Raise your hand if you’ve ever suffered from “designer’s block”
Everyone knows what a writer’s block is.. but designer’s block is less discussed among the general public — or among designers themselves.
Designer’s block is when you have no idea what to design, no inspiration, and not the slightest idea how to start tackling the design challenge you have at hand.
There’s all kind of fun advice on how to tackle the designer’s block. And most of those focus on chasing the elusive inspiration. “Go for a walk” or “go to a museum.” All this is valid and can help if you know what you want to create.
But what about when you are 100% blocked, no idea what to start creating?
How to repel the designer’s block and always know what you should create?
My advice is: it’s not time to get creative, it’s time to get strategic.
What I mean by this is: there’s no point chasing inspiration if you don’t have a clear idea what you need to create. And to get the winning idea for what you need to create you need to look for the boundaries of your project.
If I ask you: “design me a logo, I have a coaching business,” this gives you too little information to understand what you need to design.
But if I ask you: “design me a logo, I have a coaching business and my clients are 20-30 years old first time moms who have difficulty of getting back to leadership roles at work after their maternity leave. The values of my business are: continuous improvement and momentum, emotional intelligence, and inclusivity. I want my brand to look and feel young, energetic, and fast moving — momentum without feeling hasty or being rushed. My slogan is: Big leaps towards your dreams. And while my brand is for young women and I want it to appeal to that demographic, it also has to feel credible and trustworthy because we are talking about people’s careers and livelihoods.”
Now you have much more to work on, right? You could start ideating: what are the colors that appeal young women? What fonts reflect credibility and maturity from the business side? What messages appeal to first time moms? What kind of design elements communicate constant improvement or forward motion and movement?
See how that works? We don’t go finding ideas aimlessly. We focus on the boundaries that define the focus for that design project, in this specific example: the brand strategy part.
Boundaries sound limiting. They can sound restricting. “But I’m a designer, I’m creative, and I need freedom,” you may think. But even freedom can become a cage if you don’t know what you’re after.
How brand strategy can guide your design work?
This is especially important with branding. Not only do you need to tackle the designer’s block, you also have to ensure the visual identity correctly represents and reflects the business behind it.
The great thing about branding is that if you follow the branding process and draft a meaningful brand strategy before jumping on the design part, you will have all the boundaries and guidelines you need for creating an authentic and appealing visual identity. (Or if your client has the strategy done prior to hiring you to do the design work.)
If you’re not a designer, but rather building a brand for yourself (or if you just have no clue how to create a brand strategy), no worries the right process will get you going in no time. The thing is: brand strategy is business strategy. If you have a business and you have thought about your audience, your offering, your competitors, and so on, you have the beginnings of a brand strategy. It’s really very common sense if you just know what information to pull together.
And once the brand strategy is defined, it will inform your design work by telling you who your designs should attract, what kind of personality it should reflect, what kind of attributes your design elements should represent, and what metaphors your should consider (if any). It will give you a list of guidelines to reflect your designs and sketches against. And it will make your brainstorming easier and faster.
In this free training, I walk you through the branding framework I learned when working in branding agencies in San Francisco, CA and Helsinki, Finland. I’ve adapted the framework to accommodate first-time brand builders and solopreneurs. You can use this to build your own brand. Or start creating personal branding for clients.
In this training you will learn:
✓ The process for creating powerful brands — what to create, in what order, and to consider in each step
✓ What you need to create for an impactful brand strategy
✓ How that brand strategy feeds into a visual identity — and what is needed for a polished, professional visual identity
✓ How to form a meaningful and impactful brand messaging
In full transparency, I am also testing a new webinar software. So, you will have to sign up to see the training. My apologies for any inconvenience.
When it comes to branding, you definitely want to attract those customers who:
Value what you do
Understand that it’s a process
Are willing to invest in it.
Not all clients seem to understand this. Some clients want a bargain price branding thinking it doesn’t matter how much effort is put into building it. But you and me both know that a powerful brand is well-designed and built on a strong strategy.
So, how do you specifically attract the clients who value branding? To find out, watch this quick training on How to Attract Clients Who Understand The Value of Having A Strong, Well-Designed Brand?
You have to educate your clients
Designers are educators. And it seems our job is never done. If you want clients who value a strong, well-designed brand — and understand the effort that goes into it, you need to educate people about the value of a strong brand. Things that are self evident to us, may not be self evident to your prospective clients. Help them see the value in what you do.
