What does your dream business look like, and what would it take to make it a reality? For Maddie Peschong, clarifying her priorities and building an authentic personal brand allowed her to form her ideal business around the life she wanted.
Maddie is a Sioux Falls, South Dakota-based brand photographer and business coach who spent years working a 9-to-5 while growing her photography skills on the side. Today, she runs a six-figure business that’s flexible enough to let her take midday dance party breaks with her kids and spend time watching The Office with her husband on the regular.
However, this lifestyle and business weren’t possible until Maddie understood the importance of creating and implementing an authentic personal brand.
Personal branding often has the reputation of being “all about me,” which understandably makes some creatives worry about oversharing or coming off as narcissistic. However, according to Maddie, building an authentic personal brand doesn’t mean sharing everything about yourself—or talking about how great your business is—but rather taking off the hyper-professional mask and being genuine with your clients and followers.
Maddie’s favorite definition of personal branding is from author Amy Jo Martin: “You don’t brand yourself. You are yourself, and that becomes your personal brand.” Maddie also says, “Personal branding is simply building a business with your priorities in mind.”
All creative entrepreneurs should build an authentic personal brand because, as Maddie tells us, “Being ourselves will help our businesses thrive.” Getting “real” with your audience will look different from person to person, but you’ll want to clarify (for your followers and for yourself) what matters most: your family, friends, faith, and so on. Understanding your priorities and sharing them openly will help you connect with your audience, and being a “real person” will create more trust among your followers and prospects. That trust can lead to better experiences for your clients and, in turn, referrals for new customers.
For example, when Maddie started sharing more photos on social media, she realized many of her posts had nothing to do with her business—but her audience didn’t seem to mind all the baby pics! “Ultimately, in my business, I want connection with my clients,” Maddie says. As we mentioned earlier, family is Maddie’s #1 priority and highlighting that on her website and Instagram account made her even more relatable to her followers. Her genuine personality has shone through in person as much as it has online, which gives her clients a great experience (and inspires many of them to refer other prospects to Maddie).
It can be uncomfortable to share your personal life on your business platforms, and you don’t want to only talk about yourself or your company. So, how can you build an authentic personal brand that doesn’t air all your dirty laundry, but rather invites your audience into your life? Maddie offers three helpful tips:
Maddie encourages all creative entrepreneurs to “get clear on what gets you out of bed every day.” Maybe you’re motivated by supporting your family, moving toward financial independence, solving problems for your clients, or something else. Whatever your priorities are, make sure you keep them in mind with every business decision. When you’re clear on your priorities, you’ll not only stay true to yourself, but you’ll also start to build your dream business around the life you want.
Speaking of staying true to yourself, Maddie is also a supporter of using your voice on your website and in other brand copy. For instance, if you’re more casual in everyday tone, don’t be afraid to showcase that on your website! Or, if you enjoy a good pun or two, feel free to include those every now and then in your social media posts. Being yourself in your marketing content will help you build an authentic personal brand by revealing more about you to your audience.
Of course, understanding your ideal client will give you a better idea of how to speak to them in your web copy and social media posts. For example, some members of your audience may be more accepting of a casual tone than others. But, while you should always be at least semi-professional while speaking to clients, Maddie reminds us not to change ourselves for the sake of our audience. After all, if you feel like you’re compromising your priorities or personality for a client, they probably aren’t your ideal client!
One piece of advice Maddie hates, but admits is true, is this: Take time to think about what your ideal business looks like, and include your priorities in that vision. What needs to change for you to move your business in that direction? For example, maybe you need to take on more (or different) projects to meet a certain revenue goal, or perhaps you need to hire a team to delegate tasks and regain control over your calendar. By spending time to brainstorm your dream business, you can determine how your priorities fit in—and how you can share those priorities (and your vision) with others.
Maddie reminds us that “Personal branding is a slow burn.” In other words, you won’t see sales take off overnight, but you will start to build connections with followers and clients. Sharing why you started your business and what you stand for will help customers relate to you as they learn more about the creative person behind the work.
Maddie knows how difficult it can be sometimes to brainstorm what to say (and how to say it) to clients and followers. That’s why she follows the know-like-trust factor when creating content. This gives her audience insight into the woman behind the camera (know), helps them connect with her on some level (like), and lets prospects know they can rely on her (trust).
Here are a few know-like-trust content examples from Maddie:
Maddie even has a helpful resource for photographers to get started with know-like-trust Instagram content! For more content inspiration from Maddie based on the know-like-trust factor, download “30 Content Prompts for Photographers”!
Friend, I hope you found this episode valuable and educational as you work to build your own personal brand as a creative entrepreneur. By making the effort to be authentic with your clients (in person and online), you can give them a great experience, form genuine connections, and watch your business thrive!
If you want to connect with Maddie, get content prompts for photographers, and access other resources for creative entrepreneurs, please visit maddiepeschong.com. You can also find her on Instagram at @maddiepeschong, on Facebook, and on Pinterest.
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