good option for creating a website.
Webflow has a bit of a learning curve, but it will allow you to build a website from the ground up without knowing code. It’s a “no-code” solution that will give you full customizability to build your site exactly the way you want it.
Step #3: Write a weekly article (on your site)
I think by now we have established why we want to publish our content on our site. If not, review Step #1.
But now, I want to talk about the functionality of creating and publishing written content. The reasons for this is two-fold.
Writing is the best way to become an expert
Building a personal brand business doesn’t happen by accident.
You need to be providing value to people in a way that establishes you as an expert in your industry. Your perfect customer should look to you as the expert in whatever particular niche you chose to pursue.
What’s the best way to establish yourself as an expert?
Almost all of the influential people I know or admire got that way because they spent time drafting and publishing written content.
When you write on a weekly basis by following a content creation system, you’ll establish yourself as an authority and industry leader, which are essential when you want to build a personal brand.
Over time, you will be able to leverage your “authority” and use it to sell products or services. The backbone of a lucrative personal brand business is the written word. You might even want to study guest posting best practices to get your articles published on other websites.
Writing is the best way to get organic traffic from search engines
To put it simply, Google loves words.
When Google indexes the internet, what they are doing is looking at the words on different web pages and then “figuring out” what each page is about. Google scans the web and determines which pages should be ranked at the top of Google for different search queries.
Over time, your site will build more authority, and Google will start to reward your sensible SEO efforts by sending you traffic.
Google’s priority is to answer the questions of their users as quickly as possible. So if the content you write has great value and does a great job in helping people, Google would love to send traffic to your site because they want what’s best for their users.
We will talk more about SEO later on. At this step on the process, you don’t have to worry too much about SEO. What’s important now is to be publishing content on a consistent basis, and to understand that written content is the best investment you can make in your personal brand business.
And if you’re a writer, having your own audience that is interested in your products also comes in handy when you are looking to find a publisher for your first book.
Step #4: Create a newsletter
Let’s recap the first three step to build a personal brand business.
- You’ve established a niche and your perfect customer.
- You’ve created a website.
- You’ve started writing and publishing content.
Next, you want to start earning email subscribers and sending a weekly newsletter.
When someone gives you their email address, they are giving you a direct line of communication to interact with them through email marketing. You will always own your email list. It’s yours. You can bring it with you everywhere you go.
In addition, email is a personal relationship. When people give you access to their inbox, they are usually doing so because they want to hear from you.
What’s the best way to do this?
In most cases, curation is the best strategy for writing an effective newsletter.
There is already so much original content out there. In many cases, the best thing you can do is to volunteer your time to compile important information, and then curate your findings into one easy-to-digest publication.
Your job is to scrub away the bad content and put together one newsletter where people can find the best information in a short amount of time.
This can be:
- Health and wellness
- Anything you can think of
There is no end to the topics that you can build your curated newsletter around. Some great examples:
- Weekly.gg: My friend Franco writes a curated weekly newsletter delivering important stories and updates in the world of gaming and esports.
- Flourish: Claire Emerson writes a weekly newsletter about self-care and personal management.
- NextDraft: Dave Pell writes a daily newsletter about news and current events.
- HuddleUp: Joe Pompliano writes a daily newsletter about the business of sports.
- NessLabs: Anne-Laure Le Cunff writes a weekly newsletter about neuroscience-based learning.
Publishing your newsletter on your website
Should you publish your newsletter on your website?
There is no right and wrong answer here, but my suggestion is that you should not.
In my view, curated newsletters should always be sent as emails and should never be published as a blog post on the website.
The reason is that newsletters are typically bad content for SEO. Search engines like to rank content that answers specific questions and curated newsletters often times touch on many different topics or stories.
Sure, newsletters usually focus on one niche or one industry, but the content in each issue of a newsletter can bounce around drastically.
This kind of content confuses search engines and in most cases, publishing your newsletter as a blog post will only clog up your link equity (more on this later) and make it more difficult to rank content in the future.
My recommendation is to create a page on your website dedicated to your newsletters, and then link your previous newsletters as an archive. You can see an example on my personal website. You can also see Austin Kleon follows this route as well.
