If you’re like me, you’re always thinking about it: What’s next, what’s next, what’s next?

It shows up as a sense of tension: weighing what is—or isn’t—working for me now against what I anticipate the future will demand. It serves as fuel for innovation, driving me to continue building.

Despite what you may think of Travis Kalanick’s leadership as CEO of Uber, he felt this tension too. In Engadget, Andrew Tarantola wrote, “Travis Kalanick recognized that the self-driving car Google was creating was not just an opportunity for Uber. It was also a threat, and a potentially deadly one. Any ride-hailing competitor that didn’t have to pay humans to drive its customers would have a major cost advantage.”

For those that know the story, it was a sad outcome for Uber’s self driving program, however, it’s clear Travis was right instincutally. Today, you see Waymo and Cruise autonomous cars on every street corner of San Francisco.

The tension I feel today is similar to the tension I felt five years ago, and perhaps how Travis felt. Back then, I saw the need to establish a comprehensive personal brand infrastructure for individuals with a message. We did that. But as I look to the next five years and beyond, I realize that the next wave is much larger than the one I initially spotted.

The key is to stay ahead of it, anticipating its arrival before it occurs.

In a previous newsletter, I shared Arcbound’s plan to develop a vetted speaker and brand marketplace to support clients in expanding their reach and offerings.

What’s “next, next”—for you and for us?

Before we get into it, let’s start with a term that’s key to our work.

What IS a personal brand?

If you’ve been poking around the internet recently, you’ve probably seen the concept of personal branding pop up. But it’s more than just a buzzy phrase. It is not limited to a few social media posts, a speech, a book, or a website. Instead, it’s the culmination of everything you bring to the table, working together to convey your unique message and make your mark. A personal brand encompasses the person you present to the world, both online and offline.

Effective personal brands go deeper than surface-level presentations. They’re authentic, reflecting what you believe in—even if it’s vulnerable or controversial.

Truly putting yourself out there is the only way to attract like-minded individuals and serve them well, with products, services, information, and insights that matter. It requires understanding how to seamlessly integrate the personal and professional, crafting and sharing a cohesive narrative piece by piece.

A personal brand is not a short-term endeavor, but rather a long-term strategy that involves deliberate actions and inputs to achieve desired outcomes. It’s a complex task that requires a holistic approach, long-term thinking, and attention to detail. You have to understand your goals and desired trajectory along with the strategies necessary to effectively communicate your message. And when it comes to making an impact in a very noisy world, personal branding will become the bare minimum.

There are tens of millions of people out there with unique talents and serious ambition in numerous fields—business, healthcare, music, sports, and more. In the past, those with tons of resources and/or a whole lot of luck have come to stand out, often with the help of dedicated teams marketing them, securing deals, and delivering what they’ve sold. It is important to note that there is nothing wrong with that! Access doesn’t degrade good work.

On the flip side though, there have always been people who could shine on a global stage if only they had access to the right resources and tools, the stuff others pay a premium for. Without the support of a talented team—engineers who build websites, designers who create a visual identity, ghostwriters who produce content, audio-video experts to produce short clips, and account managers who represent and execute on behalf of the brand, among others—they struggle to make a significant impact.

But online tools—including AI—are democratizing all that. We all have incredible tools at our fingertips, often at a very low cost, if any at all.

The Opportunity—and Challenges—of a Democratized Landscape

As a result, the landscape is changing, and with it:

  1. Accessibility. Individuals with incredible talent and potential can showcase their abilities, reach broader audiences, and have their voices heard.
  1. Empowerment. With more ways to share, more people are empowered to take control of their lives and careers.They no longer have to rely on external factors or gatekeepers to create opportunities for themselves. Instead, they can leverage their own good instincts to shape their personal brand and pursue their goals.
  1. Inclusivity. With more ways to be heard, there are more seats at the table. That means it’s easier to be—and find—thought leaders from historically marginalized backgrounds and identities.

The democratization of personal branding means that individuals who have ambition and a desire to share and monetize their talents will have the opportunity to do so, building powerful platforms and taking control of their own lives and narratives. But that doesn’t mean personal branding is no longer challenging. In so many cases, success depends on knowing who you are; how you want to be perceived; the most valuable message you have to share; and how to navigate multiple platforms, effectively distributing your content across them. Doing all that on your own is a daunting task—not to mention a whole lot of work.

If you’ve been reading for any period of time, you’ve probably seen my spiel about the value of a one-stop shop when it comes to personal branding: Even for those with the resources to hire multiple vendors to build their brand across platforms, coordinating all those parties remains a challenge, leading to frustration and a lack of progress.

It’s why I’m so passionate about aligning all those moving pieces to create a unified brand presence—and why we do the work that we do. By streamlining and integrating these components, we aim to make the process more accessible and less daunting for individuals who are passionate about establishing their own brand.

But it’s not just about providing you with the people to do that work, all under one roof. It’s about building a blueprint to make personal branding services accessible to anyone with a vision, talent, and a message to share. Down the line, that will include leveraging software to provide personal branding support at different price points.

We’re building an end-to-end, data-driven platform that aims to automate the personal brand development experience. This platform will seamlessly connect the services we have built over the past five years with a portal of tools and resources, artificial intelligence (AI), and our community of thought leaders. But it will take time to do this right—and we can’t do it without the human service component that our work is built on today.

What if you’re ready to build your personal brand, but our current offering requires too much time or resources? What can you do in the meantime?

Here are some actions you can take:

  • Evaluate your brand: Reflect on how you currently show up both online and offline. Assess whether there is a contrast between the image you portray and who you truly are. Determine what changes or improvements you need to make to ensure alignment and authenticity.
  • Craft your message: Imagine yourself on a big screen in your favorite stadium, which is packed with thousands of fans. What message would you share? Clarify how you want to make an impact in the world and establish yourself as an authority in your chosen space.
  • Build relationships: Identify the key people in your niche or industry with whom you need to build relationships. Consider how your brand can provide value to them and how you can collaborate to benefit each other. Activate these connections to help accomplish your goals.
  • Create products and services: Consider what types of products and services you can create to spread your message and share your gifts. Those offerings will amplify your impact and provide income.
  • Stay informed: Read up on the latest personal branding tactics and strategies. Understand what is working and what isn’t. Learn from others’ successes and failures to refine your approach.
  • Be authentic: Above all, be yourself. Your authenticity is what will attract others to you and help you build genuine connections and a loyal audience.

Lastly, share this message with someone you know who will resonate with it. Let them know that help is on the way, and encourage them to envision a future where it is easier for them to reach the people who need what they have to offer.