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The Newbie's Guide to Online Presence and Personal Branding

Sarah Bartley
Front-end web developer | Moderator for Elphas Can Code | Creator of Disney Codes Challenge
・9 min read

Originally published May 2, 2018 on The Original BritishPandaChick blog. I made tweaks to the original post so it would work for Code Newbie.

Today's post continues the Skillcrush 300 review with the next lesson on building a strong online presence. Although this is a short lesson in Skillcrush 300, I am splitting the content into two posts. This post will go over part one.

Both parts will be a combination of content from a lesson in Skillcrush 300, points I didn't get to mention from my Moms Can Code talk, and my own experiences building my own presence within the tech community. Part one is is going to explain why an online presence and personal brand are important. I'll be reviewing copy and share tips on how to improve the copy you present online.

This post will have a couple of activities for you to do as you move through this post. Today's activities include checking to see the online presence you have now and start writing bios you'll be using for part two.

What is the difference between personal brand and online presence?

A personal brand is everything associated with you. This includes your logo, images, and even your copy. Anything your ideal clients will interact it is going to be a piece of your personal brand. You can think of your personal brand like your online reputation or the answer to the "Tell me about yourself." question you get in job interviews because it paints a picture of who you are.

Don't think of your personal brand as a job title! Brands are much more than a specific job title but rather what you are able to do. One of the ways you can do this is by taking some advice from the What Color is Your Parachute book.

In the book, Bolles encourages readers to focus less on the job titles and more on what you do. Instead of saying "I am a [job title]", you should try responding as "I am a person who does [skill], [skill], [skill]." Your skills and experiences are going to be valuable for your clients since it is your way of understanding them and what they need.

It is a truth universally acknowledged that people will google you. Therefore you must make your personal brand consistent so your ideal clients are getting the same message. Even if different brands dabble in other areas, they still maintain a consistent message and tone across everything they use. Online presence is an important part of your personal brand since this is where your clients will be meeting you.

A strong online presence shows your ideal clients where to find you and that you are the right person for the job.

Everything you do online helps build your online presence. One of the ways I've boosted my online presence is through blogging, participating in Twitter chats, and sharing projects I've made on sites such as CodePen. These activities act as puzzle pieces that let people follow me, establish me as a front-end web developer, and gives my ideal clients a way to learn more about me. I like to think of my online presence as the way to make a digital form of a first impression.

This is different from regular conversations. The things we post online can be interpreted in different ways you intended. As your online presence grows and we become more dependent on technology, an online presence becomes very important because it can be hard to track if you aren't careful.

Although the internet is a big place, it is always a good idea to know what your online presence is just to make sure everything stays consistent with helping your personal brand. Despite their differences, both online presence and personal branding have one important similarity. The biggest thing they both have in common is that these are things you can control and improve upon.

This means you can choose what your ideal clients see and get to know about you. The things people find online about you can be very things that let you get hired for specific jobs. Remember the internet is the first place your ideal clients will use to see if you are the right person for the job.

Time for a check-up!

Before you can start changing your online presence, you need to see what it is right now. This doesn't mean we are going to google and see if there are anything embarrassing pictures of you online. You want to use this check-up as a way to think like your ideal client and how they would look at the online presence you have now. Skillcrush likes to refer to this as a pulse check for your digital self.

For this portion, you will need to look everywhere you are on the web. This includes your personal website to the social media accounts. You will be looking at everything from the content you write to even the avatar images you use. In order to do this, Skillcrush provides students with some checkpoints to help them evaluate their online presence.

1. Does your online presence still you?

Does your online presence stay true to you? Your goal for this point is to look at the voice and tone you present yourself on different online platforms. You want your true self to shine through.

Do you have new skills to add? If this a no, you should start thinking about upgrading your skills and figuring out how to tweak your online presence so that it stays true to you.

2. Does your online presence feel like the real you?

The key to this point is to be as genuine and authentic as possible. The more genuine and humble to are, the more likely people will want to work with you. The best way to be genuine on the web is just writing the way you talk and show what excites you.

3. Is your online presence cohesive?

Everything needs to be as clear as possible and working towards a common goal you want to reach. The secret to making a good impression online is by being consistent. Take a look at some of your favorite brands. Chances are they are the same everywhere online from the articles they post to the content they tweet on social media.

