Updated on November 24, 2017
“You’re smile is your logo. You’re personality is your business card. How you leave others feeling after an experience with you becomes your trademark”. -Jay Danzie
Everyone has a personal brand, whether you think you do or not.
The quality of the work you do.
Your personality in social settings.
People’s overall opinion about your character.
People have been formulating an opinion about you for years.
As Dorie Clark, a marketing strategy consultant and professional speaker perfectly puts it in a Forbes interview:
“The truth is, a personal brand is really just a synonym for your reputation. [And] everyone has a reputation”, she says. “The only question is what do they think about you”?
“Is it what you would wish them to think about you?
[Please] recognize that your reputation, in a lot of ways, is the most important asset you have — [whether you’re building it up for professional reasons or not].
Do people think that you are a person of integrity?
Do they think that your work is work of high quality?
Those are the things that we want people to think of us and so it’s getting strategic about making sure we are sending the right message and sending the right signals so that they will in fact understand what our true talents are”.
Put frankly, your reputation matters.
What people say about you and your work when you’re not around — matters.
You could lose everything tomorrow.
But if your name and your reputation hold water, that’s a priceless asset that you can use for any future endeavor.
What are the advantages of building your personal brand?
- New clients and customers approaching you for new job offers or client work.
- Brand deals, being invited to speaking gigs, meet & greets, and conferences
- Recognition from your peers in your industry
- You would have built that “trust equity” amongst your friends & colleagues — being that someone that follows through on their word. And accountable is a rare commodity.
Then let’s get down to business.
We’re going to study 9 personal brand websites that you can use as a guide to create your own website.
We’ll point out what works and why, so you can take this underlying strategy and apply it to your own website or portfolio.
1) Walter Cruz
What is Your ‘Why’?
State your ‘why’ clearly.
As Simon Sinek has stated in his past speeches, “people don’t buy what you do, they buy into why you do it”.
Let that ‘why’ revolve around a common theme.
In Cruz’s case, he expresses this in the first statement after his home image:
In stating this so clearly near the beginning of his portfolio, it’s easy to see where his focus is going to be when you look at the type of art, writings, and video he’s created.
And whattaya know…
When you scroll down his website, and look at his portfolio:
By Cruz stating his ‘why’ clearly and showcasing samples of his work that enforces his overall theme — future clients have a clear idea of what drives him and the quality of work to expect.
State your ‘why’, clearly, in 1–2 sentences.
But don’t come up with one version — write several.
Then give it to a discerning family member, friend, co-worker — who doesn’t know exactly what you do and don’t give them any hints.
Have them read the given statement and see if THEY can figure out what you do. And if they ask you, “So what do you do”?, after reading it — keep tweaking at it until it becomes clear.
2) Theo Karsenty
Show Your Work
An unspoken rule in the design world: Don’t let your client imagine the final outcome of their project.
How do you do this?
You show your past work.
And you show lots of it.
Like Karsenty, you show so much of it, that the client doesn’t have to leave much to the imagination of what you’ll produce for them.
By looking at the magnitude and consistency of style in Karsenty’s work, potential clients will have an excellent grasp of his illustrative style for graphic design and video animation work.
Potential clients don’t have to guess how he structures his storyboards.
He’s displayed it multiple times.
Want to check out his animation style?
The “Guessing Game” is only fun in a living room with friends and family when monetary stakes aren’t on the line.
Bonus (if you have it)
In the ‘About Me’ section of your site tell a short story of how you’ve improved your work through effort and consistency.
Even better —
Everyone loves before and after pictures.
Showing your prospects where you came from is an origin story everyone is intrigued by.
But just remember.
Keep it short.
This is straight-forward no matter what industry you’re in — show your work. The proof your next client is looking for lies there.
3) Alex Ruiz
Show the work you want to get paid for
You want to be hired as an illustrative artist, yes?
Okay. What kind?
Do you want to get hired to create illustrations for Pixar?…
Is your medium focused in watercolor, acrylic, pencil, charcoal, digital?…
Always keep this in mind.
Whatever you want to get hired for, show THAT work.
If you wanted to be known and hired as a pet photographer — don’t showcase pictures of weddings you’ve done, and city landscapes, and nature shots — blah, blah, blah…
Your portfolio will be all over the place and potential clients won’t know what to think.
