Going It Alone
I remember the day I decided to leave my position as the Miami editor of Refinery29. If you’re an on-the-rise online editor, you don’t just leave a job with Refinery29 — especially just a few months after accepting the gig. Some young women would give a perfectly painted fingernail for that job (it opens many fancy doors in Miami). And I was throwing all that away? To go off on my, um, own?
Turns out, my intuition was right. Since making the leap, I’ve taught just over a thousand students how to maintain a well-written blog. I teach in person — at places like Soho Beach House and The Standard, Miami Beach — and online through videos and worksheets (which, by the way, literally make me money in my sleep). In the past few years, I’ve been commissioned to speak by organizations like Levo League, Macy’s, and Fordham University, and I’ve been featured in Marie Claire and on MSN.com. I released my first book — oh, and I had a baby.
Looking to make the leap? Here are seven steps to turning your personal brand into a business.
Share, Share, and Share Some More
A good friend of mine who manages a successful blog once told me, “When you feel like you’re being annoying on social media, share one more time, and then you know you’re getting the word out.” It’s not necessarily about promoting yourself. It’s about sharing. Share your process. Hey, this is me writing a story for DailyWorth at an ungodly hour. Snap. Post.
People like to see others create. It inspires them. Plus, the people who are watching will think of you as an expert on whatever topic you continuously share about. Once you’ve reached “expert status” in their minds, they’ll reach out to you when they need your expertise. And that request could lead to a new income stream.
Listen to Your People
Perhaps you’re not sure what you do that can actually make money. Listen to your blog readers, your social media friends, and your inbox. The people who love what you’re doing will begin to ask you the same questions over and over — and that will be your business idea!
If you’re not getting inquiries just yet, I have one question for you: What do your friends come to you for the most? Perhaps you’re the go-to friend for cleaning out closets. An organizing company, anyone? Or you’re a pro at creating Pinterest boards? Yep, people get paid to pin. Maybe people are always picking your brain about how to make healthy lunches for their kids. There’s a product or service there somewhere.
Before I started teaching courses, I would drive around town and meet up with readers who had emailed me, asking for help starting a blog. Eventually I realized, “Hey, why don’t we do this on one day and in one location, and how about you pay me, too, please?”
You may have built a brand by accident, like me. If that’s the case, once a year, meet with 10 people who adore your work. Collect data by asking them the same questions. Ask them how you can serve them, why they like your work, and what they are struggling to solve right now. Know them so well that you can speak to them clearly in each form of communication — from Instagram photos to newsletters. People who feel understood by you will be the first to buy whatever you’re selling.
Cultivate More Skills
Yes, you’re a smarty-pants in your field, but don’t let that stop you from familiarizing yourself with all aspects of business ownership. From bookkeeping to SEO, understand at least the basics so you can put the strategies into play and then outsource when you’re knowledgeable enough to delegate. Beefing up on these topics will make you more comfortable turning your personal brand into a money-making operation — even if it’s just knowing how easy or difficult a task is.
Bloggers, for instance, need to know some Photoshop, photography, and graphic creation. The worst is when you outsource a job and pay too much money, only to find out the time needed to create the graphic was 10 minutes — and required no complicated software.
I believe no matter what industry you’re in today, you need to be schooled in online marketing. Topics like how to create an e-newsletter that works, how to make content that’s optimized for search engines, and how to read Google Analytics are essential. Commit to learning a new topic once a month.
One of my favorite podcasts is Pat Flynn’s Smart Passive Income podcast, which covers so much of online marketing. It’s your responsibility to reach the people who need your product the most. You’re letting them down if you don’t!
Package Your Knowledge
You’ve developed a personal brand because you probably have a specific set of skills in a particular field. What is second nature to you is knowledge someone else is hoping to gain. Take everything you know on that topic and make a product out of it: a book, a video series, a class, an online seminar, etc. Just make sure to put it in the best format for your audience.
For example, if you’re trying to reach high school students, YouTube and Snapchat have shown us that short, entertaining videos are the best way. I love a good book, but a lot of the women I teach (20 to 38 years old, usually) are more interested in listening to audio than reading words on paper. How do I know this? I’ve surveyed the heck out of my people, and I still do every chance I get.
Do the research. Ask your ideal customers how you can better serve them and in which format.
Take Yourself Seriously
If you have a personal brand in the first place, chances are you’ve done a good job of giving away free content, whether on YouTube, your blog, or any other platform. It’s beautiful that you’re a giver, but if you’re constantly giving and not making money you’re quickly going to become resentful and exhausted. And guess what? You’ll have nothing left to give, and then everyone loses. Even if giving away free content is part of your marketing strategy, don’t forget that you are a business and you’re here to make a living for what you are gifting to the world. You deserve it.
Let people know what your services are by making it very clear on your various online homes. A “hire me” tab on your blog or a line that says “contact me for business inquiries” on your Instagram profile will send a clear message. Take a brand audit of all your social media platforms, and make sure what you say you do is strong and consistent everywhere. Tell people what you want them to know.
People with successful personal brands have done a great job of building a following. There are big companies out there who would love to get in front of your people. Great! Let them — for a price. Partnering with sponsors is a smart way to earn an income while still being able to give free content to your following.
If you’re unsure where to start, look at other people who are doing something similar to you and see who they’re partnering with. If you’re a Latina blogger and you see another Latina blogger doing a video campaign with Colgate, chances are Colgate has set money aside for influencers in the Hispanic market. Find the right contact (it’s usually the PR person), and shoot them an email (check LinkedIn). Let them know what audience you reach and why you think you might be a good fit, and attach your media kit.
Remember, you’re going to reach out to 10 possible sponsors and maybe two will get back to you. Eventually you’ll build relationships, which are always followed by referrals.