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Mandy Fransz of ‘Make the Leap Digital’: “Build an authentic personal brand”

I understand that it can have a negative association in today’s era of social media in which it’s often overused. However, as a thought leader you invest a lot of time and energy to build an authentic online personal brand and presence so you can share your message with the world. Hence, I believe it’s […]

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I understand that it can have a negative association in today’s era of social media in which it’s often overused. However, as a thought leader you invest a lot of time and energy to build an authentic online personal brand and presence so you can share your message with the world. Hence, I believe it’s a huge compliment when you are recognized for being a thought leader in your area of expertise.


As part of our series about how to become known as a thought leader in your industry, I had the pleasure of interviewing Mandy Fransz.

Mandy Fransz (29) is an Online Business Strategist, LinkedIn Expert, Remote Work Advocate and the founder of Make the Leap Digital. She manages the fast-growing Remote Workers on LinkedIn group with currently more than 60K members and she regularly shares tips and motivational content with her community of +20K social media followers on LinkedIn and Instagram (@maketheleap_). In 2019, Mandy was nominated one of the most ambitious and inspiring women entrepreneurs in The Netherlands and she has been featured in (inter)national media including VIVA, LINDA & Thrive Global.


Thank you so much for doing this with us! Our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you share your “backstory” with us?

As a small-town girl, I always dreamed of having the freedom to work online while traveling the world. I completed my studies in BSc International Business Administration and MSc Marketing Management at the Erasmus University in Rotterdam, during which I developed international work experience. Upon graduation back in 2015, I booked a backpacking trip to South America to figure out how to create a location independent lifestyle, however I had no clue what I was doing and didn’t make a single cent. Serendipitously, I was approached by a recruiter on LinkedIn for a job opportunity at LinkedIn’s European Headquarters in Dublin, Ireland. I jumped at the opportunity and worked at one of the world’s largest tech companies with world-class perks and benefits including free food and drinks, in-office gym and massage therapists, and a rooftop barista bar. After a while, the office walls started to come down on me and the travel bug started itching again. Hence, early 2018, I decided to quit my 9-to-5 corporate job and booked a ticket to Bali to explore the world of “remote work”. This is where Make the leap Digital was born.

Can you briefly share with our readers why you are an authority about the topic of thought leadership?

I believe that everyone deserves to have the freedom and flexibility to work from wherever they feel the happiest and most productive.

When I quit my job I started an Instagram account (@maketheleap_) to share my journey from corporate into remote work. I also started a newsletter series on LinkedIn called “The Rise of Remote Work” in which I published weekly blog articles sharing insights and lessons I learned along the way. This newsletter was picked up by a LinkedIn news editor who just started a LinkedIn Group called Remote Workers on LI — he asked if I wanted to become one of the group managers to help build and engage the community. By now, this group has grown from 2K to currently +60K members since I joined in 2018 and it is known for being one of the most valuable and engaging groups on the platform. This has helped me to build my personal brand, grow my online network with valuable connections, and attract new business opportunities — which eventually led to being recognized as a thought leader in the industry.

Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you started your career?

I quit my job back in 2018 without a solid plan, I just followed my gut and intuition. After a couple of weeks, I decided to book a ticket to Bali to figure out what I was going to be doing next. During this trip, I joined a co-working space to surround myself with like-minded people and learn about opportunities to work remotely. This is where I met my first client as a freelance LinkedIn consultant. I registered my business upon return and have been working remotely while transforming my freelance gig into a purpose-driven online business ever since. I think it’s interesting because it shows that you don’t have to have everything figured out from the start — sometimes you just have to take a leap of faith.

Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?

I read the Four Hour Workweek by Tim Ferriss and, when I started, I expected to live the typical “digital nomad” lifestyle and live, work, and travel in tropical destinations while building an online business from scratch in a couple of hours per week. However, I soon learned that you need to invest time and effort to build and grow a sustainable online business and that working from the beach is not as productive as it seems on social media… Hence, I now make sure that I have a dedicated home office or co-working space and make sure to enjoy quality time when traveling or going to the beach.

Ok, thank you for that. Let’s now jump to the main focus of our interview. In a nutshell, how would you define what a ‘Thought Leader’ is. How is a thought leader different from a typical leader? How is a thought leader different from an influencer?

I would say that a typical leader is anyone leading a team or organization, whereas an influencer is usually someone with a large number of followers and high engagement in a specific niche. A thought leader is someone who wants to share their message and bold vision with the world and is known for being the go-to expert in their industry. They have built a powerful and authentic personal brand, a strong online community, and they regularly share valuable content related to their area of expertise.

Can you talk to our readers a bit about the benefits of becoming a thought leader. Why do you think it is worthwhile to invest resources and energy into this?

I believe that the key benefit of being a thought leader in your industry is that it allows you to share your message and bold vision with the world. On top of that, it allows you to build an authentic personal brand, grow a strong (online) community, and drive business opportunities. Plus, as it is strongly tied to your personal brand, it is a life-long investment which you will benefit from for the rest of your career.

