How to Become a Brand for Dirt Cheap

If you’re a free agent–such as a tech journalist who’s recently gone solo to freelance or a small business just getting its feet wet with online presence–you may well be baffled by the endless means of representing yourself online. Lord knows I was.

What I’ve found since launching the make-me-a-brand quest -lo- these 48 hours ago is that baby, you’re a fool if you pay for any of this stuff. At least, don’t pay a lot. You can get free branded e-mail from Google Apps (my new e-mail: lisavaas@lisavaas.com); tied into a blog and web page courtesy of WordPress‘ free blogging platform, tools and hosting.

To do the branding thing right, you should of course have your own domain name, and that’s where you’ll start spending money. A teensy bit of money, that is: Registering lisavaas.com cost $9.99 per year through GoDaddy. To have that lisavaas.com domain redirect to my site and blog, WordPress charges me $10.

These aren’t the only options, but they’re good ones, and they’re dead simple to set up once you get the hang of it.

Getting the hang of it wasn’t so easy, though. Setting up name servers and plugging in Google’s codes to enable branded e-mail to work with WordPress was not an intuititve process at first blush.

Luckily, through a stellar community for online journalists called the Internet Press Guild, I was fortunate enough to be showered with good advice that lead me to choosing this holy trinity of GoogleApps mail/GoDaddy domain/WordPress site and blogging platform.

One IPG member in particular, David Strom–who runs the incredibly helpful Your Personal Geek site–has put together  a 4-minute webcast that walks viewers through getting all the moving pieces in sync. I can’t recommend the webcast highly enough. Strom’s instructions take you step by step through what can be a baffling process. You can make it all work without watching the webcast, but with Strom’s help you’ll speed through what can be a slow and arduous search to figure out how to sync up all these moving pieces.

10/17/10 Update: I just recently used this posting to set up a second site that’s linked to a Gmail account, and boy, am I glad I wrote it. But this second time around, I ran into a problem that I forgot to explain how to get out of when I ran into it the first time.

When you’re verifying the domain, Google is going to provide you with a code to plug into WordPress. As you’re following Strom’s instructions in the video above, if your experience is like what I’ve gone through twice now, you’ll fail to see the link to Dx or Mx or whatever code is rendered in the video at this point. Don’t panic. Just click on the link to change DNS that you’ll see where you expected to see Dx or Mx (I forget now which code it’s supposed to be). You’ll be presented with a screen that will lead you through how to enter the code Google provided. That should be the final step to get you up and running.

When it comes to branding yourself, don’t forget about social networking sites such as FaceBook or LinkedIn.  I tend to shy away from FaceBook given that I’m not entirely sure I want to see business colleagues in tutus, but then, I am a baby boomer.

10/17/10 update: I’m over the Facebook aversion. I still don’t like to conduct professional activities there, but there seems to be no stopping the bleeding of personal into professional. I’m also getting interested in creating Facebook Groups for various nonprofit groups I’m part of, so I’m exploring linking my sites with Facebook. I know I’m behind the times, but I think there are plenty of people like me who are only just now getting around to figuring out how to link this all together. Stay tuned, I’ll blog about how the Facebook coding gets done. I’m still trying to figure out where to insert the code string to put a Facebook icon on my blog sites.

LinkedIn feels more grown-up, and it doesn’t have as much temptation to make a fool of myself–at least, not that I’ve discovered so far.

To maximize your social networking profile, beef up your network as much as possible. While importing your contacts is one good way to do this, *don’t* make the mistake of spamming your entire address book like I did. I wound up apologizing to:

  • People interviewed for stories long ago
  • People with whom I’d bartered for goods on Craig’s List
  • Personal contacts
  • Friends of friends
  • Anybody else who wound up in my address book for reasons other than having long-term professional relationships (the only people I shoud have e-mailed in the first place).

In fact, I spammed so many inappropriate contacts that LinkedIn turned off my ability to invite new connections. I don’t blame them. It was obnoxoius–don’t make my mistake.

Here’s what you should do, though, to maximize LinkedIn:

  • Edit your public profile URL to direct to your name (i.e., http://www.linkedin.com/in/lisavaas instead of a randomly assigned number)
  • Copy LinkedIn’s HTML to get a personalized graphic button that you can paste into your blog and Web site to direct visitors to view your LinkedIn profile. You can see how this looks in the version I’ve posted on my About page
  • Publish your profile to Google and other search engines.

I’m still learning how to brand myself, so please feel free to share with me your own strategies, feel free to give me feedback on this first site/blog, and good luck with turning yourself or your business into a brand.

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3 Responses to “How to Become a Brand for Dirt Cheap”

  1. georgette doukas May 5, 2009 12:00 am
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    You have been very informative & one can get so caught up with so many direction to get employed. much less with their passion. You seem to be doing well as an information center…I appauld you. And as a baby boomer..this job thing gets harder all the time. Would like to address the resume watching. If one should send for a more updated look: two issues: using right word sightings to be picked up & of cause everyone is looking for a fortune to do resume illumination, which is great for them but bad for the unemployed. so, if one’s resume is out there & comparasions are flagged…from a re-write..I just know I need to make money immediately.

  2. georgette doukas May 5, 2009 12:02 am
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    oh, p.s. one can’t get a job …even a wal-mart one without going on line!

  3. tiffanys March 21, 2010 8:46 pm
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    good idea!