The 4 things you need to get right to attract clients who value a strong, well-designed brand are:
The quality of your portfolio is directly tied to the quality of the work you get
The right offering
You need to be ready and able to create strong, well-designed brands
Speak to the right people
You need to know how to confidently talk about branding, and convincingly discuss the process to get the attention of those who are looking for this service
Educate your audience
To help people understand the value of branding you need to educate them about it. Not everyone understands why branding is important, it’s your job to help them see it.
Your portfolio is the most valuable promotional asset you have as a designer. It should represent you in a best possible way, and it should attract better projects and bigger clients. In this training, I will go over 10 tips that can help you immediately improve your design portfolio – ranging from beginner to advanced designers.
The topics in this training are:
Where to host your portfolio? How many images per project? How to order projects in your portfolio? What kind of projects you should have? [Part 01] What kind of projects you should have? [Part 02] What should you write about your projects? What should you say about yourself? Make it easy to contact you. How to make your projects look AMAZING? Should you place your rates / prices on your portfolio?
🔥BONUS🔥 How to show you’re ready for those lucrative, big projects? Check out the list and start working on your portfolio.
Creating beautiful layouts is integral part of content marketing, list building, and running your (online) programs. Check out these layout design tips to ensure your customers will finish reading that workbook or freebie they got from you.
So what makes a layout beautiful?
First of all, your branding (colors, fonts, etc.) should be attracting to your ideal customer. But that’s just a start. You also need to make sure the sizing of your layout elements is balanced and working well. You want to make sure there’s appropriate margins and spacings between layout elements. And finally, you want to make sure the pacing of your content is just right so that readers get into the ideal flow.
Branding your business — or yourself — can feel like a really big project. I often hear small business owners discuss the overwhelm they feel when they think about the branding project they’re in the middle of. It’s understandable considering that most of us are not professional brand strategists and managing all the moving pieces can feel like a drag.
Quite often the business owners who experience branding overwhelm describe the feelings during the branding as “being stuck,” “getting more and more confused,” or even as being “totally lost.” They might feel like while they have a sense of clarity about their programs or products, when it comes to their branding suddenly things feel discouraging.
Just like with anything else in life… the right attitude can make the process feel easier, smoother, and “figureoutable” as Marie Forleo would say. So, let’s take a look at how you can shift your mindset slightly to change your attitude about branding and eliminate the branding overwhelm.
Five mindset shifts to eliminate branding overwhelm
1. Your brand is not the final destination — it’s a journey with multiple milestones.
As the very first mindset shift, I’d like you to stop thinking about your brand as something you build once and then it’s done. You need to understand that brand building and management is a journey that will last through the entire life cycle of your business.
Your business will go through different stages during it’s lifecycle: infancy, adolescence, maturity, and retirement. Your brand might go through different stages during that lifecycle as well.
Once you stop thinking about branding as a one time project, and start seeing it as an ongoing process with multiple smaller milestones, it becomes a natural function of your business.
Just as your business evolves, so will your brand. And as long as you build a solid foundation and manage your brand well, you can allow this to happen strategically.
2. Branding (when done right) can actually save you time and money.
One of the biggest branding fears I hear from solopreneurs is that branding will be a constant “time and money suck.” If you have no idea what you’re doing, you keep spinning your wheels, and making disappointing hires, I can totally see why people would feel that way.
I hear you. And I want you to shift from this limiting belief into seeing the potential of saving both time and money good branding can bring you.
How does branding save you time and money? When your brand strategy and messaging are crystal clear and when your visual identity guidelines are well-established and well-documented, the designers and VAs you hire have much easier time creating marketing assets and other brand aligned content for you.
That means less revisions, less hourly work you need to pay for, less time you need to spend directing and guiding them, and less energy wasted in frustration, and absolutely no time wasted on constantly tweaking and changing your branding.
3. You already have everything you need for creating a powerful brand strategy.
The third mindset shift is around your ability to create a powerful brand strategy. “Brand Strategist” sounds fancy, doesn’t it? That’s my title (along with “designer.”) If I ran an agency where the money came 100% from consulting work and me drafting brand strategies for businesses, then it would serve me to make what I do sound as complicated and intimidating as possible, right?
That’s how this work traditionally is done. But what if I told you that you already have everything you need for creating a powerful brand strategy? The agency people probably don’t want you to know that because they want your money. But it’s true.
I used to work in branding agencies in San Francisco and in Finland. And I witnessed it many times over when the strategists in these agencies “extracted” all the critical knowledge needed for a powerful brand strategy from the business owners or their representatives.