Examples of newsletters that are posted as blog posts
There are plenty of examples where people send out the content of the blog post directly through email as a newsletter. If this is the route you like to take as you build a personal brand, then my advice is to not even worry about SEO and try your best to promote your newsletter in other ways.
Some good examples:
- Scott Galloway: He sends his blog post directly through email every Friday
- Dror Poleg: Also sends out his blog post each week through email
- Further: My business partner, Brian Clark, writes blog posts on his site and then combines them into a weekly newsletter.
Ultimately, there’s no “perfect” way to do this. You have to decide what works for you. I will always have a personal bias towards protecting the SEO of my website, but that’s because I love SEO.
If SEO isn’t a priority for you, then by all means, publish your newsletters directly as blog posts, and then share the blog post in full through email.
What’s important is that you publish a newsletter on a consistent basis and you make collecting email addresses the biggest priority in all of your marketing efforts as you build a personal brand.
Step #5: Start a podcast and use Twitter to book amazing guests
Why start a podcast?
The answer is not what you think.
If you want to start a podcast because you want to make money from it, or because you want to be famous like Joe Rogan, than you’re going to be very disappointed.
Podcasts are very difficult to monetize effectively. Unless you have millions of downloads, chances are you will struggle to make any meaningful income directly from your podcast.
I’ve never put any ads on my podcast, but since I want to build a personal brand, the value my podcast has generated is worth well over $1,000,000.
How is that possible?
Let me explain.
The podcast is a relationship machine
If you have a decent-sized audience, you can book interviews with people who would never “grab a cup of coffee” with you otherwise.
Podcasts are mutually beneficial. When people come on my show, they get the added exposure to my audience and I get the pleasure to speak with them, learn from them, and most importantly, build a relationship with them.
My podcast has opened up new investment opportunities, as well as introduced to me some of my new business partners. The people who come on my show are absolute pros at internet marketing, why wouldn’t I want to form business relationships with them?
Don’t believe me?
- Jonny Naster and I created LSATClarity together after he came on my podcast. The website is already profitable.
- I bought my shares in Copyblogger after having Brian Gardner and Darrell Vesterfelt on my podcast.
- I’ve been able to book high-profile guests like Polina Pompliano, Amanda Natividad, and Steph Smith to do lectures on Copyblogger Pro, simply by asking them to come on my podcast first.
I’ve interviewed some of my heroes. Guys like:
I can go on and on about the opportunities that have come my way because of my podcast, but the lesson is that you shouldn’t approach your podcast as a direct monetization strategy.
You should view your podcast as an extension of your brand, as a gateway into meaningful relationships and as a way to build a more intimate relationship with your audience.
As your podcast numbers grow, you’ll discover that you can make much more money promoting your own products and services than promoting someone else’s. (Check out our guide for webinar best practices to help you create great audio presentations.)
Podcast episodes generate backlinks
A secondary benefit of a podcast is that they are great for cross promotion and also for SEO.
When a guest comes on my show, it’s almost certain that when I publish the episode, they’ll retweet it, share it to their email list, or even link it on their website.
The guest is incentivized to share the episode, because it gives them a chance to share their story and give additional insight to their brand or business. This is great for me, because it’s an effective way to get my message in front of other like-minded audiences.
In addition, podcasts easily generate backlinks, and backlinks are great for SEO.
What is a backlink?
A backlink is when another website puts a link on their site, which links back to your site. Google sees these links as signals of authority. The idea being that if a website that already has authority, is willing to link to your site, that must mean that your site is “worthy of being linked to.”
- Maybe you wrote some helpful statistics that need to be sourced.
- Maybe you had a great quote that another website wanted to showcase by linking to it.
- Maybe you wrote such an amazing blog post that other blogs will link to your post.
Whatever the reason, backlinks are very helpful for SEO. You can see some examples of people linking back to my website when I had them on my podcast.
Here is where Seth Godin linked to our episode.
And here’s another examples of when Nick Wignall linked to my site in the show notes.
Here’s one more from my interview with Helen Rankin on the SwagUp corporate site.
These links add huge value over time.
Every time you publish a new episode, you should share that episode with your guest and politely ask if they would be willing to link back to the episode. Maybe they will, maybe they wont, but if you ask politely it’s a certainty that some people will be willing to.
Using twitter to find guests
I’ve booked interviews with all of my guests through Twitter.
Twitter is the most under utilized platform in the world. The culture of Twitter is such that people are more open to accepting DMs from strangers, and interacting with each other through tweets, replies, retweets and likes.
Yes, there are some corners of Twitter that are toxic but if you start following the right people, you will slowly but surely become integrated into a society of high achievers.
At this point in your journey, your email list should be large enough that you will have something to offer people who you are inviting to be on your show.
I’ve met some of my closest friends on Twitter. In a strange way, I have more meaningful relationships with friends on Twitter than I do in real life. We are constantly exchanging ideas and helping each other improve.
This is why Twitter is such a powerful tool.
While you are following people, finding thought leaders and building your network, you are also engaging with people who will come on your podcast.
Once someone comes on your podcast, they’ll promote the podcast to their audience, which will also help your podcast grow. In addition, they will most likely follow you back and now you have created a group of followers who have more social clout than the average person.
It’s a winning strategy and I recommend you try it.
Step #6: SEO your website
At this point, your personal brand business should be running on all cylinders.
You are building an email list, you are publishing content on your site, you are building up your reputation. At the same time, you are using Twitter and your podcast to build relationships which will also get you links on other people’s websites.
Things are really coming together for you.
Now is when you get intentional about the keywords you want to rank for to get more traffic with SEO.
Why bother with SEO?
Because Google generates 68% of all traffic to websites.
If you optimize your website properly, you can open a firehouse of free traffic to your website. Organic traffic is relevant because it has intent behind it.
You’ll always know with certainty that the traffic Google is driving to your website is relevant because the only way someone would have gotten to your web site in the first place is by searching for you.
With SEO, you attract people who search for exactly what it is you’re trying to sell.
For instance, let’s imagine you build a personal brand business around your love to gardening. Let’s imagine you sell gardening supplies and you create guides for beginners. Finally, let’s imagine someone searches on Google for the phrase “best gardening supplies for beginners” and your website shows up at the top search result of Google.
What are the chances that person is going to subscribe to your email list, or even buy products from you right from the beginning?
I’d say the chances are pretty high. It is this intent that make Google traffic so much more powerful than web traffic that comes from any other third-party platform. Your best bet is to rank for relevant keywords in Google.
Examples of smart SEO tactics
As you can see below, when someone goes to Google and searches “how to monetize a personal brand,” my website shows up number one.
This kind of traffic is highly valuable because the intent of the search is directly in line with what the rest of my messaging and content is about. The conversion rate of people signing up to my email list from this search query is 3%, which is very high.
Not to mention, when people sign up for my email list, what are the chances this user will be interseted in buying one of my products?
Also very high.
The same is true for when someone searches “how to start a paid newsletter.”
I’m currently building a free course to capitalize on this traffic as well. Eventually, I’ll create a paid product for these users and will capitalize on this search traffic even more.
Once you can effectively create content that appeals to the readers and also appeals to search engines, you’ll be generating so much valuable traffic that your opportunity for income will skyrocket.
More examples of effective SEO
Earlier, I mentioned LSATClarity.
That site is completely run and monetized through SEO. See the graph below to get a feel on how powerful of a tool this can be. Within a year, the site is generating huge traffic numbers and is already profitable.
The other great thing about SEO is that you don’t need to generate huge traffic numbers to generate huge income.
Let’s use the example of my marketing agency once again. I SEO my entire website to appeal to people who own healthcare businesses and want to improve their digital marketing.
The site hardly generates more than 2,000 hits a month.
However, the traffic is so relevant that the website still generates millions of dollars of income.
Every single article, long-form guide, or sales page I have ever created for that site follows the criteria that I have laid out for you in this guide to build a personal brand. All the content I publish is 100% targeted to the people and businesses that would want to hire me.
You don’t have to take my word for it, you can watch for yourself.
The balance of writing for people and writing for SEO
Before we dive too deep into the SEO, let’s zoom out a bit and remember Step #2.
