The Ultimate Guide To Building Your Personal Brand In The 21st Century
If you want to download the entire ebook to conveniently read it on your phone, your tablet or your e-reader you can download it for free here.
Back in 2013 I was stuck.
I didn’t really know what to do next.
I had just quit my job to write a book.
My girlfriend broke up with me.
And I had to move back in with my mom.
I was about to turn 30.
No money at the end of each month.
So at one point I decided to start a blog.
But not just some blog.
I decided to write about the things I wanted to write about.
And I never really stopped since then.
I just kept writing.
Sometimes tens of thousands of people read my stuff.
Other times less than 100 people read my stuff.
But I didn’t really care that much.
Writing gave me the power to keep pushing.
And today more than 700 blog posts, 8 books and more than 30 talks across 10 countries later I’m going to share everything I’ve learned with you.
And I learned a hell lot.
Mostly that I didn’t know anything about anything.
But that’s ok.
That was the only way I was able to figure out how I could go from working on someone else’s dream to working on my own dreams.
And today I’m able to live and work from wherever I want to.
I was able to build a business on top of being myself.
Without having to sell out.
I don’t have a grumpy boss anymore.
Or shitty clients.
I can work whenever I want to (even though I work a lot).
I can work with whoever I want to.
I can say “no” if I don’t want to.
And all I need is an internet connection.
That’s already about it.
So what did I do?
I built my personal brand.
Well, actually I was mostly just a person.
I was myself and put my ideas and thoughts out there.
I also tried to help a few people along the way.
That’s how I built a Twitter following of more than 60,000 followers.
A Medium publication with more than 40,000 followers.
An email list with thousands of subscribers.
And a blog with hundreds of thousands of visitors.
Overall, my stuff was consumed by more than 2.5 million people worldwide.
I know. Numbers don’t matter.
And it’s not about a wide reach.
At the end of the day the only thing that matters is depth.
But guess what?
If I don’t put any numbers in here you wouldn’t believe me.
It’s been a long way.
A really, really long way…
- So how do you build your personal brand?
Building your personal brand is all about building your audience first.
No matter what people say.
Audience before product.
Product before audience doesn’t work anymore.
If it ever really worked.
The simple truth is that you have to work on building your audience BEFORE anything else.
And the way to build your audience is to put yourself out there.
Over and over again.
You don’t build your audience by putting out all sorts of products.
Like an ebook.
Or an online course.
Or what not.
If no one has ever heard your name no one is going to end up buying your stuff.
Or watching your stuff.
Or reading your stuff.
Why would anyone buy or consume your stuff if we all have instant access to some of the best and some of the world’s most popular authors, icons, entrepreneurs, philanthropists or whatever for less than 10 bucks?
After all our time is limited.
So we all gravitate to the same stuff.
To the best stuff.
To the stuff we already know.
Here’s the truth…
If no one buys your stuff or consumes your stuff, well then you won’t be able to build your brand. Period.
It’s as simple as hat.
Look. There are millions of ebooks out there.
Millions of online courses.
Millions of blog posts.
Millions of videos.
And millions of blog posts.
Ok. Got it…
So how do you build your audience then?
How do you stand out in a crowded place where you’re competing with the best of the best?
The simple truth is this…
You have to show up over and over again.
You have to show up more often than anybody else.
You have to build up trust.
Look. I get it.
We all want to be like Gary Vee.
But does anyone want to put in the work?
No. Not really.
Most people just stop.
Maybe you’ve started something in the past yourself already.
Maybe you did it for a week or so.
Maybe a month.
Or six months.
Maybe even a year.
But then you stopped for whatever reason.
I get it.
We’re all having the tendency to stop working on things if it doesn’t work out right away.
Because that’s what we’re used to.
Getting everything right now.
And if we don’t get it right now we just stop.
But think back a few years.
How many years did you have to go to school or maybe even university to get a lousy job that pays maybe $3000 or maybe $4000 a month?
Maybe 9 years.
