Much like in startup and small business marketing, personal brand development is usually a scrappy and bootstrapped process. This is because for most people, any time put into personal branding is fit in around other priorities like full time employment and our personal lives, and our budget consists of a portion of our disposable income.
That’s why when you are working on building your personal brand into an asset that supports your career goals, it is important to pick strategies that deliver high ROI, require a low monetary investment, and expedite your work so you can have more impact.
To help people who want to grow their personal brands, we’ve put together our picks for the tools that can make personal brand development easier and deliver the highest ROI on the time and money you put into it. See below for Brand Credential’s favorite picks to put in your personal branding toolkit.
Table of Contents:
- Social Media Automation Platform: Buffer
- Design Tool: Canva
- Website CMS / Design Platform: Webflow
- Website Analytics: Google Analytics
- Email Automation Platform: MailChimp
- End-to-End / Full Stack Marketing Automation Platform: HubSpot
- E-commerce Platform: Shopify
- Search Engine Marketing (SEM) Tool: Google Search Console
- Personal Branding Inspiration and references: “Crushing It” - Gary Vaynerchuk
1. Social Media Automation Platform for Personal Branding: Buffer
The social media automation space continues to develop, with new platforms coming forward offering new features, competitive pricing, and their own take on the best way to make social media marketing more efficient and to improve content optimization.
Of these platforms, Buffer is our pick for the individuals looking to use social media automation to scale their personal brand development efforts. Aside from having a free pricing tier, Buffer is easy to use, has the basic features you’d expect in a social automation platform like post scheduling and analytics, and has some additional tools that make for great social publishing workflows.
Our Favorite Buffer Features:
- Buffer Chrome Extension - The Chrome browser extension allows you to post images, videos, text, and article links directly from your browser without having to go into the Buffer tool. This makes keeping your social publishing queue full easy, and allows you to grab shareable articles and other content you come across on the fly.
- Buffer Mobile App - The Buffer Mobile app allows you to create, schedule, and share posts directly from your phone. This is perfect for busy professionals who want to take a break from sitting at their computer all day at work when they go to work on their personal brand.
- Copy auto populate for pasted links - The Buffer mobile app automatically pulls in the title of a link you’ve copied into the social post editor, making it easy to quickly schedule posts for content from 3rd parties that you want to share on your channels. You can customize the auto-generated copy, or leave it as is. The tool even pulls in a tag for the author’s Twitter handle if available.
- Analytics - Buffer offers solid analytics, but the analytics dashboard is only available on paid plans. These analytics include standard reporting for post engagement and channel growth, and suggestions for the best times to post and how often to post for maximum engagement. Another awesome Buffer analytics feature is the content suggestions feature that helps you fill your social media content calendar with post ideas.
Cost: Free for up to 10 scheduled posts, 3 channels, and one user. See pricing.
Other great options: Sprout Social, HubSpot, Hootsuite
2. Personal Branding Design Tool: Canva
Graphic design is an important skill set to have from a personal branding perspective due to the key role that content marketing plays in building a brand. Sharing images, videos, infographics, photography, and other visual elements across your channels is critical to establishing a recognizable voice and visual aesthetic for your personal branding, so that when someone sees your content, they know it’s you.
If you are looking to expand your repertoire of visual content and face the aforementioned time crunch and budget restrictions that often come with personal brand development, a tool like Canva can be your answer.
Canva is a great starter design platform that allows you to use drag and drop tools to create graphics and visual content with levels of customization and complexity that range from out of the box templates where you simply need to change text and colors to blank canvases where you can bring in your own custom design elements. With ease of use and a free pricing tier available, Canva can be a design ally for busy entrepreneurs and professionals looking for a quick and affordable way to add custom imagery to their personal brand marketing.
Our Favorite Features for Visual Personal Branding:
- Canva design templates - Canva features tons of templates you can use to make assets that match the best image dimensions for each platform or use case. They offer templates for social media posts, social media profile branding (ex. Cover photos and profile images), print materials like business cards and flyers, website and blog images, and dozens of other presets. Their templates range from a blank canvas that matches the required dimensions, to fully designed content that you can customize with your branding and text.
