Should I build a personal brand for my business? Or should I build a business brand? These questions might have you tossing and turning at night.
In this article, we’re going to step back, take a deep breath, and look objectively at both options so you can chose the best brand type for the business you’re building.
Let’s start with basic definitions …
What is a personal brand?
A personal brand is built around you — your personality, your lifestyle, and your interests.
It usually means you brand your business with your name. There are positives and negatives to this, and we’ll review them in this post.
Related: Branding 101: 7 Business Name Traps to Avoid
What is a business brand?
A business brand is built around an identity you create for your business.
It usually means you need to craft a name for your business that’s independent of your personal name. Again, there are pros and cons, and we’ll cover each below.
Related: How to Brand Anything: Your Business, Your Idea, Yourself
Related: Branding 101: 7 Business Name Traps to Avoid
Either way, you’ll want to know your brand personality. Take my fast, free brand personality quiz.
When does creating a personal brand work well?
It’s easier than ever to build a personal brand, especially with the tools we have available to us online. Between personal websites and social media accounts, it may be easier to create a personal brand than a business brand.
But there are a few reasons you might want to avoid this, so read on.
Personal brand pros
Personal brands are flexible. Personal brands typically use the business owner’s name to brand the business, website, and offerings (whether they’re products or services). This means if your focus changes and you begin offering something different from what you offered to start, you can adapt your offerings without needing to change the name of your business.
Personal brands are ideal if you want to develop a speaking career. It’s hard work to associate your name with your area of expertise (see below), but once you’ve done the work, you’ll be seen as someone who others want to hear from.
Personal brands are perfect for “one-person industries.” If you’re an artist, author, professional speaker, or coach, a strong personal brand will boost your business and attract new, interested prospects.
Personal brand cons
Your company name won’t state what you do: you have to associate your personal name with what you offer. This can be done with a strong tagline that you use consistently in everything you do. You can also associate what you offer with your personal name by writing blog posts, doing interviews, creating social media posts, and booking speaking engagements around your area of expertise. You’ll need to do this until people associate your name with what you want to become known for.
It’s hard to sell a personally-branded business. I know, I know: when you’re just starting out, who’s thinking about selling? But if you suspect there’s even a remote possibility this may happen in the future, you should reconsider creating a personal brand, and build a business brand instead. Read on for more about this.
When is building a business brand the best solution?
Business brands take more upfront work to create, because rather than use the name you were born with, you need to create one from thin air.
This means crafting meaningful words, and it’s hard work. But it might just be worth the effort.
Business brand pros
Creating a business brand forces you to think through your plans for your business. When it’s time to come up with a business name, you will need to think about who your ideal customer is, what you’ll offer, and what your business will be known for. Going through this process will help you create a vision for where you want to take your business that goes way beyond your business name and tagline.
Business brands allow you to position your business from hello. There are no limits on the words you use, so find a few that express what your business offers. Complement them with a tagline that builds excitement. And watch as your ideal customer grasps what you offer as soon as they hear your business name.
Business brands are easier to sell. Most businesses have a life cycle. When you’re ready to sell your business — because your interests have changed; you want to relocate; you’re ready to retire — it will be easier to sell it to someone else if you’ve built something that’s not associated with a personal name. Let’s face it: if the business is named after a person and that person is no longer there, it’s not worth as much. But if you’ve developed a recognizable brand, that’s an asset people will pay for.
Business brand cons
It’s hard work to build a business brand. You have to create a brand name at a time when you may still be trying to decide what your business will offer, and who your ideal customer will be.
Business brands aren’t as flexible if your interests change. If you decide to change course and offer something completely different, you may need to start a second business if it doesn’t relate to your business name. You can usually come up with a name that describes the general field your products and services will fall into, and then you can get more specific with your tagline, which is easy to change. But if you change your field of interest completely, your name may not work anymore.
Is there a happy medium between a personal brand and a business brand?
I believe there is a happy medium, and it’s easier to pull off now than ever before.
We can build our business brand and — simultaneously — work to establish our personal authority around a topic.
How? You create a business brand and then reach out to other business owners to help you spread the word about what you offer.
You write guest posts, appear in interviews, speak, and personally spread the word about your business brand.
As you answer questions and convey information, your personal authority grows along with the awareness of your business brand.
If you can’t decide between a personal or business brand, this approach may be the most flexible of all!
It can help your business triumph online because it’s a perfect blend of authority, personality, and engagement.
Related: Ultimate Guide for How to Build Your Business Online
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More branding resources from my website
There’s a LOT more where this came from! If you’re working on branding your business, explore these free resources:
The Easy Way to Create Stunning Branded Images (in 30 Minutes or Less)
How to Fit a Powerful Brand Style Guide on a 3-Inch Sticky Note
Branded Images are a Fun, Creative Way to Get Eyes on Your Website [Examples]
3 Simple Essentials for Building an Impressive Brand
Editor’s note: This article was originally published on October 9, 2019 and has been updated with the most recent guidance.
17 thoughts on “Should You Build a Personal Brand or a Business Brand?”
I’m in a tricky stage myself. I’m an author, but I also started a company to help writers in my community, and I’m trying to establish an annual book fair. The author part is easy, but the business and event is proving to be a challenge. Unfortunately I fear I’ll need three different brands which is insane, but they each have different functions. Oh well!
That’s a tough spot, Elke. If they’re all serving different audiences then you’re right — you may need different brands. Maybe you can make them look visually related, like they’re part of a family?