Or maybe even 15+ years depending on your degree.
We unlearned the most basic thing school taught us.
We unlearned patience.
We unlearned the only really important thing we learn in school or college.
So here’s the truth…
Everybody can post one blog post a week.
Everybody can upload one video a week.
And when you’re doing what everybody is doing you’ll be competing with everybody else who’s competing with everybody else.
So what about posting one blog post a day?
Or one video a day?
We’re all able to do that.
But how many will actually really do it?
Probably not that many…
And that’s one of the most important lessons to understand when you want to build your personal brand in the 21st century…
2. Quantity beats quality. Always!
“I’m not sure you have to write something each and every day, because I think quality exceeds quantity.”
That’s something someone recently commented on one of my blog posts.
Here’s the thing…
The only way you’ll ever be able to achieve quality is through quantity.
No one is good at anything right away.
You’ve gotta put in the work.
You’ve gotta put in the hours.
Over and over again.
And then you’ve gotta hit that publish button.
No matter whether you think it’s good or bad.
No matter if you’re having a good day or a bad day.
That’s the only way you’ll ever get better at it.
I’ve seen it over and over again.
People ask for feedback on what they wrote or created.
And a waste of time.
And then I never hear back from them ever again.
I never see anything ever again.
They just stop creating things.
Because they’re obsessed with quality over quantity.
They only want to put out great stuff.
But the truth is you can’t put out great stuff all the time.
No one can.
The truth is that some days you’re not on top of your game.
Some days you can’t put quality stuff out there.
Some days you feel like giving up.
Like not hitting that publish button.
And those are the days that will either make you or break you.
It’s not the days where everything goes right and according to plan that make you.
It’s the days where nothing goes according to plan that make you.
The days where people trash you.
The days where people tell you that this is not for you.
Quantity trumps quality. Always.
No matter what.
Because quantity is the only way to quality…
3. The ROI of content
A lot of people out there are asking about the ROI of content.
Is it even worth it to produce so much content?
Will content work for me?
Look. I don’t know the value of content for you or your business.
Or the ROI.
I only know that for me the ROI of content is my whole entire life.
When I was down on my knees back in 2013 I started writing.
I quit my job to write a book.
And I was struggling. A lot.
I never wrote a book before.
And I was a pretty bad writer.
So it took me ages to write that book.
And then after a few months after I started writing that book my girlfriend broke up with me.
I didn’t have a place to stay anymore.
So at almost 30 years old I had to move back in with my mom.
I was completely lost back then.
I wasn’t sure whether what I did was the right thing.
Should I stop writing that book and look for another job?
At that point I decided to change my blog and I just started writing about what I wanted to write about.
And I basically never ever stopped since then.
I think it’s safe to say that content and writing saved my life.
It helped me to get my shit straight when nothing seemed to ever get straight again anymore.
Since then it’s been the one and only constant thing in my life.
And I was able to build my entire life around it.
To me content and putting myself out there is the most powerful tool we all have.
And yes, we all have that tool.
Today everybody can put stuff out there.
The only thing you need is to be able to write.
And say what you think…
No matter if it’s a blog, a podcast, a YouTube video or what not.
Content can be used to change people’s lives.
It changed my life for sure.
And maybe even some of my reader’s lives.
Or I don’t know.
Maybe that’s just what my ego thinks.
Still, content can change the world.
One person at a time.
Even if that one person is just you.
And yes, content can also be used to sell people more of your stuff.
But no matter whether you want to change people’s lives, start a charity, save the environment or sell people more of your stuff, content is one of the best, cheapest and most efficient ways to do so.
Here’s a rule of thumb. Actually it’s not just a rule of thumb. Someone has actually analyzed this kind of stuff. Or maybe someone maybe it up.
It pretty much reflect my own experiences so I suppose it’s true…
80% of a company’s sales come from people a company interacted with 7+ times.
And only 2–3% of a company’s sales come from people they interacted with just once.
