How to build an unstoppable personal brand

Table of Contents

Grant: Hey, what’s up friends, Grant Baldwin here and welcome back to The Speaker Lab Podcast. Good to have you here with us today. Today I’m joined by my dear, dear friend Mr. Chris Ducker. I was looking earlier, man, and this is your fourth time on the show. We just passed the 400 episode mark and so, you know, every hundred episodes or so we’ll bring you back in there and so it’s like a centennial celebration.

Chris and I have known each other for many, many years. He’s a phenomenal speaker, phenomenal human being, and he’s also one of the go-to people that I know whenever it comes to building a personal brand. And so that’s what we are going to be spending some time talking about today. Chris, for people who are not familiar with you, how would you describe yourself and what it is that you do?

Chris: Yeah – at the end of the day, the way I look at it is I am a sales and marketing professional. That’s what I’ve always identified with. Plain and simple. I’ve been in sales and marketing since I was 17 years old. I have worked for only three companies in my entire life. And since I left that third job I have been running my own businesses for almost 18 years.

We have three different companies, four different brands attached to those companies and about 380 full-time employees around the world. And we love what we do, and at the absolute center of everything, it’s my personal brand. It’s everything I stand for, what I can help people with and the overall message of building a business based around your expertise.

Building Your Personal Brand

Grant: Now again, we’ve known each other for many, many years, and I know that many of the other businesses that you’re involved in are not necessarily personal brands and there are brands and companies that you’re involved in, but it’s not necessarily centered around you.

So the idea of building something, you know, specific to you is centered around you. You know, one of the core things that you do that we’ll talk about today is this “youpreneur” and that you as an individual, you. As a human, as a single person, uh, you are the entrepreneur, you are the brand. So how have you thought about that and determined that in your own business journey of when it makes sense to build a personal brand — when it makes sense to build something that’s kind of separate from your own identity?

Chris: Well, here’s the thing. I think as an entrepreneur, I don’t think there’s a difference quite frankly. Retrospectively when I look back on every major aspect of how I built my career and obviously then starting and building our own companies, everything can go back to me and my reputation, my network, what I stand for, what I’m known for, what people say about me when I’m not around — which for the most part I understand is actually very, very good. So, you know, all these things have developed over the period of the last 30 plus years.

I don’t think there’s a big difference between a quote/unquote personal brand business and a regular brand business. Right? Because as an entrepreneur, I’m at the center of everything I do from a business growth perspective. So B2B, obviously I’m not the face of the company, but I’ll be interacting with our clients. And if I do a good job, then I know that they’re likely to stay with us long term, recommend us to their peers and their associates and they’re friends and things like that. And so that reputational and personal brand is injected in everything that I do. And then we have the more B to C focus where we’re business to consumer or business to coaching/mentoring type clients — they buy courses or jump on board of one of our programs, whatever the case may be. I inject more of myself into that because ultimately people want to do business with me and I’m just a big believer that people want to do business with people deep down anyway. We all like the idea of working with a big brand like Coca-Cola or Nike or something like that.

But at the core of that, developing a relationship will ultimately end up with having relationships with individuals within those corporations. And so, you know, I just feel like at the core, we all just want to hang out with core people at the end of the day.

Grant: Yeah, there’s a lot of truth to that. Now, one of the downsides of building a personal brand is that you’re always on and it becomes very, very dependent on you. You are the face, you are the voice, you are the person that has to keep showing up. I know in terms of content, for example, you can get stuck on a content treadmill where you’re the one that has to keep producing whether it’s a podcast or YouTube channel or blog content or or social media and to be the one that keeps showing up vs. some of these other big companies you referred to, they may have different faces or voices – that’s a little big of a different example. But especially when it comes to a personal thing, you have to keep showing up and so the danger is that you can almost be stuck and you’re creating this job for yourself.

So how do you balance the, “I want to build this personal brand, but at the same time I don’t want to lean my ladder against this wall and climb up only to realize I climbed the wrong wall, or I’m at a spot where I don’t want to be.”

Chris: Totally. This is something that comes up a lot in conversation when you think about building that personal brand business. What we want to do as entrepreneurs specifically in terms of that term that I made up and the way that I look at building an expert based business, I genuinely feel that you should be looking at building a business based around you and what you stand for, what you’re all about, but not a hundred percent reliant on.

