How to Scale Your Personal Brand, Earn More and Get a Life

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You’ve worked so hard to establish a reputation, but now it’s backfired…and, you’re in personal branding hell.

Building a strong personal brand—being known as the go-to person in a specific niche—has it’s ups. Everyone turns to you for information, for ideas, for thought leadership, for advice, for strategy, for connections, for presentations, for favors, for opportunities, for jobs, for partnerships, for salvation.

But, if the way to choose to leverage your personal brand is to trade time for money…

You may well have just built a personal brand that feels more like a cage than a stage.

Because, there are only so many hours you can bill for, so many planes you can get on, so many individual conversations you can have before you…and your life…implode. Especially if you’ve also got a family you actually want to see, friends you love to be around, other activities, passions and hobbies you love to engage in and a commitment to taking care of your body and your mind.

If your personal brand requires you to trade time for money, at some point, you’ll need to make a life-critical decision.

Either increase your rates to a level that let’s you earn enough to live well in the world, while working a balance of hours that affords you a life outside your living. Or, keep your rates accessible to most, forcing you to work a ton of hours…and risk the neglect-driven atrophy of all the other parts of your life you claim to hold dear.

There is, of course, a third option…scale your brand independent of trading time for money.

Keep a certain amount of face-to-face time, especially if that experience makes you come alive (it does, for me). But, then build a plan to scale your business and your income around solutions and experiences that do not require you to trade time for money.

Examples include:

1. Commodotize knowledge & Filter Access – Brain dump what you know into a format—books, videos, info-products, virtual courses—that allows you to share what you know on a mass scale and likely a far more accessible price, without you having to deliver that knowledge repeatedly or provide unlimited or individualized access directly to you.

Lewis Howes’ course on LinkedIn Marketing, Dave Navarro’s Launch Coach products, Naomi Dunford’s small biz marketing programs, Chris Guillebeau’s Unconventional Guides and John Jantsch’s Duct Tape Marketing products are great examples.

2. Train For Bucks – Train people to leverage your knowledge to become independent consultants, then charge a substantial fee for that training. Yes, you may well end up training your competition, but that just means you need to keep growing, learning and improving to stay one step ahead. Plus, if you change your mindset from scarcity to abundance, you’ll realize…you’re actually training your future collaborators and teachers, too.

Legendary copywriter, John Carlton, is a great example, making the leap from writing copy for clients to training people to become copywriters with his Simple Writing System. Or, Pam Slim and Michelle Woodward, two well-known coaches who now virtually train others to make a better living coaching.

3. Build a Team – Bring together a team of people, share what you know, delegate levels of responsibility, then empower and trust them to go out into the world, then go beyond your expectations to help you create even better solutions and bring them to market. This is the foundation of every company that grows out of the unique abilities of an individual.

What Jason Fried did with 37Signals is a great example. Or, how James grew professional writing company, Men With Pens.  I did this, too, in my last brick and mortar biz, Sonic Yoga, building a team of amazing teachers and community leaders around me, so that I ended up working only about 5-10 hours a week by the time I sold the company.

4. Be a Catalyst & Aggregator – Leverage your brand to bring together, organize and help market others in complimentary disciplines, forming a collective effort that draws more potential clients with shared needs to your blended efforts. Then, create integrated in-person and commoditized solutions that reach across a broader swath of your clients’ needs.

Brian Clark of copyblogger has executed on this and the above approach masterfully with his company, Unglued Media, bringing in people like Tony Clark (no, he’s not Brian’s second cousin) and Sonia Simone as partners, then teaming with Chris Pearson (DIY Themes), Darren Rowse and Chris Brogan (Third Tribe Marketing) and others to build an online training and product powerhouse.

These are just a few ideas. Point being…

Be very conscious about the way you scale and leverage your personal brand. It’s the difference between living well or living hell.

As always, would love to you know what YOU think…

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36 responses

36 responses to “How to Scale Your Personal Brand, Earn More and Get a Life”

  1. Mike Willner says:

    Great post! Your links are invaluable.

  2. Brain dump sounds good. But then yhou have to edit the hell out of it, make it look great, sound better and market like you mean it. Looking forward to giving it a whirl.. my days of hobby blogging are over:)

    • Annabel, be careful not to polish your stuff so much you just rub holes in it.

      Since it’s almost impossible to know what’s gonna catch, and what’s gonna flop, sometimes more tries is better than better tries (think about the difference between aiming at a target, and throwing dice. Trying harder ain’t gonna roll doubles; more tries will, though.)

      You’re not writing or editing for writers (unless, um, you are) so don’t burn a lot of cycles trying to make something perfect. First and foremost, get something done and ship it.

  3. Hey Jonathan,

    This article covers a lot of territory. Your point about being the go-to person in a specific niche got my attention.

    Cause I think a lot of us tend to try to be the go to person in anything, and fail at everything. Build a specific niche and developing credibility in it is very important. It does require sacrificing other niches, but in the long run, it is worth it.

