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Jacqueline Schneider, founder of The Mint Collective, a San Diego-based creative consulting agency, explains the importance of personal branding.

What is personal branding?

Branding is what draws someone to a company or individual. It’s about creating a consistent identity for yourself or your company through a variety of platforms both on and offline. Many think branding means having a logo, but it’s so much more than that. Depending on your industry, your brand might be a color you use consistently in all of your collateral, like Tiffany&Co and their signature Tiffany blue color. If you are positioning yourself as a leader in the “green” space then you may want to go paperless, and you will focus more on your website as a branding tool. It’s everything that has to do with you or your company from your handshake to your eye contact, from the business card you hand out to the website on that business card, and to the Facebook or Twitter pages you update. It is about consistently messaging and engaging people on all platforms.

Who needs it and why?

With the current state of the economy so many of us are independent contractors which leaves the markets flooded with personal brands. Setting your brand apart on and offline from the others is really the only way to secure new clients. If you are seeking compensation for professional services you should have an easily identifiable brand. Having a brand identity will not only make your services more palatable to a wider variety of people but it also helps you realize your own potential by taking the time to really think about your brand and the messaging behind it.

Let’s say I’m a business executive. How would my personal brand be different from, say, a more artistic type of job seeker?

Your brand should be both appropriate and memorable for any industry you are in. Typically, a business executive’s brand lies more in traditional merit and his or her experience in higher-level positions. Your various pieces of collateral will need to reflect that. If you are an artistic job seeker or more on the creative side, you should be just that - creative. No matter what kind of job seeker you are, your offline brand should correlate with your online brand. So, whether you are artistic, traditional or somewhere in between &mdash the corresponding aspects of your identity should be consistent everywhere.

How do I find the right person to help me with my brand? Who would I go to for help with something like that?

Use the resources around you. Ask your friends, colleagues, family. Go within. Have a dialogue about it. Many discoveries are made while in speech. A good friend of mine, Mike Green over at Blatant Creative in Little Italy, has been an incredible resource for my branding, advertising, and graphic design inquiries, and he’s definitely someone I’d recommend for any aesthetic advice.

How much money would I have to shell out for the whole shebang? What if I can only afford one piece of the personal-branding package? Is any one part of it more important than the rest?

There is really no monetary value I can put on creating and maintaining a brand. It will be both time and probably a little money depending on what is valuable for your brand. For example someone who is always out and about talking to people is going to want to invest in a memorable and nice looking business card. Someone who has a t-shirt company is going to want to invest in their logo if that is what is going on their t-shirts. If you are a PR firm, you will need an extensive website showing examples of your work. It really depends on what is valuable to your brand.

And if I don’t have any extra money to pay for it, do you have any tips for do-it-yourself branding?

Yes. You can always do things yourself. They may take a little longer, but you may also get the most supreme satisfaction in learning new things while growing your brand.

Figure out what your strengths are and play them up. Figure out what your weaknesses are and work on them. Write a business plan to help flush out ideas.

Build your own blog. My favorites: www.tumblr.com, www.wordpress.com, www.blogspot.com.

Create a Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn account, maintain and update frequently with engaging conversation to attract new people and make connections.

Stay educated on your industry. Subscribe to newsletters, go to local networking events, make sure you know what your competition is doing. Staying up on current trends in your industry will help you mold your brand and keep up with the changes.

Setup Google Alerts for keywords or phrases you’d like to monitor. And start building your email list – this is a serious asset.

Lastly, how about a couple more bits of advice for those of us who are convinced that we need a brand? Anything we should keep in mind?

Yes. Trust yourself, trust your struggle and trust the people you work with. Trust is the most important thing to building a business or brand. If you can’t give it to others, they will not give it back to you. Consult with someone to help you understand the value of your brand and make smart purchase decisions based on your needs.

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