Personal branding” is a concept that sounds like a buzzword. Everyone says that you should develop one, but what does it really mean to build a personal brand?
To be sure, there are a lot of different elements to consider when it comes to building a successful personal brand. In the modern age, one of the most important of these foundational elements is a personal website.
What you need to build a personal brand and website
We’re going to cover a lot of personal branding territory in this article, including:
Who needs a personal website?
Reasons to launch a personal website.
How to get a personal domain name.
How to get a professional email address that uses your domain name.
Choosing a website builder.
Creating website content.
Optimizing your content for search engines.
What to do after you launch your personal website.
Let’s get started!
Who needs a personal website?
Although anyone can launch a personal website, it benefits some professionals more than others. But in this day and age of easy internet accessibility, the harsh fact remains: If you don’t manage your online image, it will manage you.
When you’re young, embarrassing photos and drunk tweets don’t seem like a big deal until you’re on the hunt for a job or decide to start a business. It’s only when you realize that recruiters, future employers, and potential clients review social media accounts that you begin to realize the importance of controlling your online image.
Anyone who wants to make an impression online — whether it’s to land a new job or big client, show off their portfolio, promote a project, or just connect with like-minded netizens — can do so with a personal website.
Should I just stick with social media profiles?
When you’re initially planning how to build a personal brand, you might ask yourself, “Why bother with a personal website when there are social sites like LinkedIn where potential clients and recruiters are already active?”
The answer comes down to addressing the limitations of a platform like LinkedIn.
For example, you can attach documents, photos, videos and slides in LinkedIn, but in limited quantities and at a maximum file size of 300MB. A personal website can help immensely if you have a lot of original work to showcase. After all, if you claim to be an expert at something, people will want proof.
LinkedIn also provides an area for testimonials and endorsements, which are valuable. However, if you’re working for yourself, a personal website offers more control in terms of how you show off this social proof. Consider LinkedIn as an online business card that directs to your personal website.
At the end of the day, investing time on any social network should be secondary to the channels that you have more direct control over — like a personal website and email marketing efforts.
Social media marketing involves building a plot on rented land: You’ll find yourself in a bad place if the social network ever shuts down or bans you.
You’ll likely benefit more from not putting all of your marketing eggs in one basket.
4 reasons to launch a personal website
In addition to the reasons mentioned above, here are some additional considerations to help you decide whether it’s worth the effort to launch a personal website:
1. A personal website gives you control when it comes to positioning your business personality
Because of the customizable nature of building a website, the majority of hiring managers prefer personal websites over any other branding tool for making decisions about a candidate. Unlike your professional efforts on social networks like LinkedIn, which require you to fill out specific content sections (with non-editable headings), your audience will expect you to use your personal website to showcase more of your personality and expertise.
2. A personal website makes you more accessible
Just by putting yourself out there on the web, you’re giving potential clients, customers and recruiters a chance to find you.
3. You own the content on a personal website
You don’t have to worry about content disappearing or having to deal with any social feed algorithm changes because you control everything on your personal website.
4. A personal website will help build your personal brand
Having a personal website allows freelancers and business owners to build an audience, position themselves as experts, and start attracting clients. A 2017 study by Upwork revealed that the freelance workforce is growing three times faster than the overall workforce in the United States. By 2027, freelancers are expected to make up the majority of the U.S. workforce.
5 steps to build a personal brand with a personal website
By now, you’ve hopefully decided that a personal website is worth your time and effort. The next step? Creating an action plan for how to move forward.
We’ll break down everything you need to know to find success in your personal branding endeavor in five simple steps:
Get a personal domain name.
Get a professional email address that includes your domain.
Choose a website builder.
Create website content.
Optimize your content and publish.
1. Get a personal domain name
Generally speaking, it’s easy to start a website on any platform you feel comfortable with (there are plenty of beginner-friendly options). But first thing’s first: If you don’t have a personalized domain name, you can’t have a proper personal website.
If you’re just getting started, you don’t need to have a website design in place to register a domain name. In fact, it might be easier to knock out this step initially so that you’ll have something to plug in later.
If you want to get some usage out of your domain name while you’re still building your personal website, you can always redirect that domain name to your Facebook Business or LinkedIn page. Verisign reports a steady increase in the number of .net and .com domains redirecting to a social profile.
If you’re new to the process of choosing a domain name for a website, here are some basics to keep in mind:
Why you need a great domain name for your website address
Put simply, a domain name is the URL users can type into their web browsers to access your website. Computers use IP addresses to access websites, but it can be difficult to remember strings of numbers, which is why domain names were developed.
A full 75% of small businesses believe that domain names are important for their business, but this author would argue that you’d be 100% silly to try to build a personal website without one! [/callout
Choosing your personal domain name
There are essentially six steps to claiming your domain name:
List your business information.
Consider these domain name tips.
Look into different extensions.
Pull it all together.
Register your personal domain.
When you’re building a personal brand, the most natural thing to go for is FirstNameLastName.com. Most people and businesses opt for the .com extension because it sounds the most trustworthy and authoritative, and is easiest to remember.
However, if this idyllic domain name isn’t available for the combination of your first and last name, you can try another variant of your name (yournameblogs.com) or opt for a different domain extension entirely.
If you choose to go after a completely different domain name, we’ve previously shared 10 tips for choosing the perfect domain name.
Besides .com, some additional domain extensions worth trying include:
.net: Seen as a generally trustworthy extension.
.co: It’s a location-specific, top-level domain which stands for Colombia, but many adopt it because it’s a letter away from .com and tends to be cheaper than the .com variation of the same name.
.me: A .me domain name can do so much more than just spell out your company name — it can speak to what you stand for, as an individual and as a business.
.org: Ideal if you’re running a website for an organization (perhaps not ideal for a personal website).
.location: For example, .fr (France) or .ca (Canada). If your name is John Smith, you can go with JohnSmith.ca so that people will be able to identify you specifically as the John Smith from Canada.
Besides these more typical domain extension ideas, here are some less common domain extensions worth trying:
.io: Also a top-level domain (TLD) assigned to a geographic location, namely the British Indian Ocean territory, but it has been adopted by the tech community and quickly became a favorite domain extension for startups. Because it’s associated with businesses, it can get pretty expensive.
.shop or .blog: They specifically describe the purpose of the website.
Extensions related to your profession, such as .mba, .dentist, .photography, .lawyer, .vet, and .engineer.
Clearly, there are a lot of options available, so don’t get discouraged if your first choice is taken — just get a little creative!