3 Reasons Why Any Entrepreneur Can DIY Their Own Visual Brand

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I’m a big believer in not being a “jack of all trades.” While it’s great to be multi-talented and have different skill sets, it’s very important to focus on what you’re really good at and outsource the other tasks that you don’t have time for or enjoy.

Hold the phone, for a second. I know what you might be thinking. Not every entrepreneur is in a spot to hire help. Sometimes, that has to wait and come a little further down the road. Everyone is at a different place in their journey. And, I also agree with that!

Designing visuals is definitely an area that can be a bigger investment — hiring a professional designer to not only take care of your branding upfront (establishing the official look and feel of your business) but also providing support for on-going print and digital design tasks is something that needs to be budgeted for. And, there’s certainly a professional skill set that comes with using design software and working with high-quality graphics.

Until you’re able to do that…

You might be thinking that if you’re not a professional designer, you can’t create a professional brand for yourself.

You’re not sure how to even start. How to pick colors, how to find and download fonts, what software to use, what file formats a logo should be saved in, what else you even need beyond a logo — and you’re feeling overwhelmed.

Never fear, I’m here to let you in on a little secret:

ANY entrepreneur can DIY their visual brand!

Here are just 3 reasons why...

1. You know your business better than anyone.

You can translate your ideas, thoughts, feelings, strategy, mission, values and creativity into a foundational, visual brand identity that will be consistent, cohesive, look professional — and attract those dream clients you’ve been wanting to find. Because, only you know who you truly are, what you want to do or be known for — and who you want to work with

2. You are more creative than you realize.

Growing up naturally creative and an “arts-y” kid, I really used to dislike the idea that “anyone can be creative.” It made it sound like it was too easy and I felt that it downplayed the arts and those who were really gifted towards them. Because I was young, I simply didn’t realize that creativity involves so much more than just having the ability to draw on paper, like I always enjoyed doing. Now, I know that truly anyone can be creative! If you have a brain and a heart — and you’re passionate about your business, you have the ability to transfer your ideas, thoughts, visions and dreams to the screen or on paper, with the right help. All you have to do is see the bigger picture!

3. You’re smart and willing to learn.

As entrepreneurs, it’s a very innate thing to have an unquenchable thirst for more — learning, growing, evolving. How do we make ourselves and our businesses better? With that comes an open mind for continuing education and investing in professional development. As long as you have that drive and desire to learn more and be/do better, then you have the smarts to follow simple instructions, guidelines and templates that would show you to build a visual brand, right? I thought so!

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4 tips for choosing colors for your brand

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Do you ever struggle with choosing just the right combination of colors for your brand, a client’s brand or an individual design project? There are literally countless colors that exist, in different shades and tints. Even just increasing the darkness or lightness of a particular color can change how it looks within a design, entirely.

How many should you even use? 2? 6? How do you piece together what works and what doesn’t? What do certain colors mean?

There is a ton of psychology involved with colors — and they alone play a huge role in your branding or any design project — because a palette is one of the aspects that someone remembers the most. It hits on certain heartstrings, can alter a mood and evoke a specific emotion, like happiness or anger. It can really set the overall tone for a design — like a logo, a website or a poster.  

Today, I want to break down how to even begin in general when it comes to pairing a collection of colors together, to create a palette that looks really professional, attractive and timeless. It’s important to note that I’ve even seen lovely and successful brands that just use black and white. The secret is in simplicity, using colors that are visually-pleasing and therefore, memorable — along with considering emotions associated with individual colors.

  1. Decide on 2-4 colors — It’s easy to get very overwhelmed when looking at all of the different colors that the world offers us. If you’re just starting out, stick with planning to choose a minimum of 2 or a maximum of 4 colors. For example, I’m sure that Target uses other colors within their official brand standards, but I (as a consumer) only think of two specific ones — red and white. And remember, you can always add more to your palette later, or if it’s for a brand, you can create a secondary palette that can be used in special circumstances. Extra pops of accent colors can always enhance a brand.

  2. Consider your audience — Different people may feel differently about certain colors, but overall, there is a general science behind most colors. Keep in mind who you are communicating to or trying to reach. If it’s an entirely male-dominated demographic, you might not want to use pink and purple, as they tend to give off more of a “feminine” vibe, but you might try using a mix of blues, greens and greys. If your audience is something related to children (like a school program) you could play with colors that are more youthful and exude a fun, bright and youthful flair. If your audience is professionals in the wedding industry or brides, you could consider colors that are softer or more pastel-based — over ones that are bolder and harsher. These are just general tips to follow — of course, men can like pink and some brides use darker and moodier colors for their weddings. To each their own!

  3. Consider emotion. On the other side of that same psychology coin, it’s important to think about how certain colors will evoke emotions, within a particular group of people. Colors have universal and basic associations to specific feelings, moods, thoughts and are big stimulants. The below descriptions might seem simple enough, but they’re crucial to remember. Again, think about not only WHO you are trying to attract, but also HOW your brand or design might make them feel, when they respond to seeing colors. Below is just a quick breakdown of a few, to illustrate what I mean:   

    • Red: excitement, anger, energy, heat, loud, meant to grab attention.

    • Blue: corporate, professional, cool, peaceful, serenity, calmness.

    • Green: health, fresh, nature, environmental, growth.

    • Purple: bold, unique, royal, power.

    • Orange: similar to red, but on less of an “alert” or “anger” scale. More bright, fun, hopeful and positive.

    • Yellow: similar to orange. Youthful, happy, positive, cheerful.

  4. Use online resources — I personally like finding inspiration in everyday things or out in nature. I even like going “old school” and taking a look at the Color Wheel to consider colors that are analogous, complementary, monochromatic and more. However, in the essence of time, it can also be quicker and easier to use a few handy websites that will automatically generate palettes for you. These are important when creating a few, so that you can compare them all and see what colors you like together and which ones that you don’t. Here are a few of my favorite online tools to use:

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5 steps for designing your visual brand

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Have you ever wondered how a visual brand identity comes together, from concept to completion? From finding inspiration for the brand itself, to the first sketches and drafts of logos, to piecing together just the right combinations of colors and fonts, to creating the secondary logos, icons and assets that get used on a website, social media graphics, slide decks, printed materials and more?  

It can be a challenge to know when and how to start the design process in an orderly way that allows certain ideas and concepts to naturally develop, evolve and flow from one step of the process to the next. A lot of time, revising, refining and hard work goes into a visual brand that will look professional, be relevant and stick around for a while, but the framework can still be simply broken down in ways that are easy to implement and execute.

I have refined my design process over the years and nowadays, there is a simple, 5-step framework that I follow each and every time someone signs on to work with me. This way, my workflow is consistent and systemized — and I can give someone the same quality process over and over. Follow these for yourself and discover the amazing results.


1) Create a Mood Board: I go through a "brand personality assessment" with the client to nail down the style, vibes and emotion behind the brand — that then translates into a mood board that sets the tone for the brand "at a glance." The mood board is a collage of imagery (that consists of photos, colors, textures, patterns, icons, quotes, etc.) and it's digitally-generated. Only meant to serve as inspiration for the overall visual identity that will soon be built.
   
2) Design Logo Concepts: While many designers take the "1 concept" approach and maybe I'll be brave enough to try that one day, I personally like to give my clients a variety to choose from. Sometimes this is 4, even up to 6 — if I'm feeling really inspired and creative. We go through revisions + tweaks until we have a final design that is "the one." If we already have a set color palette to work with, then I design using those colors and format the final logo files in the proper sizes, formats, resolutions + color systems. If we need to explore palettes a bit more, then I will design the concepts in black and white for the moment. This way, the focus is really on the design and clients aren't as distracted by the initial color drafts.
    