Now if you want to build a business and have zero interaction with customers and things like that, then create the next best selling widget and stick it up on an Amazon store. You know— that’s okay. If that’s your bag, go play that bag baby. It’s all good. But at the end of the day, if you do have an expertise, if you do have solutions to problems that people are experiencing within a particular niche, then there’s no reason why you shouldn’t and can’t show up in the right way.

Stay in your zone of genius, provide all that value, make a lot of really good money in the process. But there is an issue where people don’t know when to step back, don’t know when to bring on board team members to help them and things like that. So for example, I don’t manage my social media at all. My team does everything. I don’t edit my podcast. I don’t edit my videos. I don’t write my blog content anymore. All of that is put together by members of my team. However, where I do show up, week in and week out is on my podcast. Right? And as you know, creating and publishing a podcast on a regular basis is a certain amount of work.

But if you’re doing it for the right reasons and for the right audience, it’s also a heck of a lot of fun. And so I don’t look at it as work. I don’t say, “Oh man, I’ve got to record a podcast today.” What I say is, “By jolly, I am so lucky that I get to record another show today.” It’s just the mindset thing.

And I also know that when that audio is created and edited and uploaded as a podcast, I then can go ahead and create, or rather give that audio to a member of my team to be able to go ahead and pull lots of little bits out for social media posts. Pull lots of little bits out for blog posts or even a series. There’s a lot of different ways that we get to skin a lot of different cats when it comes to the content creation. The fact of the matter is actually that we generally only ever create one piece of content once, and then we repurpose everything because people who listen to something are generally probably not going to watch something and vice versa.

If they’re a reader and a skimmer of blog posts or email newsletters, for example, they’re probably not going to watch a 30 minute YouTube video or listen to a 20 minute podcast. And so we’re just very smart with the way that we create the content and then repurpose it. But it can become a hamster wheel. The only difference is — can you learn? Can you learn how you need to handle things from folks like me or you [Grant] or other people that do it already. Or are you going to be on that hamster wheel forever until you burn out? We don’t want that burnout to take place, and if it does, we want you to kind of recover and get back to work as quickly as possible.

But it doesn’t need to be as hard as a lot of people think it is. It really comes down to SOPs and systems and obviously team members and when you can afford to hire. You and I have been at it for a long time, and so we have been doing largely the same sort of thing for an extended period of time. And building a business, especially as a personal brand, is really, really difficult. And so we’ve both seen a ton of people who’ve kind of come and gone over the years and some who’ve developed very successful businesses and love it, and love what they do.

Building for the Future

Grant: You know, we were talking a little bit beforehand about a mutual friend who is just kind of massively burned out on their business right now. So what do you find is the difference between people who have built a personal brand and there’s longevity and staying power there? They enjoy it. One thing that you and I were talking a little bit beforehand as well that we really resonate on is we love business, but man, I know you and I both love our families. We both married way out of our league. We have amazing families and kids, and we just love life. You know? So how do you kind of find that right balance? What are some of those attributes, qualities, characteristics that you see between entrepreneurs who’ve built a personal brand and it has longevity, it has staying power. They’re healthy emotionally, mentally, physically, vs. those who go all in and then they just burn out and ultimately they decide it’s not for them.

Chris: There’s two things I see here, and I think that they shouldn’t be skated over. Like they’re really, really important. The first thing is that you pick a group of people that you really connect with that you want to serve. So with yourself, obviously it’s speakers, you get the speaking world, you’ve been doing it for a long, long time, yourself. You know the ups and downs, the ins and outs, the positives, the negatives. You can teach anybody to become an incredibly successful speaker.

So you say, I want to work with those kinds of people. I want to work with professional speakers or folks that want to be professional and speakers. So say you’ve decided to work with (and I mean no disrespect when I pick out this extra group) but if you wanted to turn around and say, I’m going to work with Mompreneurs, for example. You would still be able to serve Mompreneurs, you would still be able to bring value to them, but ultimately at some point down the track, you’re going to become derailed because it’s just not joyful to you. And I don’t want to go to all kinds of Marie Condo and spark joy and all that kind of stuff, but like what I’m getting at here is that you have to enjoy what you are doing every day. If you don’t thoroughly swing your legs off the side of the bed when you wake up in the morning and jump out bounding into energy levels and wanting to just drop massive value bonds on the people that you serve in your community, you have it wrong.

