Personal Branding

January 28, 2024

So, you want to start a creative online business.

HELL YEAH. First things first, congrats! The flexibility, freedom, and creative fulfillment in the online creative space truly can’t be beat.

But here’s the deal: in 2024, you simply can’t run a successful online biz without establishing a personal brand. And that means – yup, you guessed itshowing your face.

Consumers have more options than ever before thanks to the internet. (Just look at TikTok—research shows that young people use TikTok as a search bar over Google. And if my home decor buying habits are any indication, I know I certainly do.) So with overflowing choice, buyers want to know who the hell they’re buying from and if that person is legit.

And the best way to build that trust? Let them put a face and personality to a brand.

However, showing your face on the internet (and potentially opening yourself up to criticism) can feel scary as hell. Even for someone as outgoing and comfy with the camera as I am, I’d be lying if I said I didn’t feel a LOT of anxiety (at first) showing up as any sort of creator/creative on the internet.

So, without further ado, here are a few ways I found helpful to move through that anxiety without giving up, and hopefully, they help you too.

1.) Allow Yourself to Start Small

If you’re anything like me, you’re ambitious as hell. When I first started my business, I was like “I could have an Instagram! And a TikTok! And a newsletter! And a blog! And and and and and!

The reality is: no one can churn out quality content across a million different platforms daily or even weekly—especially when just starting out.

And it’s not even about how much actual time content takes to create: exposing yourself to a bunch of different people on a bunch of different platforms all at once? It’s a recipe for disaster on your nervous system.

Starting small (with one platform, maaaaybe 2) gives you room to get very comfortable in one space first before expanding your reach later. It may not feel ambitious enough, but restraint early on pays off—big time.

2.) Reframe It—It’s Not About You

I definitely struggled with confidence showing my face online at first. I worried people would judge my looks, or even worse, find me cringe. And to absolutely no one’s surprise, all my self-doubt circled around how I was being perceived (which is funny, because I’m an actor, so you’d think…)

Over the years though, I’ve learned to reframe my mindset about my content itself: at the end of the day, it’s not about you, it’s about serving your audience.

Chances are, if you’re caught up in a downward spiral of worrying about what everyone else around you thinks, there’s a good chance that maybe your content is ever-so-slightly selfish. So when fear or anxiety creeps in, recenter yourself on serving others. (Because committing to audience-focused creation, makes “being perceived” matter far less!)

Hot tip: Before you hit post or record, ask yourself what your audience needs most from you today. Then chase after that—rather than the sound of your own inner critic.

3.) Start a Reach Out Practice

Putting yourself out there online feels vulnerable, especially when you’re new to the online space. So with the help of this book and this facilitator, I started by making a habit of connecting one-on-one with others instead.

During the pandemic, I reached out (via email or DM, whatever was easier) to one new person every single day—fellow makers, creatives, artists, bloggers, influencers, business owners, and even some folks not related to creative fields at all. I’d compliment their work and ask engaging questions, and sometimes, it would turn into amazing opportunities and friendships.

Doing this was scary at first. But doubling down day after day almost rewired my confidence muscle. Opening up got easier and interactions felt natural. And honestly, to my surprise, people were usually excited to pay it forward and help a newbie like me.

Within a year and a half of this habit, I made genuine personal connections with hundreds of inspiring people—just by reaching out consistently. (Literally one of my best friends and biggest business collaborators came from a reach out.) Folks welcomed me into their communities, promoted my work, became my friends, and some even hired me.

Starting small with individual outreach grew my online confidence exponentially. So if you’re feeling reaaaaaallly resistant to social media (but know you need to end up there eventually) try nurturing one-on-one connections before trying to captivate an entire audience online.

4.) Writing Weekly Newsletters

If you feel nervous about plastering your face everywhere at first, maybe try a newsletter instead.

Don’t get me wrong here: sending out regular email updates can feel super vulnerable—this shit’s not easy. Plus, email’s weird because there’s no likes or comments to let you know whether people enjoyed it or not. It’s just your thoughts popping into inboxes without reaaaaallllly knowing how it’s landing.

But when I started doing this consistently, I realized newsletter opens and click rates grew over time. People often responded (and still do!) with sweet notes about my content. And this was all possible without really showing my face—at least, not that often.

It was a great first platform to get my feet wet in before I really dove deep into creator/creative land.

Hot tip: hitting the “send” button is really scary at first (it still is, for me!) so make sure you use an email platform that will allow you to schedule an email to send later. Even if you schedule it to send 5 minutes from now, hitting “schedule” is waaaaay less anxiety inducing than hitting “send”.

5.) The Magic of Instagram Stories

Instead of going full out with a whole-ass Instagram post strategy, maybe start experimenting with stories instead.

When I first made my business Instagram account, stories felt soooo much comfier. Something about the fact that they disappear in 24 hours gave me permission to relax. Like, if I sounded lame talking about my creative process in stories, who cares, ‘cuz I knew they’d be gone tomorrow anyway.

Leaning on stories helped me FINALLY let people into the real, unedited behind-the-scenes & everyday moments in my business. They helped me stop overthinking so much (and honestly, still do).

So, if Instagram gives you hives, I’m willing to bet you’ll gain more confidence being your true self in stories instead. And that authentic comfort on camera WILL start to transfer over into permanent posts eventually too.

If the rise of TikTok has taught us anything, it’s that your people want to know the REAL you, not some perfectly curated facade.

(Note: definitely have at least a FEW posts on your feed, otherwise it’ll be weird to have an empty feed while being very active in stories. But don’t be afraid to make stories your entire strategy at first!)

6.) Exposure Therapy

Okay, let’s rip the bandaid off here—if you want to get comfortable showing up online, you inevitably have to…well, SHOW UP online!

I know, I know—easier said than done. But honestly, leaning into exposure therapy is what finally boosted my confidence. Being seen is a muscle, and reframing it as such rewired my mind in an “Oh, posting isn’t so scary after all!” way surprisingly quickly. It became second nature.

So as much as you may resist it, you HAVE to dive in head first. Schedule time on your calendar dedicated just to creating content that forces you to show up. Push yourself outside your comfort zone so that zone expands over time.

You CAN get comfortable taking up digital space for your business and ideas with consistency and bravery. But you have to face those initial nerves first rather than hiding from them!

Some Online Confidence Mantras For You

I’ll leave you with these:

  • Being cringey is a public service—when you show up as yourself, it gives other people permission to show up as themselves, too.
  • If they really want to unfollow or mute you, they will. But they probably won’t. And if they do, good riddance!
  • You cannot control the narrative of what people think of you anyway, so you might as well be who you want to be.
  • Everything’s cringe until it’s successful.

Love you! Go kill it!

Hi, I'm Sarah Kleist.

Brand & web designer, personal brand strategist, and marketing educator obsessed with the power of connecting with audiences.



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