How to DIY your own brand?
(Some of the links on this post are affiliate links, this means if you click on the link and purchase the item, I will receive an affiliate commission and will love your forever).
You hear this word a lot, branding, and sometimes it can sound a bit distant and vague.
I mean, we all know what a brand is, e.g. Nike or Apple. One of these big companies have a brand, but what exactly makes something a brand? And when it comes to your business, how seriously should you take this branding stuff?
This post is about just that, branding for beginners, because I have seen with clients that for new entrepreneurs it’s not always an easy concept to grasp.
I studied communication for 4 years, and we spent some time on studying branding, but still it can get away from me. I’m a fan of bringing highflying concepts into the concrete, every-day level, because what’s the fun of things if we a) don’t understand them properly, and b) don’t use them in our daily lives to make things better.
So here I’m going to go through branding step by step (because I love everything step-by-step & process related, call me Monica from friends but there just is a right way of doing things), because a brand does not equal your logo alone.
So what does it include? Let’s dive in.
What is Branding, and what is a Brand?
Branding is the process of researching, developing and applying distinctive set of features to your business so that your customers can begin to associate your brand with your products or services (source).
This Branding process results in a Brand – something recognizably YOU when it comes to your business. It gives you an identity and it makes you memorable.
So yes, it is important to spend some time on defining it before you start building that website of yours.
How do you create your brand?
Creating a brand includes steps in which you identify your message, your voice, your uniqueness, and the visual representation of these elements.
1. Your WHY of doing what you do
This is the starting point, your great motivation of doing what you do. This is your vision, your reason of existing, and everything we do visually will reflect this vision.
Many people think that a brand is about your logo and the colours you are using, and while those are a part of your brand, the roots really go much deeper.
Think about the reason you started your business, and write down the answers to the following questions:
- Why did you start your business?
- What motivated you to get started?
- What is your grand vision for your business?
- What is the purpose of your business?
This is your main reason of existing as a brand (that, and making a living with it, but because you are a Passionate business owner, I know your WHY is strong).
2. Describing your business
An important, but often overlooked step is to identify some key words and characteristics of your business.
This step includes describing the characteristics and values of your business.
Is it informal, playful, serious, trustworthy, adventurous, down-to-earth? If it would talk, what would it sound like? Take all your senses into play here!
- What does your business sound like if it would talk or write to someone?
- What does your business look like?
- What does your business feel like?
- What emotions would you like your customers to experience when interacting with your business / brand?
- What adjectives would best describe your business (choose top 5 for your brand)? These will represent your values for your business.
- What makes you absolutely unique? Not how your products are services are set up, but go deeper (looking at the answers you made in the #1 question. How do you improve the lives of those you help?)
3. Who are you serving?
This is the step where you identify your target audience.
You have narrowed down WHY you are doing what you are doing; what your business looks and sounds like, and now it’s time to clearly define who you are doing it for.
Who is your ideal client, what are their pain points in life, and in relation to your product / services, how could you help them the best.
When it comes to your target audience it may not always be one type of person. You can also look at it from the point of view of their unique pain points.
For example, when it comes to my ideal clients, I want to empower and coach new entrepreneurs through the building of their website.
The particular pain point here is that too many feel alone, confused and overwhelmed when it comes to building their own website, yet my clients would like to feel the empowerment and ownership that comes from maintaining their own site.
This particular pain point can touch many people, whether you are a stay-at-home mom wanting to build a community, or whether you are working for a corporation wanting to start your own yoga studio.
These are essentially two very different persons, two very different avatars as they are also called, but the pain point is the same.
So while it helps to niche down on your target audience and target customer, it’s also good to keep in mind not to box them, too much (we are all so much more than JUST a corporate worker, or JUST a mom), and to keep your viewpoint open enough to really cover those pain points.
It’s important to get to know your customers, so you know exactly what their challenges are, and what would resonate with them.
How do they describe themselves? What words do they use describing their problem?
When you can target your business and offers to match these exact pain points, your ideal client will feel seen, heard and validated by your business (and by you), and it becomes so much easier to sell your offer.
Question to think about:
- Gender, age, income level, occupation, location, lifestyle, values, interest, what adjectives would best describe them?
- Where do they hang out (online/ offline)?
- What makes your business unique for them?
- Why do they love to work with you?
- What is their specific pain point that you can solve in a unique way?
4. Visuals in the branding process
We are already at step four, and only now we start to talk about the visuals in the branding process. Why is that?
Because we cannot design something when we don’t know WHAT it should look like.
It’s very different to design a logo and a colour palette for a primary school teacher targeting young mothers, than it is to design something for high-end personal shopping services for example.
These two brands have a totally different identity, target audience and a voice, so their visuals should reflect that.
This is key so I’m going to repeat it here again: Your visuals are a reflection of your brand.
So what is included in your visuals?
Your brand will have certain colours that you will consistently use (consistently! Promise?).
They are not just any random colours, but a palette of 3-5 colours that form a harmonious combo, and that also complement each other.
You can start with the main tones first. Are you into bright happy colours, or more muted pastels? Are you into earthy shades like sand, green and gray, or more into red or orange?
Or maybe you love white, and the fresh peaceful vibe it gives you. Mostly we are attracted to one of two colours when we think about our business, so you can take that as a basis, and form your palette from there.
Look at the answers you made into your questions 1-3. You identified a voice and an identity for your brand, so the colours you choose should reflect this.
According to colour psychology certain colours evoke certain associations and emotions, so it’s good to match these with your brand identity.
