Personal Branding: What Writers Need To Know

I’ve covered personal branding fairly extensively for one of the sites I routinely write for, but I’ve been hesitant to cover the topic here. For many career choices, like sales, personal branding is seen as a simple process: put up a website, network at meetings and generally do a good job at work. But for freelance writers, personal branding is far more complicated. But in light of a few discussions on personal branding that I’ve recently taken part in, I think it’s becoming an increasingly more important question.

No Such Thing As A Non-Personal Brand

For freelancers, the idea of a brand can’t be anything but personal. Even those of us who outsource projects or tasks are still ultimately responsible for everything within our own business — and that’s a good thing. It inspires us to take our work seriously. Our names are on each paycheck and contract and our reputations reflect the quality of the work we do. Anything that goes wrong with a client is just as personal, making it even more important to get things right the first time.

Just because ‘personal branding’ seems to be the buzzword of choice with job hunters right now doesn’t mean much to those of us who have been freelancing for a while. For us, those tips on how to build up our brands just sound like marketing tips — and we’ve (hopefully) been doing plenty of that.

But there are some things we can learn from personal branding. While I don’t necessarily agree with the idea that with a little work on your brand, you can control everything anyone sees about you online, the idea that you should have some say in the matter becomes more important everyday. Type your name into any search engine — even if you can’t make sure that every item on the first page is a link you have some say in, you should still have some high-ranking pages in there.

Luckily, as a writer, you probably have more opportunities to improve your search results than most people. A good bio with a link to your site in the articles you’ve written can be enough to bump you on to the first page. If you take a look at my results, you’ll see article after article of my own work showing up as well — if you write for several websites, you’ll likely see similar results.

Taking Marketing Tips From Personal Branding

As writers, our motivation for building a brand is very different than someone looking for a full-time job. I don’t think that the idea of ‘building’ a personal brand works nearly as well for us as ‘earning’ a personal brand, but — and this is a big but — I do think that taking some of those personal branding tips to heart can make a difference in our marketing efforts.

Towards that end, there’s one resource I’d like to particularly recommend: Me 2.0: Build a Powerful Brand to Achieve Career Success. This book is only recently out from Kaplan Publishing, but the author, Dan Schawbel has already built a whole list of online resources on the topic. A bit of disclosure: I’ve actually had an article in Personal Branding Magazine, of which Schawbel is the publisher.

It may take some careful reading to reinterpret some of Schawbel’s more career-oriented tips to be useful to a freelancer, but in my reading of the book, I was able to make a whole list of ideas I wanted to try out in my marketing efforts.


  1. Rachel Weingarten   •  

    Thursday, I was interested to read this post. As an author, business etiquette expert and marketing strategist, I run workshops and seminars on creating personal brands for universities, Fortune 100 corporations and individuals.

    While you present some of the aspects of personal branding, it can be oversimplified to think that so few elements go into creating and maintaining a personal brand for any professional.

    While as you say, it’s impossible to control everything people see or say about you online, your reputation extends far beyond online and is continuously growing and hopefully evolving.

    I look forward to reading more posts on the topic!


  2. Myscha Theriault   •  

    Good one, Thursday! I’m just starting to work on this. Picking a personal brand which reflected the various projects and types of work I like to do was difficult. I finally came up with Itinerant Tightwad as the closest match. What do you think?

  3. Dan Schawbel   •  

    Thanks Thursday…the next issue comes out soon! 🙂

  4. thursday   •     Author

    @Rachel, A ton goes into creating a personal brand — I’m not trying to short-change that idea. I just have run into more than a few people lately who really do think that getting a few results they control onto the first page of a Google search is enough to assure both their reputation as a whole and their personal brand. Especially for freelancers, I think it’s absolutely crucial to build up an excellent reputation. Personal branding can go hand and hand with that.

    @Myscha, I’m liking the site — it’s got a fun feel and I think the name does tie your different projects together very effectively!

    • Omar Uddin   •  

      Thursday I totally agree with you — many folks who think of the meaning of “personal brand” think Google/SEO, LinkedIn, Twitter. In reality your reputation is important offline as much as it is important online!

  5. Pingback: Just Write Blog Carnival June 26, 2009 Edition | Incurable Disease of Writing

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