Best 5 tips for branding: Part 3 – Build your atmosphere
5 best branding tips - build your atmosphere (photo credit: Uzair Nazeer)
(photo credit: Uzair Nazeer)
Build your atmosphere

“Strike a pose” said Madonna. She did, and she mesmerised millions.

That’s what you need to do to build your brand – you need to project a distinctive idea. You’ve got to put something particular out there – anything less than distinctive is … well, ordinary. Boring. And there’s a squillion “ordinary”s out there, and you’ll disappear into a sea of nothingness.

But as cool and sexy as Madonna’s pose is, branding is not about one moment of glamour, it’s not a single, elegant flex of the body (or mind), it’s not a short burst of doing your thang on the dance floor (although it can totally incorporate those moments, and should).

What branding is, is a complete and consistent story built around those moments; but it’s something more than those moments besides. Your brand is a mood, a vibe; your brand is like a world enveloped in an atmosphere that you’ve created.

Just like in real life friendships, people are attracted to you because of your approach to life; your personality. Because you’re consistently YOU, and no one else (think: how did people react when you last did something completely out of character?).  Same is true of branding – consistency is paramount. And branding exists at every touchpoint you have with your audience – the visuals, the words you use, how you treat your customers. Consistently using the same colours, the same fonts, the same imagery style (and using the same kind of language when you talk about what you do) = the same feeling.

 

A blank canvas is death

What happens if you aren’t consistent? If you don’t set yourself parameters? Well, I learnt in art school a long time ago that a blank canvas will result in one of two things:

(a) You’ll play it small and safe and conservative, stick to what you know, and end up with something that just looks same-same.
(How your audience perceives this:         { …yawn…  next please}     )

(b) You’ll end up with some kind of random, unstructured, disorganised mess (although this might give you the spark of an idea for something else and that’s great, it’s extremely rare that this approach will result in a useful, finished piece on its own).
(How your audience perceives this:         { …ewww…  next please}     )

When you DO have parameters, it makes those creative juices start sparking up, you become more inventive, you start to think of ways you can push the boundaries, all the while staying within your boundaries.
(How your audience perceives this:         { …oooh…  stylish! hmmm… interesting… }     )

So, get yourself a guide and a game plan.

 

Your Brand Style Guide

A Brand Style Guide is a very useful document that simply lays out all the elements you’ve chosen, so that you can refer to it any time you need to (print it out and stick it up next to your computer for easy reference). With your own style guide, you’ve always got a starting point if ever you need to make a new graphic for anything (blog post, ads for social media, newsletters, business cards, flyers, whatever…) all of which saves you a LOT of time.

Here’s a simplified one for tractorgirl. It includes my palette, the fonts I’ve chosen, and a bit about how I treat the typography in layouts.

revamp - tractorgirl colours and fonts

 

When you get to making your own, there’s lots of other things you might like to include in a style guide too; whatever suits your business. Here are some suggestions –

  • Your brand name
  • Your brand description/personality in words
  • Your logo and tagline if you have one
  • Brand colours (include a colour swatch and the hex code for each colour)
  • Brand fonts – writing the name of the font in that font is often easiest (include different weights, italics etc if you like)
  • Styling notes on product photography if you’re selling physical items
  • Notes on style and mood for any other imagery you use
  • Examples of any fancy elements you’re using – borders, background imagery or patterns etc.
  • Any other notes on when and where to use particular elements.

 

And get ready to dance – show off what you can do.

 

*

(Update: You can find all 5 of my best tips for branding here)

Julie x

 

How to get your business started on a shoestring budget
How to Get Started on a Shoestring Budget
ieva lacaine - shoestring budget

Guest post by Ieva Laicane

Building your own business is one of the most exciting and challenging things anyone can do. Pulling off your own business on a shoestring budget is the next level of challenging. How to do it without spending nerve-wracking hours staring at your bank account and even more important – where to invest to succeed?

The good thing is: there are many services that are offering free plans for the very basic or even all the necessary features. You can not only start using apps like Evernote, Buffer, Canva, Google Apps without worrying about monetary investment but also try out the ones that are offering a free trial period. Find what suits the best for you and your business!

If you’re just beginning and your budget is tight there are only very few things that you really should invest in:

 

Your website

Proper website is one of the main things that make your business look legit. Domain and host won’t cost you much, just make sure to choose the service you feel comfortable using. You don’t have to invest in a custom design or development. Start out small, start from where you are and go from there, step by step!

 

Custom e-mail

There are loads of arguing going on about whether you should create custom e-mail like name@yourdomain.com instead of name@gmail.com. I’m standing along with those who say that custom e-mail IS important. As the general rule stands: personalized business e-mail will make you look more legit along the other business owners. It might not always be true but it will give the right impression!

 

Accounting and invoicing app

To ease up your daily life you should seriously consider spending some money for any of many accounting apps. That way you can save loads of time as well as your own sanity. After all: it is important to get some money rolling and accounting is a big part of your business but you might be not all that comfortable with these questions yourself. Apps like Wave or Freshbooks will be the right choice for you!

 

Branding design

There’s no need to go full-out on a whole graphic design package, but it’s important that you at least start with a really strong idea of who you are, who your audience is, and how you can help them. To start with, keep your visual branding elements simple, but be consistent with them – use the same colours and fonts across everything you produce – your blog header, your newsletter, your graphics, your business card, etc. Being consistent with your visual elements helps to convey the idea of consistency and trustworthiness in business too.

 

Once you’ve set up the very basics and you’re looking forward to do the next investments, I’d suggest you to consider:

Accountant or VA

Hiring help is a scary thing to do. You’re not only trusting someone who you might not know but you will also get back a bit of your own freedom! Don’t be afraid to add accountant or Virtual Assistant (VA) to your daily life. That way you will be able to spend more time doing what you actually love instead of doing the tasks that can be done by someone else.

 

Custom design and development for your website

If you’re not a designer or developer and you’ve created your website all on your own, it might be super important to take the next step and reach out to a designer and/or developer. There are many offers out there who are tailored to specific businesses and one of them will be the best one for you. It’s a big investment that will go a long way!

 

Program and app upgrades

When your business is stable, it’s the right time to check all the programs and apps you’re using and consider upgrading some of them. Please, keep in mind: the fact that you have some money for that doesn’t mean you actually have to do it if you don’t feel like it. Many people are fine with the basic plans for their apps and programs but maybe for you it could be the way to be able to take your business to the next level!

If you feel like all this is already said and done for your business, great for you! There are several other ways how you can build your business bigger and stronger from there:

– Hire a business coach;

– Upgrade your laptop/camera and other technique you’re using for your business;

– Buy e-books from the best in the field or take some online classes (e-courses);

– Hire social media manager or graphic designer;

– Upgrade your office space or buy a membership to a coworking place.

 

After all, always remember: business does take investment and you shouldn’t be afraid to make one! In the same time, be mindful about where your money goes and how well it’s spent and your business will succeed.

 

*

Author Bio:

Ieva is a website designer & strategist traveling and working as a digital nomad. Ever since she found freelancing it become her biggest passion, therefore, she came up with an online course for new freelancers and became a new freelancer coach at www.readysetstartfreelancing.com You can follow her at www.twitter.com/therandomp.