3) Choose Colors + Find Fonts: Next, we move onto exploring different color palettes and font pairings. If particular fonts used in the logo happen to work for the regular brand fonts (to be used across the board of various materials and graphics) then we roll with those. As long as there are serif + sans serif options. If we used a more decorative, handwritten or unique typeface in the logo, then I offer a mix of font pairings that I think will complement the brand and the client can choose which ones they like the best. Usually, a client will have a general idea of the colors that they like, so I will keep those in mind and generate 3-5 palettes that reflect those. Sometimes, if necessary, I will throw in a "wildcard" — just to give them something different to consider that they otherwise wouldn't have and to compare others back to.    

4) Build the Brand Assets: Here is the fun part! Now that we have a beautiful logo, colors and fonts all solidified, we get to build out the rest of the brand identity! This includes whatever assets are needed. I will create anything from textures and patterns, to a secondary logo to an icon library — it just depends on what the client plans to use for their collateral, website, etc. I then piece it all together and design a brand board. This is a single display of all of the assets organized and how they can work together, to give a quick preview of the entire identity. It's helpful to share with other client partners, vendors, printers, etc. so that the brand visuals stay intact and are used cohesively and consistently across various platforms.

5) Apply the New Brand in Real Life: Now that we have the entire visual brand created, it's time to "apply it in real life." Through the creation of social media graphics, business cards, PDFs, a website and more — it's important that the same elements are used over and over — to again, ensure consistent and professional applications of the brand. Whether someone experiences you online or offline, through your blog, a podcast, a sales page, etc. — they should always see the same identity. I always refer to Starbucks as having an obvious strong brand awareness — whether you walk into a shop, use a gift card, visit their website or follow them on Instagram, you will always have the same visual experience. The same should be true of any professional brand!

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6 best tips for making a mood board

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Crafting a mood board can be a crucial aspect of any pre-design process because it’s a quick and effective way to set the graphic and emotional tones of a project.

In case you’re not sure, a mood board (or vision board or inspiration board) is simply a collage of imagery that conveys the overall look, feel, personality and identity for a particular collaboration or event — very handy when you’re having a hard time presenting or expressing your vision and ideas. Most people use a mix of photos, colors, words/quotes, typefaces, textures, patterns, illustrations and more to showcase a variety of visuals that will inspire and give life to a larger design concept.  

It doesn’t matter whether you are focused on your branding, a website, a brochure or ad campaign. A mood board can be created for literally anything! It can even be used when you’re planning to renovate a room in your house and you want to curate the colors, style and vibes before you buy that first can of paint, carpet, trim or fixtures.

Without further ado, let’s dive into 6 best tips for making a mood board for your next big project!

  1. Physical or digital? Mood boards can be crafted either way — that’s the fun part! Decide what works best for you and the particular project that you’re working on. If you want to go the “old school” route, cut out imagery from magazines and paste them to a poster or canvas, go for it! And, if you want to put your puzzle pieces together digitally, you can use Adobe programs like Illustrator or Photoshop, to drop your imagery into various shapes, organized by lines — in a grid-like format. If you’re not very Adobe-savvy, no fear! I’ve included links to a couple of good online resources and mood board generators that can come to the rescue:

    Canva Mood Board — Canva offers countless templates that you can play with. If you’re not already using Canva, you can sign up for a free account. It’s easy and user-friendly!

    Milanote — This is another website through which you can grab a free account. You can use their pre-made templates or design your own, as well as use their pre-loaded imagery or upload your own. They take it one step further and even allow you to upload videos and animated GIFs, so that your boards can be really modern and dynamic!

  2. Plan with Pinterest — If you’re designing a digital mood board, you can create boards and save pins that resonate with you, save them to a folder on your desktop — and then add them to your mood board(s) later. (Or, print them off for your physical board!) Pinterest makes it easy to find specific types of images, so that you’re not spending a lot of time searching Google (even though, you can totally use Google, too.) Again, try to collect a mix of photos, colors, quotes and textures that will really capture and express the essence of your design’s identity.

  3. Think emotional, not just literal — Something important to keep in mind is not just using images that physically represent your brand (or any other design initiative.) Think “mood” after all! What feelings do you want to express? Colorful, youthful, vibrant, bold? Light, whimsical, fresh, airy? Sleek, sophisticated, elegant, chic? Whatever the direction, especially be sure to include colors that speak to these emotions — that will make someone truly feel something.    

  4. Consider your audience — Don’t just create a mood board with no clear direction or messaging in mind. Think about the project that you’re using the mood board to inspire and think about the audience who will be experiencing it. Don’t just put a collage together of random photos, text and colors that don’t make any sense. Have some rhyme and reason to the overall “puzzle” that you’re piecing together. This idea goes back to thinking about the emotional aspects of the board — be clear on who you’re speaking to and what about.

  5. Create at least 3 — There really are no rules, but I like to create at least 3 different mood boards initially (all using the same overall look and feel) and then take the best combination of imagery from each and make (1) really strong one. Tweak your board until it’s a good representation and expression of your design vision.

  6. Only use it for inspiration — Remember that if you’re pulling images from Pinterest, Google and even from publications — they have copyrights. Putting together a mood board should be strictly kept for the “conceptual” phase of your design project — and not for anything that is publicly distributed, shared or published. For example, I would be careful about not sharing it on your blog or website. I normally only share a mood board 1:1 privately, with a client. I’m not a lawyer and suggest consulting one if you have questions! Just be aware of the legal and illegal uses of imagery that belong to other people.

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3 ways your brand can emotionally attract new clients

Think of your brand as a personality — and the visuals that you use in your everyday designs express that personality. Like attracts like and the class and quality that your brand exudes (consistently) will in return, attract the same quality overtime in potential clients and buyers.

It’s important to remember that your brand is also a blend of who you are, with what you do. Not that you can’t be a totally different person outside of your business and have other interests (I do!) but I probably wouldn’t pay a designer with a dark and grungy website to design the branding needed for a light and airy lifestyle portrait photographer. Not that they couldn’t or wouldn’t have the skills, I would just most likely file that design contact away for a heavy metal band in the future and find a different designer who has a portfolio showcasing other airy lifestyle designs for the photographer’s brand.

Long story short, your overall brand aesthetic should be reflective of the style of brands that you want to work with. You want a visitor to come to your site looking exactly for what you offer — and how you offer it. They should land on your site and within a couple of minutes know that they at least want to schedule a call with you to chat more, because you look like you could be a good fit for their design needs. The reason that they feel called to possibly want to work with you? They simply like what they see!

The types of photos, typefaces and colors that you use all work together within your brand to attract a certain type of person. So, make sure that it is attracting the specific niche market or demographic or industry that you’re wanting to serve and connect with, or those who are aligned with your values and need what you have to offer.

  1. Brand photography or carefully-selected stock imagery — while “content is king” and copywriting absolutely plays a huge role in converting visitors to your site into potential clients (words matter!) — most people won’t even take the time to read anything without the support of visuals. Be picky with the photos that you place on your website and share on social media. I highly suggest hiring a photographer to capture some great working, candid and unique photos of you in your element or workspace (or somewhere) so that no one else will have your photos and they will truly be authentic. But if you can’t invest in a photo session just yet, try to pay a monthly or yearly subscription to stock photo websites that are operated by creative entrepreneurs. You can use platforms like iStock or Shutterstock, but there are more and more styled stock photo sites popping up everyday and you can locate images that carry your brand colors or the overall vibe and aesthetic that you want your brand to express. I have brand photos and plan to invest in an updated session later this year, but even for “everyday” social media graphics, I pay for and download photos from a couple of sites like these.

  2. Font pairings — typefaces also play a role in crafting the right design aesthetic for your website, social media graphics, business cards and more. Typography is an artform by itself. The strategic pairing of a specific font for headlines and a secondary font for subheads, along with other fonts used in body copy, pull quotes, etc. can definitely set a certain tone, all working together. Decide if you want to play with classic serif typefaces or minimal and modern sans serif options. I recommend using a combination of both, along with a fun handwritten typeface for an “extra splash” from time to time, used in special graphics or for calling out important details. For tips on finding fonts (because there are rules around the specific uses and licensure of personal + commercial versions) check out this blog post.

