Myounghee Jo has been working as a graphic designer for over ten years. She has worked with numerous clients throughout her career ranging from Fortune 500 companies to local artists. But to get to where she is today as a well-respected independent freelancer, she had to build her own personal brand from the ground up.
Jo was gracious enough to take time out of her busy schedule to talk about the importance of building your personal brand, the problems she faced along the way, and her growing desire to express another part of herself.
How did you start building your personal brand?
My personal brand is something I had to discover through a long process that took several years. When I first started, I didn’t really know what I was doing. I was constantly questioning myself. What am I doing? Why am I doing this? I think that’s true of a lot of people so I’m no exception. I needed to find out who I was and what I thought was important.
How did you go from there to where you are now?
It all came together when I did my Master’s Degree in Graphic Design Communication. What resonated with me was how through the work that you do, it’s about the story behind what you’re doing, how you communicate to others, how you present yourself to others, and how others see you. Another thing was something one of my first managers said to me which was that when you design something, you always need a reason. There’s a truth to all of it. Once I figured this out, I was ready to start building.
How did you find your first clients?
When I first started, it was very different to how it is now. Now you can quite easily design a website and leverage social media channels such as a blog, Instagram, or Facebook to reach potential clients. Back then, when I first started, it was before social media. I was printing things out on paper, showing people, and trying to get feedback. While this method helped in the early stages, pretty soon after, it was clear that a website would be the best way to build my brand, showcase my portfolio, and demonstrate what I can do. I also applied for tons of jobs at agencies and entered a lot of competitions just to build up some experience and meet people.
What standards and values do you associate with your brand?
Kindness. Being kind is extremely important to me, whether it’s personal or professional. Honesty, is another one. Being straightforward and clear with what is to be expected. Perfectionism. I want everything to be perfect so when I say I want to do this, you’re going to get complete and total commitment from me from beginning to end. And through this work ethic, I’ve earned a lot of trust with my clients who come back and tell their friends and associates about me.
Was there a time when your brand wasn’t resonating? How did you re-position yourself to generate new business?
Having developed my brand in London, it worked a bit differently compared to here in Vienna. When I moved here, it was difficult to find clients. In London, people don’t hesitate to contact you and take a chance on you if they see your work and like it. It’s more open; people reach out and there’s a response. Here, you have to know someone. It’s more a referral system. People trust other people more than they trust the work itself. If a potential client sees your work and likes it, if they don’t know someone who knows you, they won’t contact you. So, here in Vienna, networking is extremely important. You absolutely have to leverage your network to find new business.
What tips do you have for anyone who is in the process of building their personal brand?
You should take the time to find out what you really want to do and what you want to show others. Find the parts of yourself that you want to share with the world and build off of that. It might sound a bit abstract but it’s really not; you can even do something as simple as writing a list: things you like and things you don’t like. Strike out the things you don’t like and focus on the things you do. Build your brand from there.
I’m actively developing another aspect of myself which is my passion for food. It’s not a re-branding of myself but the development of a parallel brand if you will. To me, cooking is about designing and creating valuable food that incorporates important concepts like zero waste or slow food. There needs to be a reason behind it. That’s why I want to take JoJo in the Kitchen as far as it can go. Our relationship to food is extremely important and cooking is a part of myself that I absolutely need to share with the world.
Are you prepared, in a sense, to start over again with JoJo in the Kitchen?
After going through the building of my graphic design business, I feel very prepared to tackle this challenge. Having worked in various marketing and communications departments over the years, I’ve learned the things that are necessary in order to launch a brand so while the food community is still new to me, the strategies involved are similar. I don’t feel like I’m starting from scratch this time. I know what it takes, I know what I want to achieve, and I’m confident that I can make it happen.
Have you planned for any potential difficulties? What challenges do you see for yourself?
Time. It will take time. Building brands always takes time. I’d like it to go quicker but you can’t always control this kind of thing. There’s also always going to be setbacks but you have to keep pushing forward. One of the more interesting challenges to me is how do I present myself? Am I Jo the graphic designer or am I Jo the food entrepreneur? I’ve learned over the past few months that I need to address my audience and fulfill their expectations. I need to separate Jo the graphic designer and Jo the food entrepreneur even though they are both important parts of me. Simplicity at the end of the day is highly effective so to say I’m a graphic designer and a food entrepreneur, for some people, that’s just too dissonant.
Do you think it’ll be easier this time around?
I think so. I hope so! Like I said before, I’m definitely confident that I can do it. I just need to be patient and be more relaxed–to try to do the things that I can do when I can do them. I’m still a perfectionist though so it’s about being easier on myself!
How can people help?
If anyone wants to show their support, come to an upcoming JoJo in the Kitchen event!