Personal Branding for Creatives

By on May 2, 2016 in Design Trends
Personal Branding for Creatives

Picture Warhol. Or, if you prefer, Dali. Is their art the first thing that comes to mind? Maybe. But soon afterwards, if not first, will be the other aspects of their personalities: Warhol’s Factory, his air of high society, and his reputation for elevating others around him to stardom. Dali’s moustache, intensity, and his extravagant style of dress. The legendary quotability of both.

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Image from Buzzquotes

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Image from Fanpop

That’s because both artists, regardless of what you may think of their actual work, were masters of personal branding. Their lives and their work became one, their philosophies and personalities serving to accentuate the impact and mystique of their work.

Now, we’re not suggesting that you start dressing extravagantly and speaking only in koan, but many of the great artists of the last century show admirable examples of the ways personal branding can manifest.

What is Personal Branding?

Your personal brand, in the words of Astrid Baumgartner, is “a vision of who you are and what you do for your audiences.” That’s a very good definition, but for the sake of this article, I’d like to change “vision” to “visual representation.”

Since CreativeMarket deals in the visual arts, we’ll talk about how to set the mood for your work and how to represent your personality and your creative aims in words and pictures.

For example, if you pride yourself on your bold, striking designs, you’ll want to demonstrate that in all your advertising, and accentuate it with brash copy and a clear mission statement. If, however, you want to show off the subtlety and taste of your work, you may want favor script fonts and a reserved, professional writing style.

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Image by David Corti

The key lies in effective metaphor and symbolism.

Why is it Important?

Do you have some killer service that no one else in your ilk possesses? Or can you do the job much quicker and cheaper than the competitor without sacrificing quality? If not, you’ll need personal branding to set yourself apart from the thousands of other designers offering and essentially identical services. Personal branding, in many ways, humanizes an anonymous face behind a computer screen. It creates interest in who you are as a person and what you can do.

And if you do have that killer service, or you are that one-in-a-million designer who can work miracles, you need personal branding even more to ensure that the design of your promotional materials goes to reinforce and communicate your selling points.

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So, now that you understand the reasons behind it, it’s time to start...

Planning Your Branding Strategy

And the first step is to ask yourself the following questions:

Who Am I?

Quicksprout’s excellent guide to personal branding breaks this into 4 sub-questions. First, what are your core values: the ones you live by and refuse to compromise on in your work? Secondly, what are your passions, both on the work front and in your outside life? Thirdly, what are your best traits? Finally, what are your career goals? (There are a lot of others, but those are the big four.)

Who’s My Target Audience?

This is primarily your clients, but not always. Remember that support can come in all forms, and someone who’s willing to share your work on social media might end up connecting your with the next person who’s going to hire you, or that loyal readers may become customers later on.

What Do I Do, and What’s My Aim in Doing It?

This extends beyond the prosaic reality of what you do. For example, a cynical answer to this might be “I design websites to pay the bills.” But is that your entire creative aim? The sole reason you took up web design? I doubt it.

So, what’s your reason for choosing to make websites instead of doing anything else? Is it because you love working with different CMS options? Or because you wanted to innovate in the field in some way that hasn’t been done? Make sure your brand communicates that. What are the kind of websites you want to make? Try making your own website one of them. Even if the kind of sites you currently make are nothing like the kind you want to make, it might just be the first step towards bringing in clients that actually share your vision.

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You Might Be Wondering...

Why we’re not talking more about the specifics of branding: fonts, colors, all those kinds of things: that’s because we’ve covered those in countless other articles about regular branding. And once you’ve figured out your personal branding strategy, the rest of the design process is just like branding a company or a client... Except that you get to have more fun with it. So we recommend you check out some of our other articles on branding:

But Am I Selling Out?

In short: no. Art is a business, if you want it to be anything more than a hobby, and there’s no shame in running it like one. The notion that you shouldn’t may be the single most destructive thing that’s happened to the arts in its history. If you’re serious about making a living and getting your work in front of eyeballs, then come up with a well-coordinated campaign that will do that and let people know why they should bother to care.

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Not actually necessary.

And in the process, you’ll be beating out a lot of your competition. According to Forbes, less than 15% of people have bothered to define their personal brand. Less than 5% regularly work on it. And that’s in regular business. In an expression-driven field like the creative arts, building an image that reflects what you do is even more important.

Now go out there and make a name for yourself.


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C.S. Jones is a freelance writer, artist, and photographer. In the past, he co-founded an art gallery and worked at a product photography studio. These days, he does photo tutorials (and gigs), online copy, and content marketing for a living. He also writes about webcomics at Webcomicry.com.

6 Comments

  1. It's really hard to build a brand. I've been trying for 5 years before i g=finally find what i believe in and feel i can make i work. It was slo start but i can see now every day things picking up a little. I presume for some people such as me it's inside feeling. When you believe is right than you can make it work. Now i am happy with my brand and still finding some gaps but i found it easy to share with designers community almost every decision i take for change and getting all the feedback really help me lift up from ground floor. Still lot's to do but is worth.

  2. I am a fashion illustrator and I started to build my own brand 7 months ago. I think it was the most crucial for my business to actually build a brand and invest time into buying people into it. There is still tons to do, but I truly believe that every step I make just brings me closer to success.

    www.kateillustrate.com

  3. If you have to explain how to build a personal brand to a creative professional... it could be they arent all that creative, or maybe they are in the wrong profession. Just sayin...

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