What I Paid to Be Me

16 Oct 2012 - 1 Comment

Welcome to my shiny new website! Created by Apoterra Design, this is the third or fourth refresh of annehebert.com since I bought the domain in 1998. At that time, SEO and social media were not part of the Interweb vernacular, and a search for Anne Hébert pulled up a long list of sites referencing the work of the famous French-Canadian poet born in 1916. Once I even received an email in French that said something like, “I am interested in learning more about your book, _________. Can you please reply soon, because my book report is due tomorrow.”

Fast-forward some years, and now my Anne Hebert site is the top search result, due to a combination of longevity (RIP, Anne Hébert), organic search and a long-standing presence on social sites with my own name.

So to my utter surprise, one day after launching this new website, my email accounts associated with annehebert.com stopped working. A frantic call to my web developer and a few pokes around domain accounts revealed that annehebert.com was registered as of the day before to someone in Minsk with a very Russian name. Hmmmm.

I had not received the email notifying me that my domain was expiring, and Mr. Minsk was able to buy it at an auction the week before my new site launched. Oh, the frustration! Mr. Minsk was willing to negotiate a fair price, of course, and we used a third-party site to securely transfer of funds and domain registration information.

In my work as social media director of the Conferences for Women, I post a regular stream of information about the importance of personal branding, so it was a bit ironic that I had to pay to re-secure annehebert.com. An expensive lesson, but one worth sharing.

My advice to anyone thinking about becoming a solopreneur, launching a business or improving/extending their personal brand for professional or personal reasons is to invest in your name. If you don’t, someone else will, so make sure to:

  1. Find your name and claim it. Check to see if your own name is available as a domain and register the account. If not, see who owns it and if you can buy it. For the investment of a few hundred dollars, you secure the future of your personal brand. Same with social media accounts; even if your Twitter handle has always been @huzzenfuffer and you have thousands of followers, check to see if your own name is available and register the account.
  2. Get out there and represent your name. Create an archive of content that represents your personal brand. Blog. Find the social network that represents your comfort zone. Is it Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, Instagram? Make sure to share a mix of information that best demonstrates your full scope.
  3. Consistently brand your name. Invest in a professional headshot (or choose a great one of you that best represents your brand) and use it. You can also use a series of related images for your website, your blog, and your social profiles. The images on my website header are a mix of client logos and photos I’ve taken and shared on Instagram or Facebook. I use a combination of my headshot and a couple of these images—like the pink pipes above—on my social networks. Why? Because I like them, they represent something about me, and because I can.
  4. Be yourself. Don’t try to fit a certain mold. Focus on the things that make you who you are and use them to your advantage.

I’m a wee bit glad that Mr. Minsk appeared, because it reminded me how much I’ve invested in my own brand over the years, and what it’s worth to be me.