The short answer to the headline question is you already have one, but chances are you haven't really thought about what it is, and only do that when the proverbial hits the fan and your out of work, or under pressure to find 'new business'.
Personal branding is just a new way of describing how people perceive you based upon assumptions they've made about you from numerous data points in the online space. They make assumptions based on a variety of things, everything from your profile photo, how you describe yourself, how you describe what you do, how others interact with you, and most important how you convey 'why' you do what you do.
Most profiles on Linkedin are (sorry) pretty crap, simply because people just see it as a place to copy/paste the CV, with shitty headlines saying things like 'profit focused' - 'results orientated' - 'people person' which of course is what everybody else says.
I see so many people who suddenly come out of work flogging their personal profile on LinkedIn to death in order to gain visibility and the attention of recruiters, who themselves are pretty crap at their own 'personal brand' BTW - it's all very reactive, and when they do contact you they advise that you beef up your CV on LI because that's all they know.
Then there's the 'Peacock' people, no activity on LI for ages, then all of a sudden they get a new job or promotion and suddenly the 'title' change arrives, as a way of announcing how great they are, and then that gathers digital dust until the next announcement, which could also mean 'looking for work'.
Just as a business’ brand is a representation of the company’s image as others see it, personal branding is the way others see you. It is what sets you apart from the world, what makes you uniquely you.
Let’s take a moment and think about the people we work with. Can you name someone who gets stuff done, no matter what? How about a person who is always late to meetings? What are their names? It probably didn’t take you long to visualize who these individuals are in your life.
As you can see, these traits are linked to their name, becoming part of how you value and perceive them. Plain and simple, your name is your personal brand.
So, if your not managing how you are being perceived, others will make their own assumptions and more than likely scroll on to see others who have put the effort in to create and stand out personal brand.
And if a company is looking to do with business with your company, whose profiles will they favour?
When it comes to new businesses, especially as a sole proprietor, your name can be more valuable than the business itself. Think about it: who would you rather do business with? The company whose owner is constantly missing deadlines or the owner who goes above and beyond to deliver what is promised and then some? By having a strong, positive personal brand, you are setting your business up for success.
The definition of brand has evolved over time, from its use to identify where a product or service came from to its more elusive meaning tied with a company’s image. Today, when most businesses talk about their brand, they are referring to how people associate with it and what image they are trying to achieve with their target audience.