Illustration: Ashley Siebels
Liz Whiting was done with her desk job. After graduating from the University of Maryland, she landed her first “real” job in the marketing department of a travel agency but kept up the freelance marketing and content creation she had done since her sophomore year of college.
“I just wasn’t happy,” says Liz Whiting, explaining why she quit her day job and made her side-hustle her main focus. “I was seeing that a lot of content creation wasn’t there. I was seeing that teams weren’t working constructively together and that there was a real knowledge gap between content creation, content marketing, and digital marketing.”
After deciding that she would create her own marketing agency, Whiting launched Fanfare Creative, a content creation and social media management agency, in 2016.
“I was freelancing for a while, and it eventually got to the point where I had to decide to take the leap and dive all in or keep doing my side-hustle while maintaining my day job. But juggling the two was becoming impossible. I had to do it.”
By this time, Whiting had created social content for a host of small businesses and grew her Instagram following to influencer status. Today, Whiting boasts a social following of over 12,000 and credits it to applying the same brand building strategies to her personal profiles as she does for her clients. If you’re looking to build your brand, here are her best tips for establishing and growing your personal brand.
Write your own brand bible
For Whiting, one of the most crucial parts of getting started was writing her own personal brand bible (or brand manual). Before you can start promoting your brand, it is essential to know yourself.
“Sit down and write a business plan for yourself. Write a brand story that will be used like a brand manual on you. I did it, and it really helped,” says Whiting.
What exactly is in a brand manual? Whiting, also known as “Bizzy” to friends and family, says to use buzzwords or keywords you want associated with your brand. Write down your personal goals, use imagery that inspires you, and add a brief narrative about yourself.
“It doesn’t have to be a novel, but write a little blurb about yourself. If you were to have a CEO bio right now, what would it say?”
From there, you can start putting it all into action. Lockdown a brand name, a mission statement, and an “about me” section. Then, you can start building your content and get into a routine of posting. But it all starts with that brand manual.
“After I wrote my brand manual was when I really started to build out my blog and frame my Instagram posts in a certain way—because I wanted people to see me and my life in a certain way.”
Own your niche
The biggest trap that people fall into when creating a blog or an online brand? Doing something that’s already been done.
“There are thousands of people trying to do fashion. There are thousands of people trying to do a food blog,” explains Whiting. “They’re all great accounts, but what’s the pull? What makes you different?”
Finding the peculiarities in your brand is one of the best ways to get people interested and make sure you stand out, according to Whiting.
“What are you doing that’s really unique? Do you work for the government and then make your own hemp lotion on the side? Are you a DC foodie who’s also vegan?”
Knowing your niche will also help you know your audience. Understanding who you are trying to reach—and the best way to reach them—is essential to establishing a successful brand.
Find the right platform
Once you understand your niche and your audience, you may have to evaluate what platform is best for you.
“You really have to find a platform that’s also going to be right for your brand and your story,” says Whiting. “Sometimes Instagram or Twitter or Facebook, or any other platform for that matter, might not be right for you.”
“So you have to say to yourself, okay, am I going to blog? Am I going to blog consistently? Am I going to maintain a calendar? How am I going to tell my story and where am I going to tell it best?”
Finding the right platform was crucial for Whiting, who now maintains her own blog, Bizzy Life, in addition to running Fanfare Creative full time.
The most important thing to remember when building your brand? “Every brand is on a brand journey — it’s constantly a process of discovery.”
Liz is prepping for a move to the West Coast and is currently working on materials for a new project. Follow her progress.