There’s an increasing number of people that have created profitable online businesses by building a personal brand. If you can become someone that people know, like and trust to talk about a particular subject, there’s a ton of opportunity to create an income stream surrounding your personality and the content that you product. There are a lot of people that have done this very well in the last several years including Pat Flynn, Jaime Tardy and John Lee Dumas to name a few. They have blogs, podcasts and other content and make money by creating information products, by referring people to products and services to earn affiliate commissions and by receiving sponsorships for their websites and podcasts.
While I have the utmost respect for people that have built audiences around a compelling personal brand, that’s not the type of business I would want to create. While I’ve built a huge audience (118,000 subscribers!) and a profitable company, you won’t see my face or my name prominently featured on any of the businesses that I run. I could probably sell any of the four businesses that I have equity in tomorrow and very few of my customers would actually notice. I’m not trying to be anonymous with any of my businesses, but I think there are some compelling reasons to separate your personal brand from the brand of your business.
Here are a few reasons why my personal brand will never become my 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. If you don’t meet their expectations, they’ll 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 hosts 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 next product.
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 and tweets written by you, not your virtual assistant. 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.
What’s the alternative?
I run several different businesses, but my name isn’t featured prominently on any of them. My name might be buried on the about page of some of my websites, but that’s about it. Instead of making my personal brand the focus of my various business, I try to make the reader (or the customer) the focus. The writing style in my businesses will always focus on how the product/service/content impacts and benefits the end customer/reader. Instead of having a message of “Come, learn from me. I’m an expert” the message is “Here’s an incredibly helpful service or piece of content for you.”
By separating my personal brand from my businesses, I know that I can always sell any of my business ventures if I ever want to. I’m not tied to producing content on a weekly basis if I don’t want to and if there’s something in my business that I hate doing, I can always find a way to delegate it to someone else, automate it, or simply stop doing it.