When I first quit dancing and started out as a yoga teacher, I decided to change my Instagram + twitter names to… drumroll, please… @yogawithdanielle.
I mean, it does what it says on the tin, right? My name’s Danielle, and I’m going to be teaching yoga. And I want to use my account to inspire my clients and community. So no brainer, right?
A couple months later, my mentor Celest pulled me aside.
“Danielle… I think you should take the yoga part out of your social handles.”
“Uh… I don’t know about that. I want people to know I’m in the business of teaching yoga. It’s descriptive, it makes sense…oh and I’m also buying a domain with that handle.”
“Danielle, listen to me. There’s a lot of teachers. There’s only one you. So give yourself permission to be more than just a yoga teacher.”
In the end, I went through a few different names before I reverted back to my own – @dellewills and @daniellewillsyoga, for example. But eventually, I started to understand there was a certain sticking power in claiming your own name – and @daniellewillls it became.
And every time I started a new project, I was tempted to start a new account for them as well – The Mobility Project, Yoga Unravelled, and Headrest, to name a few. But at the end of the day, I’ve decided to keep it all under the umbrella of my name – because all those projects are parts of me, and they’re a part of my legacy that I want to remember.
As yoga teachers, we’re individuals. We’re personalities. And although there’s a skill that we HAVE and a thing that we DO – it’s not the only part of us.
I hid behind my identity as a yoga teacher for years. I stuck to posting yoga pictures and sharing yoga-related quotes – and although my captions were personal, it wasn’t quite enough – because for the most part, the world saw only one side, one dimension of me.
And it’s hard to love a one-dimensional human.
It’s harder to love a person who is only showing up as their business self – because at the end of the day a business is mostly the marketing of a product or service. A personal brand, on the other hand, is the image, the personality, the human touch, behind that product or service.
The way I think of it is: a business is Destiny’s Child. A personal brand is Beyonce.
No prizes for which one lasted longer 🙂
Anyway. On to 4 reasons why, at the end of a day, cultivating your work as a personal brand might serve you better than being a business brand.
When I became a yoga teacher, I thought that was the end-all. I thought I had found my final calling. You mean I get paid for something I love? Sold! What more could there be anyway?
Hey girl – just you wait.
Over the years, I wouldn’t say I’ve “changed,” necessarily; but like a lego house, I’ve allowed myself to add on extensions, walls, windows, and gardens that spread way beyond the initial front facing walls.
New ways of training, new passion projects, new skills, new understandings of life and love and everything in between.
As a personal brand, I’ve been able to pivot over and over: dancer, fitness model, pilates teacher, sports masseuse, mobility coach, meditation teacher, voice artist, and yes – yoga teacher. And I’m sure I’ll have many pivots ahead of me – but the one thing that will stay the same is me…even though my job titles might continue to change.
And whether or not you’re already thinking ahead, just remember: you can’t always predict who the future versions of yourself might be. Even if you know your niche, even if you’re already clear on your value categories, even if you already have your core values locked in – remember that there’s still so much that can and will change, along with you – and the best way to future proof your life’s work is for it to be built on the firm foundation that is YOU.
Emotion is one of those things that everyone knows about but no one fully understands. A little like electricity – or life, I guess.
But if something lights you up, or bums you out – you feel it. And the way you feel dictates how you’ll act – including a smile and a double tap, an eager “add to cart,” or a steely “block account.”
When someone makes you feel something, though their story – chances are you’ll want to know them better, because feeling is what we as humans DO BEST. Feeling is the energy that keeps us alive, and it’s the glue that links us together.
As a personal brand, you’re inviting people to follow your journey. You’re inviting them to be inspired and surprised and to get excited along with you. Your stories can open loops for them to discover something about themselves – and in the process, it can help others not just know you, but like and trust you as well.
Emotions are what make you human. And emotions are the key to helping others not just relate to, but be inspired by you.
I’m not saying you have to show up on an IG live every time you feel like crying. I AM saying that you’re allowed to wear your heart on your sleeve – through your captions, through your videos, through your honesty in navigating this inexplicable thing called life.
When I decided to ditch my self-imposed yoga-only censoring, and I started to share other parts of my life online, something special happened: I started building REAL connections.
I started showing people that I had a beating heart, not just a bendy back. I started lifting the lid on things that many yoga teachers weren’t able to speak about. I started talking WITH people in class, not just TO them.
And without knowing it, I tapped into one of the secrets of branding: relatability.
Every human on earth wants to know they’re not alone. Every person alive wants to know that there are others out there who feel just like them. And by sharing more of my story, by giving myself permission to be more than just a yoga teacher – I allowed others to be more than just their job titles.
Being a personal brand also allowed me to start exploring the magic C word: collaborations.
Many brands (especially product based ones) are businesses, and thus they rely on partnerships to bring personality to their products. Some brands use celebrities for this, other brands use athletes, and other brands use real life, relatable people who consumers can clearly identify with.
And this big, wide, open area – this is our white space. This is where we can add value.
I’m honoured to have partnered with brands that I absolutely adore – and most of them haven’t even been “yoga” related. I’ve worked with companies that sell nutrition, sustainable luxury, organic wine, aromatherapy, herbal tea – and yep, definitely a yoga mat or three.
And the reason I could team up with so many brands? Because our values were the same, and our viewpoints aligned.
Point is: the more you show up with a clear voice, a defined stance, and an authentic expression of your personality – the more you will attract partnerships that align with you.
Being your own personal brand is scary, I’m not going to lie. There’s less coverups, less layers – it’s a vulnerable thing, in a sense. Putting your face out there might be awkward at first – and especially if you’re used to hiding behind pretty yoga poses, the impostor syndrome might be present for awhile. But stick with it. As a wellness expert, as a yoga teacher – it might be the best move you’ve ever made. It might be the very thing that transports you to the next level: because you’ll be able to show up as ALL of you: as a full, beautiful, multi-faceted, multi-passionate human.
And I’m willing to bet that your friends, your clients, and your dream brands will all love you even more for it.
Here’s to reclaiming all the beautiful parts of you x
Want to work on your personal brand in real time?