When I talk about SEO, it’s very common for people to start seeing all of their content from the lens of search traffic. Too many people make the mistakes over overly SEOing their content so that it looses the tone and the voice that your audience has come to appreciate and love about you.
You need to be mindful of the people reading your content. You should never write content ONLY for SEO purposes. You must also write for the reader. Your readers need to recognize your tone and appreciate your personal message.
So what is the balance? How do you write content that appeals both to the reader and the search engines?
Here is a list of some basic best practices to implement while optimizing your site for keywords.
- Designate a keyword for each article. It’s all about being intentional. Decide which keyword you are trying to rank for, and then optimize your post for that keyword.
- Be sure to follow best practices for optimizing your page. I highly recommend using the SEO Yoast plugin, in creates a simple set of standards for you to follow.
- Keep track of your keywords. Use a keyword tracking tool such as SEM Rush or Ahrefs to track where your content is ranking in the search engines.
- Use your podcast to get backlinks. One of the reasons why a podcast is so effective is because people are more inclined to share the interview you did with them on their own site, which will get you backlinks.
You see? These are simple habits to add into your already robust content strategy. You don’t have to treat your website like you’re an SEO agency. But adding these simple habits can easily 10x your business.
Step #7: Monetize through products and/or services
How is it that monetizing your personal brand business is the last step in the process?
You will make significantly more money if you have an audience that is already interested in your work. All of my companies have monetized through the “audience first” model.
Once you understand your audience as you build a personal brand, you’ll also know what kind of products and services your people are interested in.
It is much easier to make actual sales when you know that the people who follow you are already interested in the product or service you are providing.
With that said, there are 7 basic ways to monetize your personal brand business. Yes, there are other options as well, but for those of you who are just starting you, I high recommend choosing one of these options and expanding your product / service line as you improve.
- Sell advertising. As we spoke about earlier in this article, selling advertising is the least effective way to build a personal brand business. With that said, there are lots of success stories of people who use this method. Just understand you will need a large audience to sell ads effectively.
- Sell coaching. By now you should have already established yourself as an expert in something. How can you teach your audience how to do what it is that you have already proven yourself in?
- Sell services. Selling services is the most natural starting place for most personal brand businesses. Maybe you are a web designer or maybe you are great at landscaping or you could even sell your services as a freelance writer. The options are endless. Selling services will always be a great way to exchange your time for money.
- Sell a membership program. Memberships are excellent because they run on a monthly recurring revenue model, which can make them very profitable. However, they do have a downside because you need to constantly be providing content and resources to your members.
- Sell products. Products can be sold digitally or physically. One of my first personal brand businesses was a t-shirt line. Now, I’m selling digital products through my education line. Both have pros and cons and both can be multi-millions dollar business ideas.
- Offer a paid newsletter. The free to paid newsletter model is extremely effective. You give away a free newsletter to build your funnel, and then you offer a “higher level” paid newsletter for members who want special access to premier content, reports or advice.
- Book speaking gigs. Usually, speaking gigs don’t happen until you are well established as an expert in your space. It is not uncommon for speaking engagements to service as secondary revenue streams. With that said, speaking can be an excellent and profitable way to monetize. It usually involves traveling to new places and meeting new people, both of which is very exciting.
It’s important to note that monetization is the entire reason why you want to build a personal brand. Too often we get caught up in metrics such as shares, and likes, and traffic numbers.
Although we need to pay attention to our data, the only metric that really matters is your sales. Don’t take your eye off the ball. You’re doing all of this hard work so you can generate income for you and your family.
If this method is so effective, why doesn’t everyone do it?
Simple, because it requires patience and it demands you avoid instant gratification.
If you want build a personal brand, you have to get comfortable with the concept of compounding. In all likelihood, it could be an entire year before you even get to 1,000 email subscribers. But in year two, you might grow to 10,000. Year three, 50,000.
You must delay your desire for instant gratification long enough for the miracles of compounding to truly kick in.
But in time, as you own your distribution channel, your options will be limitless. You can sell your own products, you can sell membership programs, you can sell services, and you can even book sponsorship deals.
If you own a personal media empire, you can offer whatever the hell you want.