- Asset library - Canva has a solid asset library full of iconography, shapes, illustrations, and other basic elements to use in your designs. This gives you the option to save time creating custom assets, or you can import your own custom assets from other design tools.
- Cloud storage - Canva’s cloud based editing suite also offers cloud storage. Free accounts can store up to 5GB of design files, with larger storage amounts available on their paid plans.
- Publishing - Canva has publishing tools that allow you to export files to various file formats, and also features direct publishing and scheduling to social media platforms, and direct exports to other file storage and marketing platforms like Box, and HubSpot
- Video editor and video file exports - Canva’s value is not limited to still image assets, as it features tools for video editing and the ability to export files as .mp4s and gifs. The platform has a simple linear video editor where you can arrange design canvases as video frame sequences, add animations, import video clips from other sources, and overlay music tracks.
- Canva Design School - Canva’s Design School is a nice resource for learning how to use the platform, as well as watching tutorials on design best practices in general.
Cost: Free up to 5GB of cloud storage. See pricing.
Other great options: Adobe Creative Cloud
3. Website CMS / Design Platform for Personal Brand Websites: Webflow
A personal website, portfolio, or business website can be a key piece of digital real estate for someone looking to expand their personal brand. This is because it gives you a single URL to direct people to in order to learn more about who you are and what value you provide people, or to serve as a digital storefront for your business or side hustle.
When it comes to choosing a flexible and affordable website building platform for a personal brand website, our pick is Webflow. Webflow has emerged as one of the leading no-code website editors. It offers a level of customization and flexibility that rivals custom Wordpress or custom coded websites, and sets you up for success in terms of SEO, marketing and analytics tool integrations, and security. Webflow checks the price consideration box as well, with a free website hosting tier, as well as paid options that offer higher levels of customization like custom domain names and ecommerce integrations.
Our Favorite Webflow Features for Personal Brand Websites:
- No-code visual editor - Weblow’s editing interface gives you complete control over page layout and style, image and video asset position and spacing, animations, etc. The editor consists of a side panel where you can drag and drop foundational website elements like page sections, containers, div blocks, and then add content to those elements like images, videos, bulleted lists, text boxes, and links. This side panel is presented with a layered user interface similar to that of Adobe Photoshop. The other editing panel is also design tool-esque, with tools you can use to adjust the size, positioning, and style of your website’s elements.
- Website templates - Webflow features templates similar to those you’d find on other website builders. Their template library features free and premium templates for blogs, digital portfolios, ecommerce websites, B2B websites, and other base designs. These templates can be used out of the box, or customized using the no-code editing tools described above.
- Content collections - Webflow’s “collections” feature serves as a CMS for creating content like blogs and case studies. The collections feature allows you to build content that has parent and child relationships similar to other website blog builders like Wordpress. Using collections, you can create a main blog page that will auto display published blog posts that you’ve created and added to that particular collection, and create a blog post template that all blogs published within that collection will follow. You can also add common blog features like categories, authors, and publish dates using collections. The Brand Credential Blog is built using collections if you’d like to check out an example.
- Integrations - The integrations tab within Webflow’s project settings dashboard allows you to add code snippets from platforms like Google Analytics, HubSpot, and Facebook Pixel to your website. There is also a custom code tab that makes it easy to add code snippets for other integrations and analytics tools to the header or footer of your website pages.
- Webflow University and active creator community - One of the benefits of Webflow is its active creator community and the quality of the tutorials in Webflow University. Webflow University is full of tutorials created by experts and leading creators to help with your website building process. The Webflow Forum and Webflow Blog are also good resources to check out in order to learn more and have your questions answered.
Price: Free or paid tiers starting at $12 per month. See Webflow pricing.
Other great options: Squarespace, Wordpress
Once you’ve selected a website CMS, check out our blog post on personal brand websites for tips for what to include on your own website.
