Design Hack: Using a table of content template to create a step-by-step guide.

Design Hack: Using a table of content template to create a step-by-step guide.

In this quick Design Hack video (15min 09s), I’ll show you how you can use a table of content template to create a beautiful and styled PDF step-by-step guides or “listicles.”

Who is this video perfect for?

Whether you need this is or not would depend on the type of marketing you do. This is most useful for people who create marketing pdfs for a variety of reasons. One use would be to grow your email list. You create a step-by-step guide for something (or any piece of very useful content) and to get that people give you their email address and join your mailing list.

If you wanted to do something like this, it could be for example “Create your first crystal grid in 5 easy steps” (or however many steps you need…). People would opt in to your email list and in exchange you send them this pdf. If they love it and think it was useful, they stay on your list and you send them valuable content every week. When you’re ready to sell something, they’re already on your list and eagerly waiting for your emails.

The official definition of listicle is “In journalism and blogging, a listicle is a short-form of writing that uses a list as its thematic structure, but is fleshed out with sufficient copy to be published as an article.” So, basically any piece of content that is comprised of a list of things. In marketing, numbered lists are popular because people want to know exactly how many steps it takes to achieve something, hence the numbers.

Additionally, the concept of using a layout template for something else than what is was intended for can be extremely helpful for choosing a design template of any kind. When looking for a design template to you, it’s rather likely that you won’t find something that perfectly matches your need. So, you need to get creative and think outside the box. In other words, assess what are the common denominators between your content and the templates that are available regardless of what their intended use is.

The challenge is that most people will search Canva (or Pinterest for inspiration etc.) by using the search criteria and words describe the layout they need to create (search for list layout instead of table of contents). The aim here is to have people think and see things differently. Look at different layout and think “where all I can use this.” I LOVE creative problem solving.

What’s in the video?

01:10 —What type of marketing content are the tips in this video for? Anything that has a numbered list. There are very popular “listicle” style articles on specific steps someone has to take, for example “5 steps to permanent weight loss,” or similar. I’ve heard 3, 5, and 7 are the most effective amounts of steps or points in your list. But since content is King, if your method needs 4 steps to be effective, then use 4.

02:27 — Tip: use a table of content template instead of generic document template or a list template. These layouts will already have numbers associated with text blurbs and the design is often more interesting than on a generic document or list template. Search Canva with “table of content” and “content” to surface these layout templates.

04:08 — Example 01: From a classy table of content to more fun and lively step-by-step guide. First, add an image to each step instead of having just one large image. Second, playful composition with circle cropped images.

Tip: When using design templates, whenever you can find a template that is already aligned with your brand personality, the easier time you will have customising that template with your brand styles.


06:34 — Example 02: From a calming travel magazine to a fun and colorful step-by-step guide. See how changing colors, fonts, and the image will change the entire look and feel of this layout.

08:53 — Example 03: From Cold and cool layout to feminine and emotional look and feel. See how by changing colors, fonts, imagery, and by adding few color squares you can change the look and feel dramatically.

10:58 — Where can I get more help, tips, and inspiration on branding and design for free? Check out my Facebook group DIY Brand Design & Strategy for Soulpreneurs

12:10 — Where can I get the free templates you’re showing? In here: Facebook group DIY Brand Design & Strategy for Soulpreneurs

12:35 — Tip: Before you pick a template, think about what kind of content you have. Then think about what kind of layout would have this type of content. For example, table of content has number and text and step-by-step guide has numbers and text.

13: 47 — Tip: How to visualise your signature process


P.S. If you haven’t already done so, come check out our 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.

How to grow your brand when you don’t have a product or service ready?

How to grow your brand when you don’t have a product or service ready?

Check out this quick video lesson (~16min 40s) and get ready to map your brand’s long term vision and short term goals, as well as the next steps you need to take. It’s a “feeding two birds with one scone” kind of a video teaching you how to start building brand awareness before you’re ready to sell anything AND it walking you through one of my favorite project planning tool: OGST.

Calling OGST a “project planning tool” doesn’t do justice to what you can accomplish with it… you can pretty much map your entire life with it if you want to. OGST stands for Objective, Goals, Strategies, and Tactics.

Video Transcript

Today I’m going to talk about how to build a brand before you have a product or service ready. A lot of brand strategy is about offering, and about how you frame certain things based on your offering. And how do you bring that into your branding-

So, it might be confusing to be building a brand if you don’t have an offering ready to be sold yet. Maybe you have a loose idea about what your business will be about, but you just haven’t figured out the exact product or service yet.

Here’s a question Jen brought to me: “My question is about branding if one does not yet have an offering of products or digital courses for sale but might expand to do this in the future. Could you discuss the concept of personal branding such as creating a personal website, as a professional calling card, that also shows one’s work such as articles and information.“

So, Jen is saying that she doesn’t have an offering or product yet. Eventually, Jen wants to make and sell a digital course, but right now she feels like she still has to learn more about making courses, and of course she still has to build that course before she can sell it. How can Jen start building a brand and framing her messaging before she has anything to sell?

You can definitely create your brand with or without a detailed offering. It is 100% doable, probably even advisable. Because the moment you’re ready to sell something, if you haven’t been building your presence, if you haven’t been building your brand before, you’re going to have a rude awakening…  because there’s no audience. There’s no one listening, because you weren’t building awareness around yourself and your business ahead of time. 

Even if you knew that “for a year I can’t sell anything yet” start building your brand today. There’s no better time than today. Actually, yesterday would have been better than today. There are so many things you can still talk about. You can talk about what brought you here to this point in your life. What inspired you to start your blog/podcast/brand? Why is this topic (the one you’re building your business around) important to you? Why is this topic important to your customers? 

To help you figure out more clearly what you can talk about when building a brand before you have a product or service to sell, I want to share a tool with you that I like to use. It’s one of my favorite tools. And it helps me break things to clear actionable steps. But it also in this case really well illustrates which parts of your business you can start talking about right now. And which parts you want to save for when you have your offering fully figured out.

This tool is called OGST. Which is an acronym for Objective, Goals, Strategy, and Tactics. They taught us this method when I was getting my master’s degree. And if I remember correctly, this is based on some kind of military strategizing framework. 

With OGST, you always start with your objective, which is this one large objective. And anything you do, any action you take, will have to move the needle towards this one objective. I’ve created an example objective: enabling more active and happier retirement (for women). And then all of the goals, strategies, and tactics — each and every one of those — have to support this one objective. If it doesn’t support this objective, you’re not going to do it.

This is a great tool for you if you have the infamous shiny object syndrome, which basically means that you have a squirrel brain and you keep spiraling towards the next shiny object. And you have a hard time staying on course. Write this objective on a piece of paper, and tape it on the wall. And every time you want to buy a new course, or you want to start doing a new thing instead of finishing what you’ve started, read the objective and ask “does this whatever thing I want to do, is it going to take me towards this objective?” If not, then it’s a distraction. If you can clearly say that, yes, it will actually take me towards this objective. Wonderful than it’s something you can do. 

Okay, so we have an objective. Our objective for this example is: enabling more active and happier retirement for women. And for that objective, I’ve invented four goals:

  1. Empower senior women to lose weight
  2. Inspire to make a bucket list
  3. Inspire to make new friends 
  4. Empower elderly women to fight depression 

How did I come up with these goals? Well, one way is to combine your passion towards a particular audience with your special expertise. Maybe I’m passionate about improving lives for senior or elderly women. And I also happen to be a health coach or a nutritionist or something like that. That would tie those two strings together nicely: the target audience that I’m really passionate about and my special expertise. 

All of these goals should be based on research in some way. For instance, maybe I have found out that the senior women who are obese or carry extra weight tend to be less active, which then feeds into being unhappy. Maybe I’ve worked with retired women and noticed that being overweight equals less activity and general unhappiness. And that has given me the insight that I need to empower these ladies to lose some weight.

For goal two, maybe I’ve seen research stating that the retirees who have some sort of bucket list are more active. And that has led me to believe that I should inspire these people to make a bucket list. Goal three and goal four could go a little bit hand-in-hand. For goal three, maybe you interviewed or you just hung out with a lot of retired women. And you noticed that the retirees who have more friends tend to be happier. And this gave you the idea that you need to somehow inspire these ladies to make new friends.

And for goal four, maybe you’ve bumped into some research that the rates of depression among the elderly are on the rise. In order to enable them to have a happier retirement, you need to empower them to fight depression.

Let’s recap. Some of the ways you can come up with these goals are:

  •  You have special expertise that perfectly matches this objective or supports the objective.
  • You have seen research on your topic that helps you figure out your goals. 
  • You know your target audience, you’ve hung out with them, you’ve interviewed them, and through those insights you’ve figured out things that you need to do (or they need to do) that supports your objective. 

These will eventually become your goals. And remember, your objective is that large umbrella. And everything under it has to support that one big goal, your mission, your big objective. Below that you have your goals. And since goals can quickly become bigger targets, we’re going to break them apart a little. So, let’s take a look at the next layer: strategy.

Each goal goal can have more than one strategy, but for the sake of simplicity I’m using just one for each. Our goal one was to empower elderly women to lose weight (because we knew that obese elderly are less active and unhappy). This is where we come to the part where we start to talk about a very specific offering. Strategy for goal one could be — and these are just examples that I’ve pulled out of my hat — an online course to teach weight loss methods (or one specific method). And when we talk about empowering, online course teaching something works well. 

Goal two: inspire to make a bucket list. Maybe your desired way to make that happen would be to create an inspirational blog with some instructions on how to draft a bucket list and how to start tackling your bucket list items. Ideally the strategies all support each other and create a nice whole. 

Goal three: inspire to make new friends, because you had found out that elderly who have more friends are more active and happier. So, a strategy here could be to create a podcast where you interviewed seniors who have made new friends and they’re tackling their bucket lists together — you know, something to keep it all together in the area of friendships and bucket lists. 

Podcasts also fall very nicely into the “know, like, trust” process. They know you, since they listened to you. They start liking you, and then bit by bit, they start to trust you. And eventually they’ll buy from you.

And then goal four: empower to fight depression. Just like the goal one, when we talk about empowering someone, it’s more concrete. It’s about teaching, showing someone how to do something. So, maybe here our strategy here is to write an ebook about the power of meditation. Again, maybe you have a professional background in the topic. Maybe you know that meditation can help fight depression. So you’re going to like bring all that together. 

