A thoughtful brand puts your own personal stamp on all the little touches your clients receive along the way. Whether it’s your business card, a thank you note, even your response to an inquiry email with your attached PDF – these are all early seeds planted to quietly communicate to your client what your business is all about. To develop a brand identity also forces you to really think about your business goals and the kind of work you want to produce. It’s a lot like spring cleaning – it clarifies and once completed, is a real time saver!
Where do you start? Here are a few things I think really work. This list is geared specifically to creative entrepreneurs based on my experiences working as a designer, though it may be applicable elsewhere too!
ONE – Get inspired – what visually represents your business?
Go to places you love, study people who do things you respect, ingest art + music, read books and lastly…look online for photos that really communicate something to your soul. Don’t JUST look online, get out in the real world. Create a journal and/or Pinterest board and collect the imagery and thoughts that really inspired you. Take as much time to do this as you need, you are in charge..nobody else. Narrow down your choices to a few strong images that really indicate where you are going with your business. Certain vibes, colors or thoughts should become pretty clear if you edit your collection down to only images that you truly adore.
MY BRAND MOOD BOARD
This (below) was my brand identity mood board. The best discovery for me during this time was that one of my own images was actually what most inspired me! It was exciting to see that I was growing and finally creating work I was proud of.
TWO- Hire a designer.
I know I know. You don’t like this part because designers cost MONEY. And you are thinking, “easy for you to say Jenni, you ARE a designer”. You are right, I designed my own brand identity because I’m trained to do so. But guess what? I hired a web developer because I don’t have those kind of skills. I saved for 2 years in preparation for this because I didn’t want to screw around with WordPress and Squarespace anymore. But that is another story.
Here is the thing: we ask our clients to trust us and invest in us for what we do. Therefore, we have to think about things this way when we need services. A good designer will listen to you, create a steady and enjoyable process for editing and getting things to look just how you were hoping they would. They also will guide you towards good design and sometimes that involves you letting go of ideas that just aren’t going to work. Many freelance designers will give discounts if your business interests them, or may offer payment plans. Designers that are in school still may even take on your work for nearly free for the sake of their portfolio. It’s okay to save a few years while you wait for your epic make over – Just remember: make sure you enjoy them as people and like their overall portfolio. Don’t just hire the cheapest person you can find!
THREE- apply your brand identity.
If you spent all the time and energy to develop a brand, don’t just upload the logo to your website and call it good. Use the fonts and colors on your business materials and web site if you can. When posting your images publicly, ask yourself if they represent where you are going with your business and the brand you just worked to develop. Have your designer develop your business materials for you (cards, PDF’s, catalogs, communication materials, packaging, etc) with your brand if you can’t do it yourself. These items don’t have to be elaborate, just consistent.
Is it okay to have client consultations in my home if the paint out front is chipping? Am I fashionable enough to be a fine art photographer? Will wedding clients with higher budgets still want to work with me if I drive a 1998 Honda Civic?
These are actual questions I’ve found swirling in my head at night while thinking about my business goals and my brand identity. Remember, you may need a brand but you don’t need to BE a brand. I see the trend of people turning their life into a brand and it worries me. You are a living breathing person…a human. You have this one life, and to fully experience it you have to be present. So I refuse to style every moment or worry too much about every little thing. Over the last two years I’ve slowly prepared my living room to be a more inviting place for consultations…and it’s finally nearly finished! But you bet I’ve met with clients in coffee shops or at my house praying they don’t need to use my bathroom because I can’t remember if it was clean or not. More than your brand and logo, your clients connect with YOU. So be you and let yourself be imperfect. Can’t afford a brand make-over right now? No problem! Do the best with what you have now and slowly save up. Is your work good? Are you kind? That’s all that matters – if you don’t care about being perfect your clients won’t either. So embrace that cluttered kitchen and that extra 25lbs. Do your best, work hard and be at peace.
There’s always time to have a brand identity – there’s not always time to truly live. Thanks so much for reading this, means a lot that you stopped by.
Brand Identity + Web Design: Jenni Kupelian
Web Development: Jim Krill