  3. A striking or unique color palette — similarly to choosing fonts, picking the right mix of colors for your official brand palette is a big deal! But, it doesn’t need to be hard or super time-consuming. You can include anywhere from 2-3 colors, or even go up to 8. I always say that as long as the colors complement one another, express your brand and work well together, there aren’t any other strict rules. You can play with fun online resources like Coolers or Colormind to help you generate a palette or check out this blog post.  

To help you nail down the right look and feel for your branding, here is just a quick sampling of different brand personalities:

  • Youthful

  • Urban chic

  • Bold/loud

  • Feminine

  • Earthy/natural

  • Classic/timeless

  • Simple/minimal/fresh

As I once stated in a past blog post, try to consider the demographics of your potential customer or client base. Are they young adults, baby boomers or older? Are they primarily male or female? What are their interests? Where do they live? What do they need from you and what you’re selling? A group of 35-55 year old corporate males who live in suits and ties every day might enjoy a more professional and colder palette that includes blues and greys because it looks sleek and sophisticated. But, 25-35 year old mommy bloggers might appreciate something a bit warmer, inviting and cozy, like pastel pinks, oranges, ivories and tans.

An extra note: blend in more of you on your website, in your Instagram feed, on video and more! Be real and authentic. Show people who you really are, as not only a business owner or designer, but also as a person — online and offline. When you do, you’ll attract people similar to you (like attracts like!) and potential clients will follow and get to know + like you enough in time, to want to buy from you. Branding goes beyond your logo, your photos, your visuals — it really is a big emotional experience for your client. So, make it an attractive and unique one that is always memorable!


7 ways to update your brand for the new year

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As you approach the end of another year in business, it’s always beneficial to reflect on (as most business owners do) the last 12 months — and to evaluate the ups and downs, what worked, what didn’t, where you reached or exceeded your expectations or goals, where you perhaps fell short — and you set the goals and create the game plan for the new year, to get you one step closer to where you ultimately want your business to be.

Often, within the growing and scaling of a business, there are so many moving parts and tasks to complete. Some business owners hire strategists, copywriters and designers to help launch their visual brand professionally right off the bat, so that they can be taken seriously, look as legitimate as possible and attract the right niche/client base — and focus on the other areas of their business that they’re good at, like business development and client service. Others DIY their visuals for a while, until they have the money saved up to make the investment in professional branding — because they do realize the importance of it. And, some have had very successful businesses that they have grown without any professional branding, until they hit a wall and realize that in order to grow and scale their businesses even more in the right direction, it’s time to level up and make the leap to working with a designer or team of other professionals. Regardless of which business owner that you are, you most likely have some kind of branding in place, that has gotten you to a certain point. With that, the new year is the PERFECT time to enhance and tweak that brand, so that it’s fresh and ready to take your business to the next level for the next 12 months. The good news is that you don’t always have to pay for a complete rebrand or overhaul — unless it’s absolutely needed. But, if you really like your brand or at least several aspects of it — and your clients are already familiar with it visually (because of how consistently you show up on various platforms, in the same ways, everyday) never fear! You don’t have to totally change things up or become unrecognizable. Below are a few ideas for quickly and simply adding to and enhancing your current brand, so that it stays polished, sophisticated, unique and relatable in the new year — without the price tag of an entire brand overhaul.

1. Create a secondary logo mark. If you still love your logo, you can absolutely keep using it as your primary version. But, you can also create a supporting graphic to be used when you need a smaller, more “iconic” or monogram-style of your identity. This mark can be used on certain materials, for certain times and places — and adds a fresh, new face to your brand.

2. Add a new color or texture to your palette. Again, remember that you can add to or create small extensions of your brand without changing it all up. Take your color palette for example. If you like it, you can keep what you have, but just add an extra color or two (or) replace a couple that you don’t love so much (or haven’t felt as strongly about as the others.) You can also always add a fun texture to your collection (imagine something like a gold foil, marble or metallic swatch) that adds some flair to your visuals.

3. Introduce a new font to your typography. This point is similar to the one above. Hopefully you have a classic serif and modern sans serif combination already in place that you implement. If you still love them and use them for all of your branded materials, then introduce a fun script or handwritten style font to sprinkle throughout certain designs from time to time, to highlight special pieces of copy that need to “pop.” Or, replace the serif or sans serif that you might have gotten tired of using the last few years with new ones. Maybe introduce a new font to only use on unique or separate designs, like in emails, or for a specific launch, course, podcast or other product. A new launch is actually the perfect time to use some new colors, imagery and typefaces that still complement your “regular/everyday” branding — but allow your followers to know that these visual bits are for a different platform within your brand. You can still stay on-brand and look familiar to your clients, even with the addition of a new font. It just helps to freshen things up a bit.

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4. Create a collection of new icons or assets. Many brands use a collection of illustration-based icons to represent the services or products on their website or are used within social media graphics. Many also use patterns or textures (mentioned above) like watercolors or metallics. If you don’t already, then get some created! Or, if you do use them, like with adding fonts and colors, create some new ones or replace current ones that you don’t love anymore. Elements of design like this are just as important in visually supporting your brand as the right typography, color swatches and other imagery, like photos.  

5. Schedule a new photography session. You might have had brand photos taken a few years ago and although they have been great and more than served a purpose, appearing throughout your website and countless graphics, it is probably time for some new ones! Looks change and we grow with our businesses, so therefore, we are always evolving. It’s important that the photos that we use on a regular basis are aligned with who we truly are, as well. Plus, who doesn’t love getting their edited photos back from an amazing session? New photos alone can make your website and other visuals looks totally new — which is just, fun!

6. Update the design of your site. This doesn’t need to be a major overhaul and it doesn’t even have to involve any code! (Whew!) Sometimes, just moving around some content, adding some new testimonials, replacing a few photos, adding a new opt-in or contact form and making small, stylistic edits will change the look and feel of the site altogether — making it look and feel new. This will only attract more of the right visitors to your site and make your brand look confident, sleek and professional.  

7. Update your email template. If you send a newsletter to your subscribers, very similarly to the website suggestions above, simply update the design and layout of your weekly or monthly emails. Change up the header, the style of the headlines, update any necessary information in the footer or just change what content that you already include. Add in a few of those new colors, fonts or icons that you’ve created. If you don’t already have one, add a bio at the bottom (with one of those new brand photos... wink, wink!) and introduce yourself to new subscribers or remind current subscribers who you are and why you’re grateful to be in their inboxes.

Once again, a few simple changes can go a long way! I have personally done several of these and plan to revisit others in the new year. You’ll find that it’s fun to quickly update all of these various aspects of your brand, so that it looks like you’ve gone through a facelift, when really, you’ve simply changed the way that you did your makeup. New year, fresh brand!

3 reasons why hiring a designer is an investment, not an expense

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If you’re a small business owner, but not a designer, you might be spending a lot of time creating the visual branding and miscellaneous designs for promoting your business — from your logo, to your website, to your social media graphics, business cards and beyond. In your mind, you justify working on these tasks yourself instead of delegating them because you might think that you don’t have the extra money to pay a professional designer. And, there is nothing wrong with DIY-ing any aspect of your business for a little while, especially when you’re just starting out or don’t have the extra funds. Been there, done that (and still doing it to some extent!)

However — look at things a different way. The time and energy that you spend on designing could be spent working in other areas of your business — the things that you’re really good at and enjoy doing. If you’re like me, you’ve heard this philosophy countless times — outsource what you don’t have time for or don’t enjoy. Spend time working on your business, not in your business. And, it’s incredibly true. When you’re a service provider especially, time is money. You trade hours for dollars. When you spend a few hours a week in Canva creating graphics for an upcoming launch or event, or in a DIY website builder like Wix making updates to your site, you’re spending the same hours that could be spent serving your clients, making you money. Your own business development is very important, just like your paying work, but you would actually save a lot of time, mental capacity (and therefore, money) if you would hire a pro who could take all of those extra tasks off of your plate. How does that sound?

