Everyone loves to talk about branding and particularly brand identity. But the thing is, when you’re a solopreneur seeking to create a thriving online audience, the concept of branding isn’t as relevant to you. Why?
Because brand identity emphasizes the external picture and outward expression of the brand, including its name and visual appearance (i.e., color schemes, logos, fonts, photo shoots, etc.). And in my experience, the external picture of you isn’t the key to capturing the imagination of potential customers.
What is the key to winning their hearts and minds?
Very simple: a persona that includes a total embrace of yourself, life and work (warts and all), communicated through storytelling and combined with empathic interactions with your audience.
Simple. Quick and dirty. Wonderful.
As someone who runs a 6-figure online teaching business myself and who coaches other solopreneurs who are just starting out, I can tell you that one of the biggest mistakes I see new solopreneurs make is getting way too hung-up, way too soon about fancy branding aesthetics. Instead, what would actually benefit their business most is getting down and dirty with the psychological work of creating a compelling persona to share with the world.
Becoming a solopreneur is like childbirth
In the beginning phases of solopreneurship (the first 12 months) it is messy, vulnerable, and painful, like childbirth. Don’t try to make it look good, there’s no point. The looking good part comes later, when your baby is all sweet and cleaned up and out in the world wearing a nice sweater from Grandma.
The looking good part does not come while you’re on your back or squatting, being split in two by an infant human being who’s busy passing through your body and into the fresh air.
The wonderful thing about focusing on cultivating a compelling persona rather than a fancy pants visual brand is this: developing your persona is an internal job. It’s something that happens within you. It consists of a bold affirmation of your unique humanness: no expensive graphics or video editing required.
Professional and pretty doesn’t always cut it
Once you’ve spent a few months or even years growing into your online persona and interfacing with potential customers, then and only then is it a good use of your time, energy, and money to create a glossy visual style to reinforce your online presence.
Why does this matter so much?
I don’t want you to create a boring, unmemorable, socially acceptable brand that gets nothing but crickets and yawns—which is what many new solopreneurs do. They make something that looks professional or pretty.
Professional and pretty doesn’t grip the hearts of your customers and alter their lives. And as a new solopreneur, your focus should be on gripping the hearts of your customers and altering their lives.
In order to do that successfully, you probably need to do it first for yourself.
When solopreneurship feels painful, dangerous and vulnerable
Many new solopreneurs get into business to seek approval and permission from the world for what they do and who they are. That approval-permission-seeking attitude is guaranteed to repel potential clients instead attract trolls and energy-drainers. Go ahead and try it . . . you’ll see what I mean.
This approval-permission-seeking attitude is understandable, the world is a harsh and judgmental place. And it’s an intense sensation to be judged.
You know what else is a very intense sensation? Something I discussed earlier: childbirth. And yet, there’s women who learn how to experience the intense sensations of childbirth as pleasurable, and actually have an orgasmic birth.
Moral of this story?
Expect bringing your solopreneur business into the world to feel just as painful, dangerous, and vulnerable as childbirth. And don’t even try to look good at this stage of the process.
Go head-first into your solopreneurship journey with the attitude that you are totally willing to enjoy the sensation of being judged, misunderstood, shamed and possibly more. When you take on a fearless attitude, you create a compelling persona that people are naturally attracted to.
Alternatively, you could spend a lot of time and money creating a pretty, professional looking visual aesthetic for your brand and to try to win our approval. It’s up to you. But I’m rooting for you to get messy because getting messy has a lot to do with getting rich and renowned as a solopreneur these days.
This article has been edited and condensed.
Carolyn Elliott climbed out of dire poverty to create a 6-figure online business, which she now runs from the beaches of Bali and her hometown of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. Carolyn specializes in helping visionary leaders make similarly dramatic transformations in their lives and businesses through her courses on practical magic and on writing for the social web. Learn more about her and grab her free resource, the Dangerous Secret to Growing Your Online Audience. Connect with @carolynelliott_ on Twitter.