Custom Brand Series | The Truth Behind DIY Visuals and Your Story

February 28, 2017

I know what you’re thinking friend: Aren’t you a custom brand designer? Why would you tell me to DIY my brand?

Hear me out! I started noticing a lot of fellow designers almost bashing a DIY brand and talking about how every business needs a custom brand or they’d fail. And I just kept thinking to myself, is that really true though?

When I was first starting out, I know the investment to get a business going gave me a bit of sticker shock. I obviously designed my own brand, but at the time I couldn’t afford custom photography, the tech I needed to create digital lettering and graphics, and that led me to design a brand that I did like, but I knew it could be so much more. Ever since then, I’ve learned so much more about what a brand truly is and I want to assure you, if you’re just starting out or if you have a business that you’re not aiming to make you a full-time income, I’m here to tell you that a DIY brand can work for you!

The Custom Brand Series | Part 1

I wanted to create the Custom Brand Series over the next couple of weeks to really dig deep and examine the importance of a custom brand for small business owners. Don’t get me wrong, there are businesses that absolutely need a one-of-a-kind brand. Without it, they will fail to reach their full potential or achieve the goals that they’ve set for life and business. But I wanted to also look at the other side: the newly hatched businesses that aren’t even a month old and you’re “supposed to” investment thousands of dollars in a brand and website? Or if you’re pursuing a passion for blogging or selling products while still working another job, do you really “have to” spend an arm and a leg with a completely fleshed out brand design for elements you may never need?

I don’t think so. In part 1 of the series, we’re going to talk about the parts of your brand that you can do yourself that are of the utmost importance that will either lead you to the success you’re after or give you all of the tools you need to invest in a custom brand when you’re ready!

The True Investment

First and foremost, creating a multi-faceted and lasting brand takes a huge investment. And I’m not talking about money here, but time. Learning more about who you are within your business, what drives you, what clients or customers you love to serve, and what goals you want to achieve all take a lot of time and experience.

When you’re just starting out, you’re trying out ideas and discovering what your business can be. Most importantly, you’re working through what success looks like to you. Without these initial steps, having to answer intense client homework about your target audience, how you are unique in your industry, etc. can be extremely overwhelming. And do you really want to invest in a brand that’s worth thousands of dollars just to have to rebrand a couple years down the line? Heck no!

Once people are ready and have had time to settle into their business, I have found that they are not only more confident in what changes need to be made in their brand, but what message they want to portray to their potential clients. The heart behind a brand makes it more than a pretty logo. The connection you create with your tribe is what takes your business to the next level.

The Secret Behind the Wait

A strong brand design, voice, and strategy are all very important when you’re trying to be seen and remembered by your audience. When it comes to business, the hardest lesson I’ve learned is that you’re never done. Businesses change often. Your offerings may change. Heck, your WHY may even shift as you grow into new seasons of life and have new purpose behind what you do. And all of those things can affect your overall brand.

I have a question for you: what is your favorite brand? Maybe you’re like me and you just love Anthropologie. Or you’re a fan of the positively preppy Emily Ley. Oh, I see you readers who love Apple. You know their secret to a captivating brand that connects with their audience? Time. Being open to pushing forward even if everything may not be picture perfect. As Emily Ley so beautifully says…

Emily Ley - grace, no perfection

You have to allow yourself a lot of grace when you’re a business owner. Everything will never be perfect. There’s no right time to launch. If you can only do-it-yourself right now, then that’s a-ok. Let’s go over where your time, money, and focus should go when you first launch or when you want to create a brand to remember on your own.

Your Mission and Story

Being yourself, especially as a small business owner who is the face of your company, is crucial to starting on the right foot with your branding. People want to feel more of a connection with the businesses they shop from and recommend. Being authentic and attracting the type of people that root for not only your business to succeed, but feel as though they’re directly helping you live a better life, will make building out your brand with a designer that much easier later on in your business journey.

Creating a mission statement helps you to stay on track when you make any business decisions, big or small. The easiest way to do this is to create a simple sentence that sums up everything important about your brand. Mine is as follows:

“ Stefani Jessica is a creative studio focused on creating confidence in business owners through heartfelt brands that are made to thrive.

I mention what I do, who I serve, and how I can help those people. Infusing who you are and your story that led you to where you are today will create a foundation on which a strong brand can easily be built.

Who you aim to serve

You may not have your ideal client nailed down when you first start, but there is a type of person you should be speaking to directly. You can’t please everyone and that is most true in business. Having a certain person in your mind when you’re creating your visuals and content is crucial to not using black and white when you’re trying to appeal to bright and bubbly people.

My tip for you when creating a color palette is to think of who you want to work with. Who do you want to buy your products? Where do they like to spend their money already?

Use a color picking tool (my favorite is Kuler) to get inspiration for a palette and stick to it to create a more professional look. (Bonus tip: use a maximum of 3 fonts as well. Consistency is key!)

Your business home base

Your website is one part of your brand visuals that cannot have poor design. As you are the face of your company, your website is the place where you want your audience to be. All social media and blog features should direct back to your website. Why is it so important for your potential customers to go to your site? This is where they get to know you, what you offer, and how to give you money so that you can serve them.

When you’re just starting, a clean and content focused website is so important. Clutter, bad layouts, and no purpose or direction on your website will have people clicking away faster than you can say, “lost income”. Squarespace is a perfect option for brand new websites. Between being extremely easy to use and the templates being well-designed right “out of the box” you can feel confident your website is going to look good and start you off on the right foot.

Showit also offers some amazing templates that are affordable but can give your site a more custom look if you have a bit more to invest or want to stand out in a saturated industry that you’re entering. My shop offers custom-looking templates that are affordable and beautiful. There are lots of awesome options in the rest of the Showit shop as well from other designers.

High-quality photography

A good investment to make early on if you cannot go all out on branding is quality photography. Low-quality images can make even the most expensive branding look mediocre and beautiful stock photography is extremely affordable now! Below are some of my absolute favorite shops to find quality imagery and not pay an arm and a leg.
SC Stockshop
Alicia Youngken
RW | Productions
Lorina Daiana
Sarah & Gerald
Miss Poppy Design

And free options too!
Death to Stock

Content is king

One facet of your branding you want to make sure stays consistent is your content and brand’s voice. This is how you will share your story, your expertise, and most importantly, what makes you special.

Blogging is the easiest way to share what you know and establish yourself as an expert. I know blogging can seem a daunting task to add to your neverending to-do list, but it is the most important marketing you can do. It brings visitors back to your site and allows you to share your heart while teaching your reader something new. I personally love to write so I really enjoy creating blog posts and content for my website.

Social media and marketing are 2 other areas where content is such an important factor. Making connections with potential clients and other business owners that you can befriend will help your business grow, so putting thought and strategy behind your posts (yes, even a quick snap on Instagram) can make a world of difference.

Whew. That was a lot of information! But I hope you can now see that a DIY brand can still be thoughtful and strategic if that’s the route needed to be taken. Done is better than perfect and you have to get yourself out there if you’re going to work with anyone. But you may be wondering, how long do you keep a DIY brand before hiring a designer? Check back this week to find out and learn what you need established and collected before you even reach out to a brand designer.

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