Crafting Identity: Mastering the Art of Personal Branding for Creatives

Delve into personal branding's core concepts. Embrace authenticity, discover your creative identity, and effectively communicate it. Learn to navigate the digital landscape with consistency and storytelling.

woman sitting and drawing at table in her studio scaled e1706642045346

Join us as we delve into the pivotal role personal branding plays for creators, and unravel how artists can grow into their unique identity, while skillfully communicating their vision to captivate their audience, build better client relationships, and land the gigs they want. 

This article discusses defining a personal brand, and how to maximize the benefits of sincerity, storytelling, and defining your values throughout your online presence and personal interactions.

The Basics of Personal Branding

Maybe you’ve read lots about personal branding. Or maybe this is all new to you. Either way, this article will serve as a yardstick to see how you measure up, and suggest possible improvements you can make to your branding. 

Your brand is what makes you, well, you! Don’t get bogged down with what you need to include, like awards or accolades. Those things are good, but they’re not what potential (and existing) clients are really looking for. What people want is to get to know you better, as a creative artist, and how your personality, vision, and values inform what you do. 

But before we get into all that, let’s first define what exactly a personal brand is. 

Defining Personal Branding

When you think of personal branding, your mind probably jumps to the cohesiveness of a logo and how it relates to your style of work. While a good logo can help people identify your brand, personal branding is so much more. 

Personal branding is the process of defining and promoting what you stand for as an individual, and in this case as a creative professional. It is a culmination of the experiences, skills and values that differentiate you–like a series of creative fingerprints that you leave here and there throughout your work and style of communication. 

After spending time determining your personal branding, it will be reflected not only in how you create, but the feelings evoked in your audience through your creative style, and all the magic innate to your unique work. 

Uniqueness, Authenticity, Emphasis

People often don’t give their potential or current clients enough credit when it comes to sniffing out how genuine or authentic someone is. Sure, there are times when the client doesn’t really care much; but that isn’t the case when working in creative industries. 

Essentially, your audience needs you to be forthright in displaying your values, why they matter, and how they intertwine with what you do—that’s what creates your unique, genuine, and authentic creative fingerprint. 

If you could clearly communicate what you’re about, your clients will feel they understand you before ever meeting or interacting with you, making it that much easier for them to work with you. 

portrait of a person with aluminum foil over their face, their hands and and hair colored by neon lights

Building Your Creative Identity

Cultivating your unique creative identity might seem boring. When starting out, many creators prefer to set that aside and focus on directly creating more art, with the hope that people will understand where they are coming from without explanation or clarity. This does happen occasionally; but to depend solely on this is not just hopeful, but also a little risky, as there’s no saying whether people who truly resonate with you have the time to immerse themselves into your work as they’re looking around for creatives to work with. 

Remember, the goal of this process is for people to feel a connection, identify a shared goal, and look forward to interacting with you. You don’t need slimy sales techniques; instead, craft and communicate a clear creative identity, and build authentic relationships with your clients. Be transparent, open, and vulnerable with them while being secure and strong within your own work.

Identifying And Embodying Core Values

If you haven’t taken the time yet to determine your artistic values, now is the time. Self-discovery is something most people work on for their entire lives, with varying methods, destinations, and outcomes. 

Regardless of how much or how little you have gone over this in your lifetime, now is a good time for self-reflection. There are various tools you can use to use to help you live your core values, but you can get started by reflecting on these questions: 

  • What moments have brought you the most joy, fulfillment, or sense of purpose? 
  • What do you prioritize in life: where are you spending your time, energy, and resources?
  • What inspires you and makes you feel most deeply? 
  • What struggles have you had along the way? 
  • What is so important to you that it is non-negotiable? 

These are a fraction of many probing questions you could ask yourself. Asking questions and digging deeper into your own creative soul is a crucial part of the foundation needed for authentic personal branding, and personal growth.

If you are unsure what values are important to you, it’s difficult for others to understand where you’re coming from, who you are, and how you embody the values near and dear to you. If people need to dig around to find out more about you, you may very well lose their attention before they find that information. 

In short, make your values loud, clear, and accessible for others to find what you stand for. This helps to alleviate any anxieties about getting to know you and develops a strong identity for your brand.

books and rectangles of paper with a mix of warm yellow and cool blue color combinations

Communicating Your Brand Effectively

Effective communication of your brand is less about explaining to people what you do, and more about having a genuine conversation, relating to other individuals, and building a connection. 

Remember: when interacting with clients, you’re essentially asking them to trust you with their money, time, and energy. It’s easy to get tripped up or overly focused on giving a quick elevator pitch. Success may very well happen that way, which is part of the learning experience. 

Yet, if you want longevity and peace-of-mind in a creative profession, moving past sales techniques and having clients who feel like friends ensures people don’t feel used or manipulated into some sales tactic. Moreover, the people you are interacting with will like you more, which can lead to referrals with other galleries, business, or their friends and family.

Creating an Identifiable Brand: Logos, Fonts, and Colors

When used well, your color and font choices can help to set the tone of your brand: from formal to friendly to unconventional. But a combination that doesn’t match the tone and values of your brand can create a disjointed feeling and potentially distract followers and potential clients. 

