Personal branding will not only survive but thrive in a recession. That’s what I read a few years ago when I was pondering whether I should start a new brand from scratch and ditch my personal brand. Now that COVID-19 is pushing the global economy into a recession, I can already tell you that I’m glad I followed that advice.
What is personal branding?
From my understanding as a total marketing newbie, it’s when you are building a brand on yourself. When the brand is actually YOU! To tell you the truth, I had no clue I was starting a brand when I was registering this domain name based on my “Jim Makos” alias fifteen years ago! Told you, newbie.
During all this time I had second thoughts occasionally about my personal brand. Should I continue being active online as Jim? Should I tweet using my alias? Should my YouTube channel be named after my nickname?
At some point, I did create other websites, other brands that were tailored to different niches. My goal was to narrow down my interests and each website to focus on just one of them. By doing so, the audience would be targeted better and they wouldn’t be confused when I would write on different topics. Of course, I myself was creating content on those websites using my alias, eventually leading readers back to this personal website.
But deep down, I always cherished this very website. No matter how close I have been to delete all my social presence, I never thought of deleting my website once. So, my personal brand survived my darkest thoughts and along with it all of my social media profiles (although I’m THIS close to deleting my Facebook page).
And then everything changed.
Focusing on my personal website
If you are new here, I have been writing a lot about gambling, because that’s how I was making my living for ten years. You can find more about that here.
It felt natural to blog about my experience and share my knowledge through my writing. Many of the websites I launched at that time focused on different aspects of gambling. I was doing well and felt I was on the right track.
That is until governments decided to regulate the market. Given I was getting tired of extracting tiny fractions of value I found here and there (advantage gambling is far from a walk in the park), regulations and legislations made things way harder, as gambling operators were trying to abide by the new rules. Therefore, it was time to call it quits and adapt.
Suddenly I found no purpose to be actively involved in the other websites, which eventually died out. It only felt reasonable to get back to my personal website, where I could still talk about anything I liked. Although people had rightfully associated me with gambling, I was writing about my web business and my new hobbies, photography and filmmaking, hoping my readers wouldn’t feel alienated.
But in all honesty, I thought anyone who really cared, would stick with me. That’s what a personal brand is. This is me. That’s what I am doing and that’s what I am learning and sharing. It seems way easier to relate with an honest person than with a cold, emotionless website. I myself noticed this, as most readers of my other websites reached out to talk with me. They appreciated my articles and wanted to get in touch with the author. Much like I myself do whenever I run across a well-written post online.
Going back to my personal website, I removed all advertising, which didn’t make sense in the first place. I changed the look to one that speaks for my character and made improvements using the knowledge I had acquired from running other websites.
As a result, I focused on my personal brand more than ever.
Then it was time for creating videos. Should I continue uploading on my personal YouTube channel or should I create a new channel with a different name? Although it may sound crazy to start from scratch, I would struggle to get rid of the gambling stink in my established channel.
Two things made me consider continuing with my personal brand on YouTube:
- Personal branding allegedly won’t be affected in a recession.
- Finance channels perform the best when it comes to monetizing.
My recession-proof personal brand is ALREADY finance-ready
As I was writing about gambling since 2005, I often discussed financials and the global economy. I even wrote about betting on politics and quite often discussed how stocks performed, with the occasional mention of cryptocurrencies.
So, yes, I wrote about sports and poker, but also delved into stock markets, currency trading and bitcoin craze. I realized that I can shift my interest towards finance and people wouldn’t be bothered that much. It wasn’t as if I were a football tipster that was trying to fool people into buying the tips that I wouldn’t even follow myself! 🤔
My personal brand was already built around working from home, making money and finance. I no longer saw a point in creating a new channel or persona. Besides, sooner or later I would get to mention my past gambling experience, given how much correlated the investing, finance and gambling industries are.
And then I was reading that personal brands would perform far better during recessions. And we were long due for one after the financial crisis in 2008. Obviously I wouldn’t persist on improving my personal brand just for the sake of an upcoming recession, but working stress-free in uncertain times would certainly be welcome.
And boy, didn’t those uncertain times arrive!
Personal branding in the Coronavirus era
I quit creating content for other websites a few years ago. Gradually, I began writing for this blog. Last summer I decided to resume making videos regularly and pursue my love for filmmaking, which I discovered when I became a dad and began filming my family life. Long story short, I started writing scripts and began preproduction in late 2019. By February this year, I uploaded my first video to YouTube and I have been uploading up to two videos every week for two months straight! You may not be impressed, but for me, it’s a great achievement.
At the same time, I became a lot more active on Twitter and took part in a lot more conversations than ever before. I tidied up my Instagram feed and designed a proper cover for my YouTube channel.
My personal branding game was gaining traction by the time the coronavirus pandemic hit the world. It’s as if I was preparing for this. And maybe, deep down I was.
Now, it remains to prove if personal branding will outperform other kinds of branding during the coronavirus outbreak. Judging by the first signs from other creators, it definitely seems so. Every creative freelancer out there is focusing on creating content for themselves, as all jobs got canceled and they are staying at home. More and more people are starting their own YouTube channels and reputable creators are uploading personal content more than ever.
What else can you do with all that time in your hand?
The pandemic will eventually be lifted, the virus will be defeated and businesses will open again (at least those that get a bailout). The world will be different coming out of this public health crisis and a few smart people are already innovating for that post-crisis world. For the rest of us, our personal brand will still be there (as long as we survive). So, why don’t we concentrate our time and efforts on creating or improving our own brand? Can you think of a better way to spend a lockdown?