Here are (3) big reasons why you should look at hiring a designer to help you run your business — and why it’s an investment in the long run — and not “just another” expense.

1. A designer becomes apart of your team and understands your brand.

When you hire the right designer, they become your dependable, go-to creative pro. Someone you know who you can always count on. This is something that I pride myself on, when working with my clients. A designer can become a creative extension of your team… a partner… and someone with whom you build a strong, long-term relationship. They are someone who you can trust and who knows your brand inside and out. They can master your look and feel… and most importantly, will keep things consistent and always looking professional. They can also stay on top of print and digital trends, bringing new ideas to the table, so that your overall brand identity stays fresh, modern and relevant.

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2. You will save time and money.

As touched on at the beginning, if you’re a service provider, you are trading hours for dollars. You only have so much time in the day. Wouldn’t you rather spend time getting client work done and other tasks that you enjoy (and will make you money?) When you’re DIY-ing graphics, it’s easy to get lost in a program, unsure of choosing fonts and colors, what file formats to use, how to download high-resolution photos and more — and before you know it, 3 hours have gone by and been lost. Instead, why don’t you rest easy knowing that your visuals are being taken care of in a timely fashion, with no issues, by someone who is an expert?

3. Your business will grow and look professional.

Once you hire a designer, you have access to a pro who can turn around most any creative project that you can dream up. Whether you need a landing page for a new course that you’re launching, pins to be uploaded to Pinterest that ultimately drive traffic to your website, a brochure or flier to pass out at a local networking event or Facebook ads for a new campaign, your designer can create these deliverables quickly and efficiently — which allows you to show up across multiple platforms, several times a day. The more that you are visually out there, the more that you are seen and positioned as an expert at what you do. Professional visuals can more easily attract the right clients and customers. And again, because you’re not creating these materials yourself, you’re making more money in your business by getting your own work done at a faster pace and for more clients — and ALL of these things simply add up to more money in your pocket. As your brand identity continues to grow, so will your business. And, you will always look legitimate and professional — and taken seriously — because your branding is consistent and created by the same person time after time.  

10 ways to brand your business

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When it comes to building a new business from the ground up (or rebranding an existing one) it’s important to know that if there is no proper branding in place, the business will not be nearly as successful or leveraged as it could be. Professional branding allows a business to be known for certain skills, services or products, to stand out, to be memorable, to be valued — and to be able to stick around for a long time.

Creating the brand for your business can be done in multiple ways — both visually and non-visually — and below, I’m breaking down 10 simple and quick things that you can work on now, to accomplish this.

1. Figure out who you are and what you want to do and be known for.
Before you do ANYTHING, you must establish who you are as a business owner — what you want to be an expert at, the things that you want to be known for and how you plan to stand out in a saturated market. Why should someone hire you? What do you want prospective clients to think when your business comes to mind? How do you plan to blend who you are with what you do?  

2. Decide on your values.
Once you figure out who you are and the purpose that you want your business to serve, make a list of your core values. What will your business stand for? What ethics will you incorporate into what you do every single day? Very often, a client is more likely to hire you if they feel that their own values are aligned with yours. Get your business grounded and clear on the emotional impact that you want to deliver through your work, to your clients, to your communities — and beyond.

3. Write a mission statement.
Now that you’re clear on your business’s values, literally write out a mission statement, mentioning them. This can be simple — even just one sentence that breaks down (in seconds) the services that you provide or products that you offer, the goals and focuses of your business and the value that you will offer to your clients. A mission statement is important because it’s a specific declaration that will resonate with your prospective clients — and it’s also important for you and any members of your team to keep in mind as you work every single day. Always remember not only what you do, but why you do it — and for whom.  

4. Find your voice.
Establish the words that you want to consistently use and the sound and tone that you want to have, whether you are writing or speaking. The voice used in your messaging on your website should match up with what you say on video or how you talk to a client. The more consistent that you are with this, the more that someone will view you as an expert.

5. Create your messaging and craft content for your blog and social media.
Now that you know the words that you want to use and the tone that you want to have, put ‘em to work! You might be DIY-ing your copywriting or hiring a professional, but either way, hammer out what you want to say on your website, in your blog, on your social media platforms, in emails, on video, during a consult — and more. Touch on your client’s pain points — show them the emotional value that you can offer, no matter what kind of service you provide. Let them know that you have what they need and you can solve their problems. Make sure that what they read on your website is the same thing that they’ll see on social media or during a meeting with you. Sound like the professional that you are!

6. Design a logo.
Now that some of the important non-tangible items are crossed off the list, let’s move onto the “pretty” stuff! Similar to copywriting, make plans to either DIY this part or work with a designer. Before the actual design of the logo, though, make sure that you create a moodboard, decide on fonts and a color palette, get some brand photos taken care of and figure out the overall style and vibes of your visual identity. The right colors and imagery, tied in with your copy, will attract the right clients. Figure out if you want a type-based logo, one that incorporates an icon or some kind of imagery, a monogram, etc. The simpler, the better! Just make it memorable and easily translatable across different mediums on-screen and off.

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7. Develop a website.
Once the logo is designed, move onto the website phase! Make sure that it matches up visually with your moodboard and logo — use the same colors and fonts. You can easily customize templates through platforms like Wix and Squarespace (my preferred choice) or develop one using Wordpress. Even if you just put up a landing page temporarily or a simple site with just a few, necessary pages — that is fine. Just make sure that it’s clearly stated what you do and offer — and how you can help your prospective clients. Have a strong balance of visuals + text. List your services and products, link to social media platforms and have calls to action in multiple places. Make it easy for someone to contact you. It’s important to have a Facebook page, too, but your website is still crucial because it’s literally the online home of your business — you own it and control it. Social media channels can come and go (and with them, your followers) but your domain is yours, along with your blog and email subscribers.

8. Brand the proper social media platforms.
Once you have figured out where you’re hanging out online (AKA where your clients do) — whether it’s Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, LinkedIn, etc., make sure to brand those pages. Create and upload cover and profile photos, backgrounds and use your brand colors as much as possible — those are just a few quick and easy ways to stay consistent with your visual branding. Again, this way, when someone leaves your website and goes to your Facebook page, they will know that it’s still your business that they’re experiencing online.  

9. Create templates to be used for print + digital mediums.
Now that you have the bigger components of your visual brand established — your logo, website and social media channels — design some templates that you can start using on a regular basis! If you don’t have access to Adobe Photoshop, InDesign or Illustrator, that’s OK. Use apps like Canva that already come with pre-made and ready-sized templates for all online platforms. Think of your everyday post graphics, possible Facebook ads, blog imagery, Pinterest pins and emails — which are all digital designs. Also consider print templates that you can use for your business cards, brochures, product tags, thank you cards, client questionnaires, fliers, letterheads and any kind of document imaginable. Make sure that your brand assets are on every piece of collateral that you put out into the world.  

10. Establish consistency!   
As I’ve been touching on throughout the last few points, you must be consistent! This means showing up in the same ways, every single day, when it comes to your voice and tone, the words that you say and write, the values that you stand for, the services or products that you offer, the ways that you work with your clients, the content that you put out and your visual designs. Someone should experience you in the same ways online and offline. Whether someone is talking to you in person, visiting your website, reading your blog, looking at a social media graphic or holding your business card in their hand, they should always know that it’s you. The more consistent that you show up in every way, the more professional and legitimate that you will look — and therefore, the more seriously that you will be taken. Your prospective clients will turn to you because you will be positioned as an expert!

