5 Critical Personal Branding Mistakes (and How To Fix Them)

personal branding If you run your own business, here's something that should never be far from your mind...

YOU are your business!

Your dream clients may be impressed with your qualifications, your gorgeous website, or your smart, value-packed social media posts but when all is said and done, they are going to be attracted and inspired by the person behind the business (and that’s you!) more than anything else.

That's why personal branding is an essential element when it comes to building a successful, sustainable business.

personal branding

Sadly, I’ve seen a lot of talented business owners fail not because they don't have what it takes to provide top-notch products and services to their clients but because they make critical mistakes with their personal branding.

Some business owners simply feel uncomfortable and vulnerable at the thought of marketing and “selling” themselves while others don't even know what personal branding is!

In a nutshell, personal branding is about highlighting why you do what you do in your business, and it reinforces the reasons why your dream clients and tribe should listen to what you have to say.

Marketing guru, Seth Godin, is spot on when he says, “A brand is the set of expectations, memories, stories and relationships that, taken together, account for a consumer’s decision to choose one product or service over another.” When it's done right, personal branding can help you fast track your way to a rockstar reputation and a profitable business, but when it's done wrong, personal branding could seriously damage - and even destroy - your chances for success.

Here are 5 critical personal branding mistakes lots of business owners make and what you should do instead.

Mistake #1 Going with the flow

When it comes to personal branding, it can be quite tempting to “go with the flow.” After all, you want to be your natural self, so it's not necessary to plan or strategize, right?

Not true.

While spending too much time on the planning stage is definitely a bad idea, jumping right in without a second thought about how you want to represent yourself through your personal brand is a recipe for disaster!

The first thing you need to do is to sit down and clarify the key objectives you are looking to achieve with your brand. Then think about the techniques and channels that could be used to work towards these goals.

I like to let the ideas flow without restraining myself to any sort of structure during this initial brainstorming process. Once I have my goals and a list of possible tactics, I think about how I can structure and map out a solid action plan.

An important point to note: you'll want to set quantifiable goals along with qualitative ones.

A quantitative goal is measurable. For instance, a quantitative goal would be setting the number of “likes” or followers you want for your Facebook business page in the next 12 months.

A qualitative goal, on the other hand, is “felt” more than measured. A qualitative goal would be to improve your presentation skills on webinars and Facebook Livestreams or to increase your authority and expertise in your niche.

You can discover your progress with a qualitative goal by surveying your fans. For instance, ask them whether they see you as a leading authority in your field of expertise. You can also ask them how they feel about your skills on camera - whether they find you motivating and inspirational or boring.

Don't forget there is no such thing as failure. There's only feedback. Take everything you hear and use it as data to improve yourself and your business.

Mistake #2 Trying to make yourself “likeable”

Don't give in to the temptation to change your behavior or personality to make your audience like you. I know it sounds corny, but I'm going to say it anyway - the best way to grow an online audience is to be yourself. There is no secret formula for tailoring your personality to make yourself more “likeable.”

Always focus on providing authentic value and information because that's what personal branding should be about. When it comes down to it, the unique factors that define who you are, are the same factors that inspire others to connect with you and engage with your brand.

If you create a brand that's not aligned with your true self, you'll be forced to be somebody else all the time. Inauthenticity isn't fun, and it's dangerously exhausting!

This doesn't mean you should hold back on improving certain characteristics of your personal brand to attract your target audience, but these improvements should be “add-ons” and not the central message of your personal brand.

Entrepreneur and Youpreneur Podcast host Chris Ducker has this interesting take on personal branding: “Your personal brand is what people say about you when you are not in the room.”

Certainly, something to keep in mind!

Mistake #3 Being vague about your position

Why should somebody listen to you, rather than Joe Schmo or Jane Smith from down the road or across the world?

The answer is different for everyone.

Maybe you are the no.1 expert in your niche? Maybe you are the funniest marketing coach around? Maybe you are the most caring and helpful entrepreneur in your field?

There are all kinds of ways to position yourself in a crowded industry. What’s important is to make the most of your uniqueness.

Potential clients are looking for a reason to choose you over others, but when you don't define your position, they get confused or bored and walk away. personal branding

A great way to define your positioning is to create a positioning map. Figure out the core axes that segment your market. For example, take “humor” and “expertise.” Draw these up and position your competitors on the map based on your observations on how they interact with their audience.

Where's your personal brand in comparison to your competitors? Are you in a “heavily populated” part of the map? What can you do to reposition and access a gap in the market (or lightly populated part of the map)?

When you've identified your position and the unique points that set you apart from the crowd, write a short statement that defines what makes you stand out.

This is called the positioning statement, and it should be at the core of every piece of communication you create that represents your personal brand. I suggest that you should print out your statement in large font (use glue and glitter if you must!) and stick it on your wall.

It’s important that you get specific about your positioning statement. Whatever you do, don't write vague descriptions that could apply to anybody. Ditch buzzwords and replace them with words that your audience and dream clients use.

Everything you do should promote your unique points and highlight what makes your voice worth listening to. Whether it’s directly related to your business, or it has to do with your personal life, it must help build a story about who you truly are.

This is a strategy that a lot of people don’t do well - which is why you'll easily create a positive, memorable impact (not to mention blow your competition out of the water) when you position yourself well.

Mistake #4 Neglecting the real world

Digital marketing happens online, so it makes sense that most of your personal branding activities will too. Social media, email marketing, and blogging are great ways to build a tribe of loyal followers and fans.

Does this mean that you should forget about the “real world” when you're building your personal brand? Not on your life!

Face-to-face conversations will never go out of style. Networking and creating real relationships at events, such as conferences, conventions, workshops, and retreats, are wonderful ways to establish your personal brand.

You're also likely to meet people who can help you achieve your business goals.

Your initial conversations at these events can then be transferred into the digital world but make sure you act fast! Ask people you meet to sign up for your newsletter, add you on LinkedIn, or “like” your Facebook business page.

Never forget that you can forge a more powerful, meaningful relationship with a potential client in five seconds than you can in two weeks of online conversation. So never let an opportunity to meet people in the real world, pass you by.

Mistake #5 Expecting your trophies to do the “talking”

Have you observed people who love to focus on their achievements and accomplishments - or trophies - instead of their clients?

This is a major turn off as you can easily come across as arrogant and self-involved. Trust me; no one wants to engage with a brand that's all about the business owner!

While it's good to highlight your wins in your area of expertise, nonstop promotion of your achievements can look like a desperate plea for people to like you - or worse - it can look like you're trying to cover up something sinister that you don't want others to know.

The secret to attracting and establishing a real relationship with your audience is to focus on your strong voice, your unique personality, and the value that you bring. In other words, your achievements should simply confirm what your fans already know about you!


personal branding

Let your trophies speak for themselves. People know that your awards and big-name clients are good reasons to work with you; they don’t need you to force-feed them with this information. Hyping yourself up can definitely turn people away.

Author, speaker, podcaster, and financial guru, Jason Hartman says, “Your personal brand is a promise to your clients… a promise of quality, consistency, competency, and reliability.”

Let this shine through in your personal branding activities, and your audience will love you for it!


  • You are your business. Fans and clients are attracted to the person behind the business more than anything else.
  • Personal branding is an important strategy that many business owners neglect.
  • Focus on your authentic personality in your personal brand.
  • Highlight your unique qualities to stand out from the crowd
  • Get out there and make connections in the real world such as at events and conferences. Offline networking can be even more powerful than online marketing.
  • Never be afraid to ask for feedback from your friends or fans, as this is the best way to improve!

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personal branding