You have all the information you need. You just need to learn how to extract it from your heart and brain — and what to do with it. But you have it, and you need to understand that you hold the power.
4. Trust the process: action brings clarity.
If there was one thing I could help all entrepreneurs understand about branding it’s this: “action brings clarity.” I already mentioned the feeling of being stuck earlier in this post. That feeling is holding many small business owners back from figuring out the best branding for their business.
With the misguided idea that you need 100% clarity before you can make branding decisions, many small business owners remain stagnant in the process and end up not only feeling overwhelmed but also creating a mediocre brand.
I’d like you to adopt this mindset: action brings clarity. It doesn’t mean that you mindlessly run to any direction that pops in your head without thinking. It doesn’t mean that you hastily launch the first visual draft of your brand identity.
Instead it means that when done right, the branding process can be broken down into clear bite sized steps where each step builds on top of the previous one. And when you follow the process, you don’t all the time need to have clarity of all the steps ahead of you. You can trust that going through this step will bring you the clarity you need for the next step.
5. Think Lego blocks, not Sistine Chapel
This idea builds on the previous one about moving forward step-by-step, and adds systems thinking to it. Many people think of visual identity as this masterpiece of creativity that brings your business to life. And they’re not necessarily wrong.
But when you look at the “masterpiece” more closely, it’s not the Sistine Chapel, which took years to paint. Instead it’s a masterfully crafted Lego construction where each piece works individually as a solid building block — and together form a clear whole.
This is how you should think of your visual identity as well. It’s a system consisting of multiple individual building blocks. They all need to work together seamlessly, but you can separate them in smaller units and just use those, if need be. And you don’t immediately need all of the building blocks, either.
This type of thinking allows you to prfioritize your needs and first create only those “building blocks” you need — and amend and enhance your collection of blocks as you go.
To ask questions about branding and design, come check out my free Facebook group Brand Builders Society where I teach soulpreneurs like you to build their own brand strategies and create their own designs.
Is Brand Strategy worth the effort? What even is Brand Strategy? And most importantly: how do you know if your brand strategy is inadequate and lacking? What are the signs and symptoms?
In this video, I go over what is brand strategy and how does it affect your business and visual identity. And of course, what are 7 classic telltale signs of a brand strategy that is inadequate or lacking.
What is brand strategy?
Brand strategy is all the thinking, decisions, and definitions that lay the foundation for what your brand will look, feel, and sound like. Among others, your brand strategy outlines things like who is your ideal customer, how do you want to position yourself on the marketplace, and what makes you unique and different from your competitors.
Your brand strategy also creates a solid foundation for your brand story and how you talk about your business and products or services. If your business goals change, your brand strategy should reflect it. In other words, your brand strategy is deeply connected to all aspects of your business.
How to know if your brand strategy is not working for you (anymore)?
There are seven classic symptoms to keep your eye on if you want to understand whether your brand strategy is well-crafted and working for you — OR if it’s lacking and inadequate.
These symptoms are:
You want to keep changing your branding (colors, fonts, etc.) constantly
You are not attracting the right customers
You’re not attracting ANY customers
People are confused about what you do
People keep asking for services/products you don’t offer
Your business is not growing
You don’t know how to talk about your business
To learn more in detail on each of those, check out this video. And for more branding goodness, subscribe to my YouTube channel.
To ask questions about building a personal brand — or anything else branding and design related, come check out my free Facebook group DIY Brand Design & Strategy for Soulpreneurs where I teach soulpreneurs like you to build their own branding and create their own designs.
In this video blog post, I go over what is a brand, how is it different from “branding,” and finally what is brand management. And of course, why you essentially want to get hands on in the process as early as possible.
You know the inevitable things that happen to all of us? …whether we’re prepared for it or not. Things like your kids getting older (didn’t I just yesterday lug the carseat home from the hospital??) or the Tax Day (how is it possible that April 15 comes sooner every year???)
There just are some things that are like force of nature. And while some of them are deeply entangled with our personal lives… some affect our businesses. (No worries, I’m not going to be talking about taxes 😂)
One of these “forces of nature” for our businesses is the Birth of Your Brand. The thing is… you brand can have a life of it’s own. Yup. That’s right.
Your brand is not waiting until your are ready to start building it. Instead, your brand begins to form the day your business starts to operate.
This is because a brand is like a reputation: it’s essentially what your customers say about your business behind your back. What do your customers say about you when you’re not in the room?
And just like your reputation, your brand is formed by the experience people have with your business. And people talk.. boy, do they talk these days.