4. Website Analytics: Google Analytics
With your personal brand website up and running, you’re going to want to understand its performance. Google Analytics is our website analytics tool of choice for measuring website traffic and analyzing how different website pages and blog posts perform, as well as understanding website audiences and top web traffic referral sources.
Our Favorite Google Analytics Features:
- Acquisition - The acquisition tab in Google Analytics is where you can access data about the sources of your website traffic. This includes channel category comparisons for social media inbound vs. organic search, measuring traffic from each of the sites that backlink to your website to identify your most valuable referral links, and measuring inbound traffic from any digital ads you are running.
- Behavior - The behavior tab in Google Analytics allows you to analyze the performance of the content on your website i.e. which pages receive the most views, what pages people enter and exit your website on the most, average time spent on each web page, and page speed performance.
- Audience demographics - Google Analytics has an audience tab that displays charts and tables with data on the location, device (mobile vs. desktop), operating system, language, and other helpful information about your website visitors.
Other great options: HubSpot
5. Email Automation Platform: MailChimp
Email newsletters are a marketing channel being leveraged by entrepreneurs and professionals for everything from promoting a business to monetizing the newsletter itself through subscription platforms like Substack. Newsletters represent a way for those investing in personal brand development to engage with and grow their niche audience.
Of the plethora of great email marketing platforms available, our pick for a combination of simplicity, feature set, and cost is MailChimp. MailChimp can be used to start and grow your subscriber list through list building tools, as well as to create and publish emails through its design and publishing tools. Check out the list below for our favorite features that make MailChimp a good fit for busy professionals trying to add email to their personal brand side hustle.
Our Favorite MailChimp Features for Adding Email Marketing to Your Personal Brand Marketing Channels:
- Email designer - MailChimp’s email editor features drag and drop tools for adding text, images, buttons, video embeds, links, and other content types to your emails. Use the editor to create reusable templates for your various newsletter needs.
- Email templates - if you don’t want to go with the email designer route above, or want a head start, MailChimp comes with email templates. These templates include newsletter layouts and other formats ranging from highly visual, to simple and flexible. These are good starters to customize with your own branding, images and copy.
- Email list building tools - MailChimp has a good set of tools for promoting your newsletter across channels. These include embeddable contact forms for your website, website pop ups, signup URLs you can use on social media to grow your newsletter subscriber list (link to blog here)
- Email list segmentation - You can have more than one email subscriber list in MailChimp, giving you the ability to create segmented lists based on subscriber interests
- Email analytics - MailChimp’s analytics enable you to track newsletter subscriber growth and unsubscribes, as well as email performance across metrics like open rates and click through rates. These analytics are great for A/B testing email content and subject lines to see what works best for your subscribers.
- Other marketing tools - MailChimp’s suite of marketing tools goes beyond email, with offerings like web hosting, domain names, design tools for creating content for other channels (ex. social media posts).
Price: Free up to 2,000 contacts on base plan
Other great options: HubSpot, Constant Contact
- End-to-End / Full Stack Marketing Automation Platform to Power Your Personal Brand Funnel: HubSpot Marketing Hub
As your marketing efforts mature, designing a marketing funnel that provides value to people and guides them toward a purchase or conversion will become necessary. In order to efficiently manage the various marketing funnel stages and the channels you’ve chosen for developing your personal brand, a platform that integrates them is invaluable.
Our platform of choice for managing marketing efforts across platforms and funnel stages is HubSpot. HubSpot allows you to bring your social media marketing, email marketing, blogging, website management, digital advertising, and analytics under one roof. HubSpot features content publishing and management tools for each of these channels, as well as cross platform analytics and automated workflows that you can use to create integrations to cross promote your different marketing channels.
Our Favorite HubSpot Features:
- Workflows - HubSpot workflows allow you to create “if/then” scenarios with automated actions that take place based on a user’s behavior. Examples include using a contact form completion to trigger a lead being entered into an email drip campaign, entering a lead into a series of retargeting ads based on their viewing of a specific web page, or moving someone into a particular deal stage and automatically sending them a whitepaper or video designed to drive them toward the next stage in your marketing funnel.
