Many thanks to Kelsey Christine for this amazing info on branding – I’ll definitely be referencing this the next time I dive into a design!’
The word “branding” tends to get thrown around a lot among business owners, but do you truly know what your brand is? Spoiler: it’s not a logo. Logo design is just a small piece of your brand—an important piece, but still just a piece. Your brand is the entire experience that you create for anyone who comes in contact with your business
Your brand is an extension of you, the badass biz owner. It’s everything from your personality, to your logo and color palette, to the way you write your emails and social media posts, to the layout of your website, to the presentation of your actual product or service. To make this easier to take in, I’ve split up a successful brand into 7 main components:
- Niche & Mission
- Your “Why” & Values
- Ideal Client
- Brand Aesthetics
- Brand Voice
- Web + Social Media Presence
- Internal Processes
In my “WTF is Branding?!” workbook, I delve into each of these components and share some fun worksheets to help you start tackling them on your own.
But for now, I want to jump into my favorite of the seven pieces: aesthetics. The pretty stuff. The fun part. The aesthetic design of your brand should be intentional and meaningful to your story and your overall mission. It should be cohesive across all client touch points. It should feel like an extension of YOU. So, where to start?
My one-on-one branding process always starts with a Discovery Phase. This is where we dig deep into the story behind the business, the human behind the business, and some key foundational elements like mission, values, ideal client, and goals.
Once that groundwork is set, it’s time to start piecing together aesthetic inspiration. Start with a few brands that you admire. Ask yourself what it is about that brand that draws you in. Then bring your search over to Pinterest. I encourage my clients to pin anything and everything that inspires them or attracts them while keeping their biz in mind. Whether it be textures, color palettes, images from nature or the home, other brand designs, people, quotes, or anything in between–you will likely start to see some trends emerge. Strategically choosing and piecing some of those together (buzzword alert: this is your mood board!) will help create a cohesive vibe that sets the foundation for the overall desired feel of your brand.
Colors + Textures.
Once you’ve gathered your inspo, you can start pulling colors directly from those images to piece together your color palette (this can be done in any basic design software). There is a lot of psychology and color theory knowledge that goes into a well-crafted color palette, but for those of you trying this on your own, just make sure it gives off the right vibes.
It also helps to share your mood board and color palette with some friends to get their initial reaction before moving onto the next phase.
Of course, your logo!! As with every other part of your brand, a good logo will have a lot of meaning and thought behind it. But no matter what you do, make sure that it’s legible! A good text is to shrink your logo design down and make sure that it can be read at a smaller size, too.
I also like to emphasize the importance of having alternate logo options, or variations. Alternate logo variations are created to fit anywhere that your primary logo can’t fit. For example, if your primary logo were a banner-style rectangular layout, you’d also want a stacked logo that will fit nicely as your Instagram or Facebook profile picture. In turn, this gives us room for more creativity when designing additional brand collateral like business cards, letterhead, stickers, advertisements, etc.
It’s beneficial to also have a custom submark or icon that acts almost as an extension of your logo. A mark or icon can be used to literally mark your work/client touch points without slapping your whole logo on everything and feeling too salesy (they make a great favicon, too!).
After (and sometimes during) designing your logo, it’s important to determine what fonts will be used throughout your brand. If you have used specific fonts in your logo, those can be carried out throughout your website and other touch points. If your logo is hand drawn/hand lettered, look for fonts that compliment the style of your brand without overwhelming it. Again, remember that legibility is super important–especially the font that you’ll be using for the body text on your site/blog. One of my favorite tools of all time is wordmark.it. This site allows you to type in any word or phrase and see it displayed in EVERY FONT YOU OWN. #designerheaven
Brand Style Guide.
This can be formatted in a ton of different ways, but the main idea is to create a document that recaps everything we just went through. Your style guide should include the color codes for every color in your palette, the font names that you chose, and your logos as they are intended to appear. I also like to include some of the inspirational images from the first phase to help give an idea of the overall vibe. This document will come in handy when creating additional design work for your brand, but also especially if you plan to hire out help for any future design work. This way, no matter who you hire, they will quickly have a solid understanding of your brand aesthetics and how to use them.
With all of this info to take in and then some, it’s normal to feel a bit overwhelmed. If you’re just starting out with branding your biz, take a deep breath. Start by prioritizing these tasks and setting mini goals for yourself. Successful brands aren’t built in a day!
Kelsey is the owner, designer, and brand strategist behind Honey Side Up Creative, where she provides custom brand design for other female creativepreneurs. With a background in Marketing Consulting, she helps clients dig deeper than just creating a pretty logo. She’s a craft beer-loving crazy cat lady who collects vinyl records and tattoos. She started her business in California, but will be relocating to Virginia this summer with her fiance. Honey Side Up Creative was built on the following ideals: creative entrepreneurs should empower one another, positive vibes should be the only vibes, and working relationships should become friendships.
‘WTF is Branding?!’ Free workbook download: www.honeysideup.com/WTF-is-Branding
When you work in a structured office, one of the blessings and curses is that your time is fairly managed for you. There are people around to tell you what to do and when, to remind you of things, to hold meetings to go over things, and who typically do the things that are outside of your main skillset. Staying motivated and being an organized freelancer means taking control of your processes, testing, and finding what works for you.
Here are some techniques and programs that work for me. Take what you like and leave the rest!
