You have SO many things to do in your business don’t you? Believe me I know, I do too.
But is DIY’ing your brand one of them?
I believe that it’s great to work on some aspects of this on your own, but others… well it depends on you.
How creative are you? What sort of business do you have? Who are your customers?
There are several stages to branding, and so we’re going to take a look at this together… I’ve split everything down into three parts and yes I’m keeping this simple.
Before you start work on your brand you need to know what you stand for. Your brand is the associations (perceptions, experiences, emotions and memories) that others have of your business. When you’re there. When you’re not there. It’s the first time they hear of you from a contact, it’s the first time they see your banner across a crowded room, it’s the first time they meet you, the time they land on your website or discover you on Facebook or see something that you’ve done for someone else and ask “Who..? Where?” It’s that time when you’re asleep but they’ve discovered you at 2.35am in a magazine they’re reading in bed when they can’t sleep. Pushing the cat out of the way so they can see more.
So bearing all of this in mind – that you have ZERO control over when or what their first contact with your business will be.. it’s worth getting down to the nitty gritty and making sure that you really know what you’re all about and have that fixed safely in your mind – preferably written down somewhere.
Once you know the answers then you’ll find the rest so much easier.
You don’t know these yet, this isn’t the Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy, you get to find out the questions first…
What are the questions? Well there’s quite a few that I ask when I start a new project for a client and each one is totally worthwhile. Knowing the answers helps me to get a grip on the business and also understand my client better. The conversation itself helps me to know them more. I love this bit.
Can you do this yourself? Yes. But if you’re not going to do the rest yourself then you must share this information with the person who is so that they have a more in-depth understanding of your business and can do a better job as a result.
Do not skimp this bit. These are not yes or no questions, they require some serious thought. Sometimes it can be helpful to work through with somebody else so that they can help you tease out the answers. This is why I always go through this face to face (in person or virutally) to make sure that I get what the business is about and to help with working out those answers.
So what should you be asking yourself?
- Why did you start the business? Why do you keep going?
- What do you do?
- Who are your customers?
- What are your brand values and your brand personality?
- What are your future plans? (Look ahead as far as you dare and think BIG. You want your brand to keep working for you in the future when you have employees or a team, or a membership site, or a book, or when you’re an international speaker, or when you are running courses or working with corporate clients… whatever you’d like to be doing ULTIMATELY, you need to make sure your designer is aware of so that there’s room to grow in the brand.) As your business grows, you’ll need to make sure that you’re image is aligned with your clients, your vision and your values.
- Who are your competitors and how do you stand out from them?
- What are you really good at?
- What matters to you about the way you run your business?
- How do you want to make people feel?
- and then finally… think about the design around you that you like and don’t like (and why!) you can get the glue and scissors out for this bit 🙂
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So this is the next part and it’s the hardest bit.
Visual branding involves creating, drawing, thinking, scribbling and using design programs.
Don’t start on the computer. Even better, leave your phone somewhere else, go and sit away from screens and other people and see what you can come up with. Starting off with your logo design might be too much to start with, so if that’s the case you can hone down colours and fonts, you can look at patterns and illustrations and icons and think about what might work for your business and sketch out shapes and ideas. You need to think carefully about everything you discovered in part one. That stuffs important, don’t skip to this part and think you’ll be able to create something with legs. You won’t. You need to know the answers so you can create something lasting, effective, appropriate – something that will attract those perfect clients and make them want to know you more. Something that says “YES” to you and makes you smile, something that encompasses what you’re about.
The hardest part is definitely the logo. This forms the basis for your brand identity, get this nailed and there’s a likelihood you’ll have brand elements which come from it which you can use elsewhere. A logo does not have to include an image, so if that feels too scary, you can absolutely just go with a typeface. Many brands do – although that doesn’t mean it’s right for you!
You can source various components on different websites such as Creative Market or Canva.
And if that does the job for your business and you’re happy with it, then why not? Give it a LOT of thought though, take your time and if something isn’t *quite* right, don’t use it. Keep looking. Or you may need to ask someone else to create the thing(s) you want.
Should you DIY this part?
I think it depends. Here’s when I think you should:
- If you’re on a budget. (I think this should be temporary though, start looking out for your perfect designer!)
- If you are wanting to learn how to do it yourself.
- If you have a lot of time and want to fill it.
- If you are setting yourself a challenge.