So, if you own a business of basically any kind, you’re ALREADY involved in the process of creating and managing a brand — whether you’re prepared to do it or not. And I’m guessing, since you’re reading this email, you’d rather be prepared.
To make sure you understand what brands are made of (so that you know what you’ve gotten into), I made a super quick video (13 min 49 s) on “What is a brand? And why you might want to build one…”
The video in a nutshell:
Essentially your brand is like your reputation — it’s what people say about your and your business when you’re not in the room.
Your brand is also an experience, it’s a sum of all the thing that make up your business and the experience your customer has with it.
Branding then is the process and effort you put into build a brand — it’s the strategy and visual manifestation you build around it.
And finally, brand management is your best effort to influence the impression your customers have about your business on an on going basis.
In this quick video (10:49) video, I’m going to talk a little bit about personal branding and especially when it comes to product based businesses. I’ll explain quickly what personal branding is, why it’s important, and I’ll also go through the most critical steps of building a personal brand.
Personal branding for makers, designers, and other product based businesses.
While personal branding is more than just a beautiful, visual wrapper, it’s easier to step out in the spotlight if your brand visuals are polished and make you feel confident about who you are and what your business represents. And while I wholeheartedly advocate for building a thorough brand strategy before jumping to the look & feel, sometimes you need a head start when it comes to visual branding. For that reason, I recommend you check out my Brand Identity Kit ($27). It is the easiest and fastest way to create a beautiful and professional looking branding (logo, colors, fonts) for your business — and the best $27 investment you can make in your brand.
What is personal branding?
Essentially personal branding is branding yourself — or building a brand around yourself. An important part of personal branding is developing and maintaining a reputation and an impression of you as a crucial part of your business.
This is critical, because of what we already know about reputations in general: it’s essentially impacted by what other people say about you behind your back. Think of it this way: what would you want your customers to say about you when you’re not in the room? Why do we want a personal brand?
Why do you need a personal brand?
For three simple reasons: you lead more, you win more, and you earn more. Your customers have to “know, like, and trust” you before they buy from you. And a strong personal brand builds credibility, authority, and trust, so you’re more likely to attract more business.
Having a strong personal brand also helps you connect with your customers. This plays heavily into the “know and like” factor. When you share your story with your customers, those who can relate to it, will feel immediate connection to you and, as a result, to your business. And having a polished brand will of course help you feel confident and makes it easier to show up to your customers.
And finally, having a well thought out personal brand will make you “marketable” in a sense that in the branding process you’ll create different kind of brand assets — some visual and some copy. All this is something you need for marketing. So, in the process you’re making your business and yourself easier to sell and market.
How do you start building a personal brand?
1. Tell your story
For one, we focus on telling your story: your expertise and your experience, your values, and what makes you different and stand out. If you’re a service provider, this is what you’ve likely already been doing. This is nothing new to you.
But if you sell products this might be a bit more foreign to you. You may have gotten used to talking mostly about your products instead of yourself. But everyone has a story to tell, and especially if the products you sell are designed or made by you, you are likely going to have a very interesting story.
In any case, I highly recommend you build a personal brand, because people best relate to other people. And building your authority and telling your story, as it relates to the story of your products, is a very powerful way to connect with your customers.
2. Have your headshots taken
A part of the process is also building the visual brand. There are many visual assets that goes into this part, for example your logo and colors, and so on.
But, hands down, the most powerful visual branding element you can have are photos of yourself. You can’t build a personal brand without fully “showing up.” Your customer needs to know who’s talking to them, they need to know the face of the brand.
Photography is a very powerful tool for telling your story. In addition to using photos of yourself, you can also occasionally include photos of your significant other or your kids or dogs and so on — anything that helps you tell your story as it relates to your brand.
3. Share your wisdom
Your personal is also about building authority, so that your potential customers can begin to see you as an expert. When they trust you’re an expert in whatever it is that you’re selling, they’re more likely to listen to you and buy from you.
One of the best ways to build authority is to share your knowledge on the topic of your expertise. This might happen through a blog, a podcast, or a YouTube video show. Again, for a service provider this may come more naturally, because they’re often more used to discussing themselves and their expertise.
But for those who sell products — handmade or otherwise — creating content around these products might feel more challenging. But it doesn’t have to be so.
Essentially, you just need to figure out “what do your customers have to understand and believe in order to realize they need your product?” Let me give you a concrete example of this.
Many years ago, I worked in the marketing department of a bed company. They sell rather expensive beds that are individually tailored for each sleeper’s body. And they did — still do actually — almost exclusively content marketing.
