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?