- If you’re starting out and not quite ready to hire someone – still figuring out the pieces.
- If you’re testing your idea.
- If you don’t mind having a brand where different elements are also used by other businesses.
- If you have other business building financial priorities. Sometimes you can’t do everything at once. But don’t leave it forever!
When shouldn’t you DIY this part?
- If design and ideas generation is just not in your skill set.
- If you’ve tried to DIY and your efforts didn’t light you up. Good but not good enough?
- If you’re tried to DIY but your efforts don’t light your audience up! Isn’t that the point?
- If you can afford to get help.
- If you want to your business to look professional and credible.
- If you want to be prepared for growth.
- If you’re going to print anything.
- If you’re not patient enough to work through it carefully to come up with a perfect outcome.
- You don’t have a creative bone in your body.
- When you’re ready to up level your business image and hire an expert.
- If you’re a perfectionist.
- If you want results.
- If you want to make your life easier later.
- When you want your brand identity to LAST.
Of course, one of the key reasons that you shouldn’t do this yourself is that if you’re DIYing then you’re unlikely to be familiar with design software. Now this is the last stage in the process and certainly not the most important, BUT if you want to be able to realise what you have on paper without spending your life on YouTube this is the bit that could let you down. As your business grows you’ll find that you need assets that you simply won’t have if your brand hasn’t been created this way. If you’re asked for a vector file and you don’t have one, that could be awkward. A professional designer will provide you not only with the assets that you think you need, but with a load of assets that you didn’t know you needed. You’ll have variations on your logo for different uses so that you are prepared for every eventuality. Industry standard programmes will also mean that you have more control over the design. You’ll be able to tweak the specifics and make it perfect.
When you have all of this together, you need to create yourself a Brand Guide. This can be as simple as one sheet of paper with your logo, your colour scheme and your chosen fonts, or it can be a huge brochure or even a website. You get to choose. Can you do this yourself? Yes. But a professional will make sure that it all ties together strongly and make this part quicker!
What about the non-visual side of your brand?
This part you can DIY. But ONLY if you took part one seriously. Take your time and have a good think about your brand. Think about all of your touchpoints, write yourself a lovely big list, and then look at your values and personality, look at your ideal client and what they get excited about, and work out how you can incorporate at least one of these things at each touchpoint so that each moment someone connects with your business, your brand is running right through that moment. Make yourself a chart. Decide what you can do yourself and what you need to ask for help with. Perhaps you need a photographer or an ads expert or a copywriter.
If this is hard, then get a friend to help you – or get in touch for a Brand Tree Session where we can take a good look at all of this.
This is the bit where things happen. You know what your business is all about, you have all of your visual branded assets and you have a list of changes you need to make.
Should you DIY this part?
I honestly think that at least some of it you should. Some of it you’ll have to. No-one else can be you. You might not have someone at your shoulder telling you not to post that photograph on Instagram because it’s got too much red in it (please don’t let your image stop you posting good content! Make an executive decision, if it doesn’t fit is it WORTH including it anyway because maybe the colours don’t fit but it says SO much about your values? Will it stand out? Could you use another image? Would it be OK in black and white? I always say that a brand guide is a GUIDE. If you need to break the rules “occasionally” for a worthwhile purpose, then don’t sweat it).
Applying your branding is down to skill set, time and training. If you’ve DIYd up to now then you can probably do it. Canva is SO easy and amazing for creating quick graphics, and I absolutely recommend it for this purpose. You can design all sorts of things on there, but should you? It gets clunky.. there are limitations on fonts.. it’s not always easy to add the level of detail that you might want. So you need to make a decision here on what you can do and what you can’t. Be honest with yourself. If it’s not going to be up to scratch, then get someone else to do it.
And those touch points? You have a list. And if you were paying attention, you’ll have decided what you can do yourself and what you need to outsource. So do that 😉 Don’t be afraid to ask for help.
So – to DIY or not to DIY? Well, that’s up to you…
If you need extra help and support with this then I’d love to help you! You could join the Brand Success Club, have a Brand Tree session or even ask me to help with those parts of the process that you can’t DIY..
Amy Purdie is the founder of Whiteacres (where you are now) she can help your business become irresistible to your ideal clients so that they can’t wait to work with you.
Amy has been enjoying designing logos, brand identities, illustration, print work and websites – since 2007 fuelled mainly by tea and chocolate.