Apr 25, 2023

Why personal credibility matters more than personal branding

By Wes Kao
Co-founder of Maven
Why we should stop aiming for “personal branding,” and start aiming for “personal credibility.”

The phrase “personal branding" feels kind of icky.
Remember school projects? There was always that one kid who didn’t do much work, but was great at talking. Of course the teacher thought they did all the work. Personal branding reminds me of that person, now all grown up and still talking their way through life.
Many of us are not good at “personal branding.” A lot of good people are too busy actually doing the work to manage the optics of that work. Unfortunately, this means well-deserving people often get the least credit.
Let’s stop aiming for “personal branding,” and start aiming for “personal credibility.”
By the way, I teach operators how to turn their expertise into a course in the Maven Course Accelerator. You’ll get step-by-step templates and guidance to build a course that you can be proud of. Our next cohort starts soon. To enroll, create your account (it’s free).
How are the two different?
  1. Personal branding has a superficial undertone. It assumes you have your work, then you tack on an artificial layer of “branding” to shape perceptions.
  2. Personal credibility is about substance first and foremost. Then showing the folks around you what you can do and how you can contribute. It’s about earning trust in order to do more of the work you want to do.
When you have a strong personal brand, you might get likes on your social media posts. But when you have strong personal credibility, you have a deeper connection with people who believe in your work. This means you have more options, more control, and a more fulfilling career.
How do you build your personal credibility?
By doing the same things that help you believe other people (or products) are credible. Social proof, accolades, a track record of contribution, good design, strong writing, being articulate, testimonials, work samples, having a strong point of view, warm referrals.
All the things that make you think, “Hmm this person knows their craft.”
There are lots of people who don’t have strong personal brands, but have strong personal credibility. When you Google them, you might not find a lot. But they have plenty of interesting opportunities in the circles and networks they belong in.
If you have personal credibility, you have what it takes to build a course.
Building a massive following isn’t the only way to show your credibility. Many Maven instructors have personal credibility by curating a valuable network who will vouch for their track record.
One example is Arielle Jackson, marketer-in-residence at First Round, who helped Gagan and me articulate Maven’s positioning and brand. She has less than 3,000 followers on LinkedIn, and gets a ton of inbound interest for her expertise.
She can only take on one client at a time, so she built a course to scale her impact. Her pitch is: “You can hire me for 4 weeks where I create your positioning for you. Or you can join my 2-week course for 1/10th of the cost where I teach you to create your positioning yourself. Plus, you’ll get feedback from me and other founders.”
Arielle leverages her personal credibility to draw in high-ticket 1:1 consulting clients AND serve founders in an impactful 1:many approach.
If you’re savvy enough to get hired, get promoted, and drive results, you’re likely a competent operator with personal credibility. Those skills are transferable to building your own course.

PS The next step is to identify your best insights and tap into your network without being salesy. When you're ready to take the leap, join the free Maven Course Accelerator. Hundreds of instructors (including Arielle Jackson) have gone through this program and launched their own successful courses. When you start earning on Maven, you keep 90% of your course revenue minus Stripe fees.
Here’s what folks have to say about the Maven Course Accelerator:
“It is a fantastic and incredibly valuable course. No matter how seasoned you are, you will up your course creation game.” - Cher Jones
“A powerful and uplifting experience. Even having studied this subject, I still walked away with tons of fresh insights. The people I met during the accelerator were as inspiring as they were impressive.” - Rob Lennon
“I've been teaching as a university professor and community manager. I've taken many courses on building and delivering compelling courses both online and in-person. The Maven Course Accelerator is the best course I've ever taken on teaching.” - Craig Zelizer
When you start earning on Maven, you keep 90% of your course revenue minus Stripe fees. On average, instructors earn $20,000 in their first cohort. Plus, you own your IP and content. Our goal is to help you launch and grow a course you’re proud of.
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