When thinking of fonts, colors, and the design of your logo, consider the presentation of your brand as a whole. It helps to think of them as accents to more conventional fonts and simple white or light-colored backgrounds in your website, email newsletters, and other public communications. 

For example, when thinking of how your brand can be translated into your website, reserve your specialty fonts for your site logo and header texts, then select an easy to read complementary font for use throughout your site. The body text of your site–or email newsletters–should allow visitors to focus on the message you’re sharing instead of the font. 

Deciding how to use colors can be tricky: to ensure your work stands out and the online portfolio is accessible to as many visitors as possible, the main colors should generally be neutrals with contrast. Instead, consider using your brand colors in your logo and as accents in your page design, both for your website and newsletters, and any printed materials you create for your business. Ideally, the colors that best fit your brand also coordinate with the majority of your featured work. 

Consistency Across Platforms

People are known for having shorter attention spans these days, which can translate into a lower tolerance for overcomplicated narratives. 

Because of this, consistency across your platforms is crucial. Your most loyal clients will learn to recognize your creative fingerprint in your work if you truly and clearly embrace this consistency. Consistency is not just in how or what you post, but in maintaining and consistent tone across platforms. 

Depending on your bandwidth, less can be more. If you’re concerned you’ll have difficulty maintaining consistency in tone, images, and messaging when utilizing more than one platform, it’s best to consider if it’s worth your time having to manage so many different accounts. This is where starting small and creating a strategy can help–more on that next. Rushing through a social media post can rob both you and your audience of time. The greatest gift someone can give you is their attention. Don’t squander it!

Storytelling Through Portfolio and Bio

At the heart of it all, personal branding is storytelling. Tales are what make life interesting. An object is mundane and ordinary until it comes along with a story: at that moment, it’s “the pen that I signed my marriage certificate with,” or “the shirt I wore on the day I moved into university.” 

Similarly, people will care about your brand and uniqueness more once they know what you had to overcome to get there. The story centers on the journey you took and lived to be where and who you are today. Yes, the destination is a good reference point or goal to aspire to; but when it comes down to it, people remember the story more than the bullet-point facts about you, because that’s what captures attention. As you build your brand and share your bio on your website and social media profiles, combine some personal details with the professional until you find a balance that feels right for you. Whether you are writing an artist bio, photographer “about me”, or other creative professional info page, there is space to inject some of your personal story or values.

Woman in beige top and White Pants Sitting on Floor Using Macbook

Navigating the Digital Landscape

The digital landscape can appear daunting, and the learning process can sometimes be frustrating. However intimidating setting up an online portfolio website can be, the reality of getting started doesn’t have to be difficult. 

The same can be said for social media; start out with one platform and try out different strategies to see what works best for you. 

In both locations, integrate the story behind your brand with examples from your portfolio and captivate the attention of your ideal audience. Shall we get into the details?

Building a Professional Website Portfolio

A professional portfolio website serves as an anchor for all your creative endeavors. In your online portfolio, you can showcase your work as well as your story, and pivot them if needed as you develop and grow into your practice. This is all about you and what you do best. 

Your online portfolio can be linked on all your social media profiles, added to business cards, and included in your email newsletters. A thoughtfully designed website allows visitors to gain confidence in your services, work, and professionalism. Your site should make it easy for potential clients and collaborators to get an idea if you will be a good fit for each other, saving you both time. 

As a best practice, update your online portfolio at least a few times a year to keep the content relevant and reflective of your most recent work. Read more tips in our comprehensive article, “Building Your Creative Portfolio Homepage: A Step-by-Step Guide.”

Leveraging Social Media

Social media is everywhere these days. It makes sense to use these different platforms to reach your ideal audience, engage with them, and display your brand. 

Instagram, a popular social media platform choice for many professionals, is dependent upon visual elements, and most platforms do better with some visuals even if they aren’t needed. This is an excellent place to share recent work in progress,  time-lapses, behind-the-scenes (bts) photos and videos from your studio, exhibits you are taking part in, opportunities to buy your work, and other relatable content that allows followers to connect with you and your work. 

Hashtags have varying degrees of importance, depending on the social media platform, and popular hashtags will vary quite a bit depending on your niche and location. Including a few relevant hashtags can help your profile and content be found, so it is worth the time to look into what is popular and what your peers are using. 

For the best engagement, it is generally best to keep your content brief and to the point. To help your like-minded audience find you, create what you most like to see. Like to show your face and talk about your process? Go for it! Prefer to scroll through still shots of your peers current work-in-progress with minimal captions? Lean into that–just don’t forget to mix it up here and there to share more of your personality, inspiration, or mission statement. 

Moreover, it is also important to engage with your audience. Messaging and interacting with people who like your work and replying to comments on your posts with consistency and a friendly tone will go far for you across all platforms. It’s a delicate balance; interactions fuel connection with you and your brand, but a healthy social media presence without a strategy won’t translate into a larger mailing list, more sales of your work, or ultimately, growing your creative professional business. For more in-depth look at strategy, visit our article: Social Media Strategy: A Guide for Your Creative Business

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