This has become one of my favorite topics to talk about in the last few months. Because there is so much fluff out there when it comes to personal branding. So I just want to dive right into it. Here are a handful of mistakes that I made when I first started and things that I wish I knew when it comes to making money with my personal brand.
If I’m being honest, the main reason that I [personally] was not making money with my personal brand a few years ago is that I wasn’t ready. I wasn’t good enough. I hadn’t really done anything yet. I just thought it sounded cool to make money online but failed to bring any real value.
Sure, I was doing all of the cliche things that people say to do.
“Tell your story.” ✅
“Put yourself out there!” ✅
“Just hit record.” ✅
“Be consistent.” ✅
But I hadn’t built the foundation that was needed. I was worried about monetization when I had nothing to monetize. Stressed about generating cash flow instead of solidifying my spot in the market. Focused on being an influencer when I had no idea what/whom I wanted to “influence.”
The cornerstone of monetization (when it comes to personal branding) is value. If you are bringing value then people will have a reason to pay you. Value takes time because you have to build trust with the community that you’re trying to build.
Focus on building a solid foundation before you worry about monetization.
Advice to my younger self: Spend more time investing in yourself (and your brand) than you do anyone else’s. Set yourself up for long term success even though short term monetary gains can be so enticing. It can take years to build trust, and that can all go spiraling down the metaphorical toilet in a few moments. Say ‘NO’ to brand deals unless it makes perfect sense. Your community will appreciate the authenticity.
Without clarity, it will be very difficult to monetize.
In 2016, I was trying to build virtual reality simulations and a marketing agency at the same time. I talked about everything from emerging tech & video games to social media trends.
And while those things can totally fit into the same realm – if you asked me why people should follow me or why people should “pay me” I wouldn’t have had an answer.
That is the issue for most. They don’t have clarity.
1). People can’t follow you if they (and you) don’t know where you’re going.
2). People won’t share your message if they don’t know what you stand for.
3). People WILL NOT pay you if they don’t know what they’re buying or why they should buy.
When it comes to this, I would say there are a handful of things you need to get clear on. Here are a few things that helped me:
If you want more info on this section, I wrote an article about personal branding here.
Advice to my younger self: Don’t worry about “building your brand”. Instead, focus on building you and getting clear on who you are.
If there was a line graph [mapping out the trajectory] of my life there would be an upward spike around the time I started wearing my signature hat, over a year and a half ago. Two years ago most of what I knew at this time about personal branding I learned from my time as a musician. While I was creating daily content, I was also testing a bunch of different things. I wore all black. I started implementing b-roll consistently before anyone else on LinkedIn. I told stories. I started mentioning things consistently like my love for “batman” and coffee. I always wore a scarf. Sometimes a beanie. What happened over time was more than I expected:
That happened over a period of a few months. So I started to ask myself what it was that I actually wanted to achieve. What did I want to be remembered for? And how could I tie everything together?
The narrative that I wanted to push was “misfit”. I wasn’t going to dominate LinkedIn feeds by talking about my social media knowledge, technology or sociology. I was going to dominate by being different. A misfit. Here have been some of the results from my various “brand anchors”.
Brand anchor is a term I use to refer to any sensory item that is correlated to a person's brand. // *Synonym: Trademark*
And that’s when I purchased my hat. And I’ve worn it in some capacity just about every day (I do have multiple of the same hat).
I am a part of an “entrepreneurs” accelerator (for the entrepreneur more so than the company) and we went to a retreat in Chicago. I had to leave early and the next day I received this photo from the group.
Wearing all Black / Black Heart
The color black is associated with a lot of things. For me, it’s about power. Throughout history, misfits have always lacked power. I wanted to own it. I want others to own it. I don’t wear all black as much as I used to (because I’m running another experiment ?) but this was the narrative I wanted to create.
Brand anchors are a good way to stand out and be remembered. But by no means are they the only way and you should NOT solely rely on this tactic.
Advice to my younger self: Don’t worry about finding a brand anchor. But, do find a way to stand out. Remember, “it’s good to be better, but it’s better to be different.”
I took this weekend off. No work. Just time with people [and animals] I love. And I mulled over a few difficult decisions and overall direction for my company. And I really started to question my purpose as a content creator. Does anything I’m doing matter? Am I actually impacting people?
2018 was a big year in terms of popularity. But I’ve come to realize that popularity doesn’t mean anything. Buzz doesn’t mean anything. Because neither of those things last. And now I’m at a point in my career where I want to take everything that I do to the next level. I’ve outsourced all of my video edits. I’m consuming content, books, and podcasts. I’m testing everything. Because while popularity comes and goes, a person of value will always be just that… valuable.
Advice to younger self: Don't strive to be popular, strive to be valuable.
I got a message from Sam Lister when he was just starting out.
“Hi Quentin, I'm a new entrepreneur from Milwaukee that recently graduated from Greendale Highschool and chose to skip college to jump into the business world of entrepreneurship. I just launched my startup MKE Vlogs and am working on that project. But I wanted to ask you, what are a couple of your biggest tips to start pushing content on LinkedIn when you're first starting out on the platform?”
This was my response: “Dope man. Joe told me a lot about you. The biggest thing is to put your ear to the ground, consume, and engage with the content of others. Don’t expect anyone to watch your content, give them a reason to.”
A big part of this is responding to people and engaging with others. I would be lying if I told you I responded to every message. I don't because I have a company to run, but I get to everyone that I can! I used to answer every single message and comment. I timed how long it took me to respond to all comments on one post once... two hours.
Sam is crushing it now, scaling his company, and paving his own path. And the best part is that he is working for it. He is giving people a reason to follow.
Don't expect support. Earn it.
Advice to my younger self: Don’t expect anyone to support you. Give them a reason to.
There is a lot more that goes into it, so if you want any more information check out some of my previous articles. We also just launched a course "How to Monetize Linkedin – the Misfit Way" for anyone looking to take their LinkedIn presence to the next level. Thank you all for existing. And just know this is my blueprint. Not THE blueprint. But I hope it helps some of you on your journey.
Quentin is a Marketing Lead at Greatness Media. He is a TEDx speaker, podcaster, writer and esports geek. He owns IEEG, a storytelling company, and MKE Misfits a community & events company based out of Milwaukee. His team creates compelling visual stories, partner with brands to reach their target audience, consult on storytelling/branding, and host events around the globe. He was one of the first LinkedIn video storytellers & have since used the platform to accumulate millions of views and travel the world for speaking engagements. Quentin holds a Bachelor degree in Sociology from the Cardinal Stritch University.