In fact, hyperfocus.
Ruiz does an astounding job in showcasing his skills to fit one specific style & industry: Conceptual fantasy work, in digital format, for movies, tv, and video games.
And he displays this over…
And over again — throughout his whole portfolio.
He doesn’t deviate from the theme.
Could he sketch a realistic portrait of you and your dog?
Sure. But he probably won’t.
That’s not what he’s showcasing.
That’s not what he’s known for.
That’s not his specialty.
And if you’re saying:
“Yeah, I’d rather be hired for fantastical dark creature illustrations than the strip comic style illustrations I’ve been doing for years. But…how do I make the switch”?
You produce the work that you want to get hired for.
Find work by TOP artists in your field, that is similar to what you want to produce.
Study it and mimic it.
Repeat this process until it looks just as good, if not BETTER than that top artist’s work.
The bottom line —
You have some work to do and a new portfolio to fulfill my friend.
As Paige Poutianen, a master funnel creator and conversion copywriter for digital products and services on Upwork said in a past article:
“You want to make sure you’re laser focused on a group or niche — [going] as niche as possible. In fact, go so niche, it makes you slightly uncomfortable. This way [you’re attracting] the most relevant core audience [that want to work with you]”.
To help you out, answer these questions:
- What work do you want to get hired for?
- In which industry?
- What’s your style?
- Do you want to work for a startup, a small company, a large company?
- Where are these jobs located (at first)?
I want to be a pop-art style makeup artist, that works with indie fashion blogs (that make over $1,500,000 gross per year), as a freelancer in East L.A.
4) Gary Sheng
Weave in some thought leadership
Although you need some static content on your website (i.e. your ‘about me’ page, resume, contact details), you should also consider keeping a blog that you update with some regularity.
Focus your content on one specific topic or niche where you can share your expertise and opinions.
A noteworthy benefit of effective blogging is increased search engine visibility for your website (and thus, your personal brand).
When people search for a topic that you blog about, you have a greater chance of being found by your target audience.
And remember, whether or not you’re an acclaimed expert in something, it doesn’t hurt to go for some thought leadership.
After all, many people read blogs not only in search of specific information, but also for lessons and mentorship on a person-to-person level.
In one of Gary Sheng’s recent blog posts, he gives sage advice to the graduating class of 2017.
He shares insights he’s learned that will be just as beneficial to these graduates as they go out into the world to start their new lives.
And just like Sheng, you can:
- Respond to current events and developments in your field
- Reflect on your own experiences
- And challenge ideas that are status quo in your industry.
As long as your writing is well-developed, with appropriate research and critical commentary where appropriate, it will likely strike a chord with others.
Start a blog about that subject, industry, tool, or trend that you can talk, research, and write about — for HOURS.
5) Quinton J. Harris
Let’s get personal
Quinnton Harris‘ personal website begins with a short, but passionate, statement that reveals much about his work and character.
He then goes on to describe a few formative phases and forces in his life — from experiences, to education, to family and heritage — in no more than a sentence or two each — creating a cohesive and intimate timeline of his life and deepest influences.
What’s been a guiding pillar in your progress?
A conference talk that you attended?
Explain its influence in 1–2 sentences.
People like your work, but help them fall in love with the person.
You never know what experiences will connect with others.
Finish a Tough Mudder or Spartan Race?
Maybe a hiring manager has as well.
Read all of Tim Ferriss’ and Gary Vaynerchuk’s books?
Perhaps a conference coordinator is hardcore into Vaynernation as well.
Drop little nuggets of your personality. It aids in your quest to be memorable to those in your niche or industry.
6) Chloe Hwang
Chloe Hwang’s website shows off her impressive career so that individuals that land on her page can get a good picture of the impact she’s made in her previous positions.
How does she showcase this?
By quantifying her accomplishments.
HR reps that receive 100s of resumes per day, will skim over your resume in approximately 10 seconds (if that).
But know, that numbers jump off the page.
Whether it’s for your resume or your charity landing page — seeing some context quantified slows down the reader’s ‘quick skim’ to a ‘let me read more’ pace.
As Lily Zhang from The Muse challenges, “Which one would you hire”?