And you can apply those numbers to pretty much everything in life.
Raising funds for a charity.
Raising funds from investors.
Selling a product.
Changing people’s lives.
Simply because every human interaction boils down to trust.
And nothing else.
And you can only build up trust when you show up over and over again.
And that’s the real power of content.
You can show up in millions of people’s inboxes, newsfeeds or timelines and change the world one person at a time… or you can just use it to sell more of your stuff…
4. So how do you build your audience?
There’s this misconception out there that people will somehow magically find out about you.
That somehow one of the things you’ll put out there will somehow go viral and you become popular.
But that’s just not the case.
That’s not the way it works.
Sure, everybody tells you that if you have good content or what not it will find its way.
Which is not true.
Because no one who’s now on top just waited for things to magically happen.
And yes, they all had great and amazing stuff.
But for every one person who has great stuff there are millions of others who have great stuff.
So what’s the difference between someone who makes it and someone who doesn’t?
How come that one person made it but the other didn’t even thought their stuff was equally great?
Well, the simple truth is that one of them waited to magically get discovered whereas the other one didn’t wait and instead went out there and hustled.
Over and over again.
Now what do I mean with hustle?
There are many different ways…
You could become an apprentice and work for someone who already has a huge audience to understand the game and win them over to support your work.
This is probably the hardest as they’re pretty selective and picky.
Then you can do it just like musicians did it back in the days…
They sent out hundreds of demotapes to record labels.
Over and over again.
Sometimes over many, many years with little to no success.
And then if they were really, really good they might get a chance to meet up.
Today it doesn’t work that way anymore.
Today there are basically no middle men left anymore.
Today you’ve gotta send your “demotape” to each and every individual listener yourself.
I know it sounds counterintuitive.
Because the Internet, YouTube, Facebook, Medium, Twitter or what not enable us to connect with millions of people.
So why would you reach out to people individually?
There’s a great post by Paul Graham, a very successful investor in Silicon Valley.
He says that when you’re starting out you’ve gotta do things that don’t scale.
Now what does that even mean?
It means that you basically have to shake each and every potential customer’s, listener’s or viewer’s hand individually.
So what does that mean for you in real life?
Well, for example it might mean that you use a tool like Crowdfire where you add 1000 people every single day.
And then once they see that you’ve added them, some of them might check out your profile, your work and what you’ve done.
And then some of them will follow back because they like what they see.
Just like the artist that had to send hundreds of demotapes to record labels.
It’s the exact same thing.
You’ve gotta be willing to hustle.
Because no one is magically going to find out about you.
No matter how good your stuff is.
And then once someone followed you back for example you’ve gotta put in the hard work so they will be able to get to know you.
What you stand for.
And what your values are.
And most importantly whether or not your trustworthy.
You’ve gotta build up trust.
If there’s one thing, then it’s this.
It’s all about trust.
So how do you build up trust?
That’s what I’ll talk about in the next part…
5. The ONLY thing you need to know about sales (and marketing)
A while ago I stayed in a small beachtown in Thailand. And every day I walked past a coffee shop. It wasn’t really a coffee shop. More like a juice stand you’d expect from kids. But slightly more “professional”. And with drinks for grown ups.
The first time I saw it my brain had to laugh a bit.
Yes, my brain can laugh. Sort of…
It was a small stand that was half inside someone’s house and half on the street.
The house looked nice. Newly renovated. Probably worth more than $100,000. Which is quite a lot here.
For me as a westerner it doesn’t make a lot of sense to open up a coffee shop, sell coffee for a dollar or so in front of your house that probably cost more than you’d ever be able to sell in coffee.
But that’s probably just my westerner mind speaking. I’m sure it makes perfect sense and is totally normal here.
So I passed that shop at least 7 times over the past 7 days.
And you know what?
Today I bought a coffee there.
I went from total skepticism and from laughing about it to a paying customer.
And then it hit me.
Then I had to think about a book I read a few years ago.
This is the secret of sales.