Tactics are the concrete steps you take for each goal. For instance, goal one was “empowering to lose weight” and the strategy was to do an online course for that. So, the tactics could be: outline your course, record the videos, edit the videos, create handouts, and so on. 

You can break the tactics into as small and detailed steps as you want to. Or you can keep them in a bigger buckets. It really depends on how you like to operate. Let’s say that to inspire people to make a bucket list, you create inspirational blog. So, maybe the tactics are: starting a blog, creating content for it, connecting with other blogs to guest blog for getting visibility for your blog, and so forth. 

Goal three is “inspire to make new friends.” And the strategy for that is to create a podcast. The tactics for that would be: starting a podcast, finding the podcast guests, start batching episodes, and then of course connect with other podcasts to be interviewed in other podcasts for visibility. 

And goal four: “empower to fight depression.” For that, you wanted to write an ebook about the power of meditation. So the tactics for that could be: outlining your ebook, creating guided meditations, writing your book, and then publish and sell. Maybe you self-publish this book and sell on your own website — or put it on Amazon, whatever. 

This method gives you the big picture of where you want to go. But it also allows you to start breaking this big picture apart into smaller pieces. Maybe you’re not ready to go after your goal number one yet, because you know that building an online course is a really big thing. So, maybe you choose to start with the goal two — the one about inspiring ladies to make a bucket list. So, you’ll create an inspirational blog and you’ll start infusing all these aforementioned themes into that blog. 

To help you understand what you can discuss in your messaging before you have anything to sell, I drew a line to show that anything below the line is more concrete, it’s about your offering. Anything above the line is something that you can talk about regardless of whether you’re ready to sell or not. 

So, in this example scenario, if you’re not ready to sell anything yet, you can still talk about weight loss and how weight loss is important for staying active in your older years. You can talk about how great it is to have a bucket list, and how great it feels to check things off from your bucket list. And how a bucket list encourages you to be more active. You could even talk about different kinds of bucket lists, and what it means when you’re a retired person doing this. You can also talk about making new friends as an older person. How easy or difficult it is, and different ways to do that. And you can of course talk about depression and elderly. And what are the little things that we can all do to fight depression.

So this is an example of growing your brand awareness before you’re ready to launch your paid services or products. You can use anything above the line to build brand awareness that eventually will make selling the things below the line much easier.

Some of the things you’re going to need for growing your brand awareness is social media presence, your website — or whichever way you want to deliver your message. Are you going to do a blog or a podcast? Or maybe you’re going to start networking in live events in person? But somehow you need to start, as a part of building your personal brand, stepping out of the shadow, so to speak, and put yourself out there and start talking about these things. (And when I say “start talking about these things,” you can of course write, as well (blog/social media/etc.)

With this tool you can plan ahead a little bit. Let’s say that you’re not ready to sell anything today. But a year from now, in October 2020, you want to be ready to sell your services/products. With the help of this tool, you can make that commitment. And you can make a content calendar for the next 12 months, if you know exactly where you want to be in the next 12 months. 

For example, let’s say that the thing that you want to sell is an online course. In that case, a bit before you’re getting ready to launch your online course, about three months before, you’re going to start tailoring your content to support the launch. You can start talking more about topics that are around your course so that you’re preparing people for your launch. So, it definitely is a good idea to start early. 

I know this is a lot of information in a short period of time. If you have any questions about the OGST (objective, goals, strategies, and tactics) framework, post those in the comments. And you know, you can use this for anything. You could plan a vacation with this. What is the objective of the vacation? And what are the goals within that objective, and strategies and tactics? You could use this for anything. 

And actually it’d be super cool to hear if you end up using this, what do you use it for? I’ve used it for branding and business strategy related things, but also for mapping out smaller projects. Typically work related is what I’ve used it for. It is one of my favorite tools.


P.S. If you haven’t already done so, come check out our 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.

How does your brand bring you more customers?

How does your brand bring you more customers?

I often talk about focusing on your customer when you’re building your brand. That is a solid advice and applies really to almost anything that your business does. One part of the branding process is to define your ideal customer with enough detail that you can bring them to life in your mind whenever you need a reminder of who it is your serving and who’s the target of your marketing efforts.

What doesn’t get talked about as much is the different mindsets of that customer — your ideal customer. Before they become your actual customer, they are a prospect; someone potentially considering to buy your services or products. Sometimes you catch their attention before they even know they need your product.

In marketing, they talk about “cold audience” and “warm audience.” Someone who hasn’t “warmed up” to your brand yet, someone coming into contact with your content or an ad for the first time, is considered cold audience. Warm audience on the other hand, is the people who are agreeable to your messaging, they love your content, they are interested in your products and services, and they like and trust you and your business. 

Needless to say that warm audiences are easier to sell and market your products to because they are already eagerly looking forward to hearing from you. So, one strategy for your business should be trying to convert as much cold audience into warm audience as possible. Your marketing efforts, your valuable content, and you showing up to serve your customers are all important parts of your “warming up” your audience. But also your branding plays a big role. Maybe bigger than you’re aware of. Let’s take a look at this a bit closer.

First impressions are huge in branding and marketing. And it only takes about 10 seconds for your potential customers to form an opinion about your business. This means that you have 10 seconds to quickly convince them that yes, you’re business and product are interesting and important and they should keep listening to you, reading your blog or email, stay on your website, stay with you ad… or whatever the first touch point you have with them.

That split second decisions they are about to make for either staying with your and your marketing or leaving, is part of a micro conversion. What is a micro conversion? Traditionally in marketing, micro conversions are small-ish actions your customer takes towards your bigger conversion goal. Let’s say your conversion goal is to sell your coaching program. In that case, and in a traditional sense, a micro conversion could be someone subscribing to your email list. 

They didn’t buy from you yet… But do you remember the cold and warm audience stuff above? They just took a step towards becoming part of your warm audience. This means in the future, it’s going to be much easier to sell and market to them. 

So, that’s a traditional explanation of micro conversions. But when it comes to branding, I like to take it a bit further… Before that prospective customer has subscribed to your email or freebie a lot has to have happened. Most of it subconscious. 

So, I mentioned it takes about 10 seconds to your potential customers to form an opinion about your business and brand. In reality, it takes only 2 seconds to lose that customer because on average they’ll spend less than 2 seconds with your marketing if they don’t immediately feel drawn to it. Facebook reports that depending on the device, people spend on average 1.7-2.5 seconds with Facebook ads. Logically, after that ~2 seconds, they either click on your ad …or keep scrolling. 

These numbers are similar to what I saw reported on people spending time with magazine ads about 15 years ago when I was working on designing and creating ads for printed media. At the time, 1.7 seconds was reported as the average time people spend with printed ads (large, full page magazine and newspaper ads). So, I think we can conclude that roughly 2 seconds is the time you need to convince someone to keep reading your ad copy or watching your ad video. 

So, let’s assume you use Facebook ads to attract customers. First, you have ten seconds to convince your potential customer that they should stay with your ad. Then, on top of that 2 seconds, you have another 8 seconds to give them a great first impression and convince them that your business or your offering is worth getting to know better, that you have something valuable they need or want.

“In News Feed on Facebook, we’re seeing people spend, on average, 1.7 seconds with a piece of content on mobile compared to 2.5 seconds on desktop.” (Facebook IQ: Digital Research and Insights April 21, 2016 Capturing Attention in Feed: The Science Behind Effective Video Creative)

Another critical thing to understand is that people make decisions almost entirely based on their feelings. Harvard Business School professor Gerald Zaltman states in his book How Customers Think: Essential Insights into the Mind of the Market (2003) that 95% of customers’ decision making happens subconsciously and based on emotions. According to Zaltman, tapping into customer’s emotions can result into major boost in sales. 

Essentially, our decision-making is subconscious and driven by emotions. Customer make judgements in a fraction of a second about whether they should stay with your ad or not, and it’s almost entirely based on a gut feeling they get in that time. So, we need to capitalize on that first two seconds. Before anything else can happen, we need a tiny micro conversion (nano conversion?) where our prospective customer decides to give us the next 8 seconds — and more.

Thank goodness for branding! There’s A LOT we can do. First of all, using the right color can increase the likelihood that your ideal customer will stop scrolling and read your message by 40%. So, we need to urgently figure out what is the right color for your customer, what color do they feel drawn to.

Color also helps people to remember things associated with the color they saw, e.g. Starbucks and green. And since your prospective customer needs on average 5-7 impressions on your branding before they remember and associate it with your business and offering, you need all the help you can get. (And you need to stay consistent… think about what happens if each time of those 5-7 impressions your brand looks and feels different. How do you think that might affect the process?)

Secondly, our brain processes visual information, like colors, shapes, and images, 60 000 times faster than words. Talk about making the most of that 2 to 10 seconds you have for making a great first impression! So, we need to make sure that your marketing communication uses visual cues to reinforce the message. And that the visuals that you use are the ones that speak to your ideal customer. 

Thirdly, we know that colors and imagery can evoke (sometimes strong) feelings. And we just learned that 95% of our decision making is subconscious and emotionally driven. You get where I’m going with this…? We should urgently make sure your business uses the kind of visual identity that gets your potential customers to first stop scrolling, then feel positive reinforcement and that this is definitely meant for them, and finally feel an emotional connection to your brand. 

Think of successful branding as a signage system that guides the right people to you giving them little hints along the way showing which way to go. And confirming that they’re going in the right direction: to you and your offering. When built right, this signage system guides only the right people to you: your ideal customers. And rest will follow someone else’s signs.


P.S. If you haven’t already done so, come check out our 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.

How to build a “branding mindset?”

How to build a “branding mindset?”

If you’re a small business owner and you’re building your brand, you may bump into mindset challenges. How to keep moving forward without feeling stuck? How to stay motivated in the process? What to focus on throughout the branding process? And how to feel confident you’re moving in the right direction?

All the above are questions I get from solopreneurs I work with. When you’re working on something that is as close to your heart as your business is, making branding decisions may feel daunting if you’re afraid of making a mistake or taking a step in the wrong direction.

Your brand is an experience

Many entrepreneurs feel that stakes are high when it comes to their branding. And you can’t blame them. We often associate branding as the face of our business, the visible frontend that represents who you are and what you do. 