And here’s the thing, you’re not a tree. You can move. You’re not rooted in one particular niche, right? You can move from one niche into another one if you’re not. And so I think that the first big thing is to get going with something, working with a bunch of people that you really connect with, that you really love serving. If you do that, that’s like half of the game taken care of right there.

The other half of the game is maybe not so simple. To figure out, and that is to stick to one thing. And as a lot of entrepreneurs, you and me and everybody else out there who classes themselves as a true entrepreneur, we all know that there is such a thing as shiny object syndrome and we want to try lots of different things and we want to launch lots of different products and services and do all these different things.

But the fact of the matter is, that if you stick to one thing at the core offering of what it is that you do, I’m not saying you can’t do a few little things in addition every now and then, but 80% of your focus needs to be on one set of deliverables, one thing, and that goes on your schedule every year.

We just planned out October yesterday, we sat down and planned out the entirety of our calendar for 2023. The entirety. I know everything that’s on my schedule for 2023 and all the deliverables for my paying coaching clients. I know what I need to do, when I’m going to show up and what they’re going to get out of it. It’s already planned. And that’s because I love what I do and I’m doing it for a bunch of people that I love working with. So they’re the two biggies. Number one, find a group of people that you truly love working with, and number two, stick to one thing for the most. And just kind of really dial in that service mindset of every time I show up, I’m dropping value. They’re gonna love it.

Grant: Yeah. How do you kind of balance when you know you’re doing the right thing versus when does it make sense to pivot? Because maybe you determine that you love building a personal brand and maybe for the longest time I thought it was supposed to be speakers, but now you know, I’m losing interest or I’m more interested in something unrelated over here.

So how do you kind of determine when you need to be a tree and stay put and have longevity and just grind it out? And when do I need to not be the tree and feel like, “Hey, it’s okay to pivot. It’s okay to course correct and go a different direction.”

Chris: Dude, the answer to that is you shouldn’t be grinding it out. That’s what I’m getting at. You shouldn’t be grinding it out if eventually you become unhappy— and we will go through ups and downs, I mean, it is a bloody rollercoaster, isn’t it? So there’ll be peaks and troughs and things like that. But at the end of the day, if you are in an extended downward direction of how you’re feeling about what it is that you’re working on, 3, 4, 5, 6 months or so, at that point, there’s no more grind. If you grind at that point, if you stick to where you are at that point, then you do so at your own, probably financial peril, health peril, and definitely happiness peril, right?

And so you shouldn’t be looking at potentially sticking where you are and grinding it out. That’s not what it’s about. It’s about getting to the point where you call it, and it’s a bit of a gut check scenario. Every good entrepreneur will check their gut on a very regular basis, even more so on big decisions — is it time for me to pivot into a slightly different direction?

And when you do that gut check, you pivot and it is what it is, and you just let people know, just be legit and honest with them and say, “I’ve been doing this, I’ve had a great run. I know I’ve helped a whole bunch of people, but personally, I’m beginning to feel a little unfulfilled. So what I’m gonna be doing is making a couple of little tweaks and changes. And from this day onwards or from the end of this month or whatever it is, I’m going to be working with these types of people, helping them with this type of problem.” And that’s it. Pivot.

Grant: So we’ve been talking about who you serve and the kind of the problem that you’re helping them solve. But the other question would be how you go about serving them. When building a business, there’s a lot of different things that you could do, so being a personal brand, you could be a speaker, you could be an author, you could be a coach, you could do consulting, you could create a course, you could go heavy on social media. You could create masterminds, you could do live events. There are all these things that you could do and you and I are examples that there is a Venn Diagram of things that we’ve done very, very similar and things that we really resonate on and things where you love doing live events. You are great at doing live events and hosting a party. I don’t feel like that’s something that I can do or something that I have a ton of desire to do. I love attending a Chris Ducker party, but I’m not going to be the one that’s hosting it.

Chris: So what you’re really saying here, Grant, is that you want me to do all the work so you can have a good time.

Grant: So I can show up. Historically that’s the way it’s played out and it’s worked out really well [haha]. But how do you kind of determine what’s the best path to take, to get to serving the right people and the end result that you’re desiring. There’s a lot of different routes you could take that gets them there. So how do you figure out where your lane is and also staying within that lane because the people who want to speak also want to do a dozen other things and you can’t do a dozen other things and do them well. So how do you find that balance of what’s the best path to pick?

Chris: Yeah, so in one of our programs called the Open Incubator, I have this thing that I call the energy equalizer. And if you imagine a graphic equalizer in front of you and you’ve got the base, the trouble and all that sort of stuff on there and you move things based on how you want the music to sound when you stop. The energy equalizer works in pretty much exactly the same way. So for example, you might have things like speaking book sales, course sales, coaching, for example — on the top of yours instead of base travel, you know etc. And depending on how much energy you want to expel towards that one thing, you will move that equalizer switch up and down. So for example, if you say, “Well, I’m a true blue speaker man. All I want to do is rock stages.” That’s going to be right at the top of your speaker equalizer.

So, if that’s the case, then how much more room have you got in the other aspects when it comes to the energy equalizer to be able to do things like write a book and sell it, or to record a course and sell it, etc. Another thing that we do — we have what we call our six figure incubator roadmap, which gives everybody, quite frankly, the blueprint.

The clue is in the step by step on what they need to do to be able to create an ecosystem of products and services and even experiences such as live events based around their expertise and the people that they’re serving. Right? So depending on when people join the opener incubator, which is our program, they’ll jump into the roadmap and they’ll know what they’ve done already.

Many of your listeners will probably appreciate the fact that of all of the people that of all the people they’re serving, there’s probably only going to be 20 or 30% that will end up becoming clients. And out of that 20 to 30% becoming clients, probably only 20 to 30% of them are going to end up being high level clients. But that doesn’t mean that you want to push people away that you can genuinely help.

So a digital course, for example, can genuinely help you. And then the other two or three options of monetization around things like speaking, books, coaching programs, masterclasses, retreats — offer all that sort of stuff as well, but ultimately, at the core of what you do, particularly when you begin, is I believe your true passion.

Ultimately, really honestly, it just begins at the beginning. You’re going to do what you feel the most attracted to. Just because that’s what you start with doesn’t mean that there aren’t other options out there. However, the big lesson here is that just because you can do a whole bunch of stuff doesn’t mean that you should do it. And it certainly doesn’t mean that you should do it all at once. I remember when I was learning how to drive, my driving instructor would point out that I kept going right towards the speed limit, which here in the UK is 30 miles an hour.

And I kept going right towards it at 29/30, 29/30, and I think it was my fourth or fifth lesson and she pulled me over and said it’s a speed, Chris, it’s not a speed target. You don’t have to do it all the time. Just because it’s there doesn’t mean you have to keep getting up there. And I’ve taken that away actually. Just because you can do certain things doesn’t mean you should be doing them.

Finding the Right Opportunities 

Grant: Is there anything that you’ve seen or like how do we develop that discipline muscle to say “no” even to good opportunities? There are things you and I and so many entrepreneurs know and speakers and entrepreneurs that we work with that are leaving money on the table — but intentionally. There’s plenty of things that we could do that would have an immediate impact, but that doesn’t necessarily mean we should do that. So it’s really hard to walk away from good opportunities. So how have you found discipline in yourself or you’ve seen discipline work?

Chris: The big thing here is that ultimately when you start out, you can say yes to pretty much everything. You’re starting out, you’ve gotta spread your message. But eventually you will get to the point where that’s not sustainable anymore and you can burn out and then you’ll have to take time off to recover etc. Or you can be a little bit smart about what you do, say yes to. Becoming better at saying no, I think for most entrepreneurs, particularly personal brand entrepreneurs, such as speakers — that becomes something you have to get better at over a period of time.

You just can’t say no to everything forever. But it becomes a priority thing, you know? Yes, I could work a Friday. I haven’t worked a Friday for eight years, but I could work a Friday, book more coaching calls, or spend more time marketing, or whatever it is. And you know, it would probably add another six figures. But I don’t want to work Fridays. I like my Fridays off. So I think it really just becomes a priority thing more than anything else. But certainly it’s not something that you just inherit and get started with. It’s something that has to be earned and you’ve got to earn your stripes a little bit for a certain period of time before you can start saying no more regularly.

The Virtual Shift

Grant: Yeah. You’ve got to be realistic about this stuff. Let’s shift gears for a second. So we’re recording this at the end of 2022, coming up on 2023 now, and we are a couple years removed from COVID and at the same time I know there’s certainly parts of the world where they still feel the effects of that, and it’s maybe something that we all live with for the rest of life, but specifically as it relates to personal brands — are there things that you’ve noticed, trends that you’re seeing where COVID has impacted or shaped what building a personal brand looks like and maybe what this new version of building a personal brand looks like into the future?

Chris: Yeah, absolutely. I think the biggest shift that a lot of people have made is taking a lot of their earning potential online. I think that a lot of people were relying on the ability to be able to travel, to do coaching, in-person consultation sessions, in-person speaking obviously. And I know many professional speakers who make upwards of six or seven figures a year on stages who over that two year period had to pivot. What I really loved about a couple of them particularly, and I won’t drop names here because it’s not right, but I remember a couple of people, clearly, I asked them, “Well, if you were to charge, $25,000 for a keynote in person and now somebody wants to book you for a virtual event or to come in and talk to their company virtually, how much are you going charge? And one particular friend who you know also, turned around and said, “Well, I’m gonna charge $25,000 because they’re still getting the same amount of knowledge.  I might not be in the room, but they’re still getting what I have to offer.” And I loved the confidence behind that. I saw so many people say, “Well, you know, it’s usually $25,000, but because I don’t have to travel I’ll drop it down to 15 or 10.

Silliness. Really silly, and reactive, right? I just like people who are super proactive throughout all of that. But that’s been a big change. People taking a lot of their earning potential, which would’ve been in-person to the online and the virtual setup through virtual keynotes and coaching as well.

A lot of the stuff that we’ve been spending time with our clients on over the last couple of years have been going from that “one on one” to the “one to many” coaching group style, and limiting coaching programs for 8-12 weeks, and then kind of more high-end recurring, reliable mastermind type of stuff. We’ve spent a lot of time helping people build those programs out and you know what? They’re thankful for it because they’ve made a lot more money with a lot less effort because they can serve so many more people in such a short space of time doing it.

Grant: We’ve talked a lot about what you guys do as well as the incubator. Can you tell us a little bit more about that? In addition, you’ve got a training coming up that I want us to talk about here. So give us the snapshot here if people are interested in learning more about you.

Chris: I’m so pumped for this. So it’s called the elevated entrepreneur experience, and basically taking people through a three day event. We’re going to go for about 60 to 90 minutes each day.

Day one, we’re going to be reflecting and reviewing and renewing where we’re at with our business and what we’re all about, how we’re serving people, how we’re making money etc. Day two we’re going to be focusing on what we call our P2P plus organic sales strategy, which helps you get in leads every single day and clients every single week with no paid ads, no burnout, no hassle. It’s tested, it’s proven, it’s amazing. Everyone’s going to love it.

And then day three, we’re going to be diving into that roadmap that I talked about, and talking about all the different levels and all the different subjects and topics within that, and how to implement your next big move to be able to take your business where it is up to a new level going in the 2023.

We are running it November 8th, 9th and 10th. It’s online. People can tune-in for free. And you’ve got a special link for them. I believe they’re going to just spend all this extra time with me, my team, and they’re going to love it.

Grant: If people wanna check that out and register for it you can click here.

Chris: I want to say that the content I’m sharing, the training that I’m going to be doing live at this free event. It’s the exact training that I give to my paying clients. We’ve watered it down a little bit for time and space more than anything, but this is the stuff that I teach my coaching clients day in and day out as part of what we do. And so they’re getting really, really good stuff. All they need to do is just show up and take notes and take action. Plain, simple, right?

Grant: Chris we appreciate you taking a minute to chat with us. Always good to see you, my friend.

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