- Analytics - HubSpot analytics measure performance across marketing channels. This includes standard analytics for your website, social media channel performance, ad performance, and email engagement. HubSpot also offers contact-based analytics that allow you to see what pieces of content a particular lead has engaged with (ex. What web pages they’ve viewed, or which social media channel they were referred from).
- Email List Management - There’s a reason HubSpot was a runner up in our email automation platform selection. HubSpot features embeddable contact forms to help you grow your email list, as well list segmentation tools so you can create separate email lists based on contact properties like industry, marketing funnel stage, or product interest. HubSpot’s filters tool allows you to filter your contacts based on these characteristics to create email lists you can enroll in email campaigns.
- Email Sequences - HubSpot’s email sequences can be set up using workflows to build lead nurturing campaigns that deliver different content to leads based on their actions. An example would be emailing someone a series of blog posts and videos based on their action filling out a contact form on your website.
- Social Media Automation - HubSpot offers basic tools for social media management and publishing that can suffice if you’re already using the platform for other marketing channels and want to keep things in one platform. Its features include post scheduling across platforms, a content repository of assets, and standard analytics for post engagement and channel growth. Other social media-first platforms like Buffer or Sprout Social offer a more robust social media management feature set, but HubSpot is great for consolidation and will get the job done.
- Reporting - HubSpot’s cross platform reporting is powerful. It allows you to gather reports for each of your marketing channels, as well as creating custom reports for things like measuring MQLs and content attribution (how much various content is contributing to revenue).
Price: HubSpot offers a free Marketing Hub tier, as well as paid plans with more features. See pricing.
Other great options: Marketo, Salesforce Marketing Cloud
7. E-commerce Platform: Shopify
E-commerce is a viable revenue driver for side hustles and new businesses. In order to add ecommerce as a strategy and channel for your personal brand marketing and entrepreneurial ambitions, you need a platform that enables you to sell products online.
Our platform of choice for creating and managing an online store is Shopify. Shopify serves as a one stop shop (please forgive the awful pun) selling products online, enabling users to set up online stores, list products, receive payments, process orders, and even market their products.
Shopify’s combination of simple tools (ex. Drag and drop store builder) and relatively low pricing (basic plan starting at $29.99 per month) make Shopify a solid pick for people looking to sell products in order to monetize their personal brand development efforts.
Our Favorite Shopify Features:
- Shopify Store Builder - The core feature of Shopify is the Store Builder, which enables you to quickly setup an ecommerce store using drag and drop tools. You can choose from free themes or premium themes to establish a base design, and can customize it with stock imagery, colors, fonts, etc. The Store Builder feature set makes online store setup simple and lowers the barrier to entry for everyone regardless of skill level.
- Website hosting - While you can add a Shopify store to existing websites, Shopify’s web hosting services negate the need to have a pre-existing website for new store owners. Shopify offers all of the essentials for creating a website from hosting to domain name purchases.
- Order processing - Shopify offers end-to-end order processing features. These include payment processing on your online store through Shopify Payments, inventory tracking, and order fulfillment and shipping. All of these processes can be monitored from the Shopify workspace dashboard, which serves as mission control for your Shopify store, enabling you to see data like sales metrics over time, individual order detail, fulfilled vs. unfulfilled orders, and store website traffic.
- Drop shipping - Through integrations with tools like Orberlo, you can sell products via drop shipping on your e-commerce store and never have to hold a physical inventory. This includes both selling your own products, as well as supplementing your product line with 3rd party products you can sell and earn a margin on.
- Shopify Buy Button - Shopify Buy Button allows you to create an embeddable buy button linking back to products on your online store. This can be used to add “buy now” buttons to blog posts, white papers, landing pages, and third party websites, turning them into advertisements for your products.