In a way, that is true. A big part of the branding is visual and visible, and defines the look and feel of your business. But I’d like to challenge you to think about your brand differently. What if, instead of thinking about your brand as the face of your business, you’d start thinking about it as the heart of your business?

The visual identity is only one aspect of your brand. At the end of the day, your brand is so much more than just the visual part. Your brand is an experience your customers get when they interact with your business — and you. This means each and every interaction they have with you and your business forms a part of the brand. 

It’s the way you answer customer questions, the way you send their invoices, the way they interact with your products, the way your website looks and functions, the way your digital services work (or don’t work), how quickly you answer customer emails, how you handle customer feedback, what people say about your and your business behind your back, and yes, how your visual identity looks and feels like. All these are parts of the experience that is your brand.

This info should be reassuring. While it’s many more touch points you need to manage, it also takes the pressure off of any individual element to form your branding alone. A classic example of this is your logo. Many business owners are very nervous about their logo, and want it to be just right. But your logo is not your brand. Yes, you want it to look professional and represent your brand personality, and all that good stuff. But you shouldn’t put the burden of shaping your entire brand on any one individual element, like your logo. It’s not realistic and it won’t be successful.

Focus on your customers

Another significant mindset shift when it comes to your brand should happen early on: you need to focus on your customers throughout the branding process. To me, this is maybe the single most important aspect of your branding — well, of your entire business really, if you ask me.

This is maybe the most common misunderstanding that I’ve witnessed in the branding process. And it goes for big corporations and small one person shops. People want the branding to be attractive to themselves. They want to pick something that’s pleasing to them, not to their customers. But at the end of the day, who are you trying to appeal to with your branding: your ideal customer or yourself? Who needs to click on your Facebook ad? Who should opt in to your email list? Who needs to buy your products and services? Let me give you a hint: it’s not you.

Our businesses are so dear to us that it’s near impossible task to stay objective and remember who the look and feel are for. But let me ask you this: if you knew for certain that there was a specific look and feel that attracts paying customers to you, would you use it? Or would you use something else that you like, but doesn’t bring you more business? 

Anyone that I’ve ever asked this question answered that they’d of course choose the look and feel that brings them more business. And that makes sense 100%: you didn’t start a business to sell things to yourself. 

But what if you don’t know what the specific look and feel is? To me, that is a symptom of you not knowing who your customers are. Quite often this is the case in the beginning of your entrepreneurial journey. If you’ve just started your business, and you’re building what I call a “starter brand,” you might not know your customer by experience yet. That’s ok, you can still build a brand and keep moving forward. But you’re going to have to do some research and make some assumptions. Typically within a year or two, you’ll have a pretty clear idea of who your customers are. And you can refine your branding then.

So, how do you focus on your customers during your branding process? For one, you have to have a good definition of your ideal customer, who they are and what they think, feel, and struggle with. It can be based on assumption that you then validate later on. But you need to draft one. 

Secondly, you need to build a link between your ideal customer and your brand personality. In the branding process I teach, we do an exercise where you imagine your brand as a person. And the best friend of that person is your ideal customer. What kind of person would be best friends with your ideal customer?

Thirdly, you need to ask yourself “What would my ideal customer think about this?” when you’re making decisions on your brand strategy and visual identity. When you’re having a hard time choosing between options or elements for your branding, think about your ideal customer. Which one would they choose? Which one would they feel more drawn to?

Keeping the momentum

As discussed above, your brand is a sum of many elements. Any individual element shouldn’t get such a heavy weighting that it’s keeping you stuck if you can’t figure it out. Especially, if you’re in the very early stages of your business, it really is better to keep moving forward than try to perfect something. 

Branding process — when you do it right — has many steps that build on top of each other. When you start from the beginning and move forward one step at a time, the process won’t feel overwhelming. And you’ll gain more and more clarity as you keep moving forward. The biggest problem with being stuck is that, well… you’re stuck. When you feel extra stuck and no inspiration will get you moving, I recommend you just make a hypothesis and keep moving forward. With momentum, you’ll gain clarity and new ideas, and you’ll find the solution eventually. If you follow my branding process, the likelihood that your hypothesis is at least 80% in the right is high.

If you’re further along with your business journey, you probably know your customers well. And you have a good idea what resonates with them. You might be thinking that it’s time to rebrand now that you know your business and customers better. It’s likely that you won’t get stuck as easily, since you have more clarity. But in case you do, you want to have a good roadmap to your ideal rebranded state. Breaking things into bite-sized steps will help make a project that feels overwhelming more doable.

Another benefit of being a bit further along with your business journey is having access to your real customers, actual customers who paid money for your products and services. Now, you can survey them, interview them, to find out what they think and feel, what their biggest pain points and needs are, and what kinds of things appeal to them. You have access to a wealth of information that will help you make decisions and keep moving in the right direction.

Adopt the branding mindset

Branding mindset is about understanding the connections between brand strategy and the elements that build your brand. It’s about putting your customer in the center of the process, and understanding that you’re not really building your brand for yourself but for someone else. 

Understanding that brand strategy is business strategy will help you get motivated to finally get your branding in order. Many of the steps in the brand strategy process are also critical steps with a successful business strategy. It’s important to stop thinking about branding as “a necessary evil” that you just have to get out of the way. And start seeing how integral it is for running your business successfully.

Branding mindset is also about keeping your mind and eyes open. Learn from serving your customers and course correct when the need be. Your branding will require management and smaller (or bigger) updates and upgrades over the years to stay fresh. Accepting early on that your brand will require both quick sprints and an on-going marathon to stay consistent and with-it will help you prepare for the bigger and smaller projects that come along the way.

And let’s face it, your brand doesn’t wait for you to start building it. It’s already forming as we speak. With the words of Jezz Bezos of Amazon: “Your brand is what other people say about you when you’re not in the room.” And branding and brand management is your attempt at influencing that conversation. 


P.S. If you haven’t already done so, come check out our 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.

What does it take to DIY your branding?

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.

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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.

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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 below. 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.



The table is optimized for wider screens. Rotate your phone to landscape for a better reading experience.

Process and actions table

Process stepWhat you do (or produce/create)?Why you need this part?What does it take to accomplish?
Your “Why”Mission, VisionConnecting with your tribe, communicate the values of your businessRequires introspection and thinking, writing mission & vision statements 
Value PropositionDefine and polish your offering, find the unique value you provideDefining the transformation you offer, communicating the value of your offerRequires analyzing your products and services, writing down your value proposition
Your Target AudienceDefine you ideal customerTo find a fiercely loyal tribeIf you’ve been in business for a while, then it requires researching and analyzing the existing customers to define who you most want to serve and who most needs your services.

If you haven’t served customers yet, you still need to create an ideal customer avatar. In this case, it requires some research and introspection.

Writing down your ideal customer definition.
Brand PersonalityDefine the characteristics for describing your brand  To start forming the look & feel, use as a tool throughout the process to evaluate brand elementsRequires some researching your ideal customer, visualizing with mood boards, writing down description, and coming up with keywords.
Brand PositioningDefining your desired position in the marketplaceTo map a path to where you want to be in future, to understand where you are now, and to see if there are implications to your visual identityAnalyzing your competition, defining where your business is now and where you want it to be in future
Mood boardsStart clarifying your look & feelTo find inspiration for your visual identity, to start visualizing the brand attributesFinding inspiring imagery that reflects the attributes of your brand
Brand Tone of VoiceDefining the speaking and writing style for your businessTo define the tone of your marketing communications, ensure you’re connecting with your ideal customerAnalyzing your brand personality and your ideal customer, doing some introspection, and writing exercises
LogoLogo or a creative brief documentation to hire a designer To create a visual symbol that represents your businessUnderstanding your unique needs for the logo, buy a ready icon/symbol, combine the symbol with text or play with text only, hire an illustrator to create a custom symbol that you then combine with text, or hire a designer to do all of it for you 
Brand Color LibraryDefine the color palette for your brandTo create consistency in your branding, to emphasize your brand personality, to help recognizability and memorability of your brandAnalyze your brand personality, analyze your ideal customer, understand what color communicate, choosing the colors 
Brand FontsChoose fonts for your brandingTo create consistency in your branding, to emphasize your brand personalityAnalyze your brand personality, understand what different font styles communicate, choose 1-2 brand fonts
Brand Photography StylesDefine the style of your brand photosTo create consistency in your branding, to emphasize your brand personality, to help recognizability and memorability of your brandAnalyze your brand personality, define verbally and with examples how the photos for your brand should look like (a consistent style), 
Illustrations, Icons, Textures, Gradients, etc. Define the style of these elementsTo create consistency in your branding, to emphasize your brand personality, to help recognizability and memorability of your brandAnalyze your brand personality, find examples of the kind of design elements  and styles you want to use
NOTE: This step can be optional, not all brands use these elements, but if you do, then you should define these
Brand Identity SystemPull all the elements of your visual identity into one documentTo use as a reminder of yourself to stay consistent, to hand over to a designer with the creative brief documentation so they can follow your brand guidelinesPutting all of the elements of your visual identity into one document

What do you think? Does it seem doable? I think so. And if you agree with me and are interested in getting a head start with all the introspection and thought work, download my free Ultimate Brand Strategy Blueprint and start your branding process today.


P.S. If you haven’t already done so, come check out our 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.

Why you need to learn branding, even if you’re going to hire someone to do it for you?

Why you need to learn branding, even if you’re going to hire someone to do it for you?

When you understand how branding works and what the process is, you have much easier time finding the right people to hire for the process and directing and guiding you consultant or designer. Knowing your way through the branding process can also help you save quite a bit of money because you know exactly what to ask from your consultant/designer, and you can make their work easier and quicker. The branding process itself can also be helpful in supporting or guiding your entire business strategy, so learning branding is useful whichever way you look at it.

If you’re going to hire out, you have a few options available. You can hire an agency to do the work for you. You could hire a freelance consultant to either do all the work or help you with just some aspects. Or you could DIY your branding yourself partially or entirely. During my 15+ years of experience, I’ve been involved in helping clients and individuals with each of these options, and I’ve seen the pros and cons of all of them.

The most common scenario with solopreneurs is that you hire someone to simply create your visual identity (logo, colors, fonts, etc.). Depending on your budget, you might hire someone who can build your entire identity, or you might just hire someone to design your logo. In some cases, folks buy 100% pre-made visual identity template — if they can find one that resonates with them. 

