As creatives and as human beings, we all face struggles. It’s a part of life to overcome those struggles and become stronger. Moving on from those battles is something that we want to happen, but what if we embraced those struggles AND took it a step further?
What if we used them to shape our brand like a painter uses their art as fuel to connect with people? As professionals, we can.
My brand is built upon this very concept. I spent most of my first year of business trying to find my niche that would help me stand out. I worked with a business coach and a brander. While this was extremely helpful for building up a brand, there always seemed to be a piece missing. I wasn’t quite finding that specific thing to sink into that would allow me to stand out and build up a business that I was proud of. I was still searching for that something that was going to make me stand out.
A common question on a branding questionnaire is, “What problem do you solve for people?” This is very formulaic and doesn’t encourage you to dig deeper. So what if instead we asked, “What product could I offer that helped others through the struggles I have faced in business?” or “How could I sell my services/product to appeal to those people that need that guidance?”
Then, it finally clicked one day during a consult when I was coaching a client on how to deal with being overwhelmed with social media, being an introvert in business, being pressured to follow the formula and being able to do all of the things everyone else was doing. We had an amazing deep conversation that happened because these are all things that I have struggled with on my own. I have defeated these struggles, and I was able to help my client overcome them as well. While that consult was supposed to be about gaining social media followers, marketing tactics, and all of the other things any social media consult could teach you, it wasn’t. We were still talking about marketing, but we were able to really dig down to the foundation of it all. How the person in the business or behind the marketing really, truly matters. How the entrepreneur shapes the way their brand is perceived by applying their own personality, strengths and weaknesses into creating a business and brand that they can sustain.
I sat down and honestly looked at the personal struggles I had with my business.
I also looked at the problems my clients had mentioned to me during consults and management. I realized that their struggles aligned with my struggles on many occasions. This isn’t out of the ordinary for people to help other people through struggles that they have personally gone through. All entrepreneurs bring this to the table, especially any kind of coach. But what I did take note of is that during my branding process this never came up. A common question on a branding questionnaire is, “What problem do you solve for people?” This is very formulaic and doesn’t encourage you to dig deeper. So what if instead we asked, “What product could I offer that helped others through the struggles I have faced in business?” or “How could I sell my services/product to appeal to those people that need that guidance?”
When I answered that question for myself it was a game changer. My brand evolved from the standard, “I can help you grow your Instagram following” to creating content and offerings specific to introverts who often feel overwhelmed, have a strong fear of missing out and don’t know how to make social media work with their business and personality. That is a much more specific and fulfilling niche that plays on my strengths (the strengths which are the result of my own struggles).
If you are looking to build a brand that truly stands out, start with the following steps:
1. Ask yourself, “What have I overcome in life or business that I could help other people overcome, too?”
No one has lived your experiences and if you want to stand out it’s really important that you create content that resonates and is hard to replicate.
2. Do some research. Look at what other people in your industry are doing and the content that they are creating.
Instead of doing the normal comparison and feeling like you need to do what everyone else is doing, take a step back and reflect inward. What do you love about what other people are doing? What do you hate about it? Is there something that other people are doing that makes you want to yell at your screen or run away from your industry altogether? How can you make your work mean something more than the surface work of branding, marketing, design, or whatever industry you are in.
For example, marketers aren’t exactly known for their strong character or gentle ways. That is something that makes me feel bad about the industry I have chosen. I fear that people will think I am shallow or that I am just another salesy swindler. Instead of sinking into that idea and quitting, I have chosen to brand my approach to marketing as Quietly Unstoppable. I have done this because I am so tired of marketers yelling, adding so much noise, and making people feel bad for not following all of their arbitrary rules – my clients are too. These are the things that I don’t want my clients or social media audience to ever feel because I often feel them and it’s not fun.
So start by defining your ideal client, your color scheme, etc. Then, take it a step further and refine your brand down to its bones. Take the time to focus on yourself and to get a clear understanding about what you have struggled with, what your clients struggle with and how you can bring those two things together to create a brand that is different and pulls at some heartstrings. This will make you stand out like a bright light to the specific people that you are targeting.
Photos by Jessica Santos