How I built my personal brand and how you can, too

Want to read a year-end retrospective on how awesome I am?

Didn’t think so.

I’m gonna write it anyway! (Haters, divert your eyes.)

2013 was my first full year as a blogger, and it was pretty cool. Lots of reasons: tons of press mentions , speaking engagements and my very own RADIO SHOW! My traffic just keeps climbing, last week my Google PageRank jumped to 6 (Hello geeky readers?! Can one of you please recognize this greatness, because I’m feeling lonely in my celebration with all my normal friends who could care less). Plus, now I’m starting to make money – big brands are coming to me for partnerships, giant publications are following me and asking me to write for them, and my current clients are boosting my profile.

Thanks for sustaining that.

But the best part of all of this is that I am having so, so much fun. I mean, I’ve been a professional writer for my whole career — a writer my whole life. But I’m stepping outside of my journalism work — where I eagerly devour and write other people’s stories. Now I write my own story. My opinions. My very own voice. By sharing my pain and shame and secret thoughts seems to give others permission to absolve their pain and shame and secrets, too.  This journey has been so cathartic. Beyond cathartic. It is affirming and joyous and helped me work through all kinds of personal baggage.

It’s also great for business.

In fact, I wrote a whole post about how I became a WAH, freelance writer and blogger single mom. 

Several outlets have asked me to write about how I built my personal brand. Two were published this week:

Texas Business Women’s Lisa Goodgame interviewed me about building my brand and being vulnerable and authentic in your marketing. Check out the post here and listen to the podcast now:

I also wrote about the risks, mistakes and triumphs of my brand-building journey for my lovely client DailyWorth:

5 Things I Wish I Knew Before I Built My Brand

Coming up: I wrote about personal branding for the March, 2014 SUCCESS (where I’m contributing editor), as well as Suka Creative’s blog. Stay tuned!

A few takeaways on how to build your own personal brand:

  • You are your business’s personal brand, like it or not. Before the advent of modern advertising, a business owner’s reputation and customer service was what set him apart. Same today.
  • Be authentic. The only thing you have is what makes you special as a person. Everything else is a commodity. Let that shine.
  • Do something scary. You have to take risks. Say, do, offer things no one else will. You can’t grow without risk.
  • Partner with really successful people. Your network is everything — not just for landing clients. But for inspiration, finding best practices, sharing good vibes and surrounding yourself with support and, well, success.
  • Think big. Really big. Then think bigger. Because, really, what’s the point otherwise?


Interested in being a work-at-home freelance single mom? Here is the rundown of how I got started, with more information on this post:

Here is the rundown:

I bought a domain name (that is the URL of your blog, like at

I then signed up with DreamHost as my server (if your blog is a house, the host/server is the town in which it resides). is also a popular hosting service.

Like most personal blogs, mine is built on WordPress. Make sure you go with WordPress.ORG (not .com). This is really important. It would be really lame if my URL was You don’t want that.

Then you You need a basic design. No need to spend a bunch of money when you start out. I bought an affordable one at Elegant Themes — they have lots of really pretty ones.

Sign up for a service to collect email addresses and send emails. I use Aweber, one of the most popular services. I like it because it is easy to use and has lots of design options.

One of my favorite parts of my business is hosting “The Emma Johnson Show.” I had never worked in radio until this year. I host all of my shows as podcasts using an easy and affordable app, Libsyn.

But you may know that I am also a freelance journalist, writing stories for publications like The New York Times, Wall Street Journal, Glamour, Woman’s Health, Woman’s Day, Real Simple, WORTH, MSN Money – you name it. In fact, that is still how I make a lot of my income. I highly suggest you use sites like FlexJobs , a site that lists only freelance, telecommute, contract and other flexible positions (the owner launched the business to find work-life balance for herself and her family, and all workers are telecommute).

When it comes to building the actual business, earlier this year I started using QuickBooks, which is awesome (for years and years I had a really ghetto accounting system involving an Excel worksheet, Word doc invoices and email. Negative!). Seriously, Quickbooks looks awesome, is super-easy to use and helps me keep track of all the money I make.

8 thoughts on “How I built my personal brand and how you can, too

  1. PR6?

    I’m enough of a geek to appreciate how big a deal that is. Congrats on your geek cred and all your other success.

    Hope your 2014 (and beyond) is even bigger and brighter.

    Very happy for you.

  2. I am enjoying discovering your blog…very inspiring! I am a single mother by choice (no divorce – independent project!) and I find a lot to relate to here. Thanks!

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