- Yellow: Optimistic, happiness, opportunity, positivity
- Orange: Independent, adventurous, Creative, fun
- Red: Energy, passion, courage, attention
- Green: Safety, harmony, stability, reliability
- Blue: Trust, responsible, honest, loyal
- Purple: Spirituality, imagination, compassion, sensitivity
- Pink: Love, compassion, playful, admiration
- Brown: Comfort, stability, natural, reliability
- Gray: conservative, practical, formal, quiet
- Black: power, authority, control, elegance
- White: Simplicity, pure, clean, minimal
You can also browse for ready-made colour palettes, I have a whole bunch on my Pinterest folder you can take a look. Just don’t get paralysed by choise but pick something you like and go with it!
You will need the HEX code of the colours (six numbers / letters, starting with #), as this is what you will use when making graphics or any visual material for your business.
Note that you will not be using the bright colours all that much, rather in small splashed here and there in links, buttons and other accents spots. They are more the accent color for your branding, the pop-color for your site.
There will be (there should be) a lot of white space around your site and elements in order to let the elements breathe, and to direct the eye of the viewer where you want it to go.
Choosing a font is kind of a big deal, but no pressure! Just kidding, you will do fine.
For your branding I usually suggest only a few body text fonts for my clients and students, as the body text is for reading and clarity, not a place to show off your personality.
Where you can show off your personality and unique brand, however, is in the header fonts.
And just like your brand and business, the different fonts out there all have a personality as well!
Some are more playful, some more serious, some bold and some really delicate. We need to not only choose a font that you love, but also a font that represents your business and the characteristics and voice you defined for it. After all, your target audience needs to resonate with it.
The first choice when it comes to fonts is whether you will go with a Serif –font family, or Sans Serif –family.
In short, Serif fonts have the little “ feet” or “ hooks” on the bottom, and are considered more serious, classical and news-like. Sans Serif is a more rounded font (like this one), without any “ feet” and is more modern, clean and used online.
Some good fonts for your body text: Open Sans (my favourite), Raleway and Lora.
Then there is script (think handwritten font), which is quite popular nowadays especially for headers. Some rules of thumb here when it comes to script, before you release your creative self onto your website.
First, use a script very sparingly. Meaning, don’t over-do it! Script is harder to read, so leave it to emphasize specific words or short sentences, and keep it large enough and on the headers only, never as a main text.
Some of my favourite script fonts are Lemon Tuesday, and fun stuff you can find on Creative Market, such as here (not an affiliate link).
It’s important to have your basic brand voice and colours figured out before you start thinking about a logo.
Too many people jump straight into the logo and call it a day when it comes to your visuals, but as you know by now, there is so much more that goes into your brand.
A logo just happens to be one of the most visual representations of your brand, but if the rest is not matching, you will just confuse people when they actually interact with your brand.
If you don’t have money to invest in a Graphic Designer (and let’s face it, who does when just starting out?), don’t freak out because you can make something simple and workable in Canva.
My Graphics Designer hubby always rolls his eyes when I talk about “DIY Design”, but the simple truth is that when you are starting out, there are just so many things taking your money, and it’s important for you to focus on making your business work.
So before you are actually making money with your business, and before you have settled into your brand identity, it’s totally OK to DIY, just make sure it’s simple.
When you are making a logo keep in mind that you will need to use it on different locations, so essentially you would need a few different variations of it (size wise).
On your WordPress site the best logo is horizontal, and not square for example, as this takes a lot of space from the website header. A size like 300x50px would work well on the header.
But for social media you might use a smaller, more compact logo (think Instagram or Facebook cover pictures for example, or watermarks on your pictures).
Favicon is that funky little icon on the browser tab, that just finished the game for your site.
For WordPress this needs to be 512x512px size, so very tiny, therefore it cannot really have a lot of detail. It can be the main letter of your logo / business, or a small element of the colours you have on your site.
You can make this on Canva, and on the Pro site (highly recommend it!) you can save it with a transparent background.
Lastly, there are the images that you use, tying this all together. I tend to use Pexels.com for great, free stock images, but don’t forget that mostly people just want to see your face on your site as well.
Especially if you are a service provider, which means that people need to form an emotional connection with you before buying. So in fact, you are your products and services.
So make sure that there are plenty of pictures (or at least a few) where you are looking straight into the camera and giving it your best and brightest smile.
And no, nobody cares about those last 10 kilos you are trying to lose, or the teeth that are not perfectly in line. People want to see a real human being, you, behind the brand.
When using images, you also want to use a style that makes your brand come alive. It could be a more informal pictures, more nature or more urban vibes, depending on your brand personality.
For an optimal performance of the site it’s good not to have a collection of large pictures, as these can slow your site down. For a header picture a size of 1200x700px is enough. Also, a plugin called Smush will make your photos smaller (or, it will smush your pictures) for a better performance.
A moodboard for your Branding
To tie this all together, it’s good to have a document which shows you in one glance your Brand personality. This can be done with a moodboard.
Ah, I love moodboards, and you can make one on Pinterest, on a PowerPoint slide or with Canva, as long as you make one document our of your Branding work. Or if you are oldfashined like me, make one on your wall from magazine clip-art!
Start your Branding process
As you can see, branding is an intricate process which takes some time to think about.
It’s also not something static or something that will necessarily stay with you forever and ever as the first version you make. So my point is, give it some serious thought, if you are going the DIY route keep it simple, and at the same time don’t worry about it too much.
If you are consistent with your messaging, your brand voice, and your colours and fonts, you will be fine!
Enjoy the birthing process of your Passion Business, and let the world enjoy your gifts and talents.
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