    • Jonathan Fields says:

      What I’ve discovered (trust me, the very hard way) is that the best way to expand into multiple niches is to team or partner, not to become the go-to person for all

  4. I really enjoyed the post.What if you are pressed for time to do the legwork? Can you hire someone to do it for you or does something get lost in translation?

  5. ami says:

    I had not thought about the downside of being the ‘go to’ person – or about the ability to ‘commoditize’ that value. As a ‘go to’ person in my last organization, I remember feeling harried and constantly busy – but not getting personal fulfillment out of all that activity. You’ve given me a new way of looking at that experience. These are wonderful tips.

  6. Scaling is something I’ve certainly been struggling with over the past year. There’s a wall, I think, if you want to continue to grow if you’re trading time for money. Even if you can raise your rates to an amazing level, there’s still a limit on the number of billable hours in a day.

  7. Great post, Jonathan, and everything you say is valid. I think one of the most neglected ways of scaling for service professionals though (which you mention briefly) is simply raising rates. Some of the people I know who make the most money with the best lifestyle, leverage their brand simply by raising and raising their rates.

    This is mainly what I’m doing and it’s working well for me.

    It takes a very very special mindset to do this, because each time your rates go up significantly, you need to retool your mindset/branding/networking to reach a more and more affluent audience, and many people are uncomfortable doing this.

    But if you can master this mentality, raising rates is a highly scalable solution–there’s virtually no upper limit, if you network with the right people and reframe your value proposition each time you raise your rates.

    • Jonathan Fields says:

      Agreed, it’s an example of scaling income without scaling complexity, which I am a huge fan of. Though, it’s far easier to do when he service you provide can be marketed as “pay me X and I’ll generate a multiple of X in new revenue.” Much harder for other types of services.

      • @JonathanFields – Very true. But it’s impossible to raise rates sustainably unless you get out of quoting in hours. As soon as your hourly rate gets over $250, people start comparing you to lawyers and balking at the price.

        The key to raising rates is to start quoting in terms of an ongoing monthly retainer. I know people whose “hourly rate” is $1500+ based on the numbers of hours they work during each month for their retainer, but they’d never in a million years get that if they quoted that “by the hour”.

  8. Thanks for including the examples. They’re very helpful. I continually struggle defining my niche, so I need to take that step before I can scale.

  9. How did I not read your blog obsessively until now? Forgive the blasphemy. You totally rock my socks.

  10. Tamarisk says:

    I’m a psychotherapist and if there’s any profession that real does sell hours for dollars it’s ours! These points are all really valid and I think it’s also worth re-emphasizing your point about having an abundance mentality. Approaching work in this way creates abundance, you can leverage your time to work with more people, even if it’s people you’ll never meet or speak to because they bought or downloaded a product you created. When you think about it that way, it’s a pretty amazing way to live!

    • Jonathan Fields says:

      You and Michael Ellsberg above bring up a great point, too. If your profession allows you to charge a pretty serious hourly rate, you love the one-to-one, and you can comfortably earn enough to live well in the world, you don’t necessarily NEED to scale beyond that. But, it’s nice to know you’ve got options.

  11. Scott Messinger says:

    I can identify with the “commoditize” option. I’ve done this at my job out of necessity. Working in I.T. support, you tend to develop a whole series of documents to solve common problems. It’s easier just to whip off an email with an attachment and say “do this” than to spend 20 minutes on the phone.

    Now if I could just get my bosses to let me put all this knowledge somewhere, so people could get it without having to call me in the first place!

  12. Ross Hudgens says:

    I especially like what Jason Fried and DHH do with 37signals to “scale their brand”. Really, they build a tribe, and we show up for them. We walk about their ideas. If we’re the only one who cares about what we think, we can only show up so much.

    If we’re showing up everywhere due to our tribe showing up for us, there’s real potential.

  13. John Sherry says:

    Being a brand can be like unleashing a monster. More and more people want to experience ‘you’. There’s less and less ‘you’ for yourself. You are now a commodity, a service or a promise they expect. It’s then difficult to seperate the real you and the imagined you. The life you had may well change and trying to be anonymous either costly to your brand or your homelife. Worth considering if you want to be a brand in your own right.

  14. If you want to see a great example of scaling a personal brand, look at Oprah. An army of people work in her name, but it’s always Oprah to her fans. Pick any “first name” celeb, like Martha, Ellen, Conan, and you’ll see the same thing.

    Time to create your own talk show, Jonathan. 🙂

  15. This article was a fantastic affirmation that I’m headed in the right path… after years of having a moderately successful “personal brand” in the offline world I operate in, I was fed up with working on a per hour basis.

    As stated, all you can do is put your rates up… and then alienate a bunch of clients. When more success = more hours work… your model is broken.

