When Building an Online Brand, Start With the Foundation

New York Times Bestselling Author, Entrepreneur, Coach
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One of my goals for 2015 is to focus more on my personal brand both online and off.  To me this means clarifying exactly what my mission and vision are, and conveying that to the world in a concise and attractive way.  
When people used to ask me what I did, I would get frustrated. It’s not a one-line answer. I used the term “Lifestyle Entrepreneur” because that was the best way I could describe what I did, creating a business around a life I’ve always dreamed of. But even then, that term barely scratches the surface of what I’m about.
Building a recognizable personal brand opens massive professional opportunities.  In the wide world of the web and in today's market, your brand defines you and helps you stand out. There are so many factors to consider when developing your brand, but here are my main keys for creating the foundation.

Define who you are.

The first thing you need to understand is who you are as an individual and brand. Craft your personal vision statement and get clarity on who you are and what your unique contribution is. You want to be as authentic as possible. Of course, your are dynamic and changing, but there are things you have always loved and always will love.  
For example, I am an athlete. I am an Ohioan and I never miss a Buckeye’s game. I love salsa dancing, music, and playing the guitar. I am also open-hearted, generous, curious, and playful. 
Defining who you are allows you to lead naturally. 

Decide what you value most.

Your values define you in an even deeper way as they are the most important things in your life. Try as we might, we will never escape our values, many of which are instilled in us at a young age from our families. Consider the people, experiences and emotions that fulfill you the most, and you will find your values there. 
My top values include: family, friends, giving, passion, and greatness, to name just a few. I value a lifestyle which allows time for the activities and people that I love. I create my work life around that, rather than the other way around. 

Ask for feedback.

Feedback is the most valuable tool you can use to shape your brand. Of course, you may want to seek guidance from a trusted professional, but you should also go over your branding strategy with others. Reach out to friends, colleagues, family and your online following for their ideas and opinions. They will see things that you don't and that can help you eliminate your blind spots. 
Feedback is valuable in growing your business because you’ll learn to listen to people's opinions. You’ll also learn when to follow your intuition and go against some of their advice. It is a great way to get even more clear with your vision and your intention for your brand. 

Define your audience and more importantly, their needs.

Having a general idea of this while you craft your vision is essential. It is important to truly understand where your audience is coming from. 
My personal mission is to help 100 million people make a full-time living living doing what they love. I have been on the other side, and also know what helped me get to where I am in my business. I know my audience consists of people who are striving to live outside of the box of working a job that doesn't excite them. They need real tools to support them, and this is exactly what I offer in my mentorship and mastermind program, the School of Greatness Academy. 

Build your collateral.

Online collateral includes all your social-media handles, your logos and your URLs. Offline, it would be your business cards, flyers and brochures. Streamline all of this as much as possible. For a personal brand I recommend using your name as your main identifier. LinkedIn, YouTube, Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, Pinterest -- these top sites are valuable real estate. Ideally, anyone searching for me will be able to punch in my name on a social-media site and find me right away.

Make it amazing.

Especially if you are bootstrapping and just starting out with little money to invest, you will want to follow these steps and teach yourself to create what you can. As you are able to invest more, you should focus on building a dynamic, amazing website with killer content representing your expertise. Site design is important, but even more pertinent is your overall personal-branding strategy.
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