Imagine this- you’re meeting a good friend for coffee in a new coffee shop. You know that your friend’s basic day-to-day uniform is a black v-neck shirt, jeans, and black flats with simple jewelry, so that’s what you’re on the lookout for. After several minutes of waiting, you send your friend a message to ask if she’s running late and she messages back that she’s at the coffee shop, sitting in the back corner and waiting for you. After looking intently in the back corner, you realize that your friend has indeed been sitting across the room the whole time, but you didn’t recognize her because she doesn’t look the way she usually does.
Instead of wearing what you have come to expect her to wear, she came to this coffee shop date in a loudly-patterned shirt, a denim skirt, and chunky jewelry.
How would you feel about that?
A mixture of all of the above?
Well, friend, here’s a newsflash for ya- this is how your audience feels when you don’t show up with a consistent brand!
If you have a consistent brand, your audience should be able to recognize your content as soon as it appears before them. Maybe they recognize the colors, the fonts, the images. Maybe they know this Instagram template is one that you use all the time, just changing the content. Maybe they recognize the use of emojis or the lack of the use of contractions in your copy.
What is a personal brand?
Well, let’s start with this- what does branding even mean?
Branding is how you and/or your business are perceived by others. When new people land on your Instagram page or see a piece of your marketing, they automatically begin making assumptions and associations. Maybe they assume that your business is more minimalistic and geared toward a younger crowd, or that it’s more high-end and elegant.
Think of any business – Coca-Cola, Apple, Patagonia, Disney. I’m personally a big Disney fan, so let’s go with that!
Disney offers so many things- television shows, movies, a steaming network, clothing, theme parks, and so much more! But those things aren’t Disney. They’re not what I think of when I think of Disney.
When I think of Disney, I think of- magic, fairy tales, princes and princesses, pixie dust. I think of being an adult but feeling like a child. I think of beautiful, rich colors. I think of joy.
And truthfully, I would gladly drop a ton of money to be able to experience it again.
That’s what branding can do.
How do I begin branding myself and my business?
Once you have decided to begin developing your brand, you may quickly get overwhelmed with all of the things that the internet will tell you that you need. A custom logo, secondary logo, submark, custom fonts, a fancy color palette, perfect copy… it’s a lot! And honestly, all of those things are important and can be very helpful.
But, I know that if you’re reading this, you’re probably ready to dive right in. You want to get started right now!!
So, I am going to outline the 4 things that I think are most important for you to be focused on.
One thing you don’t need
One quick thing before I start – you’ll notice that I don’t talk about having a custom-designed logo.
Because to be honest, a custom logo isn’t something that you need when yo’re first starting out.
Do you want to know a secret about me? Come in a little closer… a little more… okay, here it is:
My first logo was a screenshot.
Whew, it feels good to get that off my shoulders! But what exactly am I talking about?
Long ago, back when I was a wannabe teacher blogger, I had a blog called Coffee, Cats, and Kindergarten. (If you’ve been around for awhile, you may remember that my Etsy shop began off as Coffee, Cats, and Kinder before I rebranded to Rebecca Fletcher Designs.)
I spent a little money for a premade blog design and thenhad the creator install it for me for a small fee. While she did that, I went to Facebook and made a Page for my new blog so that my family and friends could follow it if they wanted to. When I was finished, I was happy but realized I didn’t have a logo.
So, I went back to my recently-completed website, took a screenshot of the top of it, and used that as my logo.
Now, as a disclaimer, this was definitely NOT a legitimate logo and probably wasn’t even legal. I did not have the right to use that background image outside of my website.
What I’m getting at, though, is this- having that crappy little “logo” gave me the confidence to push my stuff out into the world. I blogged fairly regularly and posted to my Facebook page with that one image being the face of my whole blog.
Of course, I eventually upgraded my logo and then rebranded my whole business, and now I design logos of my own (that definitely aren’t screenshots). What I’m getting at is- you just need something to represent your brand for now. A logo doesn’t need to be permanent.
If you’re brand-new and just starting out and feel that you can’t really put yourself out there until you have a logo, I recommend heading over to Canva and making a free account. They have lots of logo templates!
I also offer a DIY Branding Kit in my Etsy shop, which I’ll talk about later on!
The 4 things you do need
So now that we’ve established that a logo is not the be-all, end-all of branding, let’s talk about the elements that you do need! In my opinion, there are 4 areas to focus on hat really help drive your branding home and attract your ideal clients. These are listed in no particular order, as I believe that they are a;; equally importnt.
A Consistent Color Palette
If you are DIYing your brand, I recommend sticking with 4-5 colors to use throughout all of your branding, marketing, website, social media posts, business cards, flyers, downloads, etc. Using more colors than that can look like utter chaos and makes it harder for your audience to immediately recognize your brand when they see it.
Using a consistent color palette can do wonders for communicating to your ideal audience without even using words. You want them to be able to take one look at your marketing materials and think, “Okay, yes! I can see myself woking with her!”
Look at my own Instagram feed, for example. From looking at this, you should be able to get a general idea of my own color palette. My main colors are minty blue and peachy pink, so you see a lot of those. I don’t tend to go for very bright or very dark colors and prefer a more pastel palette.
To make your own color palette, I recommend heading over to Pinterest and creating a branding mood board. To do that, just create a new board (and feel free to keep it as a secret board) and begin pinning images and color palettes that speak to how you want your brand to feel to clients.