    Thanks to the internet and some wonderful people, I’m in the process of escaping that trap and taking the whole “passive” thing to the next level.

    So thanks Jonathan… for breaking it all down like this. Concise clarity is a wonderful skill in a writer 🙂

    AND… I agree with Michael. When’s the talk show starting? 😛

  16. Commodotize knowledge & Filter Access – That’s a great idea. Minimize how much people NEED to get hold of you because the information is already out there (presumably on a website). I’m going to use this one.

  17. Oh,this is JUST what I needed Jonathan, thanks so much!

    Quite by accident, my brand has gotten much bigger than me. LOL. I always wonder how really big brands manage and I’ve got the added joy of being on an open ended world tour, so want to have plenty of time to enjoy that.

    I love to unplug and sometimes I have no choice as you can’t imagine how bad the internet can be around the world, even in very civilized places.

    I’m a big believer in “time equals wealth” & just tweeted a new fave quote that must hit a nerve because it was retweeted a lot:

    “Being rich is having money. Being wealthy is having time.” ~ Bonnano

    I’m definitely after the time and only blog and make videos as a creative outlet. BUT we have gained so much experience that I also feel an obligation to share to help others.

    Ever since we recently got profiled in the New York Times & I was approached to start writing my book, I’ve been a bit overwhelmed about how to find the time for it all and avoid the “cage”. ( Of course this all happened after I was in a bike wreck and paralyzed my dominant arm to add to the chaos). 😉

    I’m stumbling and bookmarking this as it is precisely the area I need to work on now! Gracias from Spain!

  18. […] }*/ .feedback_prompt { background-color: #E3E9C0; display: none; } 2 Tweets How to Scale Your Personal Brand, Earn More and Get a Life You've worked so hard to establish a reputation, but now it's backfired…and, you're in […]

  19. I like the brain dumping idea! it seems to be a popular method because it is easier and cheaper for people to buy the dumped information through e-books, printed copies, webinars, etc.

    It is also an easier venture for entrepreneurs / information marketers since they don’t have to worry about the overhead of building a team. And because it is a digitally delivered product, it provides an instant gratification for an information hungry audience.
    Compare that to other methods of sharing your knowledge like hosting seminars and conferences which involves much traveling and expenses both for the conference organizer or for the attendees.

  20. Excellent. Thank you. This gives me a blueprint as I get started. Sent out to all my business-owner friends. They too are all so happy I am following you now. = )

  21. This is so true says:

    great clarity.

  22. Megan Zuniga says:

    Great post! You know what they say, two heads are better than one. So, it’s a good idea to delegate. You cannot be in two places at once. You’re only human. The most important thing is not stretch yourself too thin. And building a team mean more people, more ideas, and it will be beneficial for you and your company. Also, it doesn’t hurt to get a breather. If you’re having trouble letting go and delegating, here are more reasons why you should: http://sn.im/uxp5g

  23. Jonathan! Thanks so much for the shout out – Pam Slim and I certainly have leveraged our brands to position ourselves as the experts who can help coaches grow their skills and their practices. And the cool thing? We can actually do that! 🙂 I’ve always believed that you can hype brand, but ultimately brand has to stand for something, or customers will flee. I’m proud of what Pam and I have built and thank you for recognizing what it is we’re doing.

    Smooch!

  24. Bryan Lubic says:

    Yeah!!
    Thanks, Jonathon!

    Outsanding closing quote:

    “It’s the difference between living well or living hell.”

    NICE!

  25. I’m working on two things: 1.) writing a book, 2.) building out a powerhouse team.

    There’s only so many hours in the day after all! I need to know that I can run a business that can scale (without me being tied to it every day). Make sense? Anyway, I’m happy with the progress we’ve made over the months and where we’re headed. So, so far, so good…

  26. […] How to Scale Your Personal Brand, Earn More and Get a Life – Personal branding is what all professionals want, need, and desire. But it is so time consuming! Jonathan has an amazing article with links, advice, and always helpful tips. He says it best with: “Be very conscious about the way you scale and leverage your personal brand. It’s the difference between living well or living hell.” […]

  27. Hey, thanks for the link-out, Jonathan – and for the post. Personal versus business branding is a topic I feel pretty strongly about (I’ve written on it a few times as well), and I’ve chosen to work a combo of both, leaning towards business branding as much as possible.

    I think freelancers and solopreneurs fall far too often into the trap of personal branding – and then I see them want out out out before they burn out.

    Leverage, create separate income streams and build a balance, I say.

  28. […] what can happen when you get to the point where you’ve established a really good reputation: personal branding hell. Yeah, that’s about where I’m at right now. Good thing Jonathan gives some great […]

  29. […] How to Scale Your Personal Brand, Earn More and Get a Life […]

  30. […] no idea that it would impact my life so greatly. I think I might be in what Jonathan Fields calls “personal branding hell”: “Building a strong personal brand—being known as the go-to person in a specific […]