How to build a recognizable, reliable brand on social media

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It’s important for any company – especially if younger generations are in their target market – to have an online presence. Many people now use social media for over an hour a day, meaning digital platforms are one of the easiest ways to reach new customers or clients. When setting up your social media accounts and creating a recognizable, reliable brand for your company, consider the following tips:

Choose your tone

Some brands are great at jokes on social media, while some are known for responding to every comment. You’re probably better off avoiding too much humor unless you have a hilarious digital marketer on your team who always has tasteful puns on hand, but whatever tone you go for, stay consistent. Additionally, choose which social media networks you want to use. Pinterest, for example, is particularly popular among female users, Facebook will allow you to reach all kinds of people across a large range of ages and Instagram provides the opportunity to create a gorgeous visual portfolio for your business.

Be consistent with your posts

Choose how often you post updates, deals, products news, or competitions on social media and be consistent with this frequency. Whether you post three times a day or twice a week is up to you, but your followers will appreciate consistency; having your posts appear as expected will help them to feel like they know your brand well.

At first, it can be challenging to determine how often to post. Remember that while you don’t want to overwhelm your followers, small, juicy reminders of the existence of your company never hurt. Even just a quick post commenting on the weather in your city or a well-framed image of someone wearing or using one of your products ‘out in the wild’ will do the trick!

Respond to comments graciously

At some point, you will receive comments you don’t agree with and you may get complaints that you will need to put right. You don’t always have to respond to comments on your social media accounts, but when you do, ensure you’re always gracious and professional.

Sometimes, comments can be downright malicious. You don’t necessarily need to reply to these types of comments – the person making them might simply be looking for attention – but ensure you don’t lose your temper and respond in a way that’ll reflect badly on your company and discourage future customers or clients from working with you.

Proofread before posting

It sounds obvious, but it’s amazing how many brands consistently make typos in their posts. If your customers can’t trust you to proofread your posts, how can they trust that your products or services will be of an acceptable standard?

This is extra important if you’re maintaining a website – people will be deliberately viewing your site to find out about your company, so don’t give them the impression that you aren’t even capable of checking your grammar and spelling. Download an app such as Ulysses or Grammarly to help check your spelling and sentence structure while you type and offer suggestions.

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Hold competitions and giveaways

If you’re in a position to give away some free products, holding a competition once in a while is a great way to excite your customer base and show the generous spirit of your brand.

Well-planned, fair ‘draw’ style giveaways are incredibly easy to set up, will give people a good impression of your brand and encourage them to interact with it. Be smart about giveaways: you might like to tell your followers that to enter, they must share one of your advertisements or tag a friend they’d like to share the prize with. This way, the cost of any product you give away will be accounted for by the advertising the competition gives you.

Advertise your social media handles

Once you’ve established your social media handles, advertise them! Put them on your business cards and on your product packaging.

Building a brand on social media will take time and patience, but it’ll be worth it if you can market to your target audience. Start planning your company’s branding and enjoy the reach that only social media can give you!


Cloe Matheson is a freelance writer from Dunedin, New Zealand. She loves discussing events and has previously produced articles for sites such as Auckland Conventions. To see more of Cloe’s work, visit her Tumblr page.


Do you need help with branding and design for your business? Download my Brand Launch Checklist and Branding 101 guides for free today — and join my email list, where you will continue to receive weekly tips from yours truly! 

4 ways to refresh your brand

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Refresh vs. Rebrand – a never-ending debate in the life of a small business owner!

How do you know when it’s time to add some spark back into your visual identity or wipe the slate clean and start from scratch all over again?

Sometimes, we can get ahead of ourselves. It’s easy to want a new logo or website when we stare at these major components of our brand day in and day out. I get it, we tire of them. I feel the same way about my own print + digital materials.

However, the point of branding is to establish consistency. You need a cohesive look and feel to everything that represents and expresses you, so that people become familiar with and trust you. On the flip side, sometimes a logo can become outdated and after years of looking a certain way, it’s OK to take the leap and go through a full rebrand. However, before you step off that ledge, think to yourself – what if I just refreshed my brand in a few small and easy steps? You might be surprised at the simple ways that you can enhance it and add extensions – to make it feel new – but without the time and expense of executing an entire facelift.

1. Add a font to your typography collection.

I don’t recommend using five different typefaces throughout your branding, but if you have one or two that you consistently use (and hopefully they’re a serif and sans serif combo) it’s OK to add in a third option. Maybe this is a script, handwritten or more “fun” font that you use for some headlines, quotes, social media graphics, highlighted blocks of text, etc. Something to add additional interest or flair to your content and design.

2. Add a color to your palette.  

In a very similar and really easy way, introduce a new color to your existing swatches. I believe that you can have 4-5 different colors working together for your brand (unlike fonts, I cap those off at 3 max) and it can be fun to add one more to the mix. Even if you don’t add something super vivid and different, it could be as simple as a neutral option like a grey, ivory or beige. This can also add a sophisticated touch to your branded materials. And, here is what I have to say about choosing the right combination of colors.

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 3. Introduce elements like a secondary logo mark/icon, textures or patterns.

Adding some visual elements that can be used throughout your website, social media graphics and print stationery can be a great way to bring a new dynamic to your branding, without doing an entire overhaul. No matter how great your logo is, you do have to look at it every single day. You probably think of ways that you would tweak it or what you want your next one to look like. Instead of going that far, though, why not add a secondary version of your logo to be used for special occasions? Many businesses use icons and monograms as simplified versions of their logo, when they don’t want or need to use the original version. These smaller marks can absolutely be consistent with your brand and use elements, fonts and colors from your logo, but in a new and unique way. You can create some icons to be sprinkled throughout your website, to help break-up page sections or represent your services or social media handles — that still match your brand. You can also introduce some nice textures and patterns as extensions to your color palette, to add more visual interest to your graphics. I especially like this step because it allows you to add some new elements to your brand, without doing a full-blown rebrand.

4. Invest in brand photography.  

This is a step that I took myself in my business this year and it’s such a game changer! If you’re using the same stock photos over and over again or you don’t have any actual photos of yourself and your working space, now is the time to invest in a professional photographer! At the beginning of the year, I found a photographer whose style I really liked on Facebook and who was located in my city. We met at a local studio/co-working space that is a renovated warehouse and spent the morning capturing headshots and shots of me working with my “tools” – like my laptop, iPad, sketchbook and journal. We incorporated two outfit changes and some different backgrounds — and they turned out perfect, exactly as I envisioned. She gave me around 100 to keep, so I use them regularly on my website, in blog graphics and social media graphics. I feel so much more professional with them — and, I like posting them knowing that nobody else in the world as the exact same shots. I highly recommend investing in unique photos, rather than the same stock photos that everyone else on the Internet is using. **Sidenote, you can also go to a craft store like Hobby Lobby, buy up some paper textures to use as backgrounds, office supplies and fun props — and style your own photo shoot of flat lays to freshen up your blog and Instagram feed. Again, this way, you’re at least using your own photos!**


Branding 101 - Free Downloadable Guide
I got a question for ya. How is your branding looking? Do you have a logo, website and more that you absolutely love…or…not so much? If you’re not a design professional, branding might be something that you don’t love to do for your business or you simply don’t have time for, so let someone else take over! Sign-up below to receive the link to download my new and free PDF tool “Branding 101: What it is, what it isn’t and why you need it” — right now! This quick and simple guide will walk you through why it’s important to establish consistent and memorable branding within your biz — and if you can DIY some of it or if you should hire that professional. If you have any questions after going through it, let’s connect and chat some more!

How to properly create and size images for social media

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I recently did a presentation for my good friend Jessica Castle’s “Stress-Free Launch Summit” about the importance of good design and branding when it comes to launching a new service or product — AND how to properly create and size graphics for specific social media platforms. Some of you may have caught those highlights, but if not, below are a few tips that I shared for creating the graphics and then sizing them correctly. Each social media channel requires different dimensions for images like profile photos, cover photos, post photos and more — and you need to have correctly-sized images uploaded and shared, so that you can be visible, memorable and viewed as professional — by attracting the right potential clients! Strong visuals + content = higher engagement!

