Crafting Authenticity Online: Navigating Personal Branding as a New Designer

Raluca Angelescu
October 30, 2023
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The web is filled with Instagram accounts and Youtube videos about design. If you've toyed with the idea of carving out your own digital niche, you're likely familiar with the nagging doubts and the feeling that it's all been done before. Especially if you're new to the scene, the task of establishing an online presence can seem like an ordeal in a world brimming with voices.

Creatives often seek refuge behind their creations, postponing the sharing of thoughts and works with the world, a hesitation often compounded by imposter syndrome. Yet, we hear more and more that a cohesive and honest online presence can unlock doors to opportunities and partnerships. With Social Media already being a core part of your lives, everyone talks about building a personal brand or having an online presence.

How can we do this while remaining honest and on track? Why do that in the first place, and how do we stay consistent? Let me guide you through my experiences and insights. This isn't a step-by-step guide to online branding or client acquisition. Rather, it's a narrative on my personal experience with content creation and the insights obtained from it.

Discovering the Right Channel for Your Voice

For me, video content was a stumbling block—my proficiency in English and body language disappeared at the press of the record button. And let's not even talk about selfies or candid shots for social media posts. It's no exaggeration to say I'd be more at ease in a one-on-one with a head of state than in front of a camera.

Early in my career, selling my work wasn't necessary; it was largely about execution in a system that left little room for advancement. But as I pivoted to product design, I knew I had to craft my narrative better. I couldn't afford to be invisible, hoping to be 'discovered' someday. It was crucial for me to find the right medium to express myself and my work, to offer help, and to achieve my objectives.

With social media becoming increasingly noisy, finding the perfect way to make my voice heard wasn't easy.  I discovered that writing played to my strengths. I had always excelled at crafting stories and drafting long, perhaps overly detailed emails. This seemed like the ideal time to harness this tendency.

So I started writing weekly on Medium, a practice I've adhered to without fail, finding comfort and control in the act of organizing my thoughts on paper. LinkedIn, meanwhile, became the space where I cultivated professional relationships, connecting with mentors and uncovering opportunities.

Before you commit to establishing an online presence, consider the medium that resonates with you, whether it be Medium, YouTube, Instagram, or Dribbble. The key is authenticity and taking that first step.

gray microphone beside of condenser

What Drives You to Engage?

Identifying your ideal medium is just the beginning. Your drive and motivation will inevitably decrease. Some days I'm eager to write an article or share a post; other days, I'm at a loss. Consistency is what makes most people abandon this online visibility goal. It's vital to have a support network and catalysts that inspire you to maintain your digital presence.

For me, it was the storytelling aspect that prompted me to start writing. The more I wrote, the closer I felt to mastering communication within my field. What keeps me going is the opportunity to share my insights and experiences with other designers, and the hope that my words could ease someone else's journey.

lighted we are all made of stories red neon wall signage inside room

Recognize that feeling uninspired is part of the process.

There were days I'd dive deep into articles or explore Twitter for hours hunting for topics. After gathering a bunch of potential ideas, I'd be hit with the realization of how tough it was to flow into writing mode. The truth was, these ideas didn't originate from me. They didn't fully click, even though I found them agreeable and was keen to delve deeper. However, once I shifted towards topics I had firsthand experience with—like reflecting on my initial user interview or a chat with a fellow designer—my writing found its own natural momentum.

In my search for inspiration, I stumbled upon a helpful routine. Every Sunday became a day of reflection, pondering the week gone by—the lessons I learned, what could have been better. This reflection ritual quickly became a cornerstone of my inspiration and a powerful tool for introspection. Over time, I began jotting down any compelling thought that surfaced throughout the week, fleshing them out over the weekend. It boils down to discovering your unique creative cadence and learn how you best function.

person opening notebook on brown wooden table

Closing thoughts

Embarking on a new career path can feel like starting from zero, and you might think that content creation is best left to the experts. But your background and experiences are invaluable—they distinguish you. Sharing your journey, including the challenges and what you've learned, might just support someone else in their path.

It’s all a journey, and it’s ok to stop and take a new path. You can constantly reposition your presence, do course correction, and define or redefine your niche or subjects. The important thing is to start. “Getting online” does not have to be a big reveal; it can be subtle actions and exercises along the way.

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