Your goal with a consistent online presence is to repeat the same message and feel everywhere on the web. The best test to see if everything is the same everywhere is to ask yourself if this is a part of your established brand you made. If it isn't, you change it or leave it. Anything that doesn't fit with your brand won't make sense to your ideal clients.

4.Is your online presence targeting your niche?

Is your brand speaking to your niche? If not, use what you learned about your niche to start targeting them.

5. Take a look at your content. Is it quick and easy to absorb?

If you are reading this blog post, chances are you are skimming what I wrote. You’ll have to keep this in mind since technology today has made it clear freelancers have to communicate important information in the fewest words possible to connect with others.

Take some time and double-check your content. Is it easy to read? If not, think about ways you can make the same point with less jargon.

A quick way to make content easy to absorb is to use headlines to break up texts into sections. If you look at blog posts, many bloggers will split portions of blog posts into chunks using headlines. One of the freelancers I know also makes sure her paragraphs are easy to read, doing three to four sentences per paragraph. This makes things easier for users to read your content and skim especially on mobile devices.

Let's talk about copy!

When it comes to your writing on the web, Skillcrush encourages students to put more consideration into what they write online. This content can be overlooked by freelancers, but it is important. Copy is what can make or break a decision a client has about you.

The secret Skillcrush has discovered about copy is the way freelancers handle their voice on the web. This means the character and tone of the written words you publish online. When it comes to writing great copy online, Skillcrush shares a few great tips to help students find the right voice for the copy they write. These tips are:

1. Write the way you talk.

Keep things authentic to you. If you don’t say it, don’t use it. What I do when I write these blog posts is just write out everything I'm thinking in a Google Doc. Then once I'm done, I put what I wrote aside for a little bit then come back to it to read what I wrote. This always helps me see if the way I write stays true to me and identify areas I can make better.

2. Avoid generic language.

Try adding some detail or color to give your language a little bit of life. A voice that sounds too generic can sound cryptic. Clients will get the impression something is missing or you have something to hide.

3. Show more than one side of yourself.

We all come into tech from different backgrounds with different skills and interests. Use this as part of your voice. It helps you establish a better connection with your ideal clients.

Skillcrush has found that potential clients want to get to know you showing multiple sides so feel free to have things in your copy that your potential clients might like to know about you. Just make you keep consistent with your personal brand.

4. Use SEO keywords.

SEO is important for every freelancer to know since this is how people find you. SEO keywords are what your ideal clients will be using to google you. It is important that you use the same SEO keywords as your niche uses when they are looking for something so you two can find each other. For example, an employer looking for a JavaScript developer will google "JavaScript developer" instead of "JavaScript expert".

5. Read everything out loud.

6. Have someone proofread your copy before you publish.

Two heads are better than one and that is true for writing copy. Having another set of eyes look at your copy will point out things you miss and give you a different perspective on your copy. The tone you have in your head can be completely different from someone else and a good friend can quickly catch that.

7. Spell check and grammar check.

I'm guilty of this rule often, but this is an important step. You can catch these by reading aloud or by using tools on your computer as well as online tools such as Grammarly.

Write your bio!

The first copy you write in this lesson is your bio. The bio tells people who you are and why they should work for you. They can be tough to write and vary depending on what social media you use.

Skillcrush helps students by identifying key characteristics of a good bio. A good bio has the following elements:

  • Important Keywords
  • What you do
  • How you meet your niche's needs
  • 1-2 accomplishments you are proud of
  • Fun, Funny, Personal Tidbit

Try writing out a few bios in a Google doc or Word document to see which ones you like. Once you pick a favorite, update your bio on your social media accounts. If you need any inspiration, check out what freelancers are using for their bios on different social media platforms.

Conclusion

That's a wrap for part one! Today you have learned the key differences between online presence and personal branding. I shared tips for writing good copy online and how to check your online presence online. Finally, I reviewed some of the elements of a great bio for your social media platforms.

Part two of the online presence lesson is coming soon. Part two will wrap up Skillcrush's online presence lesson by looking at how you can maintain your online presence. I will use this post to discuss more social media and how you should approach your social media platforms.

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