But they were not talking about the beds. Instead, they talk about the importance of sleep. There’s a lot of science and research around sleep and how important it is to us. So, they have positioned themselves as experts in all things sleep.
And when their customers understand how critical it is to get a good night’s sleep, they are more willing to invest into the bed they sleep in — and therefore are more likely to buy their bed. It can be as simple as that.
So, what do your customers need to understand in order to realize they need your product? Answer that question, and you got it.
4. Curate your image
Through your personal brand, you have the opportunity and duty to curate your image. Only share things that are relevant to your brand and your business.
There’s definitely the case of oversharing. And for different brands it looks different. It all depends who your ideal customer is and what they would consider oversharing.
If you’re unsure, ask yourself “why would anyone care?” If you can answer that, and you know why your ideal customer would care about your hemorrhoids, then by all means: share away. That might just be the connection your customer needed.
To ask questions about building a personal brand — or anything else branding and design related, come check out my free Facebook group Brand Builders Society where I teach soulpreneurs like you to build their own branding and create their own designs.
Designing and building a website is a fascinating project of business and marketing strategy, design smarts, and tech challenges. There’s many moving pieces, and if you’re going to do all of it yourself, you get to wear many hats in the process.
Do I think you can do it yourself? Yes, I absolutely do. Do I think you should do it yourself? Well, it depends on you. With the technology, platforms, and templated solutions we have available today, I think you should at least consider designing and building your website yourself. Unless, of course, you have extra $5k, then you should hire me to do it 😀
In any case, this video will walk you through the decisions you need to make before you build your website — the same decisions that in a very concrete way will affect the success of your website. Check it out and let me know in the comments if you have any questions.
The purpose and business goals of your website, and how they might affect what kind of website you build and the kind of platform solution you might need.
Your products and services, and how they might affect the features on your website, or even the platform your end up using.
The content you’re going to put on your website, and how it affects your platform choice and related technology.
Different platforms you can use to build a website for yourself, and what are each of the platforms suitable for.
Where to get hosting?
How to come up with an URL for your website, and what to do if someone already has the URL you would want to use.
How does your branding affect your website?
How to design your the pages on your website?
And who is going to build your website…
Further resources for building your website:
If you need support in the process, join my free Facebook group DIY Brand Design & Strategy for Soulpreneurs This video is also available in the group in addition to branding and design support and awesome people. Welcome!
And if your website is already under way, but you’re not sure how to move forward or how to improve your current website, sign up for my free website design audit. Right now, I’m conducting free web design audits in my free Facebook group DIY Brand Design & Strategy for Soulpreneurs.
Join the group and post: 🙋#designaudit [ -and add your website URL- ]. I’ll be selecting a few brave volunteers for a website review. 👉 You’ll submit your website for a design review. And I’ll take a look at it and give you my honest, professional opinion (free of charge) on anything you should change or revise.
Check out this video (22 min 50 sec) to learn what are the most common design related mistakes I most often bump into with small business websites. And of course, if you’re still on the fence whether you need a website or not, learn why having website is beneficial for your business.
Do you really need a website to run a successful business? You can definitely do business without a website. But if you’re going to grow and scale, you’re going to need a website at some point… Let’s take a look at why more in detail…
6 Big reasons your business needs a website
1 – Your business needs a “home” in the digital world.
You may have a physical office or a brick and mortar storefront somewhere. But your business needs home in the online world. An extension of your brand, if you will. And I call it a “home” for a very specific reason: it’s more permanent than your social media presence and you make the rules in your home, right?
2 – Trends, rules, and even laws with social media change periodically.
You have no say in that. Imagine you have a thriving Facebook business page today and most your business comes via that page. And now imagine that Facebook decides to shut down that feature on their platform. All the customers who were contacting you through that page are lost to you if that was the only touch point you had with them. So, your business needs home online where only you can close the shop if it comes to that
3 – A well-crafted, professional-looking website increases your credibility, authority, and influence.
This is your opportunity to introduce yourself to the world as the pro you are. You can tell your origin story and you have full power over where it appears and how it looks like. Whether you want to use video, images, or simply words or an audio recording to tell your story — it’s all up to you. With social media platforms, they give the same template for everyone.
4 – Your website is your calling card.
It’s a place where people can come find more information on your products and services. So, you only need to learn an elevator pitch and then handover your URL – website address that is – and this is where people can find more information about you and your business.
Have you ever been excited about a business and then tried to google them only to find out they don’t have a website? I have, and it’s always disappointing.
5 – Your website also works as additional info supporting your marketing and promotions.
