August 1, 2016

Why I've decided not to launch a brand for my consulting work

Personal branding is hard but I'm making progress!

Welcome to the newly launched

I’ve spent the last few weeks building a new identity, brand and website for my consulting work. But after realizing that this wasn’t really the approach that worked for me, I decided to abandon the new brand and instead consolidate my work right here at with a new design, direction and purpose.

First, Some Background

I’ve been an independent consultant for almost two years - working with large media companies such as The New York Times & Complex Media and working with startups such as Olapic & Fundera. After being out on my own for a while it’s about time that I put my professional foot forward and shared my own brand with the world. So I did some thinking and came up with a new brand: Yes! and..

And then, after building the site and getting ready to launch (I even had a launch blog post written!) I decided to abandon it.

Yes! and… No More

It’s a shame to abandon something that you put time and energy into, in particular because this was the first real branding project I’ve undertaken on my own and I was proud of the results:

In fact, if you’re curious - for now the whole site is still online here:

Why Build a Brand In The First Place?

There are many reasons to build a brand and there is definitely a time and place for branding an independent consulting practice - my close friend Jim runs Part & Sum which is his brand for the consulting work he does. It works well, especially because his work often involved assembling a team of collaborators and partners for his projects.

For me, although I had a vague sense that I should “grow up” with my branding and I had this notion that perhaps consulting under my own name led to me missing out on higher value consulting jobs, if I were to talk in the third person I would mostly be pretending since the majority of my work is done by me.


But here’s the thing (and it was during a critical conversation with my friend Ron Garrett that I had this breakthrough) - the main reason I didn’t want to build a consulting brand under my own name was fear.

Fear that people might not take me seriously.

Fear that I’d seem amateur.

Fear that I wouldn’t be able to be myself.

And as with many things in life, I had to take the roundabout route of building the site, doing the work, thinking hard and reaching out to friends before I realized the root of the problem was fear and the way ahead was obvious.

The Great Challenge of Personal Branding

Personal branding, especially for (gasp!) a marketing consultant is terrifying. How do you escape being that arrogant person while still appearing professional and capable of well-paid work? How do I avoid putting a ferrari or a photo of me skydiving on my about page?! (The answer it turns out is remarkably easy - you just don’t put a skydiving or ferrari photo on the page).

But you have to balance that against the personal nature of the work that I do. People aren’t hiring Yes! and… - they’re hiring Tom Critchlow. And people don’t know Yes! and… they know Tom Critchlow. Ron summed this up perfectly:

Be yourself, and don't confuse the market.

The simpler and more direct I can make my branding, the more genuine it will feel. Ultimately all I need to do is be true to myself (sometimes this is hard to do though!).

So, Welcome to V2

So after all this - I ripped the design right out of yesand, put a new live and hit publish. Have a poke around! It’s very much a work in progress, in particular there’s plenty more talking about the work that I do that needs to come, but for now it’s a good enough house for me to put it out into the world.

In an effort to be more intentional with this new site, I’m doubling down on the following core ideas:

  • The site must reflect me. That means there’s a photo of my face on the homepage and I talk about the work that I do, but it’s also a little quirky and creative (and green!). And I might meander into art or architecture (or javascript poetry!) from time to time.
  • In order to get good clients I’m going to need to expose a little more about the work that I do. Look out for a few case studies, and more under the hood posts on my consulting work in the future. For the moment, start here.
  • It’s valuable to try and build a community. This translates into three things; I’m going to be posting here more regularly, I’ve integrated Disqus comments on the site for more dialogue and I’m launching a newsletter (sign up!).

Some Thanks

The lifeblood of a consulting business is the referral network that provides a gravity to attract interesting work and I’ve been inspired by those around me who either have helped me directly or who are building networks of support for independents. Big thanks to Gary Chou, Brian Dell, Kyle Monson, Arnold Waldstein, Jim Babb, Dave Dawson, Luke Chatelain, Dave Minchala, John Doherty, Ron Garrett, Jonathan Libov & Will Critchlow for support, clients, advice and insight along the way.

What Do You Think?

Part of the intentional focus here is to build a small engaged community so - you tell me! How did I do? What do you think about the new brand? Have you struggled with personal branding? How did you overcome those challenges? Leave a comment below or hit me up on twitter: @tomcritchlow.

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This post was written by Tom Critchlow - blogger and independent consultant. Subscribe to join my occassional newsletter: