What is a personal brand, and why does anyone need one? If you primarily associate brands with businesses, you might wonder. However, there are actually a number of reasons a personal brand can be useful, whether you need one for a hobby or for your career. Just like a business brand, a personal brand is about the associations you create around yourself, including imagery, values, and competencies.

Maybe you’re a backpacking hobbyist who has a channel online where you put up how-to videos and gear review. If your focus is on budget gear and tips for beginners delivered in a friendly, informal manner, your brand is going to be very different from someone who focuses on high-end ultralight gear for dedicated long-distance hikers. But it’s about more than just your focus. It’s about how people see you, the impression that you leave them with. There are industries in which personal branding is either necessary or extremely helpful, such as in creative industries, coaching, entrepreneurship, or any area where you want to be seen as a leader.

What’s Your Budget?

Can you do this without spending a dime? Possibly, although you will at minimum need to be able to connect to the internet. However, you’ll be much more effective if you have some money to spend. Examples of things you might want to spend money on include logo design, website creation, and maintenance, video editing and various types of admin work. These are all things you can learn to do yourself, but in some cases, they may be extremely time-consuming, and in other cases, you simply won’t be as skilled at them as someone who does them professionally. If your cash flow is looking a little meager, you could always look into taking out a loan to cover these costs. Utilizing low interest loans are a smarter move than using your credit card because the interest rates on credit cards can be very high.

Who Are You?

Somewhere between the intimate soul-searching that you might do in private and the persona that you might paste on for a job interview comes the persona that you’ll develop online. Some advice articles will trumpet the importance of authenticity, and while this is true to a point, it’s also a concept that it’s worth proceeding in caution around. You do need to be true to yourself, and your online persona should be based on a bedrock of your own personal values, interests, and beliefs. At the same time, people are a bundle of vulnerabilities and contradictions.

Aiming to present and emphasize a few carefully chosen aspects of who you are is not inauthentic; it is both smart from a marketing sense and wise from the standpoint of protecting yourself. Just as you might talk to a friendly stranger about the weather or the game last night, but you wouldn’t launch into a long unburdening about your most recent breakup, your brand should be about presenting a version of you that is sincere but also appropriate for public consumption. Of course, if the project you’re launching is advice for the lovelorn, that awful breakup might well be useful fodder, but even so, think about the boundaries you’ll need to establish to keep public and private life separate.

What’s Your Purpose?

A third big question you’ll need to ask yourself is what your intentions are. There are really two parts to this as well. One is what your purpose is in terms of your audience and the other is what your purpose is in terms of yourself. For the first part, are you trying to teach your audience certain skills, make your audience think more critically about certain ideas, or position yourself in your industry as a leader? You can boost your branding through social media but if your audience isn’t heavily present on those platforms it may be a waste. For the second part, do you hope to just have fun sharing your hobby with others or want to get free stuff from the brands that you promote? Or are you more ambitious? Do you want to be one of the top influencers in your particular area? Having clearly stated goals and purposes will help guide your decision-making and everything from how you present yourself to how you engage with others and how often you create new material.