Now, you can do a lot of promotion and marketing simply via social media, and it can be very successful. But if I then want to know more about the business who’s Facebook ad I just saw only to find out they don’t have a website… well, it gives a little shady feeling. Who am I giving my money to?
So, if you use ads and market to cold audiences, I would strongly recommend you build a strong website to support it. Now, if you only market to warm audiences who already know, like, and trust you, it’s less of an issue, because like said they already “know, like, and trust” you, and they don’t feel like they have to check your background or credentials.
6 – It reinforces your brand image
…if you align your website with your brand strategy and visual identity, of course. Websites today are very visual, and give you a tremendous opportunity to build and strengthen your brand story. You can emphasize your brand tone of voice and messaging by having all the text aligned with your brand strategy. And of course, your visual branding will be at the heart of it all with colors, font choices, photography, and of course you logo at the top.
9 Most common mistakes I see on small business websites
For more details on what these mistakes are and how to avoid them, watch the video above.
Primary logo is illegible
Multiple completely different versions of the logo
Inconsistent use of color & fonts
Too many fonts and colors
Font size is too small
The font (style and design) is difficult to read
Photos are poorly lit or pixelated
Hero area — tbe “hero” person is cut off on responsive states
Weird or inconsistent use of margins
For more details on what these mistakes are and how to avoid them, watch the video above.
In this quick Holiday spirited video (13 min 53 s), I’ll explain the dos and dont’s of Holiday theming your marketing and branding. How do you “dress up” your brand for the holidays? Do you just add a Santa hat on your logo for Christmas? What can you add to your brand to celebrate this special time of the year? Let’s take a peek, shall we. (I’m using Christmas here but same advice works for any holiday).
Who is this video for?
This video is great for anyone who does seasonal marketing campaigns and wants to know what are the best practices when it comes to the holiday theming your marketing and brand assets.
What’s in the video?
00:36 — Is it advisable to change your brand elements? You should treat Holiday theming as a campaign that has a clear start and end, and should not change the core elements of your brand like the logo or fonts.
01:40 — You can add campaign elements to support your campaign design. As a campaign, your holiday theming can bring in temporary design elements like an additional font or a color that will only be used in the context of this campaign and will not be used after the campaign ends.
Note! Any campaign elements you add should always support your brand strategy and compliment your visual identity.
02:56 — Campaigns are typically short lived and can change from year to year. Next year’s holiday theming might be very different from this year’s. And it’s ok as long as your campaign elements work in alignment with your brand guidelines.
07:44 — Holiday theming with photography. Ideas for getting Christmas photos done early for your social media accounts. Stage a corner of your house with Christmas decoration and snap photos of yourself in season’s fashion. Or go to a stock photo service and find seasonal stock photography that works for your brand. (Examples: Depositphotos and Unsplash)
09:32 — Example 1 of Daily Creative website on how just changing one photo and one color you can create Holiday spirit on your website.
12:15 — Example 2 of Daily Creative website on how just changing one photo and one color you can create Holiday spirit on your website.
12:49 — What do you do if you sell physical productsand have special seasonal products? Highlight your seasonal products during the campaign and give them a special focus on your website (and on other marketing, as well).
That’s my few tips for Holiday theming your brand. As always, if you have any questions drop a comment below. Happy Branding!
P.S. If you haven’t already done so, come check out my free Facebook group Brand Builders Society where I teach soulpreneurs like you to build their own branding and create their own designs.
Imagine how it would feel to have your brand finally reflect the vision you have in your head. A vision that will take you and your business to the next level. That’s what we’re going to start working on right now.
Not only will upgraded branding boost your confidence like only the most amazing branding can, but it will attract your ideal customers to you and inspire visibility that you haven’t experienced before. Because let’s face it: you’re going to want to flaunt this polished up baby of yours on every platform possible.
And when you reach masses with your newly found confidence, and attract raving fans to your brand, you get to share your gifts with more people than ever before. And you’ll be helping more people to have better lives. Now, that’s something to aspire for!
By upgrading your brand strategy, you’re realizing the potential of your business. When you align your brand strategy with your business strategy and vision, anything is possible. With a brand that attracts a tribe of fiercely loyal customers and advocates, you’ll have the freedom to say no to clients you don’t feel 100% aligned with and only focus on serving those that light up your spirit.
What is the dream future for you and your business? What does your business need to become in order for you to achieve your dream future? How does your business compare to the competition in the marketplace currently? How will your business compare to the competition in the marketplace in your dream future scenario?
