It’s my privilege to welcome Lisa to my blog today. I’ve known her for several years now and have watched her journey through difficult circumstances to find her bold, unique voice that is at once compassionate and compelling. Who better to share her story of discovering her authentic voice than this beautiful woman who has fought for it so hard?
I spent ten years trying to brand myself.
If I wasn’t thinking about my personal brand as a writer, maker, and coach, I was working at digital agencies large and small that specialized in branding, reading up on the subject, teaching on it, and writing about it. For two and a half years I even ran a boutique branding agency that worked exclusively with creative entrepreneurs. I watched dozens of writers, artists, coaches, healers, and the like wrestle deeply with how to “show up” in their marketplace.
By the time I dissolved my agency this past July and completely eliminated every trace of my ten-year-old brand online, I knew a lot about branding. But, truth be told, I was no closer to understanding or conveying my own brand.
I felt the truth of that deep down in my soul. And it felt like failure.
How I possibly could have missed “the point” so badly when I focused so hard for so long on this critical aspect of marketing? Nothing seems more cruel than to chase something with your heart and soul, only to realize you’ve come up empty-handed.
I can say now that with a clearer head and a lot of time to consider the matter, I think I’ve finally wrapped my head around the core of this elusive topic. It only took me a decade, three fast-paced corporate jobs, four businesses of my own, and a ton of heartache—followed by a period of totally giving up on the whole thing—for me to find my groove.
And here’s what I discovered in the wake of branding suicide.
You won’t find your brand when you’re looking for it. Ever. Your brand will always find you when you least expect.
Slowly but surely, as you follow the promptings of the Holy Spirit working through the passions and curiosities of your creative heart, your brand will begin to come out of you in the form of your work, your words, your social media posts, your friendships.
You are the sum of your brand. Unless you deliberately suppress your every desire, gift, and project, your brand can’t help but leak out of you. The question is, are you willing to let it show up in its own sweet time?
Great brands are like cats. They won’t come when they’re called, no matter how loud you yell.
The harder you try to “figure out” your brand, the less energy you actually spend on your work and on being creative with colleagues, friends, and your audience.
When you re-direct that frantic seeking energy into the only thing that really matters—the real creative work God has called you to do, today—you will begin to see the patterns of The Real You show up over time.
So will everyone else.
Someone smart once said that your brand is a combination of what you say about yourself and your work, and what others say about you (and it). Somewhere in the nexus of these two, your brand will emerge.
You won’t have to sweat your 30-second intro, or craft your website bio a dozen times over before you feel satisfied. It will just come.
Why? Because your brand is coming out of what you actually do, how you actually live, who you actually are. Not out of an artificial, pre-determination persona or self-presentation that (frankly) you and I have no business making about ourselves in the grand scheme of God’s plan. Which brings us to the root of the matter. Are you ready for this one?
What we’re really dealing with here is control.
Branding, in most instances, is treated as an attempt to control an outcome or an impression.
If you’re anything like me, you have probably noticed that controlling or managing your image or doesn’t really work. Just when you decide to write “these kinds of books” for “that audience,” a stubborn idea will pop up—and persist—that has nothing to do with the niche you’ve picked.
Just when you’ve decided to focus in writing and not paint anymore or make jewelry, you will find yourself in a manic five-day creative spurt that involves beads, wire, and all the canvases you can get your hands on.
Just when you’ve finished your website redesign, a fan will say something to you at a conference that completely rocks your perspective on your work, and sends you into a 36-hour frenzy of digital reinvention.
If you’re not ready for these twists and turns, if you’re resisting them because “that’s not how a brand is supposed to happen,” you’ll end up tired and exhausted. Maybe even disillusioned, too.
The remedy for all this, I’m discovering, is commit to radical being, not perfect branding.
The most powerful creative brands out there—whether for individual authors or artists, or corporates like artistic collectives or publishing houses—come directly out of whom the person or persons being branded already are, not whom they hope to become.
We cannot control the path God has for us anymore than we can control the sun rising, or the weather forecast on vacation. Our job in shaping a brand that communicates that path is not to pre-determine, steer or influence what others think about it, but to live that path God gave us as authentically as possible and share it in real time, with real people.
But that brings us, of course, to messy things like opening up, being truly vulnerable, sharing our struggles, admitting our pain, and reaching out to others who may be feeling the same way.
That also brings us to equally messy things like getting into the studio and just making more things, and sharing them freely with others, and letting their actual reactions inform us of whom we are rather than what we conjure up in our heads. Let’s face it: “being” (as opposed to “branding”) is harder. It’s scarier. A lot less glamorous.
But, as I’m discovering in my post-branding life, being is where you real brand emerges.
My brand now feels more closely aligned to who I am than ever—and people whose opinion I care about have said the same thing to me, independently. It’s felt a lot more natural than hours of sitting around, playing with words on a website or designing memes in Canva (though you can absolutely do those things, and I still do too—purely because I enjoy it).
This kinder, more intuitive branding process has only become possible as I have gotten radically clear on the “real me,” stopped playing the part that experts, clients, or friends have told me I “ought to” play, and let my path organically emerge.
For me, that means being an unapologetic hyphenate with no single title anyone can slap on my work. It also means following my interests into brand-new genres and fields of study that may not “look” like a traditional author’s career.
Branding has its place, but only as a reflection of whom we really are, not whom we hope to become.
So get down to the business of writing and making whatever moves you. And don’t forget to share it liberally.
Your brand will meet you there.
Lisa Maria is a traveling writer, maker, and coach helping sensitive, goal-oriented women who struggle to realize their creative dreams heal their artistic blocks so they can set their ideas free. Connect with her online at: https://thatfierydance.com/