The most affordable options (and therefore very popular ones) are buying a pre-made logo or hiring someone on Fiverr do make one for you. And then finishing up the rest of your visual identity yourself. While this approach is the most financially feasible, it’s also the one I hear most complaints about. Typically the complaints are about the logo not representing the business or offering in the right way. Sometimes we can even quantify why we’re not happy with the end result. We just know it doesn’t look or feel right.

Below you can find a few reasons why learning branding is so important and beneficial for your business — even if you’re going to hire someone eventually to do your visual identity for you.

1. Brand strategy supports your business strategy

Branding your business can be a process that helps you uncover and surface things about yourself and your business that weren’t on your radar before. This is something I’ve seen firsthand working in branding agencies, managing branding in the corporate world, and also working with individuals. 

What happens is sometimes folks embark on the branding journey without first thinking about the building blocks that make their brand. They overlook some very critical foundational pieces that would not only guide their branding but their overall business strategy as well. This happens across the board in big businesses as well as with one person shops. 

One example of this would be ignoring who your ideal customer is. Sometimes we are so eager to get our offering out there that we neglect to dig deep into who we are serving. The most common misconception is the idea that “my product/service is useful for everyone.” While this actually might be the case, everyone is not attracted to and inspired by same things. You would have very difficult time in building something that attracts everyone and anyone. And it would be equally difficult to create marketing for something that should speak for everyone.

When you build your brand strategy you deep dive into things like what is the value you bring to your customers, how you compare to your competition, and what is the unique competitive advantage you have. All these things are central not only to your brand strategy but also to your overall business strategy. 

I’ve seen branding projects where the “a-ha moment” was so fundamental and groundbreaking that the business owner ended up shifting their entire business model and offering as a result. While it meant that they returned to the drawing board and it took a bit longer for them to launch their new brand, they were much happier not only with the branding but also with the business they now had.

2. Your visual identity needs to be based on something

One of the most common complaints I hear about having hired a designer to do the logo and maybe other visual identity elements as well is that “ t just doesn’t look or feel right.” This one is tough to even fix because quite often the business owner can’t clearly quantify what it is that bothers them. It just doesn’t feel like them or their business. 

And the thing is, if they were able to explain what it is about the logo or visual identity that they dislike, they wouldn’t be in this pickle. If they were able to describe what bothers them and what they’d like to see instead, they would’ve been able to direct the designer to the right direction.

To me, this is a sign that they don’t know what their visual identity is based on. Do you know why Coca Cola brand color is red? Or why Nike’s tagline is “Just Do It?” They’re not accidents or co-incidences. All these decisions were based on a thorough brain work on what the brand personality is like and why? What do these elements communicate and what kind of position in the marketplace does it imply? Who are they meant to attract? And who do they speak to?

When you hash out the strategy part of your branding, the visual identity part is much easier to tackle. The strategy gives you explanation and reasoning for why the designer should use specific colors, illustration style, fonts, and so on. And it makes evaluating designs ten times easier because your brand strategy gives you a checklist you can compare the designs against: do the colors reflect the desired personality keywords, do the logo elements support the desired positioning, does the logo metaphor represent the mission, vision, or offering, and do the fonts communicate and support the brand personality.

3. Good foundation will save money in the process

When you hire a consultant or a freelance designer, you need to be able to communicate clearly what it that you’re expecting from them. The more open you leave the scope of work because you don’t have any brand strategy thought out before hand, the more expensive the project will be simply because the person you hire will have to use more time to figuring out what would be the right solution for your business. 

Or they don’t use the time to figure out the right solution and instead you hate the outcome and end up hiring someone else or having the same person rework everything. And again you pay more. Knowing exactly what you’d like your visual identity to reflect and what tone of voice your copy should be makes working with consultants / designers / copywriters / etc. much easier, quicker, and cheaper.

To combat the project nightmare that comes from getting less than ideal outcome repeatedly, I suggest you draft a thorough creative brief. It’s a document that outlines some pieces in your brand strategy and project expectations and deliverables. To learn more about creative brief documentation read my blog post about the topic.

4. You need to commit to consistency

Consistent branding is critical for a successful business. When you see a businesses whose branding is all over the place, and they never use same colors twice, you know they’re having difficult time committing to their brand identity system. To me, this is a clear sign of not knowing your ideal customer well enough and not having defined the key parts of brand strategy. 

Think of it this way: if you knew exactly what kind of branding and visual identity would appeal to paying customers (your ideal customer), wouldn’t you repeatedly and consistently use it? If you knew what attracts more customers to you, wouldn’t you keep doing it? When businesses don’t know what appeals to their ideal customer, when they don’t have a clear vision of their positioning in the marketplace, they end up changing the visual identity and design elements constantly with the hopes of finding something that works.

It’s also critical to remember that while we ourselves may be bored with our branding, our colors and fonts, our customers are not. We look at our marketing and communications every day, multiple times a day evaluating and rebuilding. But our customers see just a glimpse here and there. It takes the customer on average 7 interactions with your business before they make the buying decision. If each interaction looks, feels, and sounds different, they fail to reinforce the core message and the customer is quite likely to bee confused rather than wow’ed.

And while I’d like to tell you that you only have to do this branding thing once, and then you’re done for the rest of the lifecycle of your business, I can’t. Because it doesn’t work that way.Your business has different lifecycles: infancy, adolescence, maturity, and retirement. Depending on how your business grows, each of these stages may have specific branding needs. 

While your business moves from adolescence to maturity, you may start to scale up. In that case, your offering may change, your positioning may change, and you may want to adjust the definition of your ideal customer — or any other part of your brand strategy for that matter. So, learning branding skills early on will benefit you and your business through all of its life cycles. 

5. Know yourself, know your business

While foundational key ingredients of a brand are nearly always the same, there are many point of views and approaches to the branding process. I advocate for so called human-centered branding. It means we put a human — or in fact two humans —  in the center of the branding process. The two humans I’m talking about here are: you and your ideal customer.

The process I use is specifically well-suited for solopreneur service providers, folks making things (makers and “craftpreneurs”), and anyone who wants to build a personal brand. That’s because my process starts by introspection. We take a good look at who are you, what motivates you to be in business, and why do get up every morning to serve others. From there we build towards your ideal customer, who they are, and how we can build a bridge between these two people. 

The benefit of this type of process is that when you really know your motivation, when you deeply understand why you’re in the business, you can start infusing that into your brand and business strategy. It doesn’t only create an authentic branding, it also produces more satisfying business owners.

Another added benefit of approaching your branding this way is that it’s easier to commit to something that was born from you. If you stay genuine throughout the process, the result will be true to your mission and vision. And you can’t but nod in agreement every time you see your branding. 

And when we define our branding through who we are, what our passion is, what our mission is, and what is the change we want to see in the world, suddenly our marketing is not “sales-y.” Even when we’re selling, we’re not “sales-y.” This is because we are speaking from the heart. And we’re reaching people who need what we’re offering, rather than desperately turning to anyone in hopes to make a sale.


So, learn some branding. Regardless of whether you’re going to hire someone else to build your business identity. It will pay back the time you used and the money you may have invested in it. With words of Rick Mulready from the podcast Art of Paid Traffic “At least make yourself dangerous — meaning have a basic understanding before you go and hire out.”


If you feel like you might be ready to take a stab your brand strategy, download my easy-to-follow 7 step brand strategy framework and start building your brand today.


P.S. If you haven’t already done so, come check out our 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.

Where and How to start branding?

Where and How to start branding?

“Where and how to start building a brand?” This is — hands down — the most common question I get from small business owners and solopreneurs.

But while many feel overwhelmed, this one is actually easy to answer, because you start with YOU. Your goal is to attract paying customers — a fiercely loyal tribe, if you will —  to you. And you do that by creating an authentic brand voice that starts with you, your values, your passion, and WHY are you in your industry. If you follow me, you know I talk about this quite a bit.

When you can attract an audience that shares the same values and same passion as you do, you’ve struck gold. So, look no further than inside yourself.

Start with yourself

Starting your branding with yourself may feel intimidating. “This was supposed to be about my business, not about me!” Right? But the thing is, for small businesses and solopreneurs, especially if you are a service provider, that there is little difference between you and your business. Your customers want to relate to a person, not to a corporation.

This is the very reason big corporations and huge brands like Nike hire celebrities to be the face of the business, the brand ambassador. Because they’ve become so huge that there is no human touch, no single person to relate to in the business. They hire someone their customers can relate to and look up to.

So, unless you can hire Colin Kaepernick to be your brand ambassador, I suggest you get comfortable about the idea of being your own brand ambassador. And it may require you shift your mindset from “I’m nobody interesting” to “I’m unique and amazing and people are lucky to get to work with me.”

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The second step is about formulating all that awesomeness and unique point of views to something you can directly use in your marketing and communications: your mission and your vision. The goal is to consistently reflect throughout your marketing and brand communications to communicate why you are in your industry and why anyone should care.

“Why anyone should care” sounds harsh, right? But it actually is a super critical question you need to ask yourself whenever you’re creating any communications (marketing, branding, informational, transactional, etc.) for your business.

This question implies that a) you are putting your customer in the center of your communication and your business and b) you’re only offering them information they need and care about, no fluff. If you can always answer this question, you know you’re bringing value.

Who are you serving?

Of course, you cannot put your customer in the center unless you know who they are. I am a huge proponent of human centered branding. And the humans in the center of your branding should be: your customer and you. We already covered why you are in the center. But what about your customer?

You simply cannot develop effective branding — or a business for that matter — if you don’t know your customers. What do they need? What do they like? What are their biggest pain points? What are they attracted to? Who do they look up to? What are their values? Where are they from? And why would they buy your products and/or services?

Different people will have different tastes and different needs. You will never be able to serve and attract everyone. Nor should you try. The more closely you can tailor your offering, branding, and marketing to a specific ideal customer, the more successful it will be.

Because when your customers come across any communication from your business they need to be able to feel that you are speaking directly to them. That your offering was made for them. That your tastes are similar. That you know how they are and what they need.

When your customer comes across your brand, they should feel like they’re bumping into their best friend.

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Brand Personality

Next you need to define your brand personality. Brand personality are the characteristics that describe your brand and inspire your look and feel. Sometimes in the branding industry we tease out your brand personality by asking questions like “if your brand was a car what car would it be and why?” Or “ if your brand was an animal what animal would it be and why?” The idea is to get you start attaching describing attributes to the brand image you want to build. 

