Image by h.koppdelaney
Wouldn’t it be nice to get paid to just exist?
I think so.
In fact, that’s my gig right now.
I exist. And I get paid for it. And it’s pretty awesome. So how is this possible? Well, it all has to do with…
The Revolution of Branding
Except it’s much cooler than the word branding (think livestock) makes it sound.
If you asked anyone what a brand is twenty years ago, they’d probably respond: “Coca Cola.” But if you asked them what a brand meant, you’d surely be meant with a blank stare. No neurons firing there.
In the past few decades, things have changed. Not only do people understand what a brand is and what it does — much due to social media — we’re starting to understand what personal branding means.
But despite a lot of people now knowing what personal branding is, most don’t really know how to use it effectively. (Not to mention, the word “personal branding” is on the verge of being akin to such overused buzzwords as “friending” and “crowd-sourcing.”)
And there’s a problem: Only half of the map is there, but people are walking around as if they’ve got the whole thing.
The first part of the picture (the one people get): Branding is something that you do to set yourself apart. It’s how you market and present your skills to others. It’s your unique combination of talents and skills that you communicate through personal branding that makes people want to work with you or buy your stuff.
The second part (the one that’s overlooked): Branding isn’t just about what you’ve got or what talents make you different, it’s about YOU… as a person. It’s about what makes you cool, geeky, sexy, mysterious, funny, passionate, and whatever other qualities that make you attractive. The second part is not just about communicating the skills you have, but communicating how you, as a person, deliver those skills in a way only you can.
It’s saying: You don’t just want to work with me because I’m a badass webdesigner. You want to work with me because I’m a baddass webdesigner in a bomber jacket that drives a Prius.
How This Started to Matter
It’s becoming more and more possible to get paid for being you. There are a lot of complicated reasons we could go into, but it really comes down to one thing: motivation.
Don’t worry, I’m not going to go all Tony Robbins chest-pounding on you. I’m talking about something entirely different.
See, not long ago, before things like cars and planes existed, most of our motivation to work was because of the desire to eat. Pretty simple, right? Nice motivator, if you ask me.
Now the second motivator after food is taken care of is security. But once you realize that that doesn’t mean much when you could get hit by a bus at any moment, the next motivator is: Passion. In other words, giving a damn.
People want to give a damn about the people they interact with. People crave to interact with people they admire, respect, and most of all, people they connect with.
And that is what personal branding is really about. Showing people why they want to be like you. Why they should care about what you have to say, or what you can offer. Not just because you’re really good at it, but also because you’re intensely passionate.
Some People That Are Really Awesome at This
Remember earlier when I was talking about how no one understands what personal branding really is? Well, I take that back. There are a few people that understand, and they harness its power brilliantly.
Just a few:
- Naomi. You’re probably sick of hearing this woman’s name already. I know I am. Everywhere I turn, everyone is talking about her, but for good reason. She’s ridiculously good at getting paid to exist. She marketed herself as the “potty mouth / filthy marketing whore” (she’s not really a whore, I promise; she just has that reputation for using filthy marketing tactics in an unfilthy way) and she blew up. She founded an “anti-market” (or exploited a gap) for people looking to start their own unconventional online business that didn’t have a huge budget.
- Steve Pavlina. While maybe everyone may not think Steve is cool (it’s really hard to make personal development hip; trust me, I know), he has won a huge audience just by being himself. People are attracted to his natural curiosity that leads him to conduct unconventional experiments like polyphasic sleep, raw diet, and others.
- Leo Babauta. I’m not just saying this because I write for the guy (he has over 100k subscribers, after all). Leo’s philosophy, personality, and essence radiates simplicity. Most of what he writes focuses on this central theme. He even wrote a book about it, called The Power of Less. He doesn’t have to try to attract readers; they are attracted to him by him being himself.
- Chris Guillebeau. Chris runs the popular blog The Art of Nonconformity. He’s a world traveler and makes a living writing about unconventional pursuits like renegade self employment and vagabonding. He naturally attracts readers (and buyers of his products) by virtue of simply being himself.
Yes, of course your talents are one half of the deal. You will always want to hire the audio video guy that knows how to setup a sound system, over the beautiful airhead that you “resonate with” that forgets how to turn on the mic.
You probably also won’t care much about the accountant that has the same favorite band as you, but has trouble with 3rd grade math.
But, the business consultant that can double your income and is in tune with your vibe, will always be the first choice over the guy that can double your income that likes to discourse on how fascinating 12th century librarian toupee styles are.
Know what I mean?
But It’s Not an Ego Race
You don’t tell people why they want to be like you, or why they want to connect with you. You show them. It’s not about trying to win a popularity contest. It’s about boldly emitting the frequency that you resonate on. Sending the signal “This is what I’m about and why it matters.” When people pick up on that authentic wavelength, if they connect with it, they will naturally be drawn to you.
What it all comes down to is creative self-expression + a creative collective demand. It’s where your unique genius meets the world’s deep need. When you find a place where your passion, purpose, and market intersect, that’s when you’ve really figured out how to get paid to exist.
Now let me be clear here. I’m not saying it doesn’t take effort. I’m not saying it’s easy to find where that crossroad is. It will take some soul searching, marketing, some business savvy and honing of your skills. But once you do that, you’ll feel like things finally make sense. Your work may still be a labor, but it will be a labor of you. Not a labor of someone else’s goals; not some corporation or institution’s agenda; just you. All you.
Sounds scary? It is.
Is it worth it? Totally.
About the author: Jonathan Mead is a life coach, mad scientist and essential renegade. He blogs over at Illuminated Mind. To learn about more cool things you can get by just existing, grab a subscription to Illuminated Mind. And while you’re at it, you can follow Jonathan on Twitter.