How to Build a Personal Brand in Instructional Design

Embarking on a journey to become a go-to expert for crafting training materials requires more than just skill in instructional design; it necessitates building a personal brand that positions you as a qualified and trusted authority in the field.

Embarking on a journey to become a go-to expert for crafting training materials requires more than just skill in instructional design; it necessitates building a personal brand that positions you as a qualified and trusted authority in the field.

But what exactly is a personal brand, and why is it essential for your career in instructional design?

This guide will give you the answers and take you through the process of building a personal brand in instructional design. Here are the steps:

  1. Define your purpose
  2. Define your audience
  3. Audit your existing personal brand (yes, you do have one!)
  4. Construct a narrative for your personal brand
  5. Update your profiles (and website)
  6. Create a content marketing strategy
  7. Stay on brand

There’s a lot to get through, so let’s get started!

How to build a personal brand in instructional design

A personal brand is an intentional, strategic representation of yourself designed to portray the values and expertise you want people to associate with your name and image. This brand is conveyed through your website, social media platforms, personal interactions, and body of work.

Most importantly, a personal brand is what differentiates you from other instructional designers. It shows potential clients who you are, how passionate you are about your work, how well you do the work, and why they should work with you. You can leverage it to find new work, scale up your business, and become a recognized name.

Here are the steps to build your personal brand as an instructional designer:

1. Define your purpose

In order to establish an effective personal brand, you need to understand what you want it to be. There are two key aspects to figure out:

What you want to do

Your personal brand should position you to get instructional design work you’re actively interested in. To ensure that it does, you’ll need to answer the following questions:

  • What instructional design models do you want to use to create your training materials?
  • What types of instructional materials (manuals, courses, etc.) do you want to create?
  • What industries do you want to work in?
  • What type(s) of companies do you want to work with?
  • How do you want to impact the success of the companies you work with?
  • How do you want to improve learners’ outcomes?

Establish at least a one-sentence answer to all of these questions. If you can go into more detail, so much the better – it will give you a stronger idea of what to focus on when creating your personal brand.

What you’re good at

Your personal brand should emphasize your best qualities as an instructional designer. To establish what those qualities are, ask yourself the following questions:

  • What instructional design models are you already experienced with?
  • What types of instructional materials are you most equipped to create?
  • What industries are you most familiar with?
  • How do your educational and professional qualifications impact your ability to do effective instructional design?
  • What personality traits and/or intrinsic skills (organization, punctuality, communication) allow you to be effective as an instructional designer?

In short, what makes you good at your job? These are the things you’ll want to focus on in the messaging designed for your personal brand.

2. Define your audience

We’ve already touched on this when discussing the industries and types of companies you want to work with, but to create a truly effective personal brand, you’ll want to go even deeper.


  • What is the average size of the companies you want to work with?
  • What are these companies’ goals for their training materials?
  • How can these companies benefit from better training materials?
    • This often aligns with their goals but may include additional benefits they’re not even thinking of.
  • What are these companies looking for in an instructional designer?
  • Who are the decision-makers at these companies – what are their job titles and their demographics? Where can you find them online?

You can use this information to create customer personas.

3. Audit your existing personal brand

You might be thinking, “What personal brand?! I wouldn’t be reading a guide about how to build a personal brand if I already had one!”

The truth is that everyone with a public presence has a personal brand, even if it’s not intentional. Your LinkedIn profile and social media platforms are part of your personal brand. If you have a website or portfolio, they’re also part of your personal brand.

For your personal brand to become effective, you need to take a close look at what these public-facing profiles and websites are already saying about you. Do they look professional? Do they emphasize the aspects of your work that you want to focus on? If not, how can you bring them more in line with how you want to be portrayed?

It’s also worth considering social capital at this stage. What professional and social connections do you have? How can you leverage these connections? For example, you might ask professionals you’ve worked with for new testimonials emphasizing the strengths you want your personal brand to focus on.

You also want to consider how your personal brand is displayed at events. How do you present yourself at networking and educational events? Do you make valuable contributions that demonstrate the qualities you want people to associate with you? How can you improve your presentation and contributions to be more in line with the impression you want to give?

4. Construct a narrative for your personal brand

As an instructional designer, you know that stories are incredibly effective teaching tools. People can take all sorts of lessons from them – including lessons about why they should work with you.

The story of your personal brand should tell people:

  • The aspects of instructional design you’re most passionate about
  • Your qualifications – education, awards, and notable projects you’ve completed
  • How you’ve used your experience and passion to collaborate with companies and create high-quality instructional materials
  • When you’ve faced adversity in your career and how you’ve overcome it to produce great work

You don’t have to weave every piece of this into every aspect of your personal branding, but you should understand the full narrative so you can pull from it when appropriate.

