7 Steps to Building a Strong Brand as a Writer

Three employees talking about work and comparing notes.

First of all, as a writer, do you need a brand? Yes! You do!

To understand why, let’s first be clear about what a brand is.

A brand is a promise to your customers about what to expect from your products and services. A brand must be consistent, encompass everything from value to quality to customer service, and signal how you are different from the competition. 

As a writer, everything you publish should align with your brand. This includes blogs, podcasts, and social media posts. All this adds to the ongoing brand story of who you are and what you deliver, which you’ll need to continually evolve to keep up with market changes. 

The more your brand evokes emotional reactions while driving home what makes it unique, the more you’ll stand apart from other writers, and – most importantly – win your audience’s loyalty.

Here are seven concrete steps writers can take to build their brands:

1. Define your target audience and their needs and interests

The first question is: who do you want to appeal to? Who, ideally, is reading (or listening to) your work? What enchants them? What turns them off? What will cause them to read more? 

You might have several distinct audiences, in which case you might want to create personas. A persona is a made-up, composite character that represents the type of person you want reading and responding positively to your work. By describing your various personas’ desires, pain, wants, and needs, you can better target your brand toward the readers they represent. 

2. Identify your unique value proposition and brand voice

Your second job is to identify your value proposition. Your value proposition is: what do you offer your reader in exchange for the time they invest in consuming your words? In other words, what’s in it for them?

Your brand “voice” is then the way your value proposition manifests itself in tone, theme, and style. It’s how you present yourself to your audience. And it should be utterly unique. 

Chances are good that the subjects you’re writing about have been covered before. What can make them fresh? Your perspective. No one views the world quite like you – how could they? They haven’t had your specific education (formal and otherwise) or experiences. Make the most of these to deliver writing that is distinctive and your own. 

Identifying how you want to be perceived by the market is imperative. This knowledge will help you when you’re writing to create a portfolio of work that aligns with your public persona. 

3. Tell your brand story

You’re a storyteller. It’s in your bones. People love to hear stories. Tell them yours. 

Now, you don’t have to expose your whole life history to the world. Your public writer persona differs from your personal, “real” one. So, think in terms of what you want the world to know about you. If you were to describe your public persona as a character, what would he or she be like? What are your strengths as a writer? How did you develop them? Did you want to be a writer from an early age? Tell how you moved from success to success in your writing career.

4. Create a visual identity

In addition to the written word that makes up your brand, you need a visual identity, too. Here are the elements you should create – or have a professional create for you.

Logo. You can simply display your name in an unusual font, or create a “bug” or other visual representation of what you do (many writers use pens or quills, but that’s a little bit of a cliché). There are lots of graphic designers who specialize in logos and some are very reasonable in price. 

Brand colors. Yes, your brand should have its own, distinctive colors that you use throughout all your branded materials (both digital and physical).

Brand font: You should also use a consistent font. Try to pick one that reflects your desired brand impact, whether formal, friendly, or fun. 

Website. You need a website that reflects your brand values and image, where you can display extracts from your portfolio, and direct people on how to contact you. It can be simple, or multi-faceted. Happily, vendors such as WordPress offer templates that make it easy for even novices to build their own websites, and you can customize them to meet your needs. Of course, you can always hire a professional to make a really spectacular website.  

Professional headshot. Don’t rely on a selfie. Get a professional to shoot your photo, which you will use on your “About” page on your website, in press releases, and anytime a client wants to print your photo along with your byline. 

5. Consistently produce high-quality content that aligns with your expertise and resonates with your audience

Then, of course, there’s the product itself: your writing. This should speak for itself in terms of its quality. Your portfolio is your most important asset. Showcase it on your website, and in social media – which should be of similarly high quality. Even your short tweets or Instagram posts should reflect your brand attributes, and make readers want to know more about you. Your work should display creativity and originality, and indeed is the centerpiece of your brand. 

6. Leverage social media and other online platforms to increase your visibility and engage with your audience

For writers, one of the most important things you can do to build your personal brand is to post on social media. LinkedIn is your best bet because of its business focus. Others are on there, not just to advocate for their brands, but to look for writers like you to hire. You can post articles that show your thought leadership and quality writing, and get noticed. 

7. Build a professional network and collaborate with other industry experts to expand your reach and build your reputation as a thought leader

And speaking of LinkedIn and other social media networking, it’s important to reach beyond just potential and existing clients. You can connect with industry leaders and influencers in your particular market. And get involved with other writers as well! Here’s some advice on getting started in networking:

  • Attend writing conferences – virtual or physical
  • Participate in online groups and forums like Reddit
  • Follow industry leaders to stay up to date on what’s happening in your field
  • Participate in Twitter chats to get noticed and build a following

A brand isn’t a static thing

You’ll need to continuously evaluate and adjust your branding strategy to ensure it stays relevant and effective. You should stay in touch with what’s happening in your field and make sure you are up to date on the latest technologies, techniques, trends, and styles. A static brand is a dead brand. This means updating your visual elements like your website or logo from time to time, as well as making sure your writing stays fresh and current. And keep an eye on evolving tools for helping writers produce quality prose, such as Grammarly and yes, even ChatGPT (although use the latter with care). 

Follow these tips and you’ll create a strong brand that will serve you well during your long writing career!

ABOUT Alice LaPlante

Alice LaPlante was a Stegner Fellow and Jones Lecturer at Stanford University, and taught writing at Stanford for more than 20 years. She is the award-winning New York Times best-selling author of four novels, and wrote The Making of a Story, the best-selling textbook on writing published by W.W. Norton. Alice also is also a sought-after content writer, strategist, and story consultant for leading technology firms.