Now, brand archetypes are a super popular tool for DIY branding today. Do I recommend them? I actually don’t. I don’t use brand archetypes in branding. And none of the branding agencies or design studios I worked in in the past 15+ yeas ever used archetypes.

The thing is, you are not an archetype. Your business is not an archetype. And there are much better processes out there to tease out the look and feel and the brand voice of your of branding than using a predefined archetype. 

It’s true that you can find commonalities between brands and characteristics they share. Creating archetypes is a common process in writing scripts and stories. But when it comes to branding, and especially DIY branding, I don’t recommend it.

I would rather have you focus on finding what is unique (and important for your customer) about you and your offering than trying to figure out which of the predefined cookie cutters you should use.

And only when you have your mission, vision and brand personality, you can move to creating the visual identity for your branding. That is the logo, the colors, the fonts, and so forth. 

This is because your mission, vision, and brand personality should direct your visual identity. They should be reflected in the colors and fonts you choose and in the logo you (or your designer) create.

Ok, so the things you need to figure out in the following order are:

  1. Why are you in business?
  2. What do you offer and why should anyone care?
  3. What makes you unique?
  4. Who is your offering for?
  5. How do you describe it? What are the defining characteristics?
  6. What does it look like?
  7. What does it sound and feel like?

Ready start building your brand?

In my free 7 step brand strategy framework, I walk you through all the steps mentioned above. The free PDF workbook you get is full of guiding questions for your to start forming a holistic understanding of what makes your brand unique and how you can tackle the entire branding process step-by-step — without the overwhelm or investing big bucks.

Download today and get started!


P.S. If you haven’t already done so, come check out our 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.

How to Design Your Logo — a complete guide for creating a logo for your business

How to Design Your Logo — a complete guide for creating a logo for your business


To find this training as a three part video series, join my free Facebook group DIY Brand Design & Strategy for Soulpreneurs. You can also download my super easy DIY Logo Design Step-by-step guide here.


Designing a logo can feel like a time consuming, expensive, or stressful project. Most of us fear that the logo is something our customers judge our company by. So many of the most successful companies in the world have amazing and unique logos, making it slightly more daunting when you feel your designs are just not up to scratch.

But there’s no need to feel discouraged. Your logo is not your entire brand, so you can take some of the pressure off from your logo design project. That said, while an awesome logo alone won’t bring you new business, an unprofessional looking one might cost you some. That’s why you most definitely want to create a professional and designed looking logo for your business.

Designing a logo is not just about selecting a graphic and writing the name of your business next to it. There are some key steps that can make the design process much more easier — simply because it can help you clarify what look and feel you are going for. Keeping your logo aligned with all the other brand elements is important in order to create a business a consistent and memorable business identity.

Let’s dive right in.

Lock down your business name

Ideally, your business name should be descriptive enough to convey eitherthe service you provide, the outcome your customers will get, or the transformation your customers will achieve. At least an element of these should be demonstrated in the business name.

Sometimes, the business name can be a little abstract. Let’s take Apple as an example. It doesn’t exactly say what the company does, right? Apple’s name choice is widely believed to be a metaphor for knowledge. To make that connection, you need to know something about Isaac Newton and the Bible. In their very first logo, Apple had Isaac Newton leaning on an apple tree. According to the story, an apple fell on Newton’s head, and he discovered the concept of gravity. In the Bible, Adam and Eve take a bite from a fruit from the Tree of Knowledge. That fruit is often depicted in art as being an apple.

As long as there is a connection with the name candidate and your business idea, the service, the outcome of the service, or the transformation then it can still work as a name for your business.

Including your name (first & last) in the logo

Keep in mind, if you decide to include your own name as a part of the business name, it could limit your scalability later. For example, in 10 years, if you want to sell your business, it can be more challenging to do so — especially if the brand equity has accumulated around your personal brand. This being said, a business branding that is built around the founder and their persona can take off much easier. Why? People love to know the face behind a company, and it can create an instant know, like, and trust factor.

Brand personality

Having yourbrand personality, positioning, and audience defined makes it easier to determine the look and feel of the logo. Let’s break this up into steps:

Personality

These are the characteristics you describe your brand with. Think happy and energetic versus calm and mindful.

Positioning

How do you want your brand to be positioned in the marketplace. Is your brand a luxury type of brand with a sleek and high end finish? Or perhaps it is more of an everyday brand? The answers to these questions will ultimately affect the look and feel.

Audience

Your ideal audience will have a significant impact on the general style of anything you’ll create for your brand. What attracts a 25 year old woman who’s interested in fashion will necessarily appeal to male executives over 50. Have your audience defined early on.

These three elements will have an impact on what kind of typeface and colors you use in your logo. If you are going to use an icon, graphic or illustration, the personality, positioning, and audience will influence that, as well.

Let’s go back to the Apple logo again. The style of the graphic they use is clean and simple. Imagine they used an apple that was drawn with watercolors. Would that convey a different look and feel? Of course.

To have a logo symbol? Or not to have?

Now you need to decide whether you want to use an icon, graphic, or illustration in your logo. This decision will affect the rest of the process.

If you are starting out, you don’t necessarily need to use a graphic element — also called a logomark. Many people think they need one, but actually many successful logos out there don’t have a logomarks. For example, Marie Forleo has an amazing business, but doesn’t have a graphic in her logo — and never had.

Logomarks can make a nice visual element to the brand. If done right, it communicates immediately what your brand personality is like, and can highlight what your services are, too. However, adding a logomark (a graphic, an icon, or an illustration) adds to the challenge quite ab bit. The next two parts of this logo design post will focus on creating a logo with and without a logomark. So, whatever you’ll choose, you’ll have guidance.


To find this training on a three part video series, join my free Facebook group DIY Brand Design & Strategy for Soulpreneurs. You can also download my super easy DIY Logo Design Step-by-step guide here.


Designing A Text Only Logo

Let’s face it, the easier route to take when designing your logo is to choose NOT to have a graphic. Including a symbol or a graphic element (also known as a logomark) add a layer of challenge that designing a text only logo doesn’t have. 

Don’t get me wrong, you still need to put some thought into it to make it communicate with the brand personality. So, what are the important factors you need to remember in a designing a text only logo?

Style of the Font

Did you know there are different font styles? Yes! When designing your text based logo, you need to understand that different fonts are perceived differently. As a general rule, lightweight fonts that are thinner are considered more feminine. Italics would seem more feminine, though this isn’t always the case. Masculine fonts tend to be bold and more heavyweight. And it’s always dependent on how you use the typefaces, as well. 

In addition to different styles like bold or italic, there are also different font classifications. Let’s look at this a bit further.

Serif typeface

Serif fonts 

 A serif font is a font that has smaller strokes attached to larger strokes. The smaller strokes are referred to as serifs.

These fonts are considered more formal, mature, and traditional. And as you can imagine, there is a sense of class and heritage that comes with the more traditional style and outlook. Certain serif fonts are also considered more feminine than the sans-serif font types.

San-serif typeface

Sans-serif fonts

A sans-serif font does not include the small strokes. Common examples are Helvetica and Arial. These are fonts that appear to be more modern, clean, and straightforward. Though, this is highly dependent on the individual font in questions, as some sans-serif fonts can also have a retro vibe to them.  

Slab-serif typeface

Slab serif fonts

These are fonts that have block-like serifs: slabs. The slabs can be rounded or sharp. Slab serif fonts can look either friendly and easily approachable (rounded slab) or impactful and innovative (sharp slab). Examples of this font include Archer, Rockwell and Memphis. 

Script

Script fonts

These fonts tend to resemble handwritten and calligraphic lettering styles. They can appear formal and elegant, but can also have the versatility of appearing informal and playful. Examples include Alex brush and Allura. 

Modern typeface

Modern fonts

Modern fonts are a variation of serif or sans-serif fonts. The defining feature of modern fonts is combining thin hairlines with thicker lines. The name “modern” is misleading as some of the fonts classified as modern are a couple hundred years old.

Examples of decorative fonts

Decorative fonts

“Decorative” is a catch-all name describing all fonts that have more decorative — even illustrative qualities. These fonts are often playful and fun-looking. At first, they may seem like a fun idea for a logo. But I’d advise you to consider the use of these fonts carefully as their legibility is often compromised in smaller sizes. And what today looks fun, tomorrow might just look goofy. In other words, they don’t necessarily stand time too well.

Combining fonts

You don’t need to limit yourself to one single font. You can combine two fonts to create the appearance you are after. Be mindful, however, how the two typefaces pair together. There are some resources available that will help you choose a pairing that has already been tested together. Simply search Pinterest with “font pairing” and you’ll get lot’s of results! This saves you the time and effort of finding a pair that works for you.

Pinterest search with “font pairing” brings lots of results for inspiration.

When combining fonts there are two good reminders: 1. Not every font will look good together and 2. Your logo needs to match you brand personality. And the font you choose has a big impact on this. 

Where to find typefaces?

My favorite resources for finding typefaces include:

DaFont is also an online resource for free fonts. There are some good fonts available there,  but there are many unprofessional looking fonts, as well. Google fonts are better vetted and have a good variety of suitable options to choose from. 

Visual ideas for your logo

So, you have chosen your fonts and decided to go with a text based logo. What different visual ideas are there to include in your logotype?

  • Script font mimicking your signature  — if you want to use your actual signature in our logo, you will need to fin a way to convert your script into a vector shape. 
  • Monogram — this combines one or more letters in a larger logo element. It can be very simple yet powerful in creating visual interest. One letter could be highlighted in a different color. 
  • Using simple shapes — combining simple graphic shapes like lines or rules, squares, rectangles or circles can be used around your logo or part of it. This can put emphasis on certain aspects of the logo.

Now, its important to highlight that you’re probably going to have to explore and create multiple versions before you find something you like. Don’t be discouraged as ultimately you want the best logo that speaks to your audience. 

Designing a logo with a symbol

This type of logo can feel slightly overwhelming to DIY, because you need to think about a font and an image. And a logo with a symbol is more work than a text only logo. However, with the process outlined here, you will find it is condensed down into bitesize steps. 

Selecting an icon or symbol

The most important thing with this type of logo is that the icon or symbol you choose represents your brand and the offering you have accurately. You need to define the right metaphor in the beginning of this process. Selecting the right metaphor for the icon or graphic in your logo is maybe the most important step.

