I was fortunate enough to have international best selling author and personal branding expert, Dan Schawbel, write the forward for my book that’s coming out next month, 30-Minute Social Media Marketing. The second edition of Dan’s incredibly popular book, Me 2.0, comes out this week. You can read his bio at the end of this post which demonstrates just how well Dan knows what he’s talking about!
I spent a few minutes with him discussing how freelance writers can build their own personal brands in order to build their businesses. Dan’s insightful answers to my questions are included below. Be sure to read the Building Your Freelance Writing Brand series here on Freelance Writing Jobs for more information about how you can start developing your own brand to boost your writing business.
Susan Gunelius: How can freelance writers benefit from personal branding? What can they learn in your book that can help them get started?
Dan Schawbel: Over 30% of the US population is freelancers, and in my opinion, everyone should have a freelancer’s mentality. You should always be looking for work and new opportunities, even if you have a full-time job.
Being a freelancer makes it easy and critical to build a personal brand. Freelancers can benefit from personal branding because they need to differentiate themselves, be found online through searches, and build portfolios to display their work. A freelance web designer will be judged based off of the website they create for themselves, and writers will be judged based on online clips from published sources. Me 2.0 helps freelancers discover, create, communicate, and maintain their brand over the course of their lives. It’s imperative to take advantage of your brand now, so that you can attract the right opportunities.
Susan Gunelius: What is your response to someone who says they don’t need a website or an online presence for their freelance writing business?
Dan Schawbel: I would probably look at them like they were crazy, to be honest. It’s hard to imagine a freelancer that doesn’t have a web presence. For freelancers, I recommend that you have your own website (yourfullname.com), as well as your full name as a vanity URL on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn. It’s also important to have your full name as an email address (email@example.com is what I recommend). If you don’t have an online presence, you won’t be found which is a major competitive disadvantage. I haven’t made one sales pitch in three years. I get new clients and opportunities based on being found, and it works.
Susan Gunelius: You’ve achieved a lot of success at a young age and even have an internationally best selling book to your credit. Could you share some of the story of how you got to this point and specifically share the story of how you got your first book published?
Dan Schawbel: I wrote the entire story on my blog in length, but will summarize it for you! I had eight internships, seven leadership positions, and a consulting company during college. I got each internship by showcasing my “personal branding toolkit,” which was composed of my business card, a website, resume, cover letter, references document, and a CD portfolio of my work. This impressed employers and I considered it to be “marketing myself” back then before I knew the term “personal branding.” Despite all of this hard work, I was afraid to network, so it took me eight months, meeting fifteen people, and getting rejected twice, to get a job at EMC corporation.
I started the Personal Branding Blog on March 14th 2007, and then created a video series, wrote articles for magazines, started the Personal Brand Awards, and launching Personal Branding Magazine on August 1st with an interview between Donald Trump and Guy Kawasaki. Fast Company wrote about my six month journey, and my life changed at rapid speed. I was asked to speak at Google and was recruited internally by a VP to lead the social media efforts in communications at EMC. I had the idea to write Me 2.0, once I flipped the recruitment process over, and was given a job based on my personal brand outside of work. I went through seventy agents, and three publishers, before I received my publishing deal with Kaplan in January of 2008. I started my company in January of this year.
Susan Gunelius: For a freelance writer who does not yet have a website, blog or other branded online destinations, what are the first steps they should take to begin developing their personal brand?
Dan Schawbel: The easiest part is crafting your online presence, and the hardest part is to figure out what you’re passionate about, what your current writing skills are and what you need to improve, as well as your short and long-term goals. Ask yourself “where do I want to go with my career, and in twenty years, what do I want to do”? Then, craft your personal brand and your long-term positioning. It’s not about the job you’re doing now, but where it all leads you in the end. That’s what counts! What’s your mission, your values, and what lasting impact do you want to have on the world?
Susan Gunelius: Many freelance writers are confused about how to brand themselves online — their personal name, a business name, a pseudonym? What do you recommend from a brand-building/business-building standpoint?
Dan Schawbel: If you’re a freelancer, than you are your business, so you have to brand yourself, and not some random corporate name. You don’t have a team, which means if people hire you, they get YOU. I recommend that you use your name everywhere, and connect it to your expertise.
