How I became an entrepreneur thanks to personal branding

Tijen OnaranUrban Zintel

We are all personal brands. Like it or not. The decisive question is whether we consciously take care of our brand essence and actively shape our brand, or rather leave it to others to determine our agenda. For me as an entrepreneur, one of the central tasks is to set my topics, adjust my positioning if necessary and build a network through which I can reach my target audience. Even more: I created my job as an entrepreneur with personal branding.

A lesson with consequences: my foray into politics

I first really realized how important it is to set your own agenda when I campaigned for the FDP Baden-Württemberg many years ago. I was young and inexperienced, so I gratefully accepted any help. The result was that it was not I who decided my election campaign topics, but someone else who did it for me. As a young student with a migration background, I was assigned the subjects of education and integration. Both somehow fit my biography and me as a person, but they weren’t my subjects. The effects were fatal. Because I was neither able to represent “my” positions in terms of content, nor could I authentically embody the topics in appearances and discussions.

A few years later, I understood what had happened then. Even if the election to the state parliament almost worked out – from a personal branding perspective, I did pretty much everything wrong that can be done wrong. Instead of self-determinedly and confidently setting my position and working on achieving my goals, I acted in an externally determined manner. It was only later that I realized the importance of setting the agenda of my life for myself. And it was precisely this insight that ultimately motivated me to start my own company.

How I created my own job with personal branding

The new book by Tijen Onaran has been published by Goldmann Verlag

Of course, I didn’t just found a successful start-up overnight. Rather, I gradually created my own job through personal branding. I also didn’t know from the start that my goal was to start a company. I just knew that I was not happy with all of my career attempts so far. That’s why I started the arduous work of positioning myself with my issues, setting my own agenda and gradually building up a network. My mission was to make women in the digital industry more visible and to bring diversity and empowerment into the discussion.

Through my positioning as a personal brand, I gradually created my own target group, through which I also found my first customers. The advantage of communicating with them was that they already knew me through my activities at events or on social media and knew exactly what to expect from me. With personal branding, I was able to design my job myself, create my community and address it directly. With my company, I now support companies, organizations and people in increasing their own visibility, strategically networking and inspiring and empowering others.

Away from self-staging towards positioning

Everyone has a brand essence – from the nurse to the CEO of a corporation. At the same time, people are not brands like companies are. They differ in their strategy, tone and communication. Personal branding is too often misunderstood as pure self-presentation. A personal brand fulfills an important function: It helps to define one’s own message and to communicate it effectively. Personal branding therefore helps to control how others perceive me.

Although I consider the economic character of personal branding to be essential, it is important to me to emphasize that I am not interested in social selling. Rather, I would like to underline the strategic aspect of personal branding. If you take the positioning during the corona pandemic, for example, then personal branding is an invaluable tool for getting through the crisis stronger. With GDW, we very quickly switched to adapting our formats and our content to the new circumstances. Instead of just getting through the crisis, we wanted to grow. This is only possible if the business model is adapted and this can be communicated effectively. Personal branding provides the tools necessary to do both.

Only those who are visible will take place

Anyone who wants to actively position themselves cannot avoid appearing as a person. I am convinced that there is no getting around it. Because only those who are visible also take place. However, if personal branding is confused with mere self-presentation, this does not lead to a successful strategy. That is why it is more important than ever before to set your own topics, to create a community and your own target audience and to confidently determine your own agenda.

Tijen Onaran is an entrepreneur, author and presenter. For Business Punk she moderates the podcast “How to Hack”. Onaran is one of’s “Top 40 under 40”


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