One thing I struggled with in establishing FIVE 12 was how to be “me” while building.

Should I change who I am and keep certain things offline, or say screw it?

In the end, I said screw it. I spent so many years trying to be this person and that person held me back from growth. I didn’t want to be successful by being someone self.

It’s a big lie and plain dumb.

And I’m here to tell you, you don’t have to be anyone else but you.

Cheesy I know. Cue the song from Barney.

So how do you make your brand you?

1. Find your voice.

Do me a favor: read your text messages to your best friend. Read your texts to your parents, significant other, and group chats. Now, read the copy on your site. Do they sound like two different people? Why? Are you trying to sound like someone else? There’s your problem. Nowadays, brand voices are more casual than before. This gives you wiggle room to have fun identifying your voice. Audiences want to feel like they can relate to you, and your “voice” should be inviting. Remember who you are and find power in that.

2. Who are you and what do you want your brand to be?

Like making lists? Awesome. Make two lists of who you are outside your brand and what you want your brand to be.

Write down all the great things about you. Write down your interests and favorite things. Now, write down what you want your brand to represent. Not should, WANT. How can the two be integrated? If you call yourself a rebel, how can you show that? How can readers feel that without you saying, “I’m a rebel!” Is it breaking certain rules everyone says you MUST follow? Bonus: Think about your target audience. Who do you want your “following”‘to be? Remember: Like brands attract audiences.

3. Make a list of all the things you like.

Don’t make this complex. Are you a lover of pink? Fan of giraffes? Minimalist? Are tacos your thing? What does this say about you? How can you incorporate this into your brand’s message or visual strategy?

4. Forget about competition and rules.

Everything you heard you needed to do? Forget about it for a second. Your “competition”? Let them go. One: The rules you read or suggestions and theories that have worked in a general sense. I’m not saying they’re wrong, I’m saying don’t feel forced to follow them because you HAVE to. If it doesn’t work for you or you want to do something else, go for it! It may work. It may not. You never know unless you try. Two: your competition isn’t your competition, but a potential partner. Look at them to see how you can work with them, not against them.

In the end, the best way to make your brand is by incorporating YOU.

Shocking right?

You’d be surprised how many people feel like they have to remove themselves to fit in with everyone else. Even worse, they feel the need to fit an image they think they need to be.

Stop that. You’re doing this for a reason. You have something you want to present to the world. Find that why, that purpose, and build on it.