Becoming a successful e-learning professional is about more than just strong design and development skills. It’s also about who you are as an individual and how you’re viewed by your peers, clients, prospective employers, and the learning and development industry at large. So while it’s important to grow and evolve your instructional design skills in order to boost your career, don’t forget the value of positioning and marketing your personal brand.  

In this article, we’ll take a look at personal branding—what it is and why it matters—and give you some key questions to consider to start tailoring your brand for e-learning career success.

What is a personal brand?

Your brand is how you present yourself in your professional community. It allows others to get a feel for who you are before you meet—a sort of pre–first impression. Essentially, it’s what you’re known for in the industry and what people think you have to offer. 

No matter what career stage you’re in or the type of work you do—either freelance or from within an organization—you’re already building a brand, whether intentionally or not.

Thanks to social media, people have more access than ever to the things you say and do. If you have an online presence, then your words, ideas, and actions have already contributed to your personal brand. 

And even if you don’t do social media, chances are that at one time or another, you’ve left an impression on someone through your interactions with them—whether it be online or in the workplace. 

Why does a personal brand matter?

The way you present yourself to the world directly influences how others see you and your work, which can impact the jobs you’re offered—making your personal brand super important.

The e-learning industry is booming like never before. In fact, the market as a whole is projected to be valued at $325 billion by 2025. The increasing demand for e-learning creators means more potential opportunities—but also increased competition as more people make the switch to a career in training. This means that if you want to stand out, you’ll want to invest time in growing, nurturing, and protecting your personal brand. 

What does it mean to build your brand?

In short, brand building means identifying your mission, vision, and values, and ensuring that your professional activities and public communications align with those concepts. Think about the tone you want to set for your brand and how you can reflect that with the things you write and share online as well as how you interact with clients and other people in the industry. 

For example, if you want to be known as an expert in creating governmental training, it might make more sense to post in a more serious and professional tone rather than a fun and playful one. 

Brand building also means investing in your own professional development to make sure your brand stays relevant and competitive. For example, it’s important to stay up to date on industry trends and share content that incorporates what’s current. You’ll also want to make sure you’re aware of the latest features available in your authoring apps and use of them in your projects, so your courses don’t start to feel dated.

Finally, it means participating and sharing your work in e-learning communities—like E-Learning Heroes—so others can get to know you and your portfolio before working with you. Try participating in one of our weekly challenges to sharpen your skills, bulk up your portfolio, and share your design aesthetic with others. 

How to get started 

Convinced it’s time to start building your brand but unsure where to start? Here are some ideas:  

  1. Evaluate your online presence. We all have a digital footprint. Take some time to Google yourself and see how, when, and where your footprints lead. Do you come across as a confident, credible, and informed professional? If you notice a lot of personal social media content, you might consider updating your security settings so that your personal social media doesn’t pop up in Google. It’s best to keep your personal and professional social media presence separate.
  2. Create an online portfolio. If you don’t already have an online portfolio now is the time to start creating one. Here’s an article that outlines what to include in your portfolio. For inspiration, check out the portfolios of your fellow E-Learning Heroes community members in this challenge: Share Your E-Learning and Instructional Design Portfolios. Once you’ve created your portfolio, make sure to keep it up to date with your latest and greatest projects. 
  3. Share helpful resources. An easy way to add value to your network is to collect and share resources or content you find useful—just be sure to always read everything carefully and consider how well the focus and tone mesh with your brand before posting. By sharing helpful tips and tricks and thought-provoking insights, you’ll positively influence your personal brand and grow toward being recognized as a trusted source.
  4. Emulate people you admire. E-Learning Heroes has some serious rock stars in its ranks. Who do you admire? What do you like most about their user profile and contributions to the community? Taking time to think about what makes them so impressive can help you figure out what you should be working on. You can also find brand inspiration by brainstorming companies and influencers with strong brands. What attributes of their brands resonate with you, and why? Later you can use your insights to help identify themes for your own brand identity.

The Bottom Line

Taking control of your brand is one great way to shape your entire professional destiny. Ultimately, the question is not, Should I have a personal brand? but rather How do I shape my personal brand?

What are you doing to proactively manage your professional development? Share your ideas, tips, and questions by leaving a comment below. 

Looking for more career advice? Check out these articles:

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Trina Rimmer

Hi Richard. Thanks for reading & commenting! In my case, branding my name worked out well for me because my ambition was simply to be independent—not necessarily to be an entrepreneur. If I'd had entrepreneurial tendencies, I think I would've pursued branding my company more aggressively to give myself the leeway to grow. If I'm honest with myself, I'd have to say that as an independent contractor, my biggest ambition was to control my own career destiny—not to grow a successful business. On the practical side, I know there are legal and tax implications that go along with each decision. I thought this discussion thread ( nicely captured some of the benefits & drawbacks... Expand

John Wagner