I recommend picking out a few words that you think describe your brand; for example, you might choose the words boho, natural, and feminine. Do a Pinterest search for those phrases along with the words colors or branding. Pin anything that catches your eye- no need to be picky here!
In this sample mood board, I searched from the perspective of the above brand. I plugged phrases like “boho branding,” “natural colors,” “boho feminine colors,” etc. into the search bar and this is what I came up with-
You’ll notice a lot of cool pinks and warm oranges. I would also include a darker sage green color (which is in some of the images not shown in the screenshot).
From this board, utilizing gradients (lighter and darker shades of the colors shown), I was able to create these two palettes-
Choosing one of these palettes, I could easily create branding and marketing materials, social media posts, and yes- even a logo!
Typography (AKA Consistent Fonts)
This one is so important and is truthfully something that I have only recently gotten a handle on in my own branding.
I’ve always been a self-proclaimed Font Snob (I could go on for hours ranting about Comic Sans and Kristen ITC *shudders*) and LOVE looking at and playing around with different fonts. I couldn’t bring myself to settle on 2-3 for my own branding until just recently, when I was looking over my own Instagram page and noticed the inconsistency.
At that moment, I knew I needed to do the hard work and settle on 2-3.
When it comes to combining fonts, there are no hard and fast rules, but there are guidelines to follow in order to make the biggest impact with your font choices.
- Combine a serif with a sans-serif font. This is a classic and safe choice, and it’s honestly hard to get wrong!
- Avoid similar classifications. (If you follow the rule above, you’ll avoid this one!) For example, avoid pairing a serif font with another serif font, or a slab serif with another slab serif. When you do this, you don’t get enough contrast which can make the line of vision harder to follow.
- Use hierarchy to your advantage. On this page, for example, my headings are a large and bold serif font, my subheadings are smaller and bold serif, and the body of the text is small and sans-serif.
- Mix display fonts with simple fonts. If you choose a fancy or funky display font for your headers, choose a simple and neutral font for the body text.
- Be sure your fonts are readable at appropriate sizes. For example, I would not use Brittany Script for the body of the text because it would be far too difficult to read and would probably give the reader a headache in large quantities.
My own brand fonts are Brittany Script (a script font, obviously), Playfair Display SC (an all-caps serif), and Quicksand- (a light sans serif). You can see the visual hierarchy in this image, a screenshot from my Branding 101 mini e-book.
This one is a little bit tricky, and I don’t often see it listed as a necessary component in branding, but it is SO important!
If you’ve been around for a little while, you probably know that my communication style is pretty informal. I type the way that I talk (and, in fact, a lot of my blog posts are the result of me using my voice-to-text app to record my thoughts exactly as they come out of my mouth). I also tend to be fairly conservative with my language and (usually) avoid the use of curse words.
So imagine- how would you, the audience, feel if I suddenly began speaking to you like I do my first-grade students, or if I began dropping f-bombs with every paragraph? That wouldn’t make any sense at all! If I’ve been consistent all this time and then suddenly drop a bomb (be it f- or otherwise), that would probably shock you and make you wonder whether you should trust me.
I also encourage you to do as I do and make sure that your written communication style matches up with how you communicate verbally in real life. Have you ever been on a call with someone and thought to yourself, “This person is so different from what I expected them to be!” AVOID THAT at all costs!
As we can see, communication style is very important. You get to choose how you speak to your audience- are you strictly educating them? Are you sprinkling in a little bit of humor or sass? Do you write like you’re having a conversation with your best friend over coffee? Do you curse sparingly, occasionally, or often? Do you use jargon that only people in your field can understand?
Whatever your chosen communication style is, make sure that you stick with it! Doing this will help your audience learn to trust you, and then they will hopefully choose to stick around and take advantage of your offers.
Consistent visuals on social media
When we were chatting about branding colors, we already discussed the importance of using consistent color palettes throughout all of your marketing materials. But, what about the other visuals?
It’s very important to have a consistent theme throughout your brand’s social media channels. You never want your audience to be shocked and confused by what you are posting!
On the other hand, you also don’t ONLY want to post about your business. Constantly selling is exhausting and will turn off your audience quickly I’ve seen it recommended time and time again (and also recommend myself) to choose ~5 different topics to consistently talk and post about on your social media profile.
For example, on my own account, I tend to post about my home (including coffee, my cats, my workspace, etc.), my daughter, my Etsy shop, Disney/Disney parks, hand lettering, and design tips and tricks.
Those things don’t sound like they would be cohesive, but they all work together to build my personal brand.
If I were to suddenly begin intermittently posting, for example, pictures of the drugstore skincare products I use and a new pair of shoes I bought, that would be incredibly confusing for my audience.
Consistency is KEY!
Let’s say that you’re a wedding photographer. Of course, you want to post photos of your work to attract potential clients, but you also want to post other things that people can relate to and connect with you on. You might post your own photography, beautiful florals, your work area, local coffee shops where you work, and the lake house where you vacation (my own personal dream!).
All of those things can work together to build your own personal brand! The factor that binds all of those different things together is you.
So what now?
Hopefully now, you have the tools and knowledge that you need to begin building your own personal brand!
If you’re still feeling unsure, or feel that you don’t have all of the time that you’ll need to build a consistent brand, then I invite you to check out my DIY Branding Kit!
This kit has everything you need to build your own brand in just a few hours- 15 pre-made logos, 70+ color palettes, 20+ font pairings, and 13 social media templates for you to customize with your own branding.
If you’d like more business tips and tricks, feel free to follow me on Instagram!