What does that mean? A successful metaphor represents your offering or the transformation you bring to your customer. For example, a delivery service may use a delivery truck in their logo. Sometimes the metaphor can also refer directly to your business name. Think about the Puma logo, what does it have on it? A puma. 

Your metaphor could be more abstract that these. For example, the Nike swoosh doesn’t directly depict the product of service they deliver. A logo symbol can be literal, but it doesn’t have to be. Though, there must always be a connection to your business — whether it be the name, offering, transformation, or even the mission.

Finding the right metaphor 

Struggling with finding a metaphor? Try this mind mapping exercise to help you come up with the right metaphor for the logo:

  • Come up with 2-3 keywords that describe your brand’s mission, offering (your product/service), or the transformation you bring to your customers. Some things to keep in mind
  • If you are focusing on your mission, you need to think about what change your business is creating in the world or people’s lives. You can literally think of this as “I’m on a mission to….”
  • When thinking about your offering, you are going to have to think about your service and product. What value does it bring people? What does it allow them to do that they could not do before?
  • Choose 2-3 keywords that describe your brand personality. Your brand personality is the characteristics you’d describe your brand with. For example, energetic, joyful, creative. In total, you will have anywhere between 4-6 words that will describe your brand offering or mission, as well as your brand personality. 
  • Next, take a large plain paper and write the name of your business in the middle. Draw out 4-6 branches, representing your keywords.  Write down whatever comes to mind about each of the branches. Let your creativity run free for 20-30 minutes, and write down anything that comes to mind: items, animals, objects, adjectives. 

After completing the steps above, take a break from the work and come back to it the next day. Can you come up with any more ideas? If you are not in a hurry to create your logo, come back to it regularly for a week. The more time you spend on it, the more ideas you are likely to come up with.

Finding the icon or symbol

Now with your metaphor selected, you can search for different stock services for your icons. I personally like to use The Noun Project, but there are others. Finding the right icon doesn’t have to be pricy, but there may be some investment. 

If you want a custom symbol, you can draw one yourself if you know how to use Adobe illustrator or any other vector graphics software. You could also hire a designed to draw this icon for you. You could even bring a pencil sketch of your own design to a freelance designer, and they could work on it from there.

Hiring a junior talent could help you do this on a budget, but you probably will want to give them the metaphor for your logo symbol, any sketches you’ve drawn, and the brand personality keywords you developed. Remember to give the designer instructions on the colors you want them to use to stay in line with your brand.

Once you have your logomark, either from the stock icon service or from a designed, you need to combine it with your business name. Of course, if you hired a designer they could do this for you, too. 


To find this training on a three part video series, join my free Facebook group DIY Brand Design & Strategy for Soulpreneurs. You can also download my super easy DIY Logo Design Step-by-step guide here.


Size and layout

As a general rule of thumb, you need a landscape and portrait version of your logo. Landscape is perfect for your website header, document headers and footers. The portrait version will look great on social media, business cards and postcards. By creating both types, you can use your logo on a variety of different projects.

Depending on the icon graphic you have, you might need different versions for various sizes. Some details may become illegible or look unclear in smaller sized documents. Experiment by reducing the size of your logo to 0.5 inches – is it still legible? If no, you may need to tweak something.

You will need a smaller sized logo on your website header, especially for mobile versions of the website. This is important as website traffic from mobile devices has increased exponentially in recent years. More than 50% of ALL web traffic in the world today comes from mobile devices.

And the number increases, if you use Facebook advertising to drive traffic to your website as most people use Facebook on the mobile app. Imagine all these people visiting your site and not being able to read what your logo says!

File types

Finally, let’s just quickly talk about the different file types there are and where you might need them. This is dependent on the use you have for the logo.

.eps file: This is a vector format that can be resized and scaled without compromising the quality of the logo file. You will need this format if your logo will be printed on a physical object like books, t-shirts, or business cards.

PNG file: This type of file allows for your image to have a transparent background. If you are a digital business with a website or social media presence and most or all of your communications and products are digital, you can probably get away with just having your logo as a PNG file.

JPG file: In some web formats or emails, this file size could be preferred as it is smaller compared to the PNG. JPG files are, however, not transparent like PNG or EPS.

The last thing I just want to highlight to you is that if you decide to work with a designer at any point of the logo design process, make sure you get them to transfer the copyright over to you. This is important to ensure you have the copyright to use your logo whichever way you please. And can make any amount of changes and updates to it in future.

Stop procrastinating with your logo design by getting started with these three steps. Each one is pivotal in helping you to create a logo you are happy with and supports your brand message. It’s ok if each step takes a bit of time. By taking time, care and attention in each step you are much more likely to come up with a brand look and feel that you can see going the long haul.

And remember: your logo is not your brand. It’s simply a part of the story. Experiment and see what you come up with!


To find this training on a three part video series, join my free Facebook group DIY Brand Design & Strategy for Soulpreneurs. You can also download my super easy DIY Logo Design Step-by-step guide here.


If you haven’t already done so, come check out our 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.

Building a brand that converts in 7 steps

Building a brand that converts in 7 steps

Your brand strategy is a key element when it comes to building a brand that attracts raving fans. It outlines things like:

  • What is the valuable offering you make to your customers?
  • What makes you unique?
  • What are the core values your brand reflects?
  • What does your brand look and feel like?
  • What kind of tone of voice does your brand use?

If you’re in the process of building a brand, download my easy-to-follow 7 step brand strategy framework and start building your brand strategy today.

There are a couple of very fundamental key ingredients when it comes to your brand strategy. One of these is you and the other is your customer. As a solopreneur service provider, your point of view, your process, and your values form a big part of your brand foundation. 

And your customer, of course, should be in the heart of your brand. Any communication, any marketing from your brand that your customer might come across with should give them an immediate “this is meant for me” feeling. So, in every turn, you should be asking: “does this resonate with my customer?” 

Defining the building blocks of your brand

What are these amazingly attractive brands made of then? What makes a brand so delicious that people don’t only buy from them, they become advocates?

Most people will associate a brand with its visual look and feel — or its logo. A marketer will tell you your brand is in the stories your business tells through marketing. And they’re not wrong. But a successful brand is much more than that.

In fact, the visual branding is just a representation of your brand personality and positioning. And the stories reflect what your brand stands for. But where does it all come from? The answerI already gave away in the beginning: it’s a magical combination of you, your offering, and your ideal customer. And throw a meaningful brand strategy framework into that mix, and you have yourself a recipe for success.

As the founder of your business, you actually have all the information you need to start building your winning brand strategy. You’re set to start working on it right now because your business was born from your heart and is a reflection of your vision and values. Let me walk you through some of the key concepts of my 7 step brand strategy framework..

Your “Why”

Every entrepreneur has a “why” — a reason they’re doing what they’re doing. Sometimes the reason is grand and inspirational. But it can as easily be down to earth and relatable. Only you will know what your “why” is. 

This is a core element in building a purposeful brand. Yes, you can build a brand without defining your “why.” But in order to have a truly authentic brand voice and reach the customers that will turn into your advocates, you need to find and surface your passion.

Your “why” is effective in creating you an attractive brand, because deep inside we all have a “why.” Each and everyone in your target audience will have something they are passionate about and inspired by. And when you find a group of people whose “why” is aligned with your “why,” you’ve found a group of fiercely loyal customers.

In my 7 step brand strategy framework, I help solopreneurs to find out why they are in business. I’ve put together a list of questions that will help you figure this out, if it’s not immediately clear.

Your Ideal Customer

Your ideal customer is in a key role in many aspects when it comes to your business. Your branding is no exception. Think of it this way: in order to know how you want to talk, you need to know who you are talking to.

When you’re defining your target audience, the key things to think about in addition to demographics are their behaviour, attitudes, and values. These will guide you to create  brand assets and content that attracts and interests your audience. Remember: while your brand should reflect your “why,” it should be communicating to your audience, not to you.

If you want to take your customer definition to the next level, you can find and define your niche audience. Your niche audience is a selective group of people who have very specific wants, needs and interests. It’s a super valuable to have as  niche audience is easier to target. They’re more engaged and more responsive to your messaging and offering. If you are successful in defining a niche audience and communicating with them, they might even feel as though you’re reading their minds. And you’re able to earn their trust because you seem to understand their wants, needs, and struggles.

If you want to find out what in your business attracts a niche audience, and who they might be, read more here and download my quick guide on defining your niche audience.

Brand Personality

Your brand’s personality are the characteristics you describe your brand with. It’s what starts to define the look and feel of your brand. Brand personality is sometimes described as if your brand was an actual person. For example, “easily approachable” or “friendly.”

It’s easy to come up with two or three adjectives to describe your brand personality. But just like with your target audience: the better you know your brand, the easier it is to communicate. And any communication from your business is a reflection of your brand — even the stuff you didn’t mean as brand related. 

Other questions for exploring your brand personality are:

  • If your brand was an animal, what animal would it be and why?
  • If your brand was a car, what kind of car would it be and why?
  • If your brand was a color, what color would it be and why?

If you really want to dive deep into your brand’s personality, you could build a brand personality grid. This is a nine square grid where each square has an image in it. In the center, you’ll place an image of a person. That will be your brand if it were a human being. It is not your ideal customer. It is your brand as a person.

And in the eight squares that circle your brand as a person, you’ll start collecting imagery that describes the life of this person. For example, if this person lived in a house, what would the house be like (find that house and put in one of the squares).

Defining your brand personality will also help you define the tone of voice your brand uses in its communications. Think of the brand personality grid and the personification of your brand: how would this person talk? What kind of things would they talk about? Where would they publish their message?

If you’re in the process of building a brand, download my easy-to-follow 7 step brand strategy framework and start building your brand strategy today.

Unique Point of View

What makes your brand different? This might be immediately clear for you. Maybe your business fills a void and provides something that didn’t exist before. That would automatically give you a unique point of view.

Or maybe you are like most of the entrepreneurs out there: offering a product or service that competes with other similar products and services. In this super common situation, developing a unique point of view helps a lot.

Your unique point of view has to come from a place of authenticity. You shouldn’t try to be different just for the sake of being different. Don’t come up with artificial qualities to add to your brand for the sake of being unique. You will only end up looking disingenuous and fake.

