I blogged recently about how communicating what we, as VAs, actually DO is a challenge that we must face and overcome if we are to do justice to the miraculous package of services, qualifications, ingenuity, creativity, expertise and artistry that each of us is. And it seems to me that the best place to start meeting this challenge head-on is by making sure that our branding is the right fit for our business and for us as individuals. I’m not just talking about getting a well-designed logo here; I’m talking about branding that includes everything from the updates you post on Facebook to the shoes you wear to a networking event.

I know that many VAs, especially when first starting out, are keen to portray a certain image: they want to be seen as a safe pair of hands, a highly-organised, structured, diligent and disciplined neat-freak, ardent disciple of to-do lists and invincible keeper of diaries and balance sheets. And that’s all well and good, a client should certainly expect a good VA to be all of these things…..but you’re not going to turn many heads and stand out from the crowd unless you differentiate yourself and give your customers a reason to choose you over your competitors. And that, my lovely, unique, individual and charming comrades, is where PERSONALITY comes into it.

Instead of striving to make your personality fit your brand, trying to shapeshift yourself into the vision you have of the perfect VA, start instead with who you are. People buy people, but only the ones they like & resonate with, so let your brand be a full-bodied reflection of your personality, one that will resonate with real people like you. It’s how you make people feel when they come into contact with you, whether that’s in real-life or online, that attracts customers: the emotions you generate in others will determine whether they become loyal customers, and whether they’ll recommend you to others.

Of course you want to be seen as a serious business owner, and a hardworking, skilled and trustworthy professional, but coming across as painstakingly business-like, solemn and two-dimensional isn’t going to have potential clients queuing up to have fun working with you. I’m not recommending that you start posting holiday snaps of yourself falling out of your bikini after several poolside cocktails, but injecting a bit of humour, warmth and character into your online content will really boost engagement and put your brand on people’s radars.
I certainly noticed a significant difference in the level of interaction on my Facebook page once I shifted my focus from purely straight-laced and serious business content to posts exploring more of my life blend and what really matters to ME, the real Joanne Hawkins: serious contender for world’s most adoring and indulgent grandmother, lover of paella and bright colours, partaker in the odd glass of wine…or two….

imageThe fact is that I want my clients to choose to work with me not just because I can get the job done, but because of HOW I get the job done, as only I can. And I’m well aware that I need to be consistent in the messages I’m putting out there. Take for example, my attendance last month at the first ever Warrington Mayor’s Business Seminar. I was delighted to have the opportunity to make my mark among the dozens of other businesspeople, and I certainly didn’t want to blend into oblivion in a mass of grey suits…. not least because I feel incredibly uncomfortable in formal business wear. So I chose my brightest outfit, and comfy flats: I felt confident, natural, and relaxed, and I’m sure you’ll agree that my standout strategy worked a treat !

One of the most powerful tools available to small business owners looking to deepen their connections with their online audience by showing the real them, is video. Please don’t dismiss it because you’re uncomfortable with – or downright petrified of – the idea, it’s well worth any initial discomfort you might experience as you’re getting used to the medium and finding your groove. Once you’ve got the hang of it you’ll see what a brilliant job it can do of putting the real you in front of your audience. Believe it or not, it’s actually a pretty fun thing to do too! If a professionally-filmed video would better reflect who you are, then get someone in to do the filming…whatever you do, just do it!

Whether you’re a quiet, introspective and softly-spoken individual with a passion for cats and vintage china, or a fearless self-promoter with a raucous laugh and a bad karaoke habit, you can use video to your advantage, as long as you allow it – along with ALL of your branding efforts – to show your true personality. There’s no doubt that there are clients out there who will simply love you, your work, your personality and all that you stand for….…but they’ll have to SEE you first! So get your face in front of the camera, find your voice and deliver your message clearly, consistently and authentically. From the photographs you share online to the handshake you offer at a networking event, show your audience that you are REAL: celebrate your uniqueness and promote your individuality. After all, in the unashamedly sentimental words of Cyndi Lauper “your true colours are beautiful…so don’t be afraid to let them show!”

Jo x