Join getAbstract to access the summary!

Sell Yourself

Join getAbstract to access the summary!

Sell Yourself

How to Create, Live, and Sell a Powerful Personal Brand


15 min read
6 take-aways
Audio & text

What's inside?

Learn how to take control over your personal brand and harness its power for success.

Editorial Rating



  • Background
  • Concrete Examples
  • For Beginners


Right now, whether you know it or not, you sell a personal brand every day. The way you dress, talk, walk or react tells others who you are and what to expect. If you don’t like where you are now, the way people treat you, or feel stuck, it’s time to take control. Branding coach Dr. Cindy McGovern offers an intriguing overview of the concept of selling yourself. From creating a brand, living that brand and promoting it, she offers a step-by-step guide to how to sell with success. Dr. McGovern maintains that you already sell yourself; you should use that skill to get what you really want.


  • To create a brand, know what you want to sell.
  • Create a blueprint for your brand.
  • Live your brand consistently.
  • Going off brand means it’s time for a rebrand.
  • Don’t limit yourself or sell yourself short – think beyond your first goal.
  • Sell your brand in five steps.


To create a brand, know what you want to sell.

Most people in the world can recognize Dolly Parton. They know her as a country-music star who wears lots of makeup and a giant blond wig. Dolly Parton created this signature look at the very start of her career and has used it to sell her music, movies and even an amusement park. Her look is central to her brand, and she consistently delivers on it every day. In fact, only immediate relatives have ever seen her without her wig and makeup.

A successful brand combines three actions: intentional creation, consistent delivery and selling yourself to the public. However, you have to know what kind of brand you want to embody before you sell anything.

“Do you know what you want and where you want to be?”

You probably have many positive, sellable attributes that could work as a brand. Start with narrowing down those traits and interests to the ones that matter most and choosing a single message. If you try to sell two seemingly disconnected brands at once, such as a computer salesman who also has a personal fitness side hustle, you will end up sending mixed messages and dilute your brand’s power.

Instead, look for ways to incorporate all the parts of your multifaceted persona, so that they enhance each other rather than clash against each other. For example, if you like fitness but also want to run a consulting firm, brand yourself not by what you do, but by who you are. Use your top traits such as hardworking, curious or dedicated to define your brand.

Take the time to make some carefully thought-out decisions as to what you want your brand to say to the world. Ask yourself what kind of success you want to achieve and what kind of image will get you there. Then, start planning.

Create a blueprint for your brand.

If you leave your brand to chance, you let others define your image, which can severely reduce your chances of getting the job, success or lifestyle that you want. Carefully shaping your brand, and defining how you present yourself in every type of situation, puts control back in your corner.

“Every good salesperson understands that you have to know your product inside and out and make a plan to sell every aspect of it.”

To build an effective brand, you must have a plan. You need a blueprint that is thoroughly researched and honestly reflects your capabilities. To start, follow these four steps:

  1. Pinpoint how you see yourself – Do you see certain aspects of yourself, such as your religion, race or gender, as important to your identity? Which core values, such as honesty, resonate with you?
  2. Identify how you want your life to look – What are your goals? Do you want to have kids, create a business or invent the next big thing?
  3. Consider what you don’t want – Sometimes your dreams don’t match your reality. You may want to be a poet, but if you hate public speaking, it won’t work. Think about the things you don’t like doing and how they might affect your brand.
  4. Focus on what you want – Nobody is good at everything. Pick what’s important to you and what you can do well, and focus solely on those things.

Your brand should also reflect what’s unique about you. Ask others what traits they think of when you come to mind. These qualities help differentiate you from the competition and provide authenticity to your brand. For instance, if people already think of you as an extrovert, branding yourself as a people person will come easily, because it’s already a natural fit. Remember, your brand needs to last a long time, so whatever you pick needs to be sustainable. While changing brands isn’t impossible, like Vera Wang who went from a figure skater to fashion designer, it does mean starting over from scratch. So, choose wisely.

Live your brand consistently.

Once you’ve decided on a brand, incorporate it into your life. Practice it as much as possible until it becomes second nature. If your brand is “polished and professional,” then make sure, with every appearance you make, you arrive dressed well, prepared and on time. Staying consistent is imperative to building a successful brand.

Deviating from your brand can have serious and damaging consequences. For example, the Instagram influencer Yovana Ayres made millions of dollars promoting her vegan lifestyle until someone caught her eating fish and posted it online. She lost most of her followers and received a lot of backlash. Damaging your brand can ruin your reputation, cost you a job and disappoint those who count on you.

To avoid this fate, follow these five tips for living your brand:

  1. Stay on script, no matter the circumstance or how you feel.
  2. Keep on your toes, and don’t get too comfortable.
  3. If your brand brings you success, don’t abuse your power.
  4. Reevaluate your brand every six months to determine if you need to make subtle changes or to undertake a more dramatic shift to reflect new goals and interests.
  5. Stay humble and thank those who help you.

While you live your brand, keep in mind how it reflects the company you work for, especially if you own that company. Your brand should consistently match your company’s, because, today, most businesses use their employees as “brand ambassadors”: Companies often expect employees to advertise their products and spread the good word through social media and word of mouth. For example, if you work at a clothing store, wear the clothes all the time and constantly tell others how great the outfits fit – you will inevitably bring in customers. However, if you complain about the company, your boss or company practices, then you’ll drive customers away.

