Make it weird: Selling yourself without selling your soul


It all comes down to one thing: You have to admit that a personal brand exists. Whether or not you call it that is up to you. Customers have five-star bullshit detectors at this point, so however you decide to present yourself and your business needs to be authentic and clear. 

What makes things complicated is that there's a grey area in branding and content. For freelancers, people using their name as their brand, or people who are just inextricably intertwined with their ‘company brand’ they need to find a strange place between ‘brand’ and ‘person.’ This is by no means an exhaustive list of questions to ask yourself about how you want to navigate that, but a starting point for today’s one-person-show entrepreneurs to hone their messaging.

1. What makes you weird?

The happiest people I talk to, who strike out on their own, find a way to incorporate their weirdness into every single day of their chosen career or business. It doesn’t have to be the focus of your business—but it can be. Heck, there’s a guy who loved axe throwing so much he made it into a new (almost) recognized sport.

But if you’re a little more private or your business is a little more serious, then there are other ways:

Love puns? That’s easy: Your online content just became pun-central. Do you find yourself doodling on every single note you send a client? Build that into your design aesthetic. Are you really involved in community action? Make sure you donate some of your proceeds to local charities and post about local events on your channels. Even these little things will help keep you and your brand feeling authentic—and keep you sane.

2. Should I show my 'weird' if it will alienate my customers?

Always check in with yourself and your gut feelings about anything that might change the direction of your business or project. It's always good to be authentic, but if you've fostered a community around a brand that isn't, you'll need to be careful.

And if getting involved in something that lets you show a little of your weird fits with your brand then start slowly showing those colors. You don’t want to shock your current customer base, but finding ways to show your true self is important to being and feeling authentic.

You need an outlet for your authenticity and passion. That outlet could be a blog, Instagram, or an event series of some sort. You can still align it directly with your business, or maintain it as a side project if you decide it's not the right fit for your main company.

3. I've decided to let a little weirdness in: How can I show authenticity while staying professional?

Now, I’m sure some people are sitting there thinking: ‘I run a cleaning service, that can’t be weird,’ or something similar. Really, it’s about authenticity. Are you a cleaning service that supports the environment? Go green! And even if that’s not realistic in the short term, making long-term goals that align with your beliefs is important to creating an authentic business.

Another option is to simply adjust your brand voice. For the cleaning company, instead of "We're having a sale: 30% off your first cleaning!" You could say something like "Stop staring at that carpet stain—get 30% off your first cleaning with us!" That's a little more fun, right? Or: "Environmentally friendly cleaning for 30% off! Keep the grasses green and your carpet clean." That's even a little goofy—but still gets the point across.

At the end of the day, if you're running a one-person business you better be doing something you care about, believe in, or have fun doing. If you aren’t, those phony vibes will start to peek through the cracks—and your customers will notice.

Need help figuring out how to stay authentic? Want to make sure your copy is sending the right vibes and telling the right story? Contact Howl to learn how we can help.



Cheryl Rafuse