“What if I have nothing unique” you might panic. Calm down my friend. Everyone has something that makes them unique. There is no other business owner exactly like you. You and your values — and your “why” — are what makes your brand unique.

If you feel like you could use a little help in figuring out what truly makes you and your offering unique, download my 7 step brand strategy framework. It has guiding questions for figuring out what makes you unique.

Customer Perception

Jeff Bezos, the founder of Amazon, said it best: “Your brand is what other people say about you when you’re not in the room.” Your company’s brand is it’s reputation. And people definitely talk behind you back. You should treat your brand reputation as you treat your own: don’t do or say anything you wouldn’t want people to talk about in public. The word will always get out.  

This is painfully true when it comes to your customer experience. How do you treat your customers? Do you answer their emails quickly? Do return their direct messages or phone calls? When you do, how do you talk to them? Are you helpful, respectful, and friendly? One offhanded comment can turn away a customer.

You may remember the customer support scandals Comcast went through in 2014 when some of their customers recorded phone calls with Comcast support agent. Needless to say, these phone calls didn’t provide a good customer experience, and resulted in a viral storm for Comcast.

So, what can you do? Well for one, you should try and study your audience’s perception of your brand. How do your customers see your business? If there’s room for improvement, listen to your audience. What are they telling you to change?

You can’t fix serious issues in customer experience just by changing your brand. You need to fix the issues first. But you need to be aware that each and every customer interaction with your business will affect your brand — either positively or negatively.

Value Proposition

What is the value your brand offers? And how is it better than other brands in the marketplace? The value proposition can be both emotional and rational. Here we again list things that differentiate your brand from other brands. But unlike your unique point of view (which is the lens you reflect all your brand communication through) value proposition should list actual tangible benefits — either rational or emotional.

When you put together your value proposition, you should be genuine in what you promise. If you’ve defined your “why” and your unique point of view, know your audience, and studied the customer perception, putting together your value proposition should not be difficult.

As you’re drafting the brand benefits, make sure they are relevant to your audience, compelling, and believable. Don’t list more than a couple benefits as people typically have difficult time associating more than one or two benefits per brand.

If you’re in the process of building a brand, download my easy-to-follow 7 step brand strategy framework and start building your brand strategy today.

Brand Positioning

How does your brand compare to the competition? What is your unique position in the marketplace? To define this you will need to know who your biggest competitors are and how they are positioned in the marketplace. 

Comparison table
If you have a complex product or service with lots of features and benefits, I like to build a comparison table to identify the table stakes and opportunity gaps. In the table, each column is an existing and desired benefit or feature and each row is your competitor. And of course, include your business to the matrix. Add a checkmark etc. to identify the benefits/features your competitors (and yourself) have. The columns (benefit/feature) that are full of checkmarks are your table stakes. The columns that have only one or two checkmarks (or are empty) are your opportunity gaps to differentiate and position yourself in the marketplace. 

Competitor matrix
Quicker and easier way to define your position in the marketplace is to build a simple four square competitor matrix. Draw x and y axes (like a big plus sign). Define qualities you’re measuring on the axes. For example, high touch vs low touch and ordinary vs luxury. Position all your competitors in the matrix based on their brand and products/services. Empty (or emptier) squares become 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 square in your matrix, you will need to have more unique differentiators to stand out. In the competitor matrix exercise, it is critically important that you choose the right qualities for the comparison. Otherwise you might end up with unattractive or inefficient positioning.

If you’re in the process of building a brand, download my easy-to-follow 7 step brand strategy framework and start building your brand strategy today.

Conclusion

Having these key pieces of your brand strategy well-defined makes the rest of your branding — and the brand management — much easier, smoother, and way more successful. Having all the things above defined will give a firm ground for the other brand building activities. Especially when it comes to building your visual identity.

Have you ever hired a designer to work on your visual brand and been disappointed with the results because it looks nothing like you wanted? Or does not feel like your brand? Brand designers should work based on the things defined above. If your brand personality is not defined, or if the value your brand offers isn’t clear, the visual identity won’t meet your expectations. And will lack a cohesive, well-thought-out brand look and feel.

Ready to start the design work?

If you’ve got all the above things in order, and you’re ready to start building your visual identity, check out my FREE super simple DIY logo guide and share your work on Daily Creative Facebook page.

If you feel like you could still use some help with your brand strategy, download my easy-to-follow 7 step brand strategy framework and start building your brand strategy today.


P.S. If you haven’t already done so, come check out our 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.

How to find your niche audience?

How to find your niche audience?

As they say, riches are in the niches. Practically speaking, this means that when you have a clearly defined niche audience (also known as you ideal customer avatar), you can tailor and focus your branding, marketing, and messaging to attract that specific audience. The efficiency of your communication will increase multi-fold.

Download my quick guide on defining what in your business attracts a niche audience, and who might they be.

In the beginning of our business journey, we feel compelled to leave our target audience definition very broad. This is because we either think that it’s better not to be too specific as that might scare some potential customers off. Or we genuinely believe our services or products can benefit most everyone.

However, for creating successful branding, we need to define our target audience — also known as ideal customer avatar. This simply because different people are drawn to different things. If you want to attract 50+ male executives as your customers, your brand can’t look like it’s the latest makeup fad for high school girls.

When we add marketing and selling our services to the equation, we need to take even deeper dive into our target audience. We need a niche audience. This is what Issuu Blog writes about the concept of niche audience:

This specific audience is a selective group of people who have specific wants, needs and interests. Small but mighty, niche audiences hold great value for brands and their success. Niche audiences are so valuable because they are often more engaged, active and responsive users. As well, due to their specific likes/dislikes this makes it very easy for marketers to target content to them, instead of worrying about a large crowd with varying interests.

By Issuu | October 25, 2018

So, niche audience is easier to target. They’re more engaged and more responsive to your messaging and offering. If you are successful in defining a niche audience and communicating with them, they might even feel as though you’re reading their minds. And you’re able to earn their trust because you seem to understand their wants, needs, and struggles.

Finding a niche audience gets easier the longer you’ve been running your business. This is because you will learn more about your customers, hear more about their needs and pain points, and gain insights on how to serve certain audience groups better.

But how do you define your niche audience in the very beginning, maybe even before you’ve made your first sale? What do you have in your business that might attract a niche audience?

Download my quick guide on defining what in your business attracts a niche audience, and who might they be.

There’s a lot that goes into defining the niche audience. You will have the basic demographics ranging from age and gender to cultural background and other generic qualifiers. These alone don’t create a niche audience.

You will also want to define the interests and hobbies, family relations, professional background, level of education, and other relevant things about your niche audience.

But even if you define all the above, you don’t yet have a good starting point for your niche audience. Because the most important things to define are:

  • What they struggle with (pain points)
  • What they desire (wants)
  • What they’re trying to achieve (needs)

And then your service or product should solve for those.

Since you have a business — or you’re in the process of building one — you’ll already have at least a some idea of what kind of problems your offering will solve. So, let’s start from there.

Traditionally thinking, there’s a customer problem and your product or service is the solution. But we want to stretch that further. There’s a famous metaphor in the marketing and branding world about selling drills. It goes something like this: people who are buying drills don’t actually want the drill, they want a hole in their wall. And according to this conventional wisdom, we should not be selling our customers the drill, we should be selling them the hole.

This makes sense 100% to a degree. But I would take it further. The person does not want the hole either. What they want is a painting on the wall, or a shelf mounted, or anything else why they’d be drilling that hole. If they could get all of it done without making a hole, they probably would.

So, you probably shouldn’t be selling the drill. But you shouldn’t be selling the hole alone either. What you need to add to the equation is the end game: the transformation.

When you’re defining a niche audience, a good place to start is to look into your offering (product or a service), the solution it creates, and the transformation your customer goes through. And try to define each of those carefully by thinking: what in your business is so special about those that they would attract the attention and loyalty of a selective group.

And then you add the implied customer qualities of each of those layers (offering, solution, transformation) into one special group, which will become the starting point for your niche audience. Let me take my drill example further to explain a bit more.



Step 1: Niche with your offering

YOUR OFFERING: A drill manufacturer has a drill that has a super special motor function that is used to drill a very specific kind of wall material
NICHE FACTOR: old homes from the 1930’s have this special wall material

Step 2: Niche with your solution

YOUR SOLUTION: You can make a neat hole with this drill on the special wall material, but handling the drill is challenging
NICHE FACTOR: Need lots of experience or special training in using this type of drill

Step 3: Niche with customer transformation

CUSTOMER TRANSFORMATION: To mount kitchen cabinets and remodel kitchen of an old 1930s home with the special wall material
NICHE FACTOR: Focusing on kitchen shelving over say paintings, etc.

Result:

NICHE AUDIENCE: Professional remodelers who specialize on houses from the 1930’s

As you may have noticed, some factors of the niching down come from the product and the problem it solves. But others come from the personal preference of the drill manufacturer — like focusing on kitchen shelving.

The drill may have special functionality that is perfect for the 1930s old wall materials, but the selection to focus on mounting kitchen shelving is subjective. Or it could be due to market research that indicates there’s more demand for kitchen remodeling in these houses, and therefore it makes sense to take that angle. In any case, you will need to look other factors than just your offering, solution, and transformation to get a successful niche audience. But this will give you a good starting point.

Download my quick guide on defining what in your business attracts a niche audience, and who might they be.


P.S. If you haven’t already done so, come check out our 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.

34 Tips for nurturing daily creativity

34 Tips for nurturing daily creativity

How many times have I heard someone without an art or design degree say: “I’m not creative, I couldn’t do x, y, z?” …probably countless of times.

It seems to be a common misconception that creativity is reserved for the so called “creative professionals” such as art directors, copywriters, designers, or fine artists.

After doing creative work daily for over 15 years, I can assure you that creativity is a process just like any other with the goal to get stuff done.

During my years as designer, I’ve had the privilege to work with some of the brightest and most creative minds in the user experience industry in San Francisco.

Nervously, I would check their backgrounds on LinkedIn and saw that they had been designers at Nasa, Adobe, and Apple; the Director of Product Design at Facebook; Lecturer at Stanford. Authors, founders, awardees — you name it, they accomplished it.

While nervous, I was also excited, because working with these amazing people I would get to witness their magic. Surely, they had some special creativity — a secret if you will — that made them such good creatives. And if I was lucky, some of it would rub on me.