You raise great points. Thank you for the post.
I’m a front-line independent contractor for a well-established company with solid brand recognition. Challenging or devaluing them in any way would be counter-productive, so I’ve chosen to develop a complementary business sub-brand AND a personal brand. What the internet has done in many industries is converted products and services to commodities offered on the basis of price. Many traditional companies still teach the same sales processes and hire and develop representatives based on models that haven’t changed for 40 years. In order to differentiate and stand out in a competitive marketplace, I found it necessary to eliminate price as the primary consideration by developing a personal brand that would draw attention from those who share a similar world view regardless of geography (as I can do business anywhere in my state.) The business brand (or sub-brand) has two primary roles: Accessibility and transparency. When people meet the same person in person that they researched online (website, social media, community volunteerism, etc) and the worldviews expressed are consistent across all lines, a positive business relationship is developed, usually without price being a factor. Other industries that may experience similar scenarios could be real estate, sports management, banking, or even collegiate career placement services.
Solid, recognizable branding can definitely take price out of the equation. It’s one of the most important things a great brand can do! Thanks for this thoughtful comment, Gary.
Pamela, great post. I couldn’t wait to open it when I saw the headline – really spoke to me, as I am contemplating a move to the personal brand side. I am blogging on my business site across a number of “personal and professional growth” topics. Not sure if I need to split the two and keep business focused on business and have my passion on personal growth and development explored via a personal branded site. Also found it hard to cultivate a blog / subscriber following on the business branded site…not sure if people would rather ‘follow’ people, which is also playing into my thoughts on the move to personal brand. Kind of undecided on this topic…maybe a bit similar to your comments in the first thread?
I think it always come back to who you’re serving, Todd. If the audiences are truly different and the offer is too, you may need to develop different platforms to speak to them with.
But maintaining two sites isn’t for the faint of heart. So if one is for business, you could use a professional platform for that. If the other is really a passion project, you might be able to develop that on something that’s easier to maintain, like some of the social media sites (Tumbler, for example).
The problem with those is that the rules change sometimes, and you may end up losing your content.
So you have to weigh your goals carefully, and decide where you want to take your risks.
Good luck! And thanks for the comment.
A timely article for me, as my daughter is moving her website design business, wildworldcreative.com, to focus on creating websites for personal brands, so we discuss this a lot. Besides my two ecommerce businesses, I’ve been giving a lot of Pinterest advice to members in the private forums I’m in, and she keeps telling me I should set up a personal brand website where I could promote that expertise. If any of your readers would like to see a beautiful example of a personal brand website, (and no motherly bias, I promise!) she just finished one for Shannon Galpin, a National Geographic Adventurer of the Year and humanitarian, among other pursuits, and it’s a good example of showcasing multiple personal offerings under one umbrella. https://shannongalpin.com
That’s a gorgeous site, Carole! It looks like your daughter is a master at communicating personal brands. You’re in good hands! 😀
Awesome article. Our business market is women who own a small business or are a majority or equal partner in a small business with special focus on women whose faith is an integral part of their business life. This is a perfect add for their consideration.
Thanks, Linda, and thank you for the comment!
Great article with good points all the way around. I chose to build a personal brand for many reasons, some of which you talk about in this article. My business has changed a lot over the past few years, and I have been able to keep the same list and the same community while also building and growing it and expanding my reach. For me, it was most important to create a vision of the life I wanted to live then create a business that supports and sustains that, and that is what I did. Because I have chosen to go this route, I have clients who come to me to hire me who have been on my list and following me for a long time, and they recognize me and follow my growth and evolution. I teach this way of building and growing your business, and I believe it’s very powerful in today’s world and today’s marketplace.
I’m so glad it has worked out for you, Michelle! It’s tricky to know which approach to choose when you’re first setting things up — sounds like you made the right choice.
Thanks for your comment. 🙂
I’m struggling with this very issue.
Right now, my personal “hub” will be langelliott.com, which is currently a work in progress. My business name is “Music of Nature” and I’m currently use musicofnature.com to sell nature soundscape recordings. My YouTube channel, which has 3 million views, is “TheMusicOfNature”. My Facebook profile is “LangElliott” and my current Google + profile (associated with my Youtube channel) is “+MusicOfNature”, although I may change it to “+LangElliott”, which I also have.
Sooo … I’m clearly using a mixed strategy, sometimes using my personal name and sometimes my business name, though always keeping the two associated. At age 66, I doubt I’ll outgrow “The Music of Nature” as my business name, given that it can have quite a broad interpretation.
This may seem a bit confusing, but I like both my personal name and my business name, and therefore want to develop them both as my brand.
You do have a unique situation, Lang. One way to think about it is that “The Music of Nature” is your product, and you’re the artist behind the product. So promoting yourself is a way of promoting your product, and vice versa.
If it’s working well for you, then keep on keeping on! Thanks for leaving a comment.
That is a pretty neat and on-point post about personal and business branding. I am a blogger and in future want to be a digital marketing freelancer. I was struggling to choose between personal and business branding. Now, after reading this I have got clarity on what to choose. Thanks for it, Pamela!
Awesome post. Your brand is the cornerstone in building lead generation, allowing you to attract and retain top level clients, implement effective inbound marketing and funnel traffic to your website. Effective branding helps you identify ways to introduce and position new products. Ideally your brand should have a unique supporting story and narrative that can be applied to your products.
Thank you! It looks like you’re a branding agency so you get it. Love the addition of a unique supporting story, too. Thanks for the comment.
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