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 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.

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.


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.


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.