Welcome to episode 447. I want to start with a random story because that’s part of the charm of this podcast. Every Sunday night, Charles, my husband, if you don’t know, and I watch John Oliver. It’s funny because I’m a huge fan of Armchair Expert with Dax Shepard as well, and they… He and Kristen Bell refer to John Oliver on Sunday night as church. 100%, love it, so that’s what we do every Sunday night. And I realized that for the last, I don’t actually know how long, I have started each episode with “Welcome, welcome, welcome,” which I unconsciously lifted from John Oliver. So I’m trying to fix it now, but now I don’t know what to say when I start the show.
So, hi. The Stacey Harris here, social media strategist and trainer, CEO of the digital marketing agency Uncommonly More. We’re going to talk about personal brands today, and we’re going to do that because, A, I want to tell a couple of cool stories. Well, stories, let’s not raise the bar too high. But also because in a couple of weeks, I believe on the 13th, episode 450, I’m going to have a guest on, India Jackson, the owner of India Jackson Artistry, who’s a photographer, to talk about personal brands, and your photography, and how it impacts branding. And I thought ahead of that, this would be a fun conversation to have, because my personal brand, A, took some time for me to be comfortable with the idea of having one, has impacted some of the decisions I’ve made in the last couple of years, and has really, really evolved over the course of its existence.
So I want to go kind of through the trajectory that is The Stacey Harris, tell some of the fun stories along the way, like why The Stacey Harris exists, and how my husband not telling me things kind of led to that. So I hope you stay with me, I hope this is fun. I’m going to ask you right now to do me a solid and send me a DM on Instagram and let me know that you enjoyed this episode, or that you didn’t enjoy it, that’s cool too, but I’ll probably only read the ones that say they enjoy it, just a heads up.
Way back to the beginning…
So we’re going to dig into this. I’ve launched my very first company officially, like our first official operating day was July 5, 2011. Yes, July 5, 2011, so we are in our eighth year. I had been doing some work, freelance, essentially, on some job boards. It doesn’t exist anymore, oDesk, does anyone remember that? I think they got bought by Upwork or something. Anyways, I had been a stay-at-home mom for a couple of years, and I missed the part of my brain that functioned when I worked. I’m not really built to be a stay-at-home mom, it just wasn’t in the cards for me. I needed that other space for me, some other part of my identity… For me, no judgment about anybody that chooses anything else. Like, I’m unattached. But for me, it wasn’t the right choice.
But I didn’t really want to go back to doing anything I had done, which was lots of different things. You’ve heard the story in the MySpace episode, I worked for a record label. Something you might not know, I sold commercial property insurance. That was my most recent job before I had my son. I did every kind of admin work, I did some data entry and filing stuff in law firms, because I was thinking about being a lawyer for a while. I had had lots of jobs, but I didn’t really want to go to an office.
So after unsuccessfully Googling “how to work from home,” which is an even worse idea now than it was in 2011, in January of 2011, I found oDesk, and I started essentially selling my services of data entry and admin and support kind of things online. About a month in, I realized I could totally do this for a living, and cut out the whole oDesk middleman, and up my prices. I had had a client who I met through oDesk who was amazing, and to this very day, I credit for the ballsiness that it took for me to leave this idea of freelance and actually start my company. They were absolutely amazing. They were a married couple, I worked with them, they were my first clients when I opened the agency, or the… A business, On Demand Virtual Assistant. It was incredible.
So I had been doing that as a company name, because it always… I didn’t want it to be freelance, I wanted it to be a business, and so I didn’t use a personal brand. I had been doing that for about a year, and I had realized I didn’t really love being a virtual assistant. The stuff that I loved doing was the social media stuff, which was some of what I did for that client, and what was a lot of what I was doing for my other clients. But I also had a couple of clients who were straight admin stuff, email management, calendar management, that kind of stuff, lot of data entry kind of pieces still, and I didn’t love that part.
