Home Content Articles You asked, we answered: personal branding edition

You asked, we answered: personal branding edition


We could talk all day about how important it is to have a strong personal brand. No really. As portfolio professionals, no matter what stage of career you’re at, having a personal brand that is memorable, relatable and true to who you are is so so important. Think of your personal brand as the foundation to your business. It’s what people remember about you, it’s how they connect with you and perhaps most importantly it’s what people say about you when you’re not in the room. Without it, it can be tricky to distinguish yourself from all the other people out there with similar skill sets and experiences – which is why we’re here to help. 

We’ve written plenty of articles on personal branding – from how to build a memorable personal brand, to the human side of branding and why authenticity is important when it comes to personal branding, but we’ve never actually asked you what you want to know. 

So for our latest article, we roped in personal branding experts, Fiona Chorlton-Voong and Alex Pitt to answer your most burning questions. As COO, brand expert and the mastermind behind TPC’s brand, Fiona has had years of experience helping some of the biggest names in fashion and tech to build global brands. Starting her career as a digital designer and art director, Alex is now the Creative Director of Strange Creative Studio, helping founders to discover and build their own extraordinary brand personality and image. Together, they run the Personal Branding Masterclass and have already supported hundreds of members of The Portfolio Collective, to build personal brands they can be proud of. Let’s delve right in.

How do I differentiate myself as a ’generalist’ from a functional specialist?

So this question is probably more about the ‘what’ than the why. Personal branding isn’t about talking about what you do, it’s about giving people a taste of what you’re like before you start selling to them.

Think of it like dating or compatibility. You wouldn’t go on a first date and immediately start listing all the reasons why you’re marriage material – it’s safe to say that most people would run a mile. It’s more likely that instead you have a general chat, show them what you’re like and see if there is a connection. Your approach should be similar when creating your personal brand. Ask yourself, why would your audience like you? Why would they be inspired by you? What would they say about you when you’re not in the room, that has nothing to do with what you actually do? Once you’ve got your audience interested in you, you can tell them what you do. Let people get to know you first!

Afonso Pereira © The Portfolio Collective 2023

How do I stand out from the crowd when I’m not naturally pushy?

Pushiness is never the goal! Creating a strong personal brand is all about attracting people who are on your level. You should start by sharing your personal journey and experiences. People connect with stories, so sharing your own can help you to emotionally connect with the people you speak to. 

If you craft your story and personal brand effectively, people will want to know more. Humans are curious and inquisitive by nature, so giving people the chance to get to know your values, passions and characteristics first, creates strong connections and makes you more memorable. 

Be genuine: authenticity is key. Stay true to yourself and communicate in a genuine manner. Don’t try to imitate others or pretend to be someone you’re not – show your true personality and let it shine through in your interactions. 

And remember, standing out doesn’t mean being pushy or aggressive. It’s about being true to yourself and connecting with others in an authentic and meaningful way. 

I struggle with imposter syndrome and think my story is boring. How do I make my story more abstract and compelling?

Everyone suffers from some level of imposter syndrome, so you’re in good company. Embrace your uniqueness and be proud of it. Identify your quirks, passions and interests and incorporate them into your personal brand. It may feel uncomfortable and you may want to resist at first, but being authentic will make you stand out and be remembered. 

If your story isn’t exciting to you then you’re probably either a) not telling the right story and listing your career history like a CV, or b) you just need some help crafting your story in a more interesting way. That’s what our Personal Branding Masterclass is for! 

How do I pick my story? And, how do I tell it in a way that doesn’t feel unnatural in a flowing conversation?

The Personal Brand Masterclass will help you define which is the best story to tell. When it comes to telling your band story, that’s a muscle that just needs to be trained. Fiona has made a habit of speaking to 3 strangers a week, this has allowed her to tell her story in multiple ways to see what connects with the people she is talking to. It’s a learning process and one that will take time, but that’s okay. 

You’ll realise after time that you end up with lots of different versions of your story and can cherry-pick the best one to use depending on the various different situations you find yourself in. 

How do you create a strong/coherent brand identity when you have varied expertise and solve different problems for different people?

Personal branding isn’t about listing your skills or even about the how or the what. It’s about communicating your personality, passions and values to others. The best place to start is to think about the reason why you felt so passionately about the projects you’ve previously worked on. Are there any that you loved so much you’d have done them for free? What values did you display that relate to your personal life, not just for the services you offer? 

Defining who you want to speak to will help with the messaging though. Try to identify who your core audience is, then look for the common threads amongst your audience that allow you to add value and find connection in language.

How do I attract a corporate crowd, who look to hire people that all look and talk the same, whilst keeping my brand true to myself?

Corporations are still run by people – and people buy from people. Standing out against your competitors is still equally important and creating a genuine connection will only be achieved by being authentically yourself. Be proud of your background and experience and project confidence in your abilities. Authenticity will help you build trust and establish genuine connections with corporate decision-makers. 

Whilst you can adapt your approach to appeal to the corporate crowd, it’s equally crucial to remain true to yourself. Strive to find the right balance between meeting their expectations and expressing your unique value. By demonstrating your capabilities, personality and alignment with their values, you can attract the corporate crowd while still maintaining your authentic brand. 

It seems that no one advocating for personal branding talks about how costly and uncomfortable it can feel to embrace your personality, especially to begin with. How can we stop self-sabotaging, so that we keep going after the initial enthusiasm of creating a personal brand fades, particularly when results can take their time to materialise?

This is a great question and it’s all down to fear of exposure. We completely get that it can feel incredibly uncomfortable to inject so much of yourself into your personal brand. It can feel more personal and therefore painful if you show up as your most authentic self and someone turns you down. 

Building a personal brand takes time and consistent effort. It’s an iterative process. By setting realistic expectations, you can avoid feeling discouraged when immediate results are not apparent. Reflecting on your purpose and the reasons why you built your personal brand in the first place is also super important. Take the time to reflect and understand your motivations – this will help you stay committed and focused, even when facing challenges and setbacks. 

Afonso Pereira © The Portfolio Collective 2023

We always recommend breaking it down into smaller steps. Building a personal brand can feel overwhelming, particularly when you try to tackle everything at once. Breaking the process down into smaller, manageable steps or goals, celebrating each milestone and reminding yourself of your Why, will help maintain your enthusiasm and keep you motivated as you progress. 

Also remember to look to your network for accountability and support. Share your goals and challenges with them and lean on them for support during moments of self-doubt or frustration. Their perspective and encouragement can help you stay on track, during the trickier moments that will crop up when building your personal brand. Remind yourself that building a personal brand is a marathon. 

One of the main takeaways of this question would be: if you speak to everyone you speak to no one. Sure, it can feel uncomfortable and you may feel discouraged if things don’t go exactly as you planned, but it’s normal to face challenges and experience moments of self-doubt along the way. The longer you hide away that unapologetic version of yourself, the longer you’re denying yourself the chance to find your people. And the fear of exposure really does ebb away the more you put yourself out there. There’s no real way around it, other than knowing that if you show up consistently, it will get less scary and that having a personal brand you feel proud of, is well worth the risk. 

How we can support you with your personal brand

We hope our answers to these questions have given you some clarity when it comes to how to approach your personal brand. If you feel like you need more support, why not check out our Personal Branding Masterclass? With flexible learning modules, drop-in Personal Branding Surgeries and plenty of additional resources, we’re here to help you take your personal brand to new levels of success. 

Think this sounds like the right path for you? Come along to our monthly Get started event for new members to find out what a portfolio career could look like and how The Portfolio Collective can help you take those first steps towards professional success – and don’t forget to connect with our community!

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