How to DIY your brand
So you are on your way to building a profitable blog or online business — you bought a domain and web hosting and are about to design your website and add content. Good on ya!
You are so excited! Until it dawns on you: It’s not that easy to attract the right audience. You need to bridge that gap between your audience’s needs and your offered solution. And in order to do that, you need to start thinking about your branding.
I’ll be honest here: This bit took me quite some time to figure out for myself. On the one hand, I loved the process because I got to be as creative as I wanted. On the other hand, it also drove me nuts because of all the choices and incredible attention to detail.
I won’t deny it: I’m a perfectionist. I can’t stand doing things half-heartedly. You don’t wanna know how many different fonts and font pairing I tried before I settled on the ones you see on the blog…
And don’t get me started on the colour scheme… I must have changed it a thousand times. Seriously. I must have tried at least 50 shades of grey and of every other colour under the sky.
But hey, that’s what being a solopreneur is about, right? If you can’t hire someone and the task at hand requires a graphic designer — oh well, you become a bit of a graphic designer! 😉
No offense to all you professional graphic designers out there. I know it takes a lot of knowledge and practice to be really good at this. But even as a non-professional one can learn a few tricks to at least avoid looking like a bunch of monkeys on crack designed your brand… 😉
Before we get into the nitty-gritty of creating graphic design elements for your brand, let’s quickly go over what makes an authentic brand.
To make this clear right from the start: Branding is not just your logo, colour scheme or font choice.
Branding encompasses much more than that, a lot of which is intangible. Building a brand is about the values you represent, the tone you use, the feeling you create, the content you share, the way you communicate.
It’s about finding a way to cohesively and consistently represent yourself and your business in a way that resonates with your target audience.
Why is it important? It’s important because it helps people recognise your content quickly and — more importantly — it builds trust in your audience.
If someone said on their website they were all about helping people, but you found them being very rude in a Facebook group — would you trust that person? I don’t think so.
Likewise choosing a skull as a logo for a social welfare project would probably send off the wrong signals. See what I mean? For a successful brand, your visuals, as well as your actions, need to align and represent what you stand for.
When you are building an online business, the only way for other people to judge your content is by what you share and how you present yourself in the online community (aka your brand). Therefore you have to be careful and intentional when you create a brand for your business.
To cut a long story short: There is just no way around branding, if you want to position your business successfully.
Now that you know why it’s important to brand yourself, let’s get to the various brand elements. This list might not be all-encompassing, but those are the points that I found most helpful when developing my own brand.
Here are a few questions to help you figure out your brand identity:
What do you and your business stand for?
What are your values and beliefs?
How do you want to be perceived?
What is the vision and mission of your business?
Which emotional response are you trying to trigger in your audience?
Answering those questions is not always easy. Go with your gut feeling. There are lots of moving pieces when you are building your brand. So answer those question best you can and move on to the next part. You can always come back and revise them.
As a matter of fact, I would strongly advise you to do just that. Think of building your brand like creating an art masterpiece: You start with a rough sketch and then fill in the details once you are clear on the overall picture.
Time to add some sparkling personality to your brand! 🙂 Truly successful brands have one thing in common: People are able to identify themselves with the brand and feel a connection.
To achieve this, the brand needs a strong personality. To be believable and authentic, your brand personality shouldn’t be the complete opposite of your actual personality.
That would also be incredibly hard to maintain as it wouldn’t come to you naturally and you would have to overthink every word and every move to check whether or not it fits your brand personality.
That said, you don’t have to include every aspect of your own personality into your brand either. Just choose and highlight the aspects that are relevant to your business.
Here are a few questions to help you identify your brand personality:
What are your top qualities you want to share with the world?
What is your style (girly, classy, nerdy…)?
How would you describe your brand personality in three words?
What are the endearing quirks you are willing to reveal to the world?
What’s your tone of voice and style of writing (girl-power, badass, no fluff, emotional, analytical…)?
That should give you enough material to work with for a start.