It’s important to note that you can include text on some images to mix things up (that is totally normal and acceptable, especially when stating a fact, statistic or a quote) BUT you should really keep graphics more image-based, than anything. Let the graphics support the copy that you provide in a post — for whatever is it that you’re posting or promoting. People love images of people and products — try to use as many unique and branded graphics as possible!

1. How to create graphics:

  1. Adobe Photoshop or Illustrator (this is the official and professional platform for designing digital graphics.) I have always used Photoshop, but you can also use Illustrator. Visit adobe.com to download free trial versions of any Creative Cloud program. If you get comfortable with using Photoshop, keep playing with it and pay a monthly subscription to have it. It’s a great skill set to have, even if you’re not a designer!

  2. Canva - this is definitely the “non-designer’s” go-to resource for creating digital and print graphics. You can use it for free or upgrade to a paid subscription for more features. As a designer, I even have a “Canva for Work” account and share it with my social media strategist, so that she can access my graphics. I’m also able to make them more quickly and simply — and Photoshop files aren’t bogging down my computer anymore. It’s a handy platform and gives you a lot of of options for different font styles, formatting different size graphics, uploading your logo + brand colors and more. It even provides you with ready-to-go, pre-made templates for Instagram, Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest, so that you don’t have to manually format them and take the time to look up the proper dimensions. Super easy! Plus, you can upload your own brand fonts (if you have the “Canva for Work” account.) This way, you can create graphics that are totally on-brand with your launch identity!  

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2. How to size graphics:

Once you’ve decided which software you’re going to use to create your social media graphics, consider the different sizes and formats for each, respective social media platform. As we all know, Facebook especially is ever-changing with its various image dimensions, but this is the current breakdown of recommended sizes as of Summer 2018:

Facebook post: 940x788 pixels (For a regular post, the sizes can be flexible. I tend to post from Instagram to Facebook, so I just use the same square image for both. However, for ads, only 20% of the image can be text-based -- so you will have to run the ad through a layout test beforehand.)

Facebook ad: 1200x628

Facebook cover for a business page: 828x315 (desktop) and 560 pixels of that area is mobile-safe

Facebook cover for a group: 820x462 (fully visible on mobile, 820x250 for desktop)

Facebook cover for an event: 1920x1080

Facebook profile photo: 180x180

Instagram: 1080x1080 pixels (**please note that if you’re running an AD, it will also need to pass the same “20%” Facebook rule test!)

Pinterest: 735x1102 pixels

Twitter: 1024x512 pixels

Email header: 600x200 (for a newsletter template)

For any other social platform image dimensions (YouTube, Tumblr, etc.), simply Google them! Again, they are ever-changing in the online world.

3. File formats to use:

Save your designs as either PNGs or JPEGs for posting online.

You don’t have to worry about saving them with a specific image resolution in Canva, but if you’re manually creating them in Photoshop, go to “File - Save For Web” and make sure that the resolution is set to 72 DPI.

PNGs have transparent backgrounds and tend to have a slightly higher quality than JPEGs. They are becoming more of the “industry standard” for online image use. But, you can certainly use either!

Leave a comment below with any questions that you have. And, remember, keep checking for updated image dimensions! They often change every few months or at least once a year.


Branding 101 - Free Downloadable Guide
How is your branding looking for the rest of 2018? Do you have a logo, website and more that you absolutely love…or…not so much? If you’re not a design professional, branding might be something that you don’t love to do for your business or you simply don’t have time for, so let someone else take over! Sign-up below to receive the link to download my new and free PDF tool “Branding 101: What it is, what it isn’t and why you need it” — right now! This quick and simple guide will walk you through why it’s important to establish consistent and memorable branding within your biz — and if you can DIY some of it or if you should hire that professional. If you have any questions after going through it, let’s connect and chat some more!

3 reasons that you need a brand board

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If you’re a small business owner and you’ve spent any amount of time on Pinterest, you’ve probably come across hundreds of brand boards. Do you have one created, whether you’ve DIY’d you own branding or you’ve worked with a designer? If so, fantastic! It’s a crucial element of your overall visual identity. And, if not, you’re in luck! It’s never too late to create one.

A brand board is simply a quick glance at the graphic aspects of your brand identity. It’s usually an elongated image that displays your logo, font samples, color palette and any icons, illustrations or other assets that make up your brand. I even include inspiration photos that I’ve used during the design process that influence the end result — colors, patterns, textures and more. While a brand board is separate from your brand/style guidelines (a more in-depth document that breaks down the specific details about your brand and how to properly use your standards) a brand board is still the first step in establishing a professional identity and in shaping the brand guide, which might come at the end of the branding process — tying the whole story together. Why do you need a brand board? Let me count the ways...

You will look more professional.

Having a brand board establishes that you have a sophisticated, confident and legitimate brand. It shows that you have put the time and work into mastering the perfect look, emotional experience, style and vibes that will attract your ideal client base.

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You will have “at a glance” standards for vendors + partners to reference and follow.

When you’re working with a developer on your website, a printer or a coordinator for an event that you’re helping to sponsor, etc., they will have quick and easy access to your official identity. Although they won’t see detailed descriptions or directions, they will still know how your logo should look — and if they need to incorporate any colors, fonts or other assets — and what they are. They will be able to ensure that the platform representing your brand is accurately expressing it.  

You will have a quick overview of your visual identity — at your fingertips.

Using your brand board, you will be able to reference specific color codes and fonts without having to take the time to look them up. If you’re creating social media graphics in Canva, making updates to your website or even getting your logo embroidered or screen printed onto clothing or a bag, you will need to know your exact fonts and colors. Instead of tracking down emails or contacting your designer, simply reference your brand board! It’s handy to keep a print copy nearby or a PDF that you can easily open at any time. Even keep a JPEG saved to your phone or iPad — you never know when you might need it!


Branding 101 - Free Downloadable Guide
It's 2018! How is your branding looking for the new year? Do you have a logo, website and more that you absolutely love…or…not so much? If you’re not a design professional, branding might be something that you don’t love to do for your business or you simply don’t have time for, so let someone else take over! Sign-up below to receive the link to download my new and free PDF tool “Branding 101: What it is, what it isn’t and why you need it” — right now! This quick and simple guide will walk you through why it’s important to establish consistent and memorable branding within your biz — and if you can DIY some of it or if you should hire that professional. If you have any questions after going through it, let’s connect and chat some more!

7 things that every homepage should have

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I often check the analytics of my website (maybe once or twice a month) to review certain numbers. I like to see how many visitors are coming to my site daily, weekly and monthly — where they’re coming from (a Google search, social media, etc.) and what content that they like the best. What pages do they land (and stay) on the most frequently? Although visitors are definitely checking out my services (which is great!) and I can easily see which blog posts are the most popular (helpful for repurposing content and developing new e-books, future courses and free downloads) — my homepage still sees the most traffic. Why is that? It’s (obviously) the very first page that people see when they visit my site for the first time, as is the same for most websites. And, because I have it packed full of goodness (with the help of each item that I’m about to outline in this post) — people seem to find it helpful and navigate through it often.

I used to think, “who cares about the home page?” I want prospective clients checking out my services and pricing or better yet, my contact page — so that they’re sure to get ahold of me. And, while those things are important and happen, it’s crucial that the home page is still one of the most attractive and functional aspects of my website. Think of it this way — again, it’s the first impression that you make on visitors. They will decide in a few seconds if they’re going to stay and continue navigating your site, or if they’re going to close out of the window because nothing stood out to them and they’re not interested. And, just because you have separate pages setup for anything and everything (from your services, to your products, to your blog to your about page) — you can still give visitors a sneak peek (and quick tease) for what they’re going to find on your site. If done right, the home page brings new people in every single day — excited and anxious to learn more about what you do!