#2 – Transformation
What level of transformation are you willing to make in order to meet that dream future? Is your business currently almost there? Or does it feel like a complete transformation is needed?
#3 – Execution
Will you hire a consultant or agency to do the work for you? Or will you DIY some or all of the work? Both options (or a combination) are doable depending on your budget. In any case, I always recommend you learn enough branding to be able to direct the process and manage your consultant/designer.
Decision 1: Positioning your business for your dream future
When you’re trying to get to a destination, it’s almost impossible to know which way to go before you know where you’re starting from. Same goes with branding. In order to define what level of upgrade your brand needs, we first need to see where you’re at right now. And then we map the road to where you want to end up in.
To both analyze your competition and to identify your ultimate future positioning, I have the best tool for you: Competitor Matrix. This is a quick and visual tool that helps you not only identify your current and future positions in the marketplace, but also any market opportunities and the biggest competitors you should be paying the most attention to. Let’s see how it works.
First list qualifications and factors in your business and industry that you want to use to compare your business to your customers. For example, price could be one. The quality of service might be another one. There might be some industry specific ones as well. For example, if you’re in the restaurant business whether or not the restaurant is family friendly could be one factor. You will choose two qualifications/factors and then you’ll map out how much of that factor/qualifier you and your competitors have. This is done on a visual map.
Draw x and y axes (like a big plus sign). Add the qualities you want to measure on each end of the axes. One end will be “high” and the other end will be “low.” For example, high touch vs low touch. If the qualifiers you choose have clear opposites, you don’t need high vs low (for example, ordinary vs luxury).
Position your competitors on the matrix based on their brand and products/services with gray circles or dots. Then position your current brand with a different colored circle. And finally add where you want your brand to be in the future (your dream future scenario) with a star.
Now look at the grid. You should have a collection of little markings across your map. Start analyzing. The goal is to identify so called opportunity gaps and your closest competitors.
An opportunity gap is an area in your industry and your marketplace where a clear opportunity for business lies due to less competition or entirely untapped markets. So, pay close attention to the emptier areas on the map since those are your potential opportunity gaps. These gaps become the potential positioning opportunities for your brand, as they are less saturated with your competitors’ offerings.
If you choose to position yourself in a more saturated area in your matrix, you will need to be prepared to work a bit more to stand out. Since there’s already a lot of competition in that area, you will have find a unique angle for your branding to stand out.
The competitors that are closest to you on the map, are likely your biggest competitors. These are the businesses you want to keep your eye on to make sure you’re emphasizing your unique selling points in your marketing and communications.
I’d also like to point out that, it is critically important to choose the right qualifiers/factors for comparing against on the matrix. Otherwise you might end up with an unattractive or inefficient positioning. Dive into your existing brand or offering to weigh different factors. What are the things that you find important in your business and offering? What are your competitive advantages? What are these now and what would you want them to be in future?
This question has two sides. On the one hand, it measures the transformation your brand has to go through in order to meet the new position you’ve plotted out. On the other hand, it measures the transformation you as the business owner has to go through to take your business there.
For many small business owners, especially service providers and creatives, your business brand is your personal brand. When you sell your services or products you’ve made yourself, it’s almost like you’re selling a piece of yourself. This means you will not only prepare your business for the new branding, you have to prepare yourself, as well.
Depending on the degree of the transformation, the amount of work can vary. When it comes to the strategy part, you still need to go through the same steps. But depending on the outcome of the strategy, the amount of design changes and revisions will vary.
The rule of thumb is: the bigger the distance on the map between your starting point and your goal state is, the larger the degree of the transformation you’ll likely need to achieve the goal. In other words, if your position changes drastically, your branding will have to change drastically, as well.
It is completely normal to feel a slight push back at this point because change can be intimidating. But change is also good. If your business is not where you want it to be right now, if you’re not feeling confident about your brand, it’s time to upgrade your branding.
All brand upgrades start with thorough strategy work. That will dictate what parts need changing and how. When you consider your newly defined dream future, your ultimate goal state, you’re going to need to ask yourself how different is your brand strategy in your dream future compared to today.
The biggest brand transformation is called rebranding. This implies you are open to changing any and all elements necessary within your branding to meet the goal state. You will literally redo the branding. The degree of the rebranding is determined by the brand strategy. The bigger the changes are to the current strategy, the bigger the changes to the visual identity will likely be.
You might also choose not to do a full rebrand. A more subtle update is often called a “facelift.” Maybe you’re not too far from your ideal state, but you’ve noticed that to fully get there, you need to update some part parts of your brand strategy. And that means updating your visual identity, as well.