- Marketing tools - Shopify has a suite of built-in marketing tools to help you drive traffic to your ecommerce store once you build and publish it. These include the ability to add and manage a blog on your Shopify site, email marketing, Facebook and Instagram ads, porting your Shopify store to Facebook Shops as another point of sale, and Google search results management to determine how your products show up in search results.
- Shopify App Store - The Shopify App Store features thousands of apps you can integrate with Shopify for things like marketing (ex. abandoned cart retargeting campaigns), order processing
Price: Plans starting at $29.99 per month. Start a free trial
Other great options: WooCommerce, V
8. Search Engine Marketing (SEM) Tool: Google Search Console
If blogging or a website are going to be among your personal brand channels, you’re going to need to develop a search engine marketing and keyword strategy to help those channels get found. Finding a tool to measure how your website is performing in search engines, what keywords are driving the most traffic to your web pages, and to identify errors that are impeding search performance can help to ensure you’re maximizing potential traffic and attracting people searching for content related to what you do.
When considering a search engine marketing platform, SEMrush is a leading option that offers great features from competitor research to link building to on page SEO analysis for your web site, but with subscriptions starting at $119.95 per month, this might not be an investment everyone wants to make at the start of their personal brand marketing journey.
Keeping affordability in mind, we went with the free Google Search Console as the tool of choice to get you well on your way to a solid search engine marketing strategy for your website.
Our Favorite Google Search Console Features:
- Performance Analytics - Not surprisingly, Google Search Console has analytics for tracking your website’s performance in search. You can view total impressions, clicks, and the average page rank for every one of your web pages across the various search terms people have been using to find them. You can also see which search terms are driving the most impressions and clicks through to your website.
- Top linked pages - Google Search Console’s links tab allows you to track which websites are linking back to your website and the number of backlinks each of yours web pages has. It also tracks internal linking, which is great because internal links improve SEO by passing authority from one of your web pages to the next. You can use this tool to take a pulse on your back link building efforts, as well as your own internal linking efforts on your website.
- Indexing tab with sitemap upload - Google Search Console has an indexing dashboard where you can control the content that Google indexes in search engines from your website. You can add your website’s sitemap to ensure every page that you want listed in Google gets indexed, tracking how many total URLs Google has discovered on you website. You can also designate pages you do not want tracked in Google search results, like duplicate content if you want to have multiple versions of the same content on your website and want to avoid SEO penalties for duplicate content.
- Broken links report - In addition to tracking backlinks, you can also get reports on broken links on your own website. For example, when external sites that you link to change a URL, or remove a webpage. These broken links will decrease your SEO, so identifying and fixing them quickly is valuable.
- Mobile usability - The mobile usability report will flag errors on your website that make the user experience on certain web pages on mobiles devices difficult to navigate. This includes content that is too wide for mobile device screens, content that is too small or close together, and other mobile responsiveness issues.
Other great options: SEMrush
9. Personal Branding Inspiration and References: “Crushing It!” - Gary Vaynerchuk
Gary Vaynerchuk is a prime example of someone who has built a strong personal brand that represents who they are, and supports their businesses. While it’s not technically a platform or content creation tool, Gary Vaynerchuk’s book “Crushing I!: How Great Entrepreneurs Build Their Business and Influence-and How You Can, Too” is full of examples of case studies on successful entrepreneurs who have built their personal brands and hobbies into businesses.
These case studies range from people who have found a way to make their hobbies into a profitable side hustle to people who have gone all-in on their personal brand journey and built businesses strong enough to serve as their main source of income. We recommend this book as a source of inspiration for people looking to grow their personal brands, and to better understand the value that investing in personal branding can bring.
Price: $9.99 Kindle Edition
Other great options: The 4-Hour Workweek - Timothy Ferriss
For most people personal branding journeys are going to be driven by their own energy and resources like time and disposable income. In order to maximize the ROI on the time spent working on your personal brand, consider these affordable and high impact tools to elevate your personal branding across channels.
Bonus Personal Branding Tips