Sometimes, you might say negative things without even realizing it, because you’re tired, or just happen to be in a bad mood that day. If there are days when you know you can’t live up to your brand, you don’t want to bring down your company’s brand too. Take a rest day and stay out of the public eye. That way you can protect both brands and get the respite you need.

Going off brand means it’s time for a rebrand.

If you do happen to step outside your brand, results can be disastrous. Going off brand tells others that your brand, or your company’s brand, is inauthentic. Thanks to social media, having a compromising photo or video make the Instagram rounds can happen even without your consent.

“It’s not impossible to recover from an off brand fiasco, but it’s not easy.”

If someone catches you doing something notably off brand, don’t panic. You can recover. Make a plan before a catastrophe happens. Look at the parts of your brand that could cause potential problems or misunderstandings, or might upset certain people. Have some responses prepared ahead of time, in case you encounter one of these problems. If something unfortunate occurs, act fast and apologize immediately. This way, others won’t accuse you of lying, you will avoid the worst gossip and you can recover quicker. Lastly, make sure your apology sounds sincere, covers everyone who you offended and shows that you have learned your lesson.

In some cases, there are off-brand blunders that require a different and more drastic approach: rebranding. Rebranding is difficult because you end up competing against yourself, and others don’t forget or forgive easily. It’s hard to make others let go of your old brand and to accept a new one, especially if your new brand hinges on being seen as authentic. Any misstep or fall back into your old brand will set you back further. Yet, with some sacrifice and dedication, you can create a whole new you.

Indeed, there are many other reasons you might want to rebrand other than making an off-brand mistake. You may want to change the way others have branded you, outgrow your current brand, or just feel stuck. Get some feedback from those around you if you are considering rebranding. Without their input, you won’t know whether your current brand is effective or needs to change. You need to know what others say about you to decide if you want to change.

Don’t limit yourself or sell yourself short – think beyond your first goal.

Once you’ve created your brand, worked out the kinks and found what fits, it’s time to start selling. You already sell every day, in many ways. For example, if you wanted to go on vacation with your partner, but your partner felt unsure, you would have to sell the idea. So, you lay out your reasons – over-tired from work, haven’t had a vacation in two years, for instance – and a strategy to pay off the trip. Your partner listens, hears your logic and agrees. Right there, you’ve made a sale. Situations like this happen all the time, whether you need to convince your boss to pursue an idea or you want your children to eat their vegetables. You most likely already have a clear sense of how to sell.

“Once you choose a brand, own it.”

While you sell most things you want unconsciously, selling your brand needs to be intentional. Look at the ways you already sell things successfully, and put those tactics to work for promoting your brand. While this sounds simple, it’s not that easy and people often end up selling themselves short. For example, a young woman worked at a TV station doing the weekend segments and became very good at her job. Everyone around her adored what she did and knew that this had been her top goal. But when a better position opened up, her boss passed her over and hired someone else. The boss reasoned that she was happy in her current role and that she didn’t want to move up. The young woman’s brand had sold her as in the perfect spot and limited her opportunities for growth.

Don’t let your brand sell your talents short. Speak up about the things you want; nobody can read your mind. You have to consistently advocate for the opportunities you want and have a brand that reflects your desire to grow. Similar to how directors ”type-cast” actors, you don’t want others to lock you into a role that could limit your potential.

Remember, you control your brand’s narrative. Make sure you tell the right story, and that you tell it often. Don’t be afraid to brag.

Sell your brand in five steps.

If you want to sell your brand successfully, then you need to plan like a professional. That means taking an overview of the territory into which you will introduce your brand and creating a map to where you want to go. Like any top salesperson, follow these five steps for success:

  1. “Plan for the sale” – Get an overall look at the steps you will need to take. What are your top selling points? To whom would they appeal? Where can you find those people? How will you make them notice or remember you?
  2. “Look for opportunities to sell your brand” – Start talking to people about your brand, your goals and where you want to go. Like planting seeds, the more people you talk to, the more your brand will circulate. Before you know it, those seeds will grow into opportunities.
  3. “Establish trust with the people you want to buy your brand” – Be consistent with your brand. Build trust through reliability.
  4. “Ask for what you want” – Your hard work is great, but it won’t speak for you. You need to advocate for yourself and tell others what you want. Don’t be “too proud to accept help.” You need others’ referrals to build credibility and their support to make your life easier.
  5. “Follow up with consistency and gratitude” – If somebody helps you grow, or lands you a great job, thank them. Don’t just use words; make sure you deliver on your brand’s promises.

Part of consistently delivering on your brand means finding ways to show yourself in the best light possible, in whatever circumstances you find yourself. For instance, if you’re on a date, highlight your good listening skills.

“Make sure everyone sees what you want them to see.”

If you don’t feel up to living your brand on a given day, get out of the spotlight. Protect your brand by carving out a private life in which you can rest and recharge – a space where you can let your guard down. Boundaries are key for sustaining your brand.

About the Author

Dr. Cindy McGovern is a business and motivational speaker and is an expert in sales, leadership and communication. She is the author of the Wall Street Journal bestseller Every Job Is a Sales Job: How to Use the Art of Selling to Win at Work. 

This document is restricted to personal use only.

Did you like this summary?

Buy book or audiobook

Comment on this summary

  • Avatar
  • Avatar
    S. K. 2 months ago
    Nice summary & good book, added to my reading list!
  • Avatar
    J. M. 2 months ago
  • Avatar
    T. O. 12 months ago
    Great summary and actionable elements