And so, I decided I was going to close On Demand Virtual Assistant, and I was going to open up a new business with… Well, that’s not true. That’s a lie. I didn’t have that kind of forethought. I thought I was going to rebrand On Demand Virtual Assistant into a new business that would be marketing-focused. I was going to call it Hit the Mic Marketing, because although at the time, many people were like, “Well, why don’t you build a personal brand and use your name?” especially because this was really common for female entrepreneurs at the time to just sort of be a personal brand and teach stuff, and I think it probably is still really common, but that might just be the circle I swim in. Anywho, I was like, “No, I don’t want to be the face of this, I want to build a business that’s not me,” even though I was literally the only one doing the work, it was all me. I had a personal brand; I just hadn’t owned it.
The beginning of a personal brand…
So I changed it up, and I launched Hit the Mic Marketing. A little ways into Hit the Mic Marketing, I started getting opportunities to speak and be a guest on podcasts, and really own my expertise in a really forward-facing way. And so I was like, “Maybe I should change up my Twitter handle,” at the time, that was my favorite social channel, “and see if I can get my name, and then I’ll have a company one as well.” And so I tried to find Stacey Harris, and @staceyharris was already taken, as was possibly every variation in the world, except The Stacey Harris. And here’s the part where my husband didn’t tell me anything. He didn’t tell me that Harris was like Smith, like it’s an incredibly common last name. I did not know this before we were married. Lies, right? See, tricked me. And so, I found “the,” and The Stacey Harris worked, and so from that day forward, my Twitter handle was and remains today @thestaceyharris.
And it kind of caught on. I was a guest host for a web series at the time called YFE, Young Female Entrepreneurs, and it really got traction. It was thestaceyharris, all one word, and more and more as I was speaking and things like that, people called me The Stacey Harris. And I kind of enjoyed it, it was interesting, but I wasn’t totally sure I could own it. So I’m hanging out one weekend, and I realized that I’ve always wanted pink hair. Rewind to me being like five years old. Actually, I was probably younger than that, probably like three years old. There was a cartoon that actually came out the year I was born, 1985, I was probably watching it in reruns a couple years later, called Jem and the Holograms. And from the moment I saw Jem on my TV on Saturday morning, I wanted to be her when I grew up.
So I had had this, like, in my DNA desire to have pink hair my whole life, and it occurred to me this one weekend that I didn’t have a regular job. I didn’t have a boss. I could do anything I wanted with my hair. Now, I’m incredibly lucky for a lot of reasons, one of which is, before my mom had me, she was a hairdresser. In fact, she worked for a manufacturing company and taught people how to do chemical processes, primarily, in the late ’70s, early ’80s, perms, but she’s also fantastic with color. Now, when she had me, it became cost-prohibitive to keep that job, and she changed careers, but she’s still very skilled. So she actually did my initial pink, which she immediately said, “I’m never doing it again, you have to go to a regular hairdresser,” because it’s intense when you have as much hair as I do. Also, we had done my entire head, it was like a two-day process, it was legit, it took time. And I’m sure I have a picture somewhere of that first color; I’ll have to throw it in the show notes.
So, we dyed my hair pink.
The second I saw myself in the mirror with pink hair, I knew who The Stacey Harris was. That’s who she was. So, for five years, I had bright pink hair. For five years, I went to the salon every five weeks for five hours to maintain that pink hair. I only washed it once a week, I went to Drybar once a week and got a… Well, for a long time I went to my stylist, then Drybar became a thing. And it would get washed, because it had to be washed in cold water to stay pink for as long as possible, stay bright and vibrant for as long as possible. It allowed me to embody the portion of my personality that is The Stacey Harris.
Now, over the course of those five years, I did a ton of work on myself. I did a ton of work around my mindset, and owning my expertise, and quite frankly, it’s work I still do to this day. It’s why I have a coach, it’s why I’m in a mastermind, it’s why I’m in communities like The BRAVE Society, hosted by Tara Newman. But in the course of those five years, my pink hair was something I held on to, and as we got further and further into the five years, my personal brand started to feel less like me and more like a caricature. The Stacey Harris and Stace, or Stacey, although almost no one calls me Stacey, it’s either The Stacey Harris or Stace, which I’m totally cool with, by the way. But funny story, my mom named me Stacey so that it couldn’t be shortened. Joke’s on her, everybody shortens it.
