Today, I spoke to Joel Falconer, who is a writer and entrepreneur that manages the Envato business publications FreelanceSwitch, the Netsetter and WorkAwesome. In this interview, Joel talks about how he differences between personal and business branding, as well as why he invests so much in blogging, and more.
How do you differentiate between personal and business branding? Can you have both?
I learned the difference the hard way. Back when I was getting started with my first business, producing copy and content, I never anticipated scaling problems—I was too concerned that I might not be able to get enough clients to have even thought of that.
In less than a year, I was swamped. And it wasn’t the feast or famine effect that freelancers like to talk about, where you’ve got your plate full one month and then you’re searching for work the next—it was full pelt all the time.
In most businesses, this is when you bring in other people to balance the load, and ultimately, make even more money than you’re capable of bringing in on your own. But because of the nature of the writing industry and the way in which I’d gone in headfirst with my personal brand, it wasn’t that easy. People weren’t just paying for my writing, they were paying for me to write it.
Building a business around your personality and your name is definitely a valid way to go, but you need to consider a bunch of things. If you’re in a service industry, for example, are you okay with the fact that there’s a ceiling on your scalability when you’re using yourself as the brand? On the other hand, if you want to write books on a subject you care about and work the speaking circuit, personal branding is really suited to that kind of endeavor for the long term.
I think you can certainly have both at once, though must people end up putting all their energy into one or the other. Guy Kawasaki has his own brand and Alltop has its own brand. There’s my friend James Chartrand with a strong personal following and then the company Men with Pens. There’s many more, but you get my point.
I’ve always gone about the personal branding thing in a much more grassroots way than I’d approach branding a business with its own name and identity, so I’d say that my personal brand is based by and large on just being myself (against the advice of, well, everyone).
So in order to see if I’d actually succeeded at developing a memorable personal brand, I asked people I’ve worked with how they’d describe me in just a few words. I think I’ve succeeded, because focusing less on the inferences of the descriptors and just looking for patterns in the words used by various people, the results were pretty consistent—they used words like edgy, straightforward, solid, determined, persistent, and discriminating (the good kind of discriminating, I’m hoping!). Since people tend not to say nasty things about you to your face, I can’t say the data would stand up to any scientific scrutiny, though.
Do you think everyone should have a blog? Why or why not?
No. Blogs are just a medium for your message, and not everyone has something to say. And there’s nothing wrong with that! But a lot of people do have a lot to say and blogging is one of the many ways that the Internet has reduced the number of obstacles people face when trying to get their message out there.
Writing, and more specifically making a living from it, was always a priority for me. I’m watching my oldest son grow up and he’s in that phase of life where he’s picking new professions for adulthood every week—things like “Batman” and “police officer”. For as much of my childhood as I have a memory of, I was enamored with words and stories and held the unwavering belief that I would be a writer.
That never changed, and I’ve been using the Internet to overcome the obstacles of the traditional publishing since I figured out Frontpage 97 back when dial-up was the usual home Internet connection.
I guess my investment isn’t as much in blogging as it is in using the Internet to publish—and blogging is currently one of the most efficient and effective ways to do that.
What inspires you to be so entrepreneurial?
Money is a powerful incentive for people, especially those of us with families to support, but I don’t think it would be realistic to say that entrepreneurs are in it for the money. Most projects cost a lot of money to get going and even more time, and you never know for sure if something’s going to take off or not. What really inspires me, and I’m sure many others, is the excitement of creating something new, exploring something interesting, and solving somebody’s problem.
Joel Falconer is a writer and entrepreneur who lives in Melbourne, Australia. After running a successful content business for several years, he now manages the Envato business publications FreelanceSwitch, the Netsetter and WorkAwesome and works as a consultant with people who want to leave their day jobs behind to do what they love. You can visit his personal site here.