Being able to use numerical evidence of the impact you’ve had within your positions gives you an advantage by helping you stand out from the masses.
Not sure how to use that in your work?
Here are some examples to use as a reference.
Before: Supervised art interns that…
After: Supervised 2–5 art interns that…
Before: Gave medical attention to incoming patients…
After: Serviced 20–30 incoming patients per day, providing…
Before: Created a marketing process for FB ads…
After: Streamlined the FB marketing ads program that increased the CTR by 12% and resulted in an extra $9,300 in monthly sales.
Quantify. Quantify. Quantify.
7) Quiet British Accent
The Purple Cow
We know, we know…
This isn’t “exactly” a personal brand website.
But they’re doing something clever that you can take advantage of as well — so let’s let this one slide.
How do I get attention to my brand?
You don’t have to go “big” with a budget that might break the bank — to get the attention of your audience.
But you do need to stand out.
“In a crowded marketplace, fitting in is failing. In a busy marketplace, not standing out is the same as being invisible.” -Seth Godin, The Purple Cow
How does Quiet British Accent (or QbA) explain how they brand themselves and get attention towards their services:
“[We] paint fake expansions on old pennies and leave them on the streets for people to find. These little calling cards aren’t for sale, you have to find one”.
Now that’s just clever.
It’s Seth Godin’s Purple Cow in action.
When you look at the work of this dynamic duo, you get an excellent feel for their personality, their humor, their creativity and inventiveness.
Not to mention, that their work is professional, beautiful and distinct.
But they STAND OUT by not just putting their work in galleries, or portfolios, or publications.
They put it out there for people to find and keep.
It’s your lucky day sir or madam…
This unexpected gift will put a smile on a person’s face.
It causes positive reactions.
Can you make your work do that?
Think about it.
How can you brand yourself in a unique way that will help your name and services stay fresh in your audience’s minds?
Lightbulb idea: Go to a Barne’s & Nobles and leave your custom designed bookmarks in random books. Tweet/Instagram/Snapchat/FB live out the general vicinity of the book and the store.
8) Emily Penn
The Humble Brag
If you’ve been as active as Emily Penn has then you’ve probably worked with a lot of brands.
Don’t be shy in talking about it.
Showcase your success.
By displaying a company’s logo on your page, that you’ve worked with or have been featured in — this is something called ‘social proof’.
Having their logo on your page helps legitimize your work and accomplishments to people who are just hearing of you.
As Sid Bharath states in a CrazyEgg article, “If you have clients or customers that are well-known in your industry, displaying their logos on your website will send a signal to visitors that you are worth investing in”.
Did you get featured in the news or a publication?
Make a guest appearance?
Or speak at a conference?
Link it up and add 1-sentence to give context like Penn did below.
With this insurmountable amount of social proof, Penn has positioned herself as a leader in her industry with an honest and insightful reputation.
Gather your accomplishments and display them on your site.
Whether you were featured in Mashable or your local gazette, when you show your audience proof that publications and companies back you — more opportunities present themselves.
9) Michael Seibel
Keep it Simple
One great use for your personal branding website is to display your accomplishments simply and without flair.
You don’t always need to tell a rich and compelling story.
“The finest words in the world are only vain sounds if you can’t understand them”. -Anatole France
You can share information about your journey by being genuine and relatable. No third person narratives.
Tell a simple story that highlights your work experience, your education, skills, accomplishments — that all relate to your cause.
Just as you can see in Seibel’s website, he lists his accolades, his previous roles and his current position — explaining clearly the work and value he brings to the table.
He knows how to get to the point and explain himself clearly and concisely.
An excellent leadership trait.
Speak to your audience plainly, and without the flowery language.
If you try to be fancy with your words, you’re more likely to drive your audience away — because they have zero clue in what you’re saying.
How do you write plainly?
As suggested by Zapier:
- Put the point up front. Don’t make your users hunt for the main idea. Readers are [always] looking for the bottom line.
- Challenge every word you write to eliminate excess.
- Use everyday words people would say out loud. If you feel awkward saying it out loud, take it to the chopping block.
Ready to do this?
Of course you are.
You’ve just read this article that will have you pumped for, AT LEAST, another 15 minutes!
So use this time of inspiration, and motivation, to create something that is an investment you will indefinitely benefit from.