Confessions of an Unbranded Professional


free1In discussing personal branding, most people consider how it applies in the online environment, because, after all, it’s the Internet that has given each of us a very public voice, and promoted the “need” for personal brand definition.

Many times, I’ve heard professionals describe personal branding as “essential” for anyone working in the online environment, that it’s a “business imperative.” According to many, the global financial crisis has only emphasized the already accepted truth that personal branding is a necessity in the modern world.

Well, I’d like to confess something right here, right now: I work in the online environment, and I don’t have a personal brand.

I subscribe to a few social networking tools for the purpose of keeping track of my friends’ wacky antics. I use the web in my daily dealings with clients and colleagues, but none of them ask why I haven’t updated my status on [insert social networking site name here]. No one cares!

I have another confession to make: I don’t really promote myself online.

Over the last 10 years, I’ve found my clients through personal referrals, friendships, and direct approaches I’ve made to prospects — usually organizations I’ve liked and with whom I decided I wanted to work. I know what you’re thinking: “But it’s a global economy! You could be doing so much more if you used the web to better advantage!” So far, I’ve been very fortunate in that finding new clients or projects has been fairly achievable, and since I don’t want to build my business beyond what one person can reasonably handle, so far this strategy has worked for me.

Is it the most effective way to operate? Probably not, but it usually means I end up working with people I like and get along with, on projects that I enjoy working on. Will it last? I’m tempted to say that the tides of people rushing to promote themselves online suggest the answer to this question is “no,” but most of the clients I target aren’t particularly web-savvy — they don’t IM, let alone tweet each new product release or business deal. They’re people who prefer to rely on personal recommendations for finding professional services or new staff, if not meet the person they’re hiring face to face first.

I’m not the only person I know who doesn’t rely on a personal brand to make a living in the information economy — there are other ways to operate.

Are you one of The Great Unbranded? Or do you think I’m crazy?


William Arruda

You bring up a good point about real- vs virtual-world branding. For some, personal branding = social media. The most effective branding combines the real with the virtual. That means taking those great things you are doing in the real-world and making them visible online.


Jeffrey Friend

I can relate. When we started the business, we were very conscious of our online-brand, but that was before the big social media explosion. Most of our business was not in our local market, but was referral based.

Now, 5 years later, our company is growing 40% every year. 80% of our work comes from referrals, is mostly local based, yet our online brand has not been updated much since the beginning.

Is it time to fix that? YES! But is our business suffering for it? Good question.


100% of my work is repeat business & referrals. I have very little (almost no) online brand.

The way I built my business won’t work if you want to grow quickly but is great if you have the time. I love my customers and they seem to love me.

Simon Mackie

@Catherine – I agree with you, everyone actually has a brand, whether they’re consciously working at it or not. Some people’s brand is just the work they’ve done and how they interact with others, and that’s fine — many people are very successful without thinking about their brand at all.

I think a lot of ths conversation could refer back to the first post in this series ( — if we referred to it as “image” rather than “brand”, that might help define it better, and overcome some people’s feeling of ickiness.

Matt Doar

Interestingly, I do the same sort of thing. I think it’s worked for me for 3 years now because what I do (software tools infrastructure) has lots of niches and I cover quite a few of them.

My thoughts are that I’ll minimize the whole branding thing until the work stops coming, then re-evaluate.


Whether or not you define a brand for yourself, you have one. The way the rest of the world would describe you is your current brand. The point of “branding yourself” is to influence how the world sees you by focussing on those things you want them to remember. However, since you’re comfortable with the brand you have, you are obviously a very confident person. That’s what I’ll remember.


Nope, not crazy at all. I think you’re right on.

I like to interact with people, not people hiding behind some constructed confection of a “brand”. Of course people’s online personalities are partially constructed too, but there’s a false note to “brands” that I find icky.

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