Here is a quick breakdown of the most important elements that your homepage should have, to keep prospective clients on your website longer — and clicking through to your other pages!

1. Logo

Make sure that the face of your brand can be visible right away. Scale it to the right size, either in the top left, center or right hand corners. This way, people know exactly what website that they are on. Plus, it can set the tone and design for the rest of your website, like the integrations of colors, fonts and other assets.

2. Headline/title description

In addition to the logo, let people know what website that they have landed on. Briefly explain who you are, what your business offers and who you serve. Keep it simple, but tug on the heartstrings a bit. You want to identify your potential clients’ pain problems, so that you can help to solve them. After all, that’s what your business is built to do! So, weave in some emotional language.

3. Secondary descriptions

Somewhere under the headline or quick description of your website/brand/business, provide a few, little “buckets” or “boxes” of additional info and details. You can breakdown your services, products, etc. so people can learn even more about you and what you offer. When they leave your site, they won’t have to question who you are or what you do. You can even add an interactive touch by incorporating these into a drop-down menu. Just make sure that you briefly provide a few more descriptions so that no one is left confused.   

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4. Balance of strong visuals + text

Try to have an equal balance of photos and copy. Your visuals can also appear in the forms of shapes, patterns, textures, other brand assets/icons or illustrations. Your messaging is equally crucial — again, create an emotional experience for a prospective client as they read through what you can offer them. Remember, value - value - value! Let your brand be strongly expressed through the smart use and “just right” balance of imagery and words.

5. Testimonial

A common question that I get from my branding clients is, should they have a page solely dedicated to client testimonials/praise or should those be scattered throughout the site? I say that it can go both ways! Absolutely, have a testimonial page, because prospective clients will click on it to read good reviews about working with you. However, it creates additional legitimacy if they see nothing but positivity about you, everywhere they look. Include a quote or two on each page. I use just one on my home page and I’m mindful and strategic as to where it’s placed. For example, explain your business and the services that you offer to grab someone’s attention and then let them see how amazing you are to work with, when they read a direct quote from a real past client of yours, right below the above text!

6. Call to action

Never, ever forget this! A CTA (or “call to action”) is just that — an element that encourages someone to take action — which can be done in multiple ways. Make it easy for someone to sign up for your newsletter, download a freebie that you’ve created, visit your online shop or setup a call with you. Don’t let someone just visit your site and then never interact with you or hear from you again. You don’t want them to forget you!

7. Easy ways to contact you and find you on social media

Either throughout the page or at the bottom, there should be links for people to experience you away from your website (like on social media, through your Facebook page or Instagram feed) or to contact you (like a CTA, mentioned above.) You don’t want to miss out on a prospective client who is interested in working with you (because of your awesome homepage) because they don’t know how to stay in contact with you. Always leave room for social media icons (or even directly embed your Instagram feed like I do at the bottom of my homepage) or an email icon (or link to your contact page.) Make sure that these icons are visible! You can put them in more than one place.


Branding 101 - Free Downloadable Guide
It's 2018! How is your branding looking for the new year? Do you have a logo, website and more that you absolutely love…or…not so much? If you’re not a design professional, branding might be something that you don’t love to do for your business or you simply don’t have time for, so let someone else take over! Sign-up below to receive the link to download my new and free PDF tool “Branding 101: What it is, what it isn’t and why you need it” — right now! This quick and simple guide will walk you through why it’s important to establish consistent and memorable branding within your biz — and if you can DIY some of it or if you should hire that professional. If you have any questions after going through it, let’s connect and chat some more!

My 4 favorite things about the 2018 Kentucky Derby logo

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The 144th “Run For The Roses” (AKA) the Kentucky Derby is this Saturday! (May 5th) For those who don’t know, the Derby (and the weeks leading up to it) are equivalent to a national holiday season where I live, here in “Kentuckiana” — the blended area that consists of a little bit of southern Indiana and a little bit of Louisville, Kentucky, right on the banks of the Ohio river. Because of this and the fact that my husband and I are located just 20 minutes from the coveted and famous Churchill Downs racetrack, you won’t find us anywhere else on the first Saturday of May. It’s not just a horse race — it’s a party, a celebration — and truly, the most exciting two minutes in sports!

Of course, I naturally have an interest in horse racing because I own quarter horses and barrel race (although they are entirely different breeds, sports and industries) and I understand and respect the caliber of these special athletes and all of the time, money and care that is invested by many different people to get them to this level of the most elite racing in the world. But, I’m also a big fan nowadays because I have a younger brother who works for a very successful training operation that usually has at least one horse in the Derby the last few years. Although I don’t personally know the horse or its connections of course, regardless of its odds, it absolutely and automatically becomes my betting pick and who I’m going to cheer for — in the hopes that it having a great race will mean more success for my brother, his boss and their large team across the country.

And, in addition to my equine interests and enthusiasm, I’m obviously a designer. Blending graphic design, branding and horses can be fun when it’s done well and a perfect example of that is the Kentucky Derby 144 logo — the official graphic symbol and icon of the world-renown event for 2018. Today, I thought that it would be fun to take a peek at the design and dissect a few things that I really like about it.       

The new logo was actually revealed to the public almost a year ago, last June. I’ve been seeing it pop up on merchandise and places around town the last few weeks, but didn’t really study it up close until now. According to Bristnet.com: “SME, a New York-based marketing agency, has developed the official Kentucky Derby and Kentucky Oaks logos since 2007.”

Without further ado, below is my breakdown of 4 elements that I like about the design.

“And, they’re off!”  

Courtesy of: http://www.brisnet.com/content/2017/06/churchill-downs-unveils-logo-2018-kentucky-derby/

Courtesy of: http://www.brisnet.com/content/2017/06/churchill-downs-unveils-logo-2018-kentucky-derby/

1. The logo design uses an iconic and historical reference, with a modern twist.

The undeniable “Twin Spires” of Churchill Downs appear as the primary aspect of the logo — what I see first and am really drawn to. You haven’t been to the famous track and not see these two beauties ascending from the top of the “palace” as I call it. Integrating these as the main graphic element makes the logo unique specifically and only to the track and people should immediately recognize them when they first see it.

2. The color palette is professional and gender-neutral.

Because literally thousands upon thousands of people attend the Derby and this logo is seen by the eyes of thousands more (on TV, merchandise, in print, on the web, etc.) it’s crucial that it’s not too masculine or too feminine. The look and feel should be sleek and professional — and appeal to people in general. Anyone in the crowd. The use of a tan/grey and dark red combination achieves just that — gender neutrality.

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3. It incorporates the use of a number as part of the shape and design.

This year marks the 144th year for the Derby, so I really love how the design incorporates the number as part of the design, in support of the Twin Spires elements. It’s clever, creative and not obvious in an obnoxious way.

4. It’s SIMPLE!

Most importantly, as every great logo should be and I’ve said before, it’s simple! It’s clean, minimal, iconic and straightforward. It can be easily and quickly recognized as the official Kentucky Derby logo and no one would question it. Because of its simplicity and basic shapes/design, it can also be translated across different platforms and via various mediums. It can be viewed on a large screen, printed in the newspaper and in the track programs, screen-printed on t-shirts and embroidered on other merch. When a logo is simple like this (but still professional) it can be successfully interpreted in multiple ways.  


Branding 101 - Free Downloadable Guide
It's 2018! How is your branding looking for the new year? Do you have a logo, website and more that you absolutely love…or…not so much? If you’re not a design professional, branding might be something that you don’t love to do for your business or you simply don’t have time for, so let someone else take over! Sign-up below to receive the link to download my new and free PDF tool “Branding 101: What it is, what it isn’t and why you need it” — right now! This quick and simple guide will walk you through why it’s important to establish consistent and memorable branding within your biz — and if you can DIY some of it or if you should hire that professional. If you have any questions after going through it, let’s connect and chat some more!