The third critical decision you have to make is: who will do your branding? Are you going to hire a consultant? An agency? Or maybe you want to do parts or everything yourself. These are all options you need to consider. Let’s weigh the pros and cons of each of the approach.
Hiring a branding agency
Pros: You get a team of people with special expertise working on your branding and making sure all steps of the process are executed with the highest skill level.
Cons: Can be expensive — need bigger budget. Depending on the agency (and budget), you may have less influence on the outcome and the turnaround time. And you may not have full transparency to the process.
Hiring a consultant / freelancer
Pros: Cheaper than hiring an agency. Typically still get to work with an expert. May have easier access to this person and more 1-1 time.
Cons: While cheaper than agency, can still cost a pretty penny. Finding a skillful person who fits on your budget and has time on their calendar might be difficult. You might have to hire more than one consultant as the skill sets can be limited to one specialty. If you end up with a difficult person, the process can be quite painful.
Doing most or all of the work yourself
Pros: You have full control over the outcome. As the founder, you already have most of the information you need for the brand strategy. You can move forward as fast or slow as you choose. You’ll feel deeply connected to your brand. You get to learn lots of new things that will benefit your business in the long run.
Cons: Learning new things can take some time and effort. Before you’ve mastered new skills, you may feel self-conscious about what you’re creating. Without proper guidance or step-by-step instructions, you might not be able to create something you’re happy with.
Hybrid approach: doing parts yourself, hiring some parts out
Pros: You have full control and gain additional clarity over the parts you create. You ‘ll learn new things about the areas you’re focusing on.
Cons: You’d still have to invest in hiring someone to do the parts you don’t want to do – budget required. You’d still need guidance for the parts you’re creating. Hiring parts out would affect your timeline as well.
What does it take to DIY your branding?
The fact that you can actually DIY your branding and have successful and professional looking outcomes often comes as a surprise to most entrepreneurs. The part about doing the process yourself is not the surprise here: many business owners are forced to DIY their branding due to lack of budget or resources. The surprise is the success and professional looking outcome.
The reason for this is that we are accustomed to thinking that especially the visual identity — the design part of the process — requires special expertise. And go back 10-15 years, the resources we have available online these days didn’t exist yet, or were mostly unknown. Today, there are so many design tools online and ready-made design elements for sale (or available for free) that building a visual branding is more doable than ever before.
Don’t let the process intimidate you
So, while I tell people that “yes, you can DIY your branding AND make it successful,” I understand that it can feel intimidating — just like learning anything new does. And I will admit that the branding process does take time, and sometimes you really have to work to get everything just right. While the process is fairly simple, it’s not always easy. But just like any other big project, breaking your branding project into bite sized pieces will help you get through it.
Also, no one says you have to do EVERYTHING yourself. Well, to be honest, no one says you have to do any of it yourself, if you don’t want to. Although, I do think it’s a good idea for all entrepreneurs to learn branding. In any case, I wanted to give you a quick idea of which parts of the branding process are easier to DIY and which ones might give you a bit more challenge.
Most of it is “brain work”
Another relatively unknown aspect of the branding process is that it is actually more brain and thought work rather than crazy artistic creativity and designing a bunch of visual stuff. But because of the visual nature of one of the final outcomes, the visual identity, our first assumption about the branding process is that it is mostly about drawing logo sketches.
I would even go as far as to say that all the thought work and introspection that goes into the branding process is much more important than the visual identity part. Let me explain a bit further…
I like to divide the branding process in two major phases: the foundational strategy phase and the visual identity phase. Most people skip the strategy part almost entirely when they’re DIYing their branding. This is one of the biggest culprits when it comes to unsuccessful branding projects. The problem is that your visual identity is based on your brand strategy. If you skip the strategy phase, you don’t have all the right tools for making decisions during the design phase.
Furthermore, most people will find the visual identity work more challenging than the foundational strategy part. Yet, most people skip the strategy and jump directly to the hardest part without realizing that had they started with the strategy the rest of the branding would be much easier to tackle. Getting curious yet?
To show you what each step of the branding process takes to accomplish and why it’s important to do all of those steps, I created the handy table in the starter kit handout. The last column will detail the actual actions it takes to accomplish that step in the process. And I promise that you will see that all of it is doable.
To ask questions about this starter kit or anything else branding and design related, come check out my free Facebook group DIY Brand Design & Strategy for Soulpreneurs where I teach soulpreneurs like you to build their own branding and create their own designs.