It’s all there is to know.
And nothing else.
If you unsubscribe from my newsletter today, that’s the only thing to remember about sales…
The only way you’ll ever be able to sell anything to anyone is that your prospect has to see you, your product, your service or whatever it is that you’re offering over and over again.
It all boils down to trust. It boils down to building up trust and establishing a relationship. Establishing emotions. Thoughts. Ideas. And a connection.
There’s even a rule in sales for that…
You have to interact with a potential customer at least 7 times before she buys from you.
I’m not making this shit up.
Ok, maybe I’ve been here for 8 days already and walked 8 times past that store. I don’t know. For me every day is the same. Every day is the best day of my life.
But that’s another story.
Ok, now back to topic.
An interaction can be everything. It can be a Facebook ad. A tweet. An email. A TV commercial. Seeing someone else using your product or what not.
Now a lot of people get that wrong.
They send the same boring stuff over and over and over again. Because they think the more often people see their stuff, the more likely it is that people are going to buy.
When you see the same ad for the same crap over and over again you’re likely going to end up hating that guy, that company or what not. That’s especially true in the online world.
Just showing your product over and over again won’t do a thing. You have to add value first.
Just pitching and trying to sell your product won’t work. No matter how nice your graphics or brochures.
Here’s the thing…
Most newsletters suck. Or Facebook ads. Or what not.
Most people are exclusively focused on selling. And not on building up trust. And adding value.
Simply pushing an ad out there to sell your product doesn’t work.
You can’t build up trust or add value when you’re constantly trying to sell stuff.
Let’s take a look at an example real quick…
Every single thing you’ve read until now was a sales pitch. Not a very obvious one. But it’s still a sales pitch.
It’s not very obvious because I add value and establish a connection BEFORE I’m trying to sell you anything. I’m trying to build up trust BEFORE I’m trying to sell you stuff.
It’s like you can taste my offer before I’m trying to sell it to you.
Look. Everything you’ve read so far is basically a sales pitch for my skills, my knowledge and what I bring to the table.
Every single email I sent and will send in the future builds up trust. And establishes a connection.
And to be able to get you reading to this point I had to throw some big numbers at you. Just like I did right at the very start…
Alright. Just think about it.
Less than thirty minutes ago you probably didn’t really know whether or not I’d know what the hell I’m even talking about.
And now, just a few minutes later it might have changed already.
You’re a lot more likely to buy from me if I had something to sell.
And this is the ONLY thing you need to know about sales… and marketing.
But they’re pretty much the same thing…
6. The worst thing you could do to build your brand
Is to start a Facebook page.
Now don’t get me wrong here.
Facebook is amazing.
But not because of what you think.
The truth is that Facebook pages suck.
They suck simply because organic reach is around 5%.
And that’s organic reach for good pages from folks or brands that are well known.
Now you might wonder why is this so?
Well, simply because Facebook makes money with reach.
They’re monetizing their reach with ads.
And that’s why organic reach is low.
They want you to pay for reach.
And that’s nothing special.
Everybody does that.
TV stations make money with reach.
Radio stations monetize their reach.
Newspapers monetize their reach.
They all monetize their reach with ads.
And Facebook does the exact same thing.
I hear loads of people complaining about Facebook using them as their “product”.
People say that Facebook uses them and their profiles to sell their ads to brands and publishers.
And you know what?
You’re also the product that newspapers, TV stations and magazines sell to their advertisers and brands out there. Same thing.
The more people they reach, the more they can charge advertisers.
The exact same story.
So why is Facebook so powerful?
Well, simply because you can send traffic away from Facebook with ads.
And you can target almost everyone on planet earth.
When I published my first book I targeted people who liked the page of a similar book.
I got something like 600 email addresses. I don’t remember the exact numbers though…
That was three years ago. And now it’s gotten a hell lot more sophisticated.
But what I’ve done back then still works. And that’s what you should do.
Don’t leave the traffic inside of Facebook (when using ads).
