When I was a child, it was my ultimate dream to run my own business. I’d spend hours planning and creating a strategy that’d allow me freedom and the ability to carve my own career path, but my eight-year old’s plan to set up an ice cream store was understandably not my calling!

Fast-forward a few years and a handful of 9-to-5 jobs, I’ve now managed to start my own freelance writing business at the age of 20. But, I owe my success to one tiny thing: personal branding.

To put it simply, personal branding is the way in which you want to show yourself to other people. It means that you have put thought into how you’d like people to see you; effectively turning your name into a brand.

Large businesses make a name for themselves as part of their set-up and even during tough times, they make sure to protect the employer brand that they’ve built. Without it, we wouldn’t recognise major industry players like Apple, Google or Amazon.

But if there’s one thing that I never thought I’d do, it’s branding my identity.

You don’t need a massive roadmap of where you’d like your personal branding to go to get started. In fact, I did the majority of mine whilst working my full-time jobs to set me up for my self-employed journey.

Here’s how I did it, along with the benefits it had on my career:

1. I honed down on my niche

In order for people to recognise you as a brand, you’ll need to have a specialty – just like the big-name brands in your supermarket do. This is often referred to as “having a niche”.

You can find your niche by brainstorming the thing that you’d like to be known by. This can be anything from ‘freelance writer’ (or your current job title if you’re dead-set on your current career path!), or even ‘online entrepreneur’ if you’re unsure but still want to get started.

By finding my niche as a freelance marketing writer, I actually managed to build up connections way before I started my business. My co-workers and employees would refer their friends to me because I’d built a good reputation in my industry, setting me up for my self-employed journey.

2. I built a community

You’ll probably have heard about the benefits that an online community can bring you. Along with the constant support from like-minded people, it gives you the opportunity to boost your personal brand even further.

When I started personal branding, I joined a few Facebook groups that had my target audience within them as I knew that I could offer answers to their questions.

As soon as I started making connections with these people, I invited them to visit my blog.

These people then became part of my community; signing up to my email list and following me on social media. They were valuable people that supported my business – all of which came by just getting my name out there and branded correctly!

3. I offered help to people who needed it

As a business owner, you’re often tarred with the same brush as those who use their authority and skills to only help people who part with their cash to do so. I didn’t want that to be me.

So, I worked weekends and late nights to help people who needed it. From friends who wanted a website designing to co-workers who wanted some advice on how to start a blog, I gave it – free of charge.

You’ll probably read a tonne of articles that’ll tell you how bad working for free is… I don’t believe it.

As long as you’re not devoting all of your time and managing to make a stable income, I’m all for helping other people. It allows people’s experience with you to be positive. People will see your brand as a helpful figure. You never know, they may return and become paying customers in the future!

As you can see, you should start to think about branding yourself if you’re looking to enhance your career goals. Whether you’re planning to start your own business or have a strive to progress in your current role, ensuring that people have a great experience with you, personally, is the key to career success.