The other key is to build your narrative around both what you’re known for and what you want to be known for.

Take a look at the About page on this site for Cathy Moore:

This page establishes Cathy’s professional narrative in a variety of ways:

  • Starting with a quote from a contact at a high-profile company establishes social proof. She expands it by mentioning companies she’s worked with and her awards.
  • The photo shows Cathy presenting at an educational event, positioning her as a professional.
  • Mentioning that she created the action mapping model establishes her level of knowledge and commitment to instructional design.
  • The bio starts by talking about her mission: saving the world from boring instruction. The mention of “irreverent style” doubles down on this, establishing her as a unique personality in the instructional design space.

All together, these strategies establish a strong sense of who Cathy is and why visitors might want to work with her.

5. Update your profiles (and website)

Now that you’ve established what you want your personal brand to look like, it’s time to make your online presence reflect that brand. You can do this in a few steps:

  • Rewrite your LinkedIn profile’s “About” section to focus on the personal narrative you’ve established
  • Reach out to professional contacts for testimonials and recommendations on LinkedIn; ask if you can publish these to your website as well
  • Update your bios on your website and various social media platforms to focus on the most essential aspects of your personal brand
  • Delete social media posts that detract from your personal brand
  • Update and/or delete outdated or low-quality content on your website, blog, or anywhere that you’ve published articles (and are permitted to edit them)
  • Add a list of high-profile clients you’ve worked with to the About page (and possibly the home page) of your website – you can make this visually appealing by using company logos
  • Switch your social media profile pictures and the photo on your About page to a recent, professional-looking headshot

Looking for some inspiration on how to do this well? Check out what other instructional designers are doing. Search for them on Google, LinkedIn, and other social media platforms, and take notes on what you like about their profiles. You can then apply some of the same strategies they’ve used to make your own profiles/website more professional.

6. Create a content marketing strategy

The next step in building your personal brand as an instructional designer is to create an ongoing content strategy. This will help you establish your brand and enhance your visibility.

There are several things you might want to include here:

  • Regular posts on LinkedIn and other social media profiles that demonstrate your qualifications and the personal narrative you’ve constructed
  • Articles written on your website to establish it as an authority in your instructional design niche
  • Guest articles written on other websites about instructional design and/or the industries you want to work with
  • Publications, podcasts, and YouTube channels you want to be hosted by
  • Events you want to appear at
  • Paid advertisements

For things you can control, like social media and blog posts, you’ll want to create both content ideas and a regular publishing schedule. For things outside of your control, like landing interviews or appearing at events, you’ll want to create a list of places/people to reach out to and a regular schedule for approaching them.

7. Stay on brand

Finally, remember that building a personal brand as an instructional designer is an ongoing process. Everything you do in professional and public spaces can contribute to it – or detract from it.

Here are some tips for staying on brand:

  • Before you publish anything, ask yourself: how does this demonstrate my personal brand? If it doesn’t actively demonstrate your personal brand, or worse, actively detracts from your brand, don’t publish it.
  • When you attend events, ask yourself: how can I show up in a way that reflects my desired personal brand? This includes both your appearance (what you’re wearing, body language, etc.) and your verbal or written contributions to an event.
  • When you interact with other instructional designers or clients, ask yourself: how can I ensure that this interaction reinforces my desired professional brand? For example, if you want to demonstrate your ability to collaborate, you might employ active listening strategies during a conversation.

Taking this intentional approach to your professional interactions ensures that you’re constantly reinforcing your desired personal brand. It will also help you avoid accidentally sabotaging the brand you’ve worked so hard to create.

Final thoughts

Learning how to build a personal brand as an instructional designer is the easy part – building that brand and sticking to it is a lot harder.

To make it easier on yourself, set aside a little bit of time for personal branding every day. At the beginning, this will look like journaling about what you want out of your personal brand and researching your audience. Then you’ll move on to creating a personal narrative, updating your social profiles and website (I recommend updating one platform at a time), and building a content plan.

Once you’ve built all of those things, you can spend half an hour every day working on content for your brand. You can also start your day by asking, “how can I reinforce my personal brand today,” ensuring that you’re staying on brand in every interaction.

By Dianna Gunn

Dianna Gunn is an author of self-help books and novels in the science fiction, fantasy, and horror genres. She founded the Weeknight Writers Group to help other creative writers build their writing skills and find community.