Don’t try to get likes for your page. They’re useless.
And instead send people away to a platform you own.
Like email for example.
You own email because once you have someone’s email address you can send them updates over and over again. For free.
You don’t have to pay anything anymore.
Just like I can send this email every single day without having to pay for reach. I just write it down, hit the send button and boom! there it is right in front of you.
No cranky algorithms, no one owing that platform or some other things you can’t control.
On Facebook on the other hand I’d have to pay over and over again for you to be able to see my updates.
So instead use Facebook ads to send people to a landing page where you can get their email addresses for further interaction.
Don’t try to build your brand, your business or what not based on likes.
You’d have to pay over and over again. You can do that once you’re an established “brand” or business.
Send people to a landing page, get their email address and then do your thing. Over and over again.
Whatever your thing is…
P.S. Do yourself a favor and only start using Facebook ads when you have something to sell, have an email funnel ready to go or when you want to scale your business or brand. Before that it’s probably just a waste of time.
7. You’ve gotta build your own platform or you’re out
We live in amazing times.
With just a few clicks of a few buttons you can potentially reach everyone on this planet.
Platforms like Facebook, Twitter, Medium or Quora make it possible to get your ideas in front of millions of people.
Not too long ago I passed 2 million views on Quora alone.
And I didn’t even post anything there in months.
I still got 40,000+ views last months.
It’s amazing but dangerous at the same time.
Simply because it feels like you can reach everyone for free you start to feel so comfortable that you tend to forget one of the most important rules in life.
It’s hard to diversify and spread your risk when everything goes well.
After all, why diversify when everything goes right?
I struggle with this all the time. And have to remind myself over and over again.
So this email is pretty much a reminder to myself.
After all, all of these (and future) platforms out there are businesses.
And they’re all following the same business model.
Getting as many people on their platforms as possible so they can charge businesses for reach when the platforms are bug enough.
Facebook was the first one to do this.
Then you had Twitter.
All of these platforms make money monetizing their reach through (more or less) sophisticated ad systems.
So the moment you’re active on a platform you have to drive that traffic away from that platform onto a platform you own.
Otherwise you might end up like tons of businesses who went out of business once Facebook started charging for reach.
They forgot the most important rule…
And the second most important rule…
A platform that offer free reach today will most probably not offer free reach anymore tomorrow.
And the only platform you sort of own these days is email.
Once you have someone’s email address you can send them all sorts of emails, updates, sales pitches or what not.
So the big elephant in the room is how do you get people from one of these platforms onto your email list?
You’ve gotta create a lead magnet…
Or in normal talk, you’ve gotta create a PDF that people can download in exchange for their email address.
But it should always be about adding value.
And not trying to sell something.
For example I have a lead magnet called “121 Unusual Tips to Being a Better Writer.”
I write online. And a lot of people who follow my stuff are also writers. Or want to write to build their brands.
So it probably adds value to some of the folks who read my stuff.
So many of them might be interested in getting that PDF.
And it’s pretty easy to create such a lead magnet. You don’t even have to create any new content.
You can simply recycle already existing content.
Or if you don’t have any content yet, put out blog posts, YouTube videos or what not and once you have 20–30 or so pieces of content you make a PDF put of it..
That’s what I did when I created “121 Unusual Tips to Being a Better Writer”. I simply took all of the blog posts I ever did on writing and put them into a PDF.
And now this simple PDF gets me 100+ new email addresses every month…
So whatever you do, always keep in mind to diversify and spread your risk across multiple platforms to ultimately build your own platform. And right now email is the best way to do this…
8. You’re probably using social media totally wrong…
If someone followed you on Twitter that means that they want to read your stuff on Twitter.
If someone followed you on Facebook that means they want to consume your stuff on Facebook.
If they followed you on Medium they want to consume your stuff on Medium.
Or whatever platform they started following you.
People don’t want to constantly switch from one place to another.
And that’s the most important thing to realize about social media…
People want to consume your stuff where they want to consume it.