Each of these design superstars indeed had their own special talent. One was an inspiring leader, another amazing visionary. But when it came to creativity, there were no shortcuts to be found: it was mostly pure hard work and finding inspiration when it was lost.

There was no cutting corners, just getting your hands dirty and getting stuff done.

Time after time, I found that success was a result of a proven process, working hard, and an ability to eloquently justify the design decisions to designers and non-designers alike.

First, I was underwhelmed and slightly disappointed because I had been expecting something magical. And when I realized it wasn’t “magic,” when I saw it was something that can be achieved by working towards it, I felt flustered.

Soon, however, I started to realize that this was a good thing. No, it was a great thing. Because it meant that I can work towards becoming more creative in my process, as well. And I can help others get there, too.

Understanding that creativity is not some special innate quality only reserved for a small design elite has helped me improve my own design process. And it has given me more confidence that anyone can find creativity in their daily work.

And even on days when I don’t feel particularly great about my design work, I won’t get discouraged, because I’ve seen over and over again that creative results will emerge from the process.

Now, when I hear people make the “I’m not creative” comment I tell them “Sure you are, everyone is, you just need to work at it.” Below you can find a list of things I find helpful when I need to find that creative spark.

How to move forward when you don’t feel creative:

Don’t wait for an inspiration. Get to work, start your process. While a part of your process might be finding lost inspiration, don’t let it drag for too long.

Find and look at beautiful and professional designs. When you see something great, try and analyze why it works, why is it great. The idea is not to steal other people’s work, but to learn from it and get ideas.

Get out all ideas, even the bad ones. It’s good to get it on paper and out of your system. Sketch out all iterations. If it’s in your head, get it out on paper. Others can’t see inside your head.

Don’t be afraid of bad or silly ideas. They might be bad or silly just in your mind. Someone else might think they’re actually great ideas.

Talk with other people, share your ideas and your work. Ask for feedback and listen. It is ok to show and discuss unfinished work and ideas. Your goal is to produce good work — and others can help.

Just get to work. Don’t wait or postpone, get something out on paper right now.

34 Tips for nurturing daily creativity:

  1. Take a walk, step outside
  2. Meditate
  3. Get enough sleep
  4. Draw when you take notes
  5. Doodle while you listen
  6. Draw for fun
  7. Carry a small notebook and be ready to write down any ideas
  8. Keep a note book on your nightstand
  9. Dictate ideas to your phone
  10. Exercise regularly
  11. Clean your house
  12. Clean your desk
  13. Read or browse art books
  14. Read a design magazine
  15. Start a Pinterest board called “inspiration” and pin inspiring images
  16. Brainstorm ideas using post it notes
  17. Draw mind maps that explain your ideas
  18. Ask yourself “in a world without limitations, how would this problem be solved”
  19. Wear something unexpected or let your child pick your clothes
  20. Or instead wear the same thing every day for a week
  21. Learn new art form or craft
  22. Paint with finger paints
  23. Sculpt with play dough
  24. Do an active listening exercise with 2 friends where you tell them your challenge (5 min) and then they discuss with each other for 15 minutes about potential solutions and then present their best ideas (10 min) for you
  25. Create a visual mood board for your idea or project
  26. Visit a museum
  27. Sketch a storyboard to visualize your idea
  28. Play in the sandbox
  29. Spend time with animals
  30. Try to explain your creative challenge to a 5 year old
  31. Ask yourself “in a world where I had unlimited confidence, how would I solve this problem”
  32. Take a nap
  33. Disconnect from your phone and computer
  34. Create a matrix of solutions: 4×3 grid where each column represents a potential solution and each row a different way of doing it

If you haven’t already done so, come check out our 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.

Five things you need to decide before building your website

Five things you need to decide before building your website

So, you have a great business idea, but the thought of putting a website together seems overwhelming. Where in the world do you start when you want to build a professional looking and beautiful website?

A quick google search on ‘how to build a website’ comes up with a million results telling you to purchase a domain name, get some hosting, and you’re good to go. In reality, it’s not as easy as that. But this doesn’t mean you can’t put together an amazing website that will have your viewers turn into paying customers.

To help you get started with your website, I’ve listed five things you need to consider and decide before you jump to building the actual site.

1. Purpose

What is the website for? And what is the priority behind it? Are you creating a blog, shopfront, membership space, or a course platform? Now, you can have all of these aspects on your website, but you need to have one as the main focus of the website.

You need to be efficient with your time when running a business. While you can have a blog, course platform, and shopfront all on the same site, a clear focus will help you prioritize your time and efforts. It will also help guide you on the technical side of setting up your website. And be super clear with your marketing and communications.

Many solopreuneurs who are just starting out are often looking to do one of the following:

Provide business information

  • Demonstrate their products and services, making them available to customers
  • Produce an “About” page that highlights their background and a little more information about them.
  • A contact page making it easier for potential customers to reach out to them

Sharing content

  • Content could be in the form of blog posts, videos or podcasts. This is a great way to build authority in your niche and engage customers and followers.

Marketing communications and funnels

  • A website can be very helpful in marketing your products and services. This can be done through using banners or sales pages on the website.
  • Marketing funnels are essential for capturing client details to send out emails regularly. One way to do this is through opt in pages that can be found on your website.

Online store

  • A website can be used to host your online store selling products and services, by having these available to purchase on the website.

Other aspects to consider

  • Online courses and membership areas can be added to your website to further provide services and offers to your users. These can be hosted on your website directly but are slightly more technical.

When starting out, it can be easy to become overwhelmed with how many different areas you can have on your website. Focusing on one thing will help you produce a better and more informative website that looks amazing — and is easy to navigate.

That being said, think about whether you need a website in the beginning at all. Perhaps your business model only requires a landing page for opt ins and a facebook group or social media page to build a community. This can be a great way to capture clients or customers without splashing out on developing a website.

2. Content strategy

The next thing to consider is what type of content you will be producing, and where it will go.

Will the main type of content be blog posts, podcasts or videos? Will these be produced on a weekly or bi-weekly basis? The key to a successful website that converts readers into paying, loyal customers is consistent content.

Again, deciding the type of content is important in helping you decide on the style of your website and helping you to determine which technical strategy to go with.

Perhaps your aim is to create a number of landing pages for opt ins connected to other content you are producing on social media. This could be created used platforms that are quick and easy to customize, such as Leadpages.

Note: Leadpages is a paid service. There are a variety of WordPress themes that enable you to make landing pages quickly.

Consider where you will place this content on your website. Often, the homepage can be used as the page where new content is posted to. However, there is also the option of having a complete separate area such as a “blog” or “podcast”. If this is the case, what might you have on the homepage? This could be a landing page with an opt-in freebie or perhaps an overview of what to expect on the website and from your services.

At this point, it’s also a good idea to think about your navigation. To make finding content easy on your site, the main navigation links should be descriptive and meaningful enough for the users to understand where they are navigating to.

Also, be careful not to create too many top level links on the navigation. While you might think that showing as much as possible is the easiest way for the user to find things, actually the opposite is true. With too many options to choose from, users can get confused and abandon your site.

Decision fatigue is a real thing.

3. Platform and technology

Now, we are moving into territory that can seem daunting, but it can be broken down into bitesize chunks. Before you’re building your website, you need to choose the technical platform you’ll be building your website on.  The main focus of the website and the content strategy discussed above will really help you make this decision.

To break it down, here are some platforms that you could use depending on what you’re goals are and what types of content you’re planning to publish:

WordPress

WordPress is an online software that is used by millions of websites. It allows you to develop your website on the back end, to upload content and develop multiple pages for the various areas you want to cover.

It can be used to make business websites to blogs to ecommerce to membership sites. There are two services available: wordpress.com and wordpress.org. The former is a free service that is used on your own web host to create a website in your preferred design while the latter is a paid for service, hosted on the WordPress platform with limited flexibility in design.

Squarespace

Squarespace is maybe the most intuitive website builder there is. The templates are beautiful and easy to use. At the same time, it’s not super easy to customize the code and there’s less integrations and plug-ins available then there are for WordPress.

Squarespace offers online shop, portfolio, basic web pages, and blogging templates, among others. It’s great for beginners because it’s so easy and quick to get started. However, it’s not the most affordable option there. And the price adds up quickly if you need to add more advanced e-store and business capabilities.

Wix

Wix is another website builder that uses modern and flexible designs. This is a great starting place, if you want to house simple content. Unlike WordPress, Wix does not allow building large and complex sites.

Shopify

Shopify is a web application that is designed to online shop owners to build and launch their own online stores. There are a range of templates offered that can be customized to meet your requirements. Shopify targets those who have no or limited web development skills.

Kajabi

Kajabi is a platform that offers a number of different services. Not only can you use it to host your website, it can be home to all your lead pages, list building and courses. This is, however, reflected in the pricing Kajabi has to offer.

Leadpages

Leadpages is often thought of as a wordpress plugin however the platform is not restricted to using just on wordpress. If your aim is to capture email addresses from your social media followers, simply having a lead page may suffice.

4. URL & Hosting

You may have come across the terms “Domain name” and “Web hosting”. The domain name is the name of your URL. For example, www.google.com would be the domain name. Having a domain name alone does not create a space on the world wide web for your website. Web hosting is needed to house all of the files that make up your website.

The domain name is the address of your house, and the hosting would be the actual house the address points to. 

All websites require web hosting. Some companies will host your website and provide a domain name, like shopify, however others may require you to purchase two separate services.

Common places to purchase domain names and hosting include GoDaddy and Bluehost.

5. Look and feel

Now comes the best part of creating the website: the design. Developing a brand for your business is important. While branding is more than just the look and feel of your business, ensuring you have a color palette and selected fonts to maintain a consistent look is important.

Other things to consider include a logo that represents your brand and photography that depicts your services, products, and of course yourself.

That being said, remember your branding can be adapted and evolved as you grow and develop your business. Nothing is set in stone. When you’re starting out, it is better to start somewhere than have no website.  To get started establish some rules about colors and fonts you will be using:

  • Are you using light, regular, bold, extra bold or italic font?
  • Will your headings have a different font to the main text?
  • What 2-3 colors will you use in addition to black, white and gray?

The most important thing is to have something set in place so you can start developing a community and relationship with your customers. Whichever path you take, like mentioned above, is not set in stone and you can always change your style or the technical methods you choose.


If you haven’t already done so, come check out our 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.