Let’s talk about business opportunities specifically. Can you share a few examples of how thought leadership can help a business grow or create lucrative opportunities?

Being recognized as a thought leader can help you to attract speaking engagements, brand collaborations, and PR opportunities. Think about being asked to speak at large virtual events with thousands of attendees — ideally within your target audience — or being interviewed for prestigious media such as Thrive Global. This leads to increased visibility and credibility with your target audience and, eventually, result in more high-quality leads and revenue for your business.

Ok. Now that we have that behind us, we’d love to hear your thoughts about how to eventually become a thought leader. Can you share 5 strategies that a person should implement to become known as a thought leader in their industry. Please tell us a story or example (ideally from your own experience) for each.

1. Identify your brand pillars. First and foremost, it is important to know what it is that you want to be known for so you can build your personal brand around these topics. I always recommend my clients to choose up to three “Brand Pillars” related to their area of expertise. For me, this includes LinkedIn, Remote Work, and (Online) Entrepreneurship.

2. Build an authentic personal brand. As the world’s largest professional network, I believe that LinkedIn is the #1 platform to build your personal brand and position yourself as a thought leader. For me, LinkedIn has been the key resource behind starting my own business and I still invest in building and growing my personal brand on this platform every single day.

3. Grow a strong online network. LinkedIn is a relationships-driven platform. You need to invest time and effort in growing a strong online network and community full of like-minded peers, industry experts, business leaders, journalists and potential clients. They will be your brand advocates who can spread positive word-of-mouth and reach out with business opportunities.

4. Publish valuable content. To stay on top-of-mind within your network, you need to publish valuable content that showcases your expertise. Think about your “Brand pillars” to align your content with your personal brand and, most importantly, be consistent. You might want to publish regular status updates or start a daily, weekly, or monthly podcast or blog series.

5. Share your message. Finally, a thought leader has a message and bold vision to share with the world. For example, I believe that everyone deserves to have the freedom to work from wherever they feel the happiest and most productive. What is it that you believe to be true? Be crystal clear about your message to become known as a thought leader in your industry.

In your opinion, who is an example of someone who has done a fantastic job as a thought leader? Which specific things have impressed you about that person? What lessons can we learn from this person’s approach?

I have been listening to Jay Shetty’s podcast On Purpose recently and am inspired by his story. A former monk with a corporate background, he invested a lot of time and effort into building a powerful personal brand and online presence as a Purpose Coach. In the past five years, he shared his message to make wisdom go viral and has reached 64 million listeners with his podcast and has built an online community of 40 million people around the world. He is now the go-to person and thought leader about topics including mental health and life purpose and recently became #1 New York Times Bestselling Author. His approach is a great example that it takes time, energy, and hard work to build a personal brand and online presence and that having a clear message is key to position yourself as a thought leader.

I have seen some discussion that the term “thought leader” is trite, overused, and should be avoided. What is your feeling about this?

I understand that it can have a negative association in today’s era of social media in which it’s often overused. However, as a thought leader you invest a lot of time and energy to build an authentic online personal brand and presence so you can share your message with the world. Hence, I believe it’s a huge compliment when you are recognized for being a thought leader in your area of expertise.

What advice would you give to other leaders to thrive and avoid burnout?

As former LinkedIn CEO Jeff Weiner says: “Dream big, get sh*t done, but know how to have fun.” I usually start my day with a 30-minute self-care activity such as meditation, breathwork, or journalling and I have recently started to pick up old hobbies such as playing piano in the evenings.

You are a person of enormous influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂

I’m hoping that today’s “remote work experiment” will inspire business leaders to join the remote work movement, as I believe that everyone deserves to have the freedom and flexibility to work from wherever they feel the happiest and most productive. Whether that’s at a home office, a café, or co-working space — the decision should be yours to make.

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?

My mantra is “I will only regret the things I haven’t done”. So, each time I am faced with a challenge or a difficult decision — such as quitting my comfortable 9-to-5 office job and starting my own business — I remember this quote and think about the impact of what would happen would I not do something scary. This mantra has led me to where I am today.

We are blessed that very prominent leaders in business and entertainment read this column. Is there a person in the world with whom you would like to have lunch or breakfast with? He or she might just see this, especially if we tag them. 🙂

Many leaders have inspired me to get where I am today — Tony Robbins, Brene Brown, Oprah Winfrey, Tim Ferris, and Sheryl Sandberg to name a few. But, if I had to choose one person, I’d say Jeff Weiner so I can express my gratitude for growing a platform that literally changed the course of my career (and life).

How can our readers follow you online?

You can visit my website www.maketheleapdigital.com or feel free to connect with me on LinkedIn (Mandy Fransz) or follow me on Instagram (@maketheleap_). I’d be happy to connect!

Thank you so much for your insights. This was very insightful and meaningful.

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