Four More Ways to Build Your Personal Brand as a UX Designer

Immediately after I posted the previous entry, a good friend of mine mentioned a few more ways to be a respected member of the community. It really is a positive. People call you for your opinion, the number of twitter followers you have is a clear distinction that you’re working at your craft.

One recruiter called my “marketing” materials a clear  indication  that I “got” it. And employers love consultants and employees that “get” it.

Get Published Somewhere Else Than Your Blog (And Get Paid For It)

Anyone can start a blog.

Not just anyone can get paid to write a blog post on someone else’s dime, and I’m not including content farms like Demand Media. That’s the difference between being a writer just promoting yourself and being a published author who’s respected for their opinion.

I’m not saying I’m getting rich selling articles to Freelance Switch, but there’s a big difference between user-generated content that a blog needs and being considered a respected voice in the community that is paid to write for a blog. For the amount of time I spent thinking of this article, I’m getting paid way below market rate for my services.

That doesn’t matter.

I’m getting paid, and that’s a clear line of distinction. Advertisers are paying for my services. Yadda yadda yadda.

Be Interviewed for an Article

There’s nothing more of an ego boost than someone contacting you to ask, “I’d like to interview you for this article I’m writing. Are you available?” Of course you are. When can we schedule the call?

This bit of promotion is amazing for Search Engine Optimization. If you’re being interviewed, citied as a source, and they’re linking to your site, that’s free publicity! When potential clients call and ask how important you are, all you have to do is send them links of people that have written proof that you’re a big wheel in your small corner of the World Wide Web.

Best of all, it’s not your mom that’s writing about that odd career you have inbetween art conservation postings. It’s someone else that’s claiming themselves as an expert in your field. Instant validation.

Think of it as a Foursquare badge that actually means something. Not only have you checked in with knowledge, the bartender vouches that you’re a nice guy and is offering to buy you a drink.

Write a Book

Scott Berkun, author of three best-selling books, has some great comments about writing a book. The reality is that anyone can do it:

Here’s the short honest truth: 20% of the people who ask me are hoping to hear this –Anyone can write a book. They want permission. Truth is you don’t need any. There is no license required. No test to take. Writing, as opposed to publishing, requires almost no financial or physical resources. A pen, a paper, and effort are all that has been required for hundreds of years. If  Voltaire and  Marquis de Sade could write in prison, then you can do it in suburbia, at lunch at work, or after your kids go to sleep.

Writing a book is much more time consuming that writing a blog.

I’m writing this entry from Caffe Greco in San Francisco, and it’s going to take me an hour. It’s special treat, pounding out about 800, er, 900 words, er 1,000 words. I enjoy writing the blog; because I worked in Journalism in my past, and it’s the only chance I get to use semi-colons.

Now imagine doing this for next 125 days over the next year. Writing when you’re happy. Writing when you’re bored. Writing when the words don’t come out anymore. Writing when your publisher is screaming at you because the book is three weeks late and you’re 500 pages away.

Dan Saffer has a great post about writing fiction (and why he won’t do it again). There were some core truths there, but I had the same conversation with J. Ambrose Little. You don’t write technology books to become rich, you write them so when you interview, the interviewer says, “So you wrote a book — when can you start?”

That sentence alone trumps a lot of things, like “I learned all my absolute statements from Jacob Nielsen” and “I have a masters in HCI.”

It doesn’t even have to sell — at all. It’s a great portfolio piece than speaks to your dedication to the field, even if the book sucks (and I’ve received a few books that have absolutely sucked).

Speak at a Conference or an Event

Public speaking is hard. Real hard. I’ve done it a few times (I’m not great at it and tend to do better on panels versus sole presentations).

What’s the best way to learn?

Start small.

Pick topics that are different enough that no one’s repeated it but interesting enough not to bore 50 people. Call local User Experience event organizers, local Marketing organizations, anyone that would benefit from having a user experience professional speak at the event.

I would also have a blog or a Twitter feed, because a presenter that’s only presenting themselves at an event is Big Hat, No Cattle — nothing to back up their reputation. I spoke at an event and there was someone sitting next to me on a panel that had no experience in the topic they were speaking about. That’s just frustrating. I want to be surrounded by speakers than put in as much work in the field as I do.

Construct a PowerPoint that is entertaining but could be understood by your mom (seriously). Don’t use UX speak — use English. Short sentences that are easy to understand.

And practice, practice, practice.

It’s best to do a dry run in front of about five to seven people. Co-workers are perfect during a lunch you buy them, and then do it in front of the group. The first few times you do it, you’ll get two feelings: am I a good public speaker, and do I want to do this again?

I’ll speak occasionally, but there are much better public speakers than me. I enjoy my corner of the World Wide Web. Do you?