10 Steps For Building Your Personal Brand | Ailee Petrovic

Here we have Ailee Petrovic, and she has been writing her blog – Snapshots & My Thoughts since 2012, and more recently launched a photography business – Snapshots by Ailee Petrovic. Before entering the workforce, she was an advertising major at The University of Texas in Austin, and spent copious amounts of time discussing the importance of companies defining their brand. So when she decided to quit her corporate consulting job last year and start her own business, she knew what she needed to do. But putting the strategies she learned in college, as well as her consulting experience, into play was slightly more work than she had anticipated.

“What is my unique selling proposition, and how do I create a brand around that?” I asked myself. “How will I market myself as a photographer in an already saturated and well-established marketplace?” I had to think about my strengths and weaknesses. It’s important to be brutally honest with yourself and to follow the mantra “come as you are, not as you should be” – don’t create a brand around the type of person you’d like to be, as this will come off ingenuine and artificial.

Next, in addition to following lots of “inspiration” accounts on Instagram, I began to list the types of photography I was interested in. Weddings? Too much stress for me. Babies? Yes, please – give me all of the squishiness of a newborn. Editorial? Not really my style. Lifestyle/fashion? Something I’d grown to love through blogging.

After I had figured out my niche, I had to decide how to stand out from the crowd and market myself. Having a blog helped me to have a platform to jump from. I had already been posting photos which people were able to reference, given that my portfolio was limited at first. I used Instagram heavily, which is a very useful tool for photographers and other creative businesses. In doing this, I started to network with other creatives in Houston, with whom I would plan face-to-face meet-ups, as well as follow and connect with other like minded individuals around the country.

As I started to post more and more photos on my Instagram (which is my main marketing tool besides word-of-mouth), I felt like I was losing a sense of myself on my account. I believe that business accounts do best when people can see the person behind the username, so I started to introduce more personal photos of my family (mainly my 2 year old daughter). I try to keep it 50/50 now between personal and work. Being consistent is key. People want to know what they’re going to get when they follow you!

As I mentioned earlier, one of the first steps I took was to follow “inspiration” accounts – in my case, other photographers whom I admired locally and around the world. I was hesitant in the beginning to reach out to any of them because I felt like such an amateur, but as I gained confidence, I began to connect with people whom I now consider my mentors. I’ve learned that (for the most part) people are very willing to help others in their field, and that more than likely, they’ll want to bounce ideas of you too! A great example of ‘community over competition’ in action!

Lastly, as you develop and grow your business, don’t be afraid to change. Your vision statement for day 1 might not be the same as it is on day 365, but that’s okay. Just make sure to stay true to yourself, stay connected with other people who inspire you, and keep doing what you love. And remember: don’t be afraid to fail. As Churchill once said, “Success is not final. Failure is not fatal. It is the courage to continue that counts.”

In summary, here are the ten tips that you can follow in order to build your personal brand:

Understand yourself – who you are, what you can offer, your strengths and weaknesses and how you will stand out from the crowd. In deciding all of this, write a vision statement (which doesn’t have to be a single sentence and can be adapted later). For example, I wrote mine as a series of statements.

– After working with a client (blogger, business owner, mom, dad, etc.), I want them to walk away thinking the following:

I love my photos and cannot wait to share them with my friends and family.

I want to work with Ailee again because she made the photo session as stress-free as possible and was easy to work with.

Wow! Ailee delivered a high quality product in a short amount of time (I have a 72 hour turnaround).

I trust Ailee’s work enough to recommend her to family and friends.

  1. Come as you are, not as you should be. Be authentic because people can see through facades very easily with all of the forms of social media today.
  2. Find your niche/audience and your influencers who will help build your brand (bloggers or well-connected members of your target community are a good example of this!)
  3. Build an online presence and market yourself. Instagram and Pinterest are incredibly helpful tools for small businesses!
  4. Write and share examples of your work and/or thought leadership on a blog. Although other forms of social media are great to use to build audiences, blog material is indexed and easy to search on the internet, which means it’s generally longer lasting.
  • Network, network, network! This one might be the most important. I outlined tips above on how to do this!
  1. Be consistent with the content you share. For me, that meant posting 50% Isla/personal and 50% styled or client. It might mean posting all photos with similar filters/colors, or only posting weddings, babies, etc. Whatever works for you and your brand, do that – but don’t deviate!
  2. Connect with mentors with a similar brand and whom you admire. Collaborate with them or see if they offer mentor sessions where you can shadow them or ask them a bunch of questions! Remember that ‘community over competition’ attitude!
  3. Adapt your brand as you develop and grow. Your vision statement will probably change as your business becomes more established, and that’s a good thing as long as you stay true to yourself!


  • Don’t be afraid to fail. Failure is never easy, but the regret of not trying is even more painful.


Thanks for reading! If you have any questions, please feel free to comment below or email me at Ailee@SnapshotsByAileePetrovic.com.

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