Branding is an important part of running your own business, but it’s hard to do when you’re first starting out. Your vision might not be 100% in-place, but don’t let yourself believe that you’re “not big enough” to build an effective brand! There are plenty of reasons to start putting the pieces of your brand together sooner, rather than later.
I had the privilege of sitting in on a talk by prominent designer Frank Chimero not long ago, and he briefly touched on the challenge of designing when you have no constraints, and how designing for particular platforms–such as tablet e-readers, in his case–can actually be helpful, because the constraints of those platforms can give you, “something to lean against.” It helps give you direction, when you otherwise might not have one.
Your brand can be a lot like that, too. Branding is more than just design: it’s also how you talk about your business, how you communicate what’s unique about and important to you, and how you make sure that your potential client hears it and remembers it. It’s everything from color and style to the words you choose, and when you use them.
Have you ever been asked about your work, and felt completely unsure of what to say about it? “Oh, I make bags, all kinds of bags, shoulder bags and also little clutch bags… oh, and I make them all with recycled materials, because I really believe in upcycling and making the most of all materials! And I’m at some shops around town, but I also have an Etsy store, and…”
If you don’t have your brand outlined in your head, you might come out of it feeling scattered, and realize you haven’t even told them the name of your company, so they can actually find and buy your work!
This is a time when having constraints can really help you, rather than hurt you. When you have too many options, it can be paralyzing, because there are so many directions to go in. Something as essential as a color choice on a flyer, or a 30-second elevator speech, can feel like stumbling through the dark blindfolded, when you have no constraints and nothing to frame your thinking with.
By starting to outline your brand, you can identify the key issues that are important to you, and important to your client, and give yourself that Something To Lean Against. Even when you’re out of sorts, you’ll have those key points to fall back on, so you can share your work with someone effectively, even in hectic moments where you don’t feel 100% prepared for it.
If you haven’t put much thought into your brand yet, now is the time to start! Then, whether you’re planning for your future, or spontaneously sharing what you do in the present, you’ll be able to rest a little easier–you’ll have something to lean against.