Some online entrepreneurs actively work to build a brand around their name. They portray themselves as subject matter experts and teach their readers about relevant topics through blog posts, podcasts, books and public speaking. Their personal brands and their business brands become inexorably linked and they become internet celebrities of sorts. These Internet celebrities are able to leverage the name that they build for themselves to land speaking gigs at conferences and book deals. They also frequently create products to sell to their audiences and make money by recommending other people’s products and earning affiliate commissions.
The quintessential example of this branding strategy in the Internet business space is Pat Flynn (www.smartpassiveincome.com). He has established himself as an authority and an expert in online business through his blog, his podcasts, his public speaking and his book. He started his blog in 2008 after being laid off as an architect and gained notoriety after he started creating a monthly report of the income he was making from his online businesses. Every month, Flynn makes more than $100,000 per month in affiliate commissions by endorsing other people’s products and services. He has also effectively leveraged his personal brand to land speaking gigs at conferences and other events.
While I have a ton of respect for people like Pat Flynn that have built audiences around a compelling personal brand, that is not the type of business that I would personally want to create. I have built an audience of nearly 500,000 email subscribers, but you won’t see my face or my name prominently featured on any of the businesses that I run. I could sell any of my companies tomorrow and very few of my customers would actually notice. I’m not trying to be totally anonymous in any of my businesses, but there are some very good reasons to separate your personal brand from your business brand.
Here are a few reasons why your personal brand should never become your business:
- You get stuck on a hamster wheel of content creation. When you build an Internet business based around your personal brand, your ability to generate income is tied directly to you producing content on an ongoing basis. If you stop creating new content (blogs, podcasts, etc.), people will stop coming. Your audience will expect you to continue to produce content at the same rate you have been and won’t accept content from a writer that you hire, because they want to learn from you and not one of your employees. If you don’t meet their expectations, they will go somewhere else. That means you need to continue to produce content regardless of whether you’re motivated to do so and regardless of whether or not you actually have something new or interesting to say.
- You can never sell your business. Whenever a radio host discontinues doing their show, the show is almost always scrapped entirely and replaced with a different program. Without the host, there is no show. The same is true for your personality-driven business. The value of your business is the goodwill that you’ve built up with your audience throughout the years. If you’re not there, that goodwill disappears. When your personal brand is the core of your business, it can’t be transferred to anyone else without losing a significant share of your audience. This makes it almost impossible to sell your business in the event that you want to move onto your another project.
- It’s very difficult to start doing something different. You and the personal brand that you create are inexorably linked. If you become known as the girl or guy that is the expert about earning airline miles and make a great income doing that, you’ll have a hard time transitioning if you ever want to do anything else. You might decide that you’re sick of writing about airline loyalty programs every day, but your audience’s attention is tied to you writing about miles and points. If you want to make something else your primary focus, you’ll essentially have to start over with a new audience on a different topic.
- You can’t systematize or delegate your business. In normal businesses, you can always bring on new team members or systems to improve how work gets done. When your personal brand and your business’s brand are closely linked, people will expect to be reading and listening to content directly produced by you. Your audience will want to read emails, articles and tweets written by you, not your virtual assistant or one of your employees. You can certainly bring on team members to help, but you will never be able to build a team that fully takes over the day-to-day operations of your business.
Instead of making your personal brand the focus of your business, try to make your readers the focus. Your writing style should focus on how your products, services and content impacts and benefits your readers. Instead of telling your readers, “Come, learn from me. I’m an expert” the message should be “Here’s an incredibly helpful service or piece of content for you.” By separating your personal brand and your business, you have the freedom to be able to sell your business. You are not tied to personally creating content on a weekly basis over the long term because you can always hire someone else to create content. Finally, you can delegate, automate and outsource tasks that you want to do because your readers won’t be expecting your personal touch on everything your business does.