Who is The Stacey Harris without pink hair?
So, the differences were getting wider and wider, and it was getting harder and harder for me to feel like both people, because The Stacey Harris had grown a lot, and had evolved a lot, and had become a little larger than life, and had become a little bit like a costume I put on, versus really being me. So, let’s see, two years ago now, probably about two years ago now, I dyed my hair red, which is, heads up, my natural hair color. So, I had to figure out what my personal brand was if it wasn’t pink hair, if I didn’t have pink hair, because in my mind, my personal brand had become this hair, which was total BS, like, was absolute nonsense. My personal brand is not about hair. It does make me… It did make me, rather, super-easy to find at an event, super-easy to remember if you saw me on stage. But what’s interesting is I had a lot of fear that I was going to lose everything I had built when I got rid of my pink hair.
And again, I dyed it back red. Well, I didn’t, my stylist dyed it back red, and I went to my first event a few months later. First big conference I’d gone to, a few months later. And of course, I’ve posted to social, sharing that the hair is changing, dah dah dah dah. Everybody was like, “Well, I love your pink hair, but this looks great too.” I had gotten a lot of confirmation that I was going to be okay, but I hadn’t been to an event yet. And the entire time I had pink hair, I didn’t really go to events and not get stopped by somebody who knew me from online, or who had seen me speak somewhere, so I would get people who, like, we were crossing in the hallway and they’d be like, “Oh, I follow you on Twitter,” or “I follow you on Instagram,” or “I saw you on stage at such-and-such event,” or “I listen to your podcast.” Always, always always always.
And I was terrified that that wasn’t going to happen anymore, because A, my ego was super attached to the recognition. Like, full disclosure, my ego was like, “That’s freaking cool.” But also, it was sort of a real-life manifestation of what I had built online. It was confirmation that what I was doing was working. Right? We all want to create content that gets heard and responded to. You know, one of the biggest frustrations I get… I hear when I hear from… when we start working with a client in Uncommonly More is, “I feel like I’m yelling into the wind. I feel like I’m yelling into an empty room. I’m creating and I’m creating and I’m creating, and no one sees it, no one talks about it, no one engages it. I don’t know if these downloads are actual people.” Right? Or these readers, or whatever.
And so I was really, really nervous, and the first day I’m at this conference, which is a digital marketing conference, I run into somebody who I kind of know online, and they’re like, “Oh my God, I listen to your show, you’re fantastic,” and I got that recognition that I… that my ego loves, for sure, but also the confirmation that my personal brand had nothing to do with my hair. It had to do with the value I put out in the show, in the credibility I’ve earned on social, in the results my clients get. All of that stuff was my personal brand.
I tell you this story not to bore you with the journey of my hair, although that’s fun, right? But to tell you that a personal brand is not about the visual aesthetic alone. And again, we’re going to talk to India a bit about taking care of your photos, and getting that stuff done, and what to look out for, and things like that, and it’s a fantastic conversation I had with her that you guys are going to hear in a couple of weeks. But more than anything, I want you to remember that your personal brand is not about your wardrobe, it is not about your hair. It’s about the impact that you have on the people who see you, on the people who listen to you, on the people who are watching your content, reading your posts, following you on social, seeing you on stage, whatever the case may be. The people who you’re impacting are being impacted regardless of what you look like, regardless of what your hair situation is, or your wardrobe, or your size, or your height, or your whatever. It’s about what you’re doing with your voice, not the shell that the voice is coming out of.
Because for me, I had so intertwined for such a long time that my personal brand was visual. I had given ownership of my personal brand to a thing that sat on my head, my hair. I had given it all the credit for everything I’d built for five years. It’s a long time, it’s a lot of podcast episodes, right? But I knew that in reality, my personal brand was more than that, and that took a lot of work. It took a lot of getting comfortable with not just being looked at, but being seen. Not just being in someone’s car over their speakers, or in their ears on a run, or wherever it is that you listen to the show, but really on their mind, really having an impact in the action they take, and the results they’re getting, and the work they’re doing.
