How to use your wardrobe to enhance your personal brand

Personal Brand is a hot topic at the moment in the entrepreneurial and small business space, and is incredibly important for anybody running their own business, or looking to progress in their career.

In order to understand how to use your wardrobe and the clothes you wear to enhance your Personal Brand, we first need to be clear about what a Personal Brand is.

According to Wikipedia:

“Personal Branding is the practice of marketing people and their careers as brands.  It is an ongoing process of developing and maintaining a reputation and impression of an individual, group, or organisation. Whereas some self-help practices focus on self-improvement, personal branding defines success as a form of self-packaging”

A Personal Brand can incorporate a whole host of ways of essentially establishing an image or impression in the minds of others, about an individual or organisation. This can apply equally well to products, services, charities and even celebrities. 

You’re probably familiar with how celebrities brand themselves to give a particular look and evoke certain feelings, that we the public become familiar with and associate them with. They use Personal Branding very effectively to enable themselves to be instantly recognisable in order to promote themselves. 

There are a number of ways to establish a Personal Brand, which we will look at in a minute. 

So why am I talking about Personal Brand? 

I am a Personal Stylist, so my focus is on our Image as a way of establishing a credible and recognisable brand. 

I have been working as a Personal Stylist for over ten years now, having trained in 2009. In that time I have worked with numerous clients helping them discover the colours and styles of clothing that suit them best and give them increased confidence. 

I’ve also had the privilege of working with some amazing organisations, including Carolina Herrera, doing a VIP evening in her London store; The Sun’s Fabulous magazine working with them on a Media day; Helms Briscoe, the venue finding specialists, working with them on a client hospitality event and I am also a tutor at the London College of Style. 

I now specialise in helping entrepreneurs and small business owners showcase and sell their brand, through the way they look and dress, in other words their Image or Style. 

I am very aware and am often asked, whether these days it really matters how you dress. People tend to think that we are generally much more causal, both in work situations and in our leisure time, so does it really matter? 

I wanted to show you a few examples to illustrate that I think it really does matter. 

If you went to the Doctors because you wanted some health advice, and this was the person waiting for you in the surgery, would you be happy?

What about if you went to consult with a solicitor about a legal matter, and you were taken through to the office of this person? 

Or if you asked somebody to come round to your home to quote you for a new gas boiler and this person turned up? Would you feel confident that he knew what he was doing? 

Even if we are becoming more casual in our dress style, we are still human, and as such we all make judgements about the people we meet, it’s just human nature. 

With all of the images I have just shown you, you will have made an instant judgement about whether you believe that person was capable of doing the job you are asking them to do. 

In most instances, we make those initial judgements before the person we are meeting has time to speak. 

How long do you think it takes to form a first impression? 

Most people think its between 3 and 10 seconds, but I’ve read a study that suggests t could be as little as one tenth of a second!  That’s not long and we make thousands of judgements and assumptions about somebody in that very short time frame, including whether we believe they can do the job they are saying they can do, in other words, whether we trust them. 

So what does all this mean for us as entrepreneurs and small business owners? 

Well, I expect when you decided you wanted to set up your own business you will have given thought to some of this.  You will probably have thought about your brand colours, a logo, your website, social media, networking and maybe even thought about getting some speaking engagements. 

But did you extend all of that into your personal image?

You will want to build a reputation for yourself so that you become known as the “go to” person for your industry. And this is where you will be creating your “Personal Brand”. 

How Do You Create A Personal Brand?

1. What Message Do You Want To Portray?

The first thing to think about within your Personal Brand is what is the message you want people to hear whenever they come into contact with you or your business? 

There are absolutely loads of words that you could use to describe yourself and your business, and the key is to narrow it down to as little as three words. Then everything you put out into the world, including yourself, needs to speak that message to your prospective audience. 

So I suggest your first step is to make yourself a cup of your favourite beverage, and spent some time really thinking about some words that you would like people to think when they come across you or your business.  

So once you have your three words, you then filter everything you put out into the world through those words. 

To give you an example. I have a couple of friends whose businesses are selling a very high end, high tech kitchen gadget. So their words could include modern and quality. 

As I said when I introduced myself, I am a Stylist so my focus is helping people find a clothing style that represents them and their business well. 

In my example of the high tech kitchen gadget, the words model and quality would be represented well by wearing good quality, up to date clothing. That doesn’t have to mean top end designer, but just good quality. Old and tired-looking or just old-fashioned clothing just would not be a good representation of their business. 

2. What Message Are You Currently Portraying?

The next step is a bit more tricky. You will need to take a step back from yourself and think about your current style when you meet clients or potential clients. Does your current style accurately reflect the message you have now discovered you want people to receive, or does it need a little tweaking. 

It can be helpful to ask some people who know you what message they see and hear through what you wear. This can be a bit scary but also hugely helpful. 

I did this exercise myself a few years ago, and although I was pleasantly surprised by the answers I got, I was then able to look at it and think well is this what I want people to see in a business context. And it gave me the opportunity to deliberately shape the unspoken message people heard when they met me. 

3. Developing Your Personal Brand Image.

So now you know what message you want your audience to hear when they come across you, and the message you are currently portraying.

Now it’s time to think about how you are going to make sure your audience receive the message you want them to hear.

There are a number of ways you can do this.  I would suggest a good place to start would be to do some searching on Pinterest.  Put in one of your words and the word “style” or “image” and see the sort of looks that come up.  Start to collect some images that reflect the message you want to portray and that you like.

You will need a good selection of images to begin to build a picture of a style that could work for you.  I would suggest at least 20 would be a good place to start.

Can you begin to see a look or a few looks that could work?  Can you see yourself in them, or something close to them?

4. What about what suits my shape?

Of course, you will need to ensure that you looks you choose, do actually suit you.  

This includes making sure the styles are suitable for your body shape.  If you are unsure of your body shape, you can use my “Go To Guide To Find Your Body Shape” here to find out.  Once you know which body shape you are, you can make sure you are wearing clothing that is flattering for your figure, and this will give you so much confidence whenever you need to be visible in your business.

5. Should I Wear My Brand Colours?

If you have chosen colours you really like as your Brand Colours, you can wear them to create a very strong visual Brand.  I have seen this done incredibly well and it really does make you very memorable.

Sarah Clay herself is somebody who does this incredibly well, and was one of things that attracted me to her when I first met her.  Her brand colours are purple and orange and she wears those colours in various, very striking combinations.

Somebody else who does this incredibly well is Janet Murray, the Build Your Online Audience Expert.  Janet’s brand colours are red and black and again most of the times I have seen her, online and offline, she is wearing one or the other, or a combination of the two.

So wearing your brand colours can be a very good way to make yourself stand out.

I hope this has all helped you to see that you can be quite deliberate about how people see you when they first meet you and you can shape the first impression people have of your business, before you even have a chance to speak. 

Creating a powerful Personal Brand can accelerate the Know, Like, Trust process that potential clients go through when deciding if you are the right person for them to work with.  So some of the hard work can be done just through the clothing you wear, before you even get into a conversation with somebody.

It is quite powerful when we realise we have the ability to influence what people think of us and our business just from our appearance. 

Also it’s good to remember that your style goes beyond just your clothing and will be noticed by potential clients. So think about things like the bag you carry any information or brochures in. The pen that you use to fill in any forms or make any notes. 

Everything about you gives a picture of your business to the people you meet. 

I love this quote by Rachel Zoe as I think it sums up Personal Brand brilliantly:

“Style is a way to say who you are without having to speak”

Thanks to Tracy Hooper for writing this guest blog! You can read more of her tips, thoughts and tricks on her website.

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