Author and cultural arbiter Tom Wolfe designated Baby Boomers as the “Me Generation” in the 1970s, casting the ambitions of these coming-of-age adults in the most self-serving of lights.

Nowadays, career-minded professionals and entrepreneurs of any age not only accept this mindset but use it as a strategy for advancement, known as “personal branding.”

Personal branding is the crafting of an outward persona in such a way that it matches the individual’s career goals.

Movie actors, athletes, and politicians have long had to pay attention to such trappings to attract publicity. (Even Wolfe had his signature white suit.)

But as online technology and social media has expanded opportunities for direct marketing to a niche audience,

so too has the need to manage and cultivate a personal brand in order to differentiate oneself from his or her competitors.

Who would have thought just a few years ago that solo professionals like musicians and artists would need business cards?

But in today’s interconnected world, they absolutely do!

personal branding

Here are four steps for helping you develop and promote a personal brand, no matter what your profession is,without breaking you bank account in the process.

1) Start in the inner circle.
“Your closest personal contacts likely will be the people helping your business the most initially,”

says Epic Media’s Mike Sprouse, “In fact, your personal brand is the best capital you have amongst your network of people.”

This may feel at bit uncomfortable at the onset because most people don’t really like asking others about themselves.

But you’re trying to find out what you bring to your career that is unique.

Only the people who are closest to you can help you find the answer.

2) Keep channels uniform.
As Micha Kaufman writes in Forbes,“Our ‘selves’ are now digital and are spread wide and far across the Internet,

living and breathing in the social spheres of Twitter and Facebook to our personal websites and Tumblr blogs.” Sojust like a business has a logo, slogan, corporate colors, etc.,

that go on everything from print ads to ballpoint pens, you should adopt a consistent identity for all external communications, right down to professional-looking headshots, email signatures, and info boxes used in blog comments.

Speaking of which…

3) Engage your audience on their turf.
It’s much easier for you to visit other blogs or websites already frequented by prospective customers than get them to come to a new site.

Once you figure out which ones are the best, you can garner attention with insightful comments. See if the site administrator’s welcome submitted articles, webinars or other content.

It can turn into a mutually beneficial partnership for both you and the host.

4) Network offline, too.
It’s easy to get fixated on the online interactions. But your personal brand is best displayed…well, in person. Join organizations that have like-minded individuals.

Attend professional conferences and trade shows; or better yet, apply to be a presenter.

These opportunities that blend professional and personal interactions can cut down on the time it takes to develop the kind of relationship that will lead to long-term success.

Featured images:

License: Creative Commons

image source

Chris Lenois is a small business owner and freelance journalist who writes for Vistaprint, a leading provider of custom marketing products for solo professionals across the globe,

such as business cards for makeup artists.

Chris has contributed articles to many renowned publications, including the Times-Picayune and Wired.