And that can feel really big. It can feel like a lot of pressure and a lot of weight, if we let it. But when we readjust and we think about the fact that, and I’m totally going to lift some language from Tara here, Tara Newman over at The Bold Leadership Revolution, that we’re leading alongside them, that we are in the game with them, it becomes a lot less like we have to do it for them and we have to make this work, and a little more like the… “I’ll go, I’ll lead, I’ll show up, I’ll walk my talk, and it’ll all work out.” And it’s not perfect every day. I’m not going to sit here and tell you that every day is wonder and magic, but when I can realign with that, that we’re in this together, even if we feel all alone in our offices, behind our computers, behind our phones, if I can remember that we’re in this together, it’s easier to keep going.
And so that’s what I want to leave you with today. A personal brand can feel a little bit like you’re all alone, a little bit like you’re separated. It doesn’t have to, though. It doesn’t have to be this thing that is an isolation. It’s who you are, and the people who will love you will love you, and the people who won’t aren’t any of your business. All right?
So why Uncommonly More?
Oh, before I go, I want to talk… I have had some questions about why, as building a personal brand, I have also opened an agency, because in January of this year, we officially launched Uncommonly More. Honestly, full disclosure, like no… I’m not going to BS you here, after everything else I’ve told you. Uncommonly More is an asset in a way The Stacey Harris will never be. I can’t sell The Stacey Harris. I wouldn’t want to. I mean, I’m sure I could if I wanted to. I would never want to. I don’t want to sell me, I don’t want to sell my name. Uncommonly More is something that can live separate from me.
It’s also the thing and the platform and the next iteration of my impact. It is an asset in a way that it’s going to allow me to bring together a team of people who can do a lot of different pieces of incredible work for our clients at all sorts of levels. It will allow me to support the causes and the people and the businesses that I want to in a way that’s bigger than myself, which is harder with The Stacey Harris. So this will remain content, this will remain training, this will remain my speaking, and this show, and all of those things, and Uncommonly More is a service-based brand. I’m a part of it, I may always be a part of it, who knows? See what the future holds, right? But that’s why. I needed an asset that was bigger than me. Full disclosure.
If you have any questions about today’s episode, I would love to hear them. Head over to Instagram and let me know, or if you’re a member of Backstage, of course, let me know at Hit the Mic Backstage. Speaking of Backstage, we’ve got Backstage Live coming up on June 6th, so just a couple of weeks away. In fact, if you listen to this the day it comes out, I think it’s two weeks after this episode comes out. I just tried to do math in my head and it hurt. We have some seats left; I’d love to have you join us. We are bringing together a small group of entrepreneurs to build their 90-day marketing plans.
I’m going to have an episode next week that I really want you to make sure you listen to, where we’re talking about how having a plan in place has saved my ass in the last couple of weeks, because it has, and the differences between having support and not having support, having a plan, not having a plan, because these are critical pieces, and I want to tell you about it, so I’m excited. I will see you next week. I hope you join us for Backstage Live, it’s going to be a good one.
Oh, by the way, if you join us with the pay in full for Backstage Live, you get a bonus call with me. It’s a 30-minute one-on-one. We can do it before or we can do it after, it’s up to you. I’ve had a couple of clients who wanted to do it before, so that we could streamline and sort of talk through their ideal clients a little bit before our call, before the actual event, and then I’ve had a couple of people who’ve used it afterward to kind of have me put my eyes on what they created in the course of our day together. Whichever works for you, but if you want that bonus call, it’s pay in full only. Okay?
All right, that’s the show for today, really this time. I will see you next week. I hope to hear from you. Hit me up on Instagram and let me know of your thoughts on today’s episode. And of course, if you loved today’s episode, do me two better. One, share it with somebody, or on social, or whatever, and two, head over to iTunes and leave a review, or Stitcher and leave a review, wherever it is you listen to podcasts, if it allows reviews, because Spotify doesn’t, I don’t know if Google Podcasts does, I’ll have to look at that, and let me know. All right? I will talk to you soon. Have a great rest of your day.
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