Jane Anderson is Australia’s leading personal branding expert, author of five books, certified speaker and mentor to industry leaders. Jane has helped over 50,000 people to build their personal brand. She has worked for personally branded businesses since she was 14 years old and has been featured on Sky Business, The Today Show, The Age, The Sydney Morning Herald, BBC & Management Today.
As a well-respected business growth mentor and industry leader, things have not always been as easy and glamorous as would seem. Just 10 years ago, Jane found herself divorced, jobless and living at home with her parents. Rather than becoming a victim of her circumstances, Jane turned her dream of starting a business into reality.
In this interview, we were lucky enough to speak with Jane Anderson about all things branding, business and future projects.
I established my brand, janeanderson.com.au, after I had established a different brand. The other brand was a more generic one that helped people communicate for leadership and career growth. What gave me the confidence to start my personal brand was the change of government in Queensland in 2012, which had a significant impact on the volume of work I was doing. About 80% of my work was government contracts, so they all vanished overnight. At the same time, the 17,000 people from the public service who were made redundant were also trying to find jobs. Many of those chose to start their own businesses. I worked in outplacement programs that helped them start their own businesses as opposed to finding a job. I realised quickly that the fastest way to connect with people was through my personal brand.
Another boost to my confidence was the fact I had worked for personally branded businesses since I was 14 years old. I understood from a young age that people buy from people, and they buy from people they know, like and trust. So, I was far more comfortable with putting myself out there and I was confident I had something that could help people get back on their feet again.
As I said, I started working with personally branded businesses when I was 14, so I’ve always been drawn to businesses that are named after the founder – whether they’re a shoe store or an accounting firm or an expert. I think a lot of trust comes with a personal brand. So, it’s really been a natural progression for me. I’ve always tended to focus on helping people share their ideas, and the way you need to do that is by branding yourself as an expert.
It was not so much that I decided to become a branding expert. It was more that I had been teaching people how to communicate, educate and engage others for a long time and I was trying to work out the actual category people would buy this under. I realised it was personal branding. So, I didn’t necessarily intend to become a branding expert, I just knew I wanted to help people get better at influencing, persuading and marketing themselves, particularly when we have a culture of the “tall poppy” where it’s not natural for us to put ourselves out there and sell ourselves.
One of the key challenges has certainly been unconscious bias. There is a naturally higher level of trust associated with a male who is an expert in their field. Men also tend to have more men than women in their networks, so they draw on their mates a lot more than what women do. We tend to struggle on our own, we don’t like to ask for help. So, as a result, I’ve found I’ve had to do a lot more work building my networks and trying to connect at a more senior level in organisations – particularly because most clients at senior levels in organisations are men. Male experts definitely have a much bigger advantage.
Another challenge as a woman is showing that you do have something to say and something of value that can help people. It takes effort to ensure you’re not just seen as a pretty face, but as someone who can educate and improve peoples’ professional and personal lives.
Women also face challenges around measuring our self-worth and understanding our value. When we are trying to work out if we have something of value to offer, it has an impact on our self-worth. We measure ourselves against our price, program and product. When it comes to personal branding, we are the product, and the impact of that is we say, “Well, I’ll just charge this because I’m just getting started.” We tend to undercharge, and the problem with that is it has a negative impact on business growth. I do love working with my clients and helping them see their value so they can price themselves accordingly right from the beginning, as opposed to working for years before they feel more confident in their craft to charge what they’re worth.
The other thing I think is a real challenge for women is that many start their own practice thinking, “I will just replace the income I’ve earned in my job.” The problem is, you generally need to earn about four times what you earn in a job to replace that income. This is because you have tax, you have expenses and most women don’t pay themselves separate remuneration when they are building their business. So women find themselves having to replace, for example, their $60,000 income by selling $240,000, and that’s quite a frightening experience for a lot of women.
The other challenge I’ve noticed for myself and for the women I work with is that we don’t think we have a selling problem, we think we have a confidence problem. We think once we have the confidence, then we can start growing the business. But I’ve found that quite often, we don’t ask for help with selling. We ask for help for everything except what is actually impacting the revenue and growth of our businesses – and that is selling. So, that is definitely one of the biggest challenges facing women in business ownership.
What I do is create. It was Marie Forleo, creator of B-School, who said we should create before we consume. So, my job as an expert in thought leadership means the first thing I need to do every day is create something based on my area of expertise. This grows the business by ensuring I continually educate, engage and inspire my clients to achieve their potential.
In this day and age, if you’re not creating, your business will stagnate. You become commoditised and you will have to work a truckload harder so you don’t lose value in the market. So, create something new every day. I usually write a blog or record a video. Whatever it is, I make sure it is captured and recorded so it can be used in a variety of ways, whether it be for a newsletter, blog or social media post.