And not where you want them to consume it.
At the end of the day it’s all about giving people the opportunity to find out more about you. But without forcing them.
So when you’re posting on Facebook give them the opportunity to consume your stuff inside of Facebook.
Don’t force people to go to another place where you can track whatever bogus metrics. Don’t try to throw millions of popups into their faces.
When you’re posting on Twitter give them the opportunity to consume your stuff inside of Twitter.
Again, don’t force people to go to another place where you think you might be able to sell them whatever it is that you’re trying to sell.
When you’re sending an email give people the opportunity to read that email inside their email clients.
Don’t force them to go some place else.
Don’t force people to go to your blog or whatever other place you want them to consume your content.
Allow people to consume your stuff where they want to consume it.
If you force people to go to a place where you want them to consume your stuff, the truth is that they simply won’t consume your stuff.
If you’re forcing people to click on links, well then the truth is that most people won’t click on that link and then won’t consume your stuff.
Sure, some people might click that link. But most people just won’t.
But that’s the most important thing.
People need to consume your stuff.
They need to read your article.
They need to watch your video.
Otherwise everything you’re doing is pretty much useless.
And when no one clicks on your links and no one watches your videos, well then your ideas simply won’t spread.
And you won’t be able to build a relationship.
And you won’t achieve whatever it is that you’re trying to achieve.
This is especially true when you’re starting off…
Sure, once you’re a Tim Ferriss, a Gary Vaynerchuk or a what not you can do whatever you want to and send people to wherever you want to.
Simply because you’re a Tim Ferris or a Gary Vaynerchuk.
People know you already.
They know that your stuff is good.
They know that you’re worth every single click and every single minute of their time.
But when you’re not a Tim Ferriss or a Gary Vaynerchuk yet, then you’ve gotta earn that trust first.
And the first step to earning and building that trust is to get as many people as possible to consume your stuff where they want to consume your stuff…
9. So how do I get people onto my platform?
The most important thing is that you build up trust first.
And the only way to build up trust is to get as many people as possible to consume your stuff as often as possible.
Just like I said yesterday.
That’s why it’s so important to post inside a platform where everybody can consume your content right away.
With as little friction as possible.
Because with every tiny bit of friction you’ll lose people.
A lot of people for every tiny little friction you introduce.
I’d say with every click you’ll probably lose 95% of the people.
Maybe even more.
Simply because people are lazy.
People want to see what they consume before they consume it.
Also, people have been tricked into clicking on click baits that almost always turned into a waste of time.
And people don’t want to get tricked into wasting their time anymore.
People are sick of it…
People want to see what they’re getting before they’re getting it.
So how can you then get people onto your own platform?
How can you get people’s email addresses?
You’ve gotta build up trust first.
And the only way to build up trust is to let people consume your stuff where they want to consume it.
And once you’ve built up that trust you can send them to another platform every once in a while.
Every once in a while send them to a landing page where they can get a lead magnet. Or where they can sign up to something else you offer nowhere else.
But it only works once people trust you.
It doesn’t work when no one knows who the hell you are.
It doesn’t work when people have seen you less than 7 times.
Or maybe 10 times.
Or a 100 times…
So let’s take a look at an example here real quick.
Let’s take a look at this article right here…
How many pieces of content have you consumed from me before you ended up reading this right here?
Or maybe even 100.
You probably knew me a bit already and trusted me enough to read this far.
But the only reason you started reading and kept reading was trust.
Maybe you even signed up for this somewhere and gave me your email address.
And now you’re “on my platform”.
And that’s the answer right there to the above question.
To which question?
“So how do I get people onto my platform?”
And it’s also the answer to…
“How do I build my personal brand in the 21st century?”…
P.S. If you want to download the entire ebook to conveniently read it on your phone, your tablet or your e-reader you can download it for free here.
P.P.S. I also started a free workshop on how to build your personal brand with more strategic, hands on and a lot more actionable and practical advice. You can join that workshop here.