Don’t spend a lot of money on branding when you’re first starting out.
That’s right. I said it. And I’m a branding designer who helps businesses make large, strategic investments in branding.
But it’s different when you’re just starting out. Your short-term goal should be to have a brand that will be a starting point—and it’s probably not the time to invest thousands of dollars because 1) you most likely don’t have the revenue to justify that kind of investment and 2) you don’t necessarily know enough about your business to create a brand/logo that is strategic instead of rushed.
My advice: Stay lean until you get some traction with your business.
With a smart approach to do-it-yourself branding, you can lay a solid foundation that you can evolve from. And today I’m going to tell you how. But first…
Whether you’re a solopreneur or corporate marketing executive, you probably know that strategic design is good for business and can have significant impact on your bottom line. So if you’re spending thousands on a new brand identity or website, of course you want to make sure it’s a wise investment.
But if you’re looking for a dollar-based ROI when it comes to design, I have some bad news for you: It’s probably not going to happen.
Clients and prospects alike often tell me that they are sick of looking at their brand. They complain that everything looks the same. All of their printed collateral, their web site and corresponding PDF downloads, their social media graphics, etc… ALL LOOK THE SAME! They are frankly bored with their brand identity, and want to change it up due to some perceived notion that everyone else is getting bored with it too.
Here’s the thing: If you are sick and tired of looking at your brand, then you are doing it right.
So, you are ready to move forward on that big project (brand identity, annual report, website, ad campaign, etc.) yet you are not sure where to begin. You tell your designer what you want and he goes forth and designs it with little to no information. The problem is that he doesn’t have a shred of information that will help him create something that is going to be effective, if at all usable or suitable for your audience. He won’t know what resources to use because he doesn’t know your budget. He doesn’t know whom you are targeting so it’s a shot in the dark to create something that will be effective for that specific market. That’s where a creative brief comes in.
Back when I officially started my company (2005), I needed a website. So, I set up a quick landing page for my company and stated that because I was too busy with my clients’ work, I didn’t have a fully functioning website. I figured visitors would think I was so busy and successful that I didn’t have the time to create a proper website, and they would flock to work with me because I was so busy. You know the saying… “the cobblers children have no shoes”, right? WRONG!
The truth is—not only was I lying to my potential clients—I was lying to myself.
Almost every business uses images to promote their brand. Either in a blog post, a website, or any printed collateral.
It can bring life and context to a project. It can emote a certain feeling or memory. It can help you connect with your audience. Imagery is powerful for sure! In fact, the image above is licensed from a stock agency, with a little added manipulation by me.
Many businesses find images online via Google search, and others, and use them at will. But here’s the thing. Contrary to what many believe, just because you find an image on the Internet, it doesn’t mean it is free to use! Repeat that last sentence and remember it because it can potentially save you thousands of dollars and legal headaches.
A logo design contest site is basically an online marketplace where people or businesses looking to have a logo designed, post the project/contest to the site along with some requirements and prize dollar amount—usually miniscule. The members, usually consisting of thousands of designers, proceed to design potentially hundreds of options for the contest holder to choose from, typically by a specified due date. The contest holder then either chooses a logo and “rewards” the winner with the prize, or decides there is no winner and the project is reposted for more designs until he gets one that he likes. That’s it in a nutshell.
Sounds like a great deal…hundreds of design options to choose from and only a few bucks, right? Not so fast!
As a designer, I am often wanting to use alternative methods for printing, or special papers, inks, or die cuts for a particular project. Early in my career, I would design to my heart’s content only to discover that after the fact, the client didn’t budget for such a piece. So I would have to go back and retool the design to fit the print and production specifications to fall in line with their budget. This not only applies to Print. It can apply to new media depending on what technology is used to deliver your content. Either way, it is a mistake that I don’t make any more.
The reason I don’t make that mistake anymore is that I always ask what the client’s budget is. Most of the time they tell me outright. Sometimes, I get the feeling that some clients think that I am trying to squeeze additional money out of them, but the reality is that I need to know the budget in order to move forward with any kind of success. Much like any other significant purchase you make in this world, you tend to budget for it—even informally. For instance, when you go to buy a new or used car, you know how much money you have to put down—and you know how much money you can afford for monthly payments. After you do the math, you are left with what your budget is. The same goes for house shopping, etc., and the same should go for any business purchase you make—including your brand identity and any marketing collateral.