Susan Gunelius: What are your thoughts on writing for websites for free as a marketing effort to build your brand? I’m a strong proponent of it but many freelance writers can’t make the shift in thinking from requiring payment for their writing to using it as a marketing/advertising/publicity tool. Where do you stand on that debate?
Dan Schawbel: That is an extremely good question Susan. As an expert in my field, I look at freelancing as a loss leader and something that is used to just promote my book and other assets. I never set out to make a living off of writing for magazines or sources. For writers who depend on money to survive, you should charge based on your experience, talents, and supply/demand for what you cover. If you need to write a few articles for free to get a brand on your resume, it could be a good idea for you. The only problem is that you’re writing won’t be looked highly upon and it might hurt your chances of getting paid by that brand later.
Susan Gunelius: What’s next for Dan Schawbel?
Dan Schawbel: I’m working on a new book concept right now that I can’t reveal of course. I’m launching the 14th issue of Personal Branding Magazine on November 1st, which I’m very excited about. I’m also speaking at Harvard Business School this month, and receiving an award by the Massachusetts Governor. You won’t see me expand my platform by creating more websites and blogs anytime soon. My goal for the short-term is to build upon what I already have, and create a monetization funnel that can support me and my employees. I see live events as being a huge part of that, especially since that’s where TechCrunch and Mashable make all their money.
Susan Gunelius: Where can Freelance Writing Jobs readers go to learn more about you and your book?
About Dan Schawbel
Dan Schawbel, recognized as a “personal branding guru” by The New York Times, is the Managing Partner of Millennial Branding, LLC, and the leading authority on personal branding. He is the author of the bestselling career book, Me 2.0: Build a Powerful Brand to Achieve Career Success (Kaplan, April 2009). Me 2.0 made the Amazon top 100 business book bestsellers list when it came out and was the #1 job hunting book. It also made the New York Times summer reading list for job seekers, was one of three social networking books recommended by Shape Magazine, was the #1 career book of 2009 by The New York Post, and is being translated into Japanese and French.
With over 900,000 results for his name in Google, Fast Company calls Dan a “personal branding force of nature.” If you search for branding experts in Google, Dan ranks #2! BusinessWeek named Dan as one of twenty people entrepreneurs should follow on twitter, alongside Richard Branson and Details Magazine cited him as one of five internet guru’s that can make you rich, alongside Seth Godin. He is the founder of the Personal Branding Blog®, which was the #1 job blog by Careerbuilder in 2008 & 2009, is an AdAge top 30 marketing blog and is syndicated by Reuters, Forbes, Fox Business and other major networks. Dan is also the publisher of Personal Branding Magazine® and the Student Branding Blog, head judge for the Personal Brand Awards®, director of Personal Branding TV®, and holds live Personal Branding Events. As a brand futurist, Dan was one of the first seven bloggers to have their own iPhone application.
In 2007, Dan co-created one of the first social media positions in a Fortune 200 company, EMC Corp. He is a syndicated columnist for Metro US (New York, Boston & Philadelphia), reaching over 1.2 million readers bi-weekly. At 26 years old, Dan is BusinessWeek’s youngest columnist and previously had a column with CBS Interactive’s BNET. He is also a featured contributor to Mashable, LifeHack, and MediaPost and he has written articles for BrandWeek Magazine and Advertising Age.
Dan has interviewed over 270 successful business people and celebrities, such as MC Hammer, Kathy Ireland, Jerry Springer, Perez Hilton, Timbaland, Tim Ferriss, Marcus Buckingham, Tony Hsieh, George Foreman, Ivanka Trump and Tom Peters. He’s been featured in over 150 media outlets, such as The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, BusinessWeek, The Washington Post, CBS, ABC News, MSNBC, NPR, USA Today, Forbes, and The Boston Globe. Dan has 8 years of marketing experience, employed at companies such as EMC, Reebok, Lycos, LoJack, and TechTarget.
Dan is a keynote speaker at colleges and universities, such as Harvard and MIT and at major companies such as Time Warner and CitiFinancial. He is exclusively represented by the Big Speak Inc. speakers bureau, who also manages Donald Trump and Lance Armstrong. He helps both individuals and companies with creative branding solutions. Dan lives in Boston, MA and graduated Magna Cum Laude from Bentley University in 2006.