Monthly to Weekly Breakdowns
I’ve recently developed a system that helps me to remain organized every day, remain productive, remain motivated and reach all of my goals.
Sounds like a miracle? It’s not! All you need is some sticky notes and a planner.
First, I wrote down the things I need to accomplish for my business once a month. Here are 3 examples:
- Curate and schedule content for all social media
- Release 1 freebie on my website
- Write 4 different types of blog posts
These things, on top of client work and all the other things I need to do, tend to fall on the back burner. But remember that a journey begins with a single step! I broke each one of these monthly goals into 4 weekly goals:
- Curate and schedule content for all social media
- Week 1: Facebook
- Week 2: Instagram
- Week 3: Twitter
- Week 4: Pinterest
- Release 1 freebie
- Week 1: Plan Freebie
- Week 2: Design Freebie
- Week 3: Build Freebie Landing Page
- Week 4: Promote and Launch Freebie
- Write 4 blog posts
- Week 1: Write a business-focused post
- Week 2: Write a design-focused post
- Week 3: Write an SEO-focused post
- Week 4: Write a social media focused post
I have 4 post-it notes, one for each week, with that week’s tasks. When I finish Week 1, I move that note four weeks ahead so that when I finish Week 4, the next week, Week 1’s note will be waiting for me.
One of the hardest things for me as a freelancer, in addition to being an organized freelancer, is to continue working when I don’t have a client deadline. There are so many other hats we have to wear – marketer, writer, accountant, designer – managing all those tasks can be overwhelming. Especially when we have things that have to get done on a regular basis.
Using Trello for Project Management
I started using Trello in my old job and it’s really stuck with me. I’m very visual and I like being able to move pieces of my project around like a puzzle. If you haven’t tried it already, I highly recommend it.
One of my favorite ways to use it is to systematize my projects. Here’s how I did it.
- I created a board that serves as a template.
- I created a column for each phase of a typical web design project: Intake, Kick Off, Project, Launch, or Post Launch
- I created a card for each major event or sub phase underneath the main ones: Proposal, Design Questionnaire, Wireframe, Testing, Launch, etc.
- Within each card – if necessary – I created a checklist. For example, in the Testing card, I have a list that includes things like “test links” “test e-commerce products” “test all plugins” “test responsiveness”
- Every time I get a new client, I copy this board, rename it with the client name, and simply follow the process!
Using Trello boards like this also allows me to manage the project with the client. I can invite them to the board (if they have to sign up for the first time I get another free month of Trello Gold – yay!) and we can share files, talk in the cards, and they can see the process as it goes along.
I’ve found that managing my projects this way with my clients helps me a ton. It eliminates annoying email back and forth, it makes it easy to find all the necessary files for that project, the client meets deadlines faster because they can see how close or far they are from the finish line, and the client is more grateful because they can also see how much work I’m actually doing for them.
Make Others Wait
This is more of a philosophical belief than a method or technique, but I find it’s worth sharing.
I used to worry so, so much about the client. At every stage. Receiving an e-mail gave me anxiety. I was terrified of my clients and the power they had over me. But I came to realize that, like any other relationship, it’s only healthy if the power was balanced and flowed both ways. My clients depended on me just as much as I depended on them.
That changed a lot of my behaviors. While I still struggle a little but with it, I’ve learned not to answer emails outside of my designated business hours (unless it’s some kind of emergency). I’ve learned that if they don’t like something I’ve done, I can find a way to politely find a compromise. I’ve learned that I don’t have to jump at every demand, but can explain why I won’t do something. I’ve learned that I can ask them to wait while I open up my planner to make an appointment instead of scrawling it down on a sticky note that I will eventually lose. I’ve learned to trust my gut, be picky and only work with people who seem like they will genuinely be good clients.
Use a CRM
Please, for the love of God, use a CRM. Even if it’s a notebook or a Trello board and not a full-scale CRM, you need to keep track of your leads and your clients. The best, most organized freelancer will have all their client info in one place and reminders in place for when and how to follow up with potential clients.
I highly recommend Hubspot, but use whichever one you are comfortable with. Just make sure that it
Half of this post could have been about the importance of Admin Day, but I’m just going to redirect you to this post I wrote about it. 🙂
Develop a Routine
People say that the main downside of freelancing is losing the structure you’d normally get in a 9-5 job. I argue that it’s about creating your own structure. No matter how much you like your job, there are gonna be times and days where you just don’t want to do it. Having a routine that fits you, your life, and your personality makes those times and days way easier.
Personally, I find that the key to staying an organized freelancer lies in my routine. Certain things done at certain times. Limits. Boundaries. It prevents everything from being all over the place!
My morning routine goes something like this –
- wake up between 7-8:30 (sometimes I wake up at 6 and that makes up for the 8:30 days)
- get dressed as though I was going to leave the house (I can’t be productive in my PJs)
- make coffee/breakfast
- check social media and emails
- reply to any messages that have come in
- check my planner and Google calendar and add anything I have to do to my planner
- check all my lead forms (website and Google) for new submissions
Only after I do all these things do I start in on my to do list or client list. I purposefully try not to schedule meetings before 10 am so that I have time to get ready for the day.
Another important part of my routine is that, unless there is an emergency, I don’t work after 5pm. This helps me create an organized barrier between my personal and professional life. When you try to do things outside of “work time” it’s easier to get confused, forget things, etc.
How do you stay organized as a freelancer? Leave your tips in the comments below.