I have a plan for each year. Sometimes, I even have a plan for the next 18 months to three years so I know where we are going and what we need to do. In the back of my mind, I also have my 10 year plan. Then, we break our plan down into quarterly projects so each quarter we know what we are focusing on. From there, those projects are broken down into time frames and put into calendars. Across the team, we allocate time as a resource so we know how much time we have to work on certain projects, then we tweak as we go.
A mentor of mine once said to me, “You need to be inspired by the company you keep.” So, I try to spend time with people who keep my energy levels up. This means I don’t take on clients who exhaust me. I also ensure I surround myself with people who are inspiring, so I often spend time with other experts in my field because it helps me continue to create the work I need to create.
Communication is a big part of staying motivated and inspired. I’m fortunate to have a great team. By using our communication channels and prioritising each other, we can keep each other motivated.
I think the other thing, too, is creating space. So, for myself and a lot of my clients, when they hit a revenue of $500,000 and they are trying to bite the $1 million mark, quite often what starts to happen is they experience a lot of exhaustion and fatigue. We need to find ways to create space. If there is no space in their calendar, they can’t think. They are too focused on “doing” and their creativity is depleted. Creating space is something I do so I can capture and create. Being able to create keeps me motivated.
Number one is surviving. Sixty per cent of businesses don’t survive the first three to five years, so first thing is being able to get through some of the hardest times. I think the achievement I’m probably most happy with is that we have a great team. We have a wonderful team of supporters, we have great relationships with our suppliers in the chain, and I’ve been able to provide employment for our women and help them grow skills that are relevant for the future of work.
Of course, there are other highlights, like being nominated for the Telstra Business Women’s Awards three times and being voted in the Global Gurus Top 30 Brand Professionals. I’ve also been in the top 20 branding blogs, I’m a certified speaker and a professional certified coach, and I’ve written five books. I’m proud of all those things but I’m most proud of our great team and my support crew.
I think the biggest hit I took was when we had the change of government in 2012. It made me realise we have a volatile government in Queensland, which means volatility for business. I certainly felt the brunt of that in my business. But I quickly realised that I was able to become a bigger business, I was able to become more national and even international. Because even if changes happen nationally, I needed to know I could pick clients in another country easily if I had to.
So, I think failures make you think more creatively. They make you think about how you can make the most of the resources you have and they help you become more curious about what you can do to continually improve situations. As a result, I have been able to put more solid platforms in place to make sure that if anything like that happens again, we know exactly what to do to keep growing.
Does “don’t get married” count? A divorce was not the most helpful thing to happen along the way. But I think it has given me the perspective to say if things aren’t going well, at least they’re not going that badly! You’ve got to know your awkward moment.
When I was growing up, I always loved business. I loved economics, I loved maths and some of the creative subjects I did. So, I think my younger self was set in her ways. I don’t think I would change anything and I would say to her just keep focused on what gives you energy, find where your passion is and just follow your path that way.
The world of business is not like it was five or six years ago. Change is happening all the time. If you’re launching a business, you need to understand that your business revolves around the question, who do you know? Once you figure that out, you need to engage and educate those people.
My first piece of advice is to be highly aware of the value of your name and set up your domain name under YourName.com. Secondly, you need to build networks. You need to know how to get to know people. Don’t sit back and wait to be asked, reach out. If things don’t always go your way, then offer to help other people. Always focus on what problems you solve as opposed to the crusades you’re trying to create to change the planet.
One of the mantras I have is, “You can’t sell a secret, so you have to have a voice.” You have to get out there, have a conversation and talk to people. Another mantra is, “Be easy to buy.” Some people are very hard to buy from. They want to be able to sell things, but they make it difficult for their customers. So, be easy to buy from. Communicate what you do and how you do it so people can see the value you bring and can actually purchase what you do.
I have two favourite quotes. One is from Winston Churchill: “If you’re going through hell, keep going.” I have used that a number of times when things aren’t going well. Another one is from Marianne Williamson: “Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us.” My experience quite often has been that if things don’t go well, we feel fear. We retreat. But what is bigger than the fear of failure is the fear of standing out. Culturally in Australia, it’s not the norm to do that – it’s very difficult. So, if you can stand out even when you’re in a state of fear, it can really help you grow your business.
We’re focused on building the capability of personal branding coaches, business coaches, business managers and virtual assistants to help people with personally branded businesses improve their communication strategies. We now run a certification program that gives people access to a diagnostic and tools they can use with their own clients to help them grow their businesses.
That’s what we’re doing here in Australia and we’ve got interest from the US as well. So, we may start looking at the next phase of rolling that out, but for now, we’re focused on making sure it works here. We continue to deliver training on the social media platforms that are performing particularly well, especially Instagram, so that people can use them to their business advantage.