As for your business name, you can choose to go with your own name or try to think of something related to your business. Neither of which I did… LOL
Originally, my website started out as a side project and therefore my brand name “PearTreePond | The Solopreneur Safety Net” is only vaguely related to building an online business…
But if you are starting afresh, I’d say go with something more relevant. If you know exactly which main keyword you are going to target with your website and you can get that as your domain name — that would be absolutely awesome SEO-wise (SEO = search engine optimization).
In order to serve your audience best, you need to specify your ideal customer. Tough truth: You can’t please everyone. Therefore choose wisely which audience you wish to attract.
Think about the following factors to gain more clarity:
You can use the answers to these questions to create your ideal customer avatar. Once you are done with that, you should know how to talk to these people, where to find them, what to offer them and how to present your offer in order for them to fall in love with it.
At least in theory. 😉 Practically, there is a lot of testing and tweaking involved…
Your brand visuals are what most people associate with “branding”: Your logo, submark, colours, fonts, patterns, layout and other brand elements (like symbols, banners, arrows or text separator lines).
But really, those are just part of your brand — visual vehicles for transporting your brand identity and brand personality to your defined target audience. Obviously, this makes them super important. *no pressure* 😉
In general, they should be visually pleasing and integrate seamlessly with your brand message.
A good way to start is by creating a mood board for your brand. This can be a (secret!) Pinterest board where you collect your inspirations or an actual board that you fill with whatever you think fits your brand’s identity and personality. Don’t limit yourself in the beginning.
At some point, however, you need to take stock, evaluate and narrow your favourites down to a manageable number (5–10 images).
As an example, I’ll show you what mine looked like when I started out:
You can see my signature pattern (which I created by modifying a photo in Photoshop) in the upper left corner. That pattern was also the basis for my colour scheme.
The other images (hopefully) convey the feeling I was trying to capture with my branding: natural, calming, structured, friendly, supportive and welcoming. I wanted you to feel less stressed and overwhelmed when you visit my blog, but relieved and unburdened instead. Anyone else thinking about “The little book of calm” here? LOL
By the way, I used Adobe Illustrator for creating this mood board, my logo, and all other brand visuals. Don’t use Photoshop for things like these.
I’ve tried that in the beginning because I didn’t wanna learn another program — huge waste of time… Photoshop is for editing photos. That’s what it’s made for and it’s great for that. If you design something from scratch, Illustrator is the tool you wanna use.
I know a lot of people use Canva too. I’ve played around with it for a while, because why not use a free tool, right? But somehow it didn’t convince me. Even for Pinterest graphics I stopped using it and do all my Pinterest graphics in Illustrator now. But by all means, go check it out if you like.
Moving on. With your mood board as a basis, you can start crafting your brand’s visual identity. I’ll go into more detail about how I designed the visual elements of my brand in another post, as this one is already getting long…
Now that you have your brand and your target audience figured out, you can build a bridge between them — with your incredibly awesome offer, that helps your ideal customer.
What problem is your product or service solving for your target audience? How is your offer different from similar offers? Once you know how you can truly help your customers (’cause that’s what you want, right?) and change their lives for the better, you should be unstoppable. 🙂
If your product or service doesn’t solve a problem, it should at least be entertaining or adding interest (if you are an artist) to your customer’s life. Why else would they buy it?
The beauty of this system is that you get to be successful AND get to have a major impact on other’s lives at the same time. *win-win* 🙂
- Branding is more than just your brand visuals — it’s about creating an authentic and consistent brand identity and personality.
- Ideally, your signature offer bridges the gap between your brand and your ideal customer by solving their problems or benefiting them in other unique ways.
- Good branding helps with brand awareness and recognition. In other words: It helps you stand out from the crowd.
- Moreover, good branding is essential for building a trusting relationship with your audience.
I hope this beginner’s guide helped you figure out how to brand yourself. I’d love to know how you get on! 🙂 Let me know in the comments below and share your problems, solutions and the questions you might still have! I know branding is not an easy thing to do and can be quite confusing.