Download Your Brand Launch Checklist today!

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Whether you are getting ready to launch your new business or you’ve rebranded an existing one, it’s crucial to have at least a few, specific bases covered — before you put it all out into the wild! Download this Brand Launch Checklist, review the items — and make sure that you can answer each one simply + quickly.

Overall, think about who you are, what you do, who you want to serve, what you want to be known for, the value that you offer and how you want your clients to feel when they experience you.

Print off the checklist, answer each question and then either hang it by your workspace or keep it close by so that you can use it as a handy resource — whenever you are needing some brand clarity. 

Here are a few thoughts to consider when answering each question: 

• Think about your mission statement and the values that are important to you — personally and professionally. 

• How do you want to "sound" when you're communicating? What are the words that you will use either via video, website copy or when you write emails, etc.?  

• What keywords come to mind when you think of the look and feel of your brand? And how you want others to perceive it? 

• Do you want to serve a specific niche? Who would you love to work with? 

• How often do you want to work and where? Where will you operate your business? 

• Do you want to sell services or products (or both?) How do you want to handle pricing? 

• Are you DIY-ing the visuals or hiring a professional designer? You will need a logo, font and color palettes, website domain + hosting + design, social media graphics, photography and other assets to use throughout your branding for consistency and cohesiveness. 

• What social media platforms will you be hanging out on? Where do your ideal clients hang out? 

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Branding 101 - Free Downloadable Guide
It's 2018! How is your branding looking for the new year? Do you have a logo, website and more that you absolutely love…or…not so much? If you’re not a design professional, branding might be something that you don’t love to do for your business or you simply don’t have time for, so let someone else take over! Sign-up below to receive the link to download my new and free PDF tool “Branding 101: What it is, what it isn’t and why you need it” — right now! This quick and simple guide will walk you through why it’s important to establish consistent and memorable branding within your biz — and if you can DIY some of it or if you should hire that professional. If you have any questions after going through it, let’s connect and chat some more!

6 questions to ask yourself before you DIY your branding

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In my downloadable freebie “Branding 101: What it is, what it isn’t and why you need it” I talk a lot about how branding is so much more than just a logo, a website or the way you talk to your audience. I say that it’s an ever-evolving and changing process — and a brand will only grow bigger, better and stronger with time. Branding isn’t just a collection of material things, either. It’s the experience someone has when they come into contact with your identity.

You need to know who you (as a business owner) are, what your business stands for, who your audience is, what you want to deliver to them (service/product-wise and experience-wise) and how you plan to stand out from the crowd. You should know these things first, before you even begin to develop the look and feel of the brand. Once values, strategy and messaging are in place, visuals can follow. Being a designer, this is sometimes still hard for me to grasp. I’m all about the type, colors and imagery — but I know that other things have to come first, to enhance the experiences that “my favorite things” provide people.

When you know that you’re ready to start figuring out your branding, how you want it to make your clients feel, what you want to say and what you want everything to look like, here are (6) important questions that you need to ask yourself:

1) What style of logo do you see yourself using on all of your materials? 

2) What colors, fonts and imagery best represent the look and feel of your business?

3) How do you plan to stand out from your competition? What do you offer that is different from anyone else?

4) Are you selling services or products? Will you run your business entirely online, need a physical storefront or a mix of both? Will you be able to maintain an online shop?

5) What emotional experience do you want a customer to have when they come into contact with parts of your brand, think about buying from you and after they do?  

6) Who is your dream customer and what is the best way to reach them? Are they on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, all over the world or right next door in your hometown?

As I mention in my free guide, everyone is at different stages and budgets. It’s perfectly okay to design social media graphics in Canva, customize a free website template and write your own content. You might think that you don’t have the money at the moment to hire someone. But, remember, having a designer handle your branding will help you grow your business and gain customers quicker when you really look the part. It’s just as important to invest in it, as it is any other aspect of your business. You might be able to temporarily fix a leak under your sink, but if you’re not a professional plumber, you’re going to spend more money down the road fixing it again later, rather than having it done right the first time. The same principle applies to visually appearing professional and making a good impression on your clients — do it immediately.

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Once you have decided that you want to DIY a few things, hire a professional for the rest or hire a professional for all of it, it might be good to reference my free guide and keep it handy near your desk. Branding is one of the biggest secrets to a business attracting followers and paying clients — and achieving overall success. Sign-up below to receive the link to download my new and free PDF tool “Branding 101: What it is, what it isn’t and why you need it” — right now! This quick and simple guide will walk you through why it’s important to establish consistent and memorable branding within your biz. If you have any questions after going through it, let’s connect and chat some more! 

5 ways to get started with brand visuals

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If you're just starting out as a small business owner, or you've been at the game for a while but haven't established a professional presence just yet — BUT — you also know your biz inside and out, what you want to be known for, who you want to serve, where you want to be seen, your overall vision, mission and strategy, this blog post is for you!

As I've mentioned before, it's EXTREMELY important to have those above non-tangible pieces in place and be really clear about your brand, before you even think about the visuals. Because, a brand is the emotional experience that your client has when they come into contact with you. It's what THEY think and feel.

So, if you're clear on the above and ready to design a logo, website and other materials, here are a few places to start and resources that you can use to get off the ground — until you're ready to hire a professional designer. (Which I highly recommend doing in time!)

1) Create a mood or "inspiration" board. This can be a physical or digital collage of colors, patterns, textures and photos that evoke a specific sense of style, emotion and personality when someone experiences your brand. This is important because it sets the tone for the rest of your branding and helps you get really clear on design aspects. You can cut out images from magazines and put it together yourself or create one in Canva or Photoshop.

2) Use Pinterest to not only help you create your above mood board, but to also help inspire your color palette and logo possibilities. Create specific boards for colors, logos, typography and more to help yourself stay organized — and to give you good visuals to constantly reference.

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3) Think about what style of logo that you would like to create — you can create something that is simple and type-based, or you can incorporate certain iconic, illustrative or design elements that express what your business does. Take a basic Adobe Illustrator course and download a trial version of it, if you're feeling brave enough to create it using a professional program. To make things a little easier, you can always use Canva.

4) Once your logo is finished, try your hand at using Squarespace to design a simple website. There are other platforms like Wix and Weebly, but I've always been a Squarespace girl myself. It's pretty intuitive and user-friendly. You can connect to an existing domain (in GoDaddy, etc.) or purchase one through Squarespace and it's even free for the first year. It's crucial to have an online home for your business, separate from social media platforms, in case Facebook decides to pull the plug one day — and your page and all of its followers go with it. Your website is something that you own and will be online, even if other social channels come and go over the years. Make sure that it's easy to navigate and visitors can quickly learn about what your business offers and the value that you can provide THEM with. Make it visually interesting and attractive, packed with good content, so that they will want to stay and not quickly exit the browser window.

5) For other print and digital materials, like social media graphics, business cards, brochures, PDFs and more — you can download trial versions of specific Adobe Creative Cloud programs like the trio that I use (InDesign, Photoshop and Illustrator) or use the free version of Canva. Strive hard to keep all of your branded materials consistent and cohesive. Whether someone is following you on social media, reading a blog post on your website, browsing a free worksheet or checklist from your opt-in or holding your business card, they should have the same visual experience over and over again. 


Branding 101 - Free Downloadable Guide
It's 2018! How is your branding looking for the new year? Do you have a logo, website and more that you absolutely love…or…not so much? If you’re not a design professional, branding might be something that you don’t love to do for your business or you simply don’t have time for, so let someone else take over! Sign-up below to receive the link to download my new and free PDF tool “Branding 101: What it is, what it isn’t and why you need it” — right now! This quick and simple guide will walk you through why it’s important to establish consistent and memorable branding within your biz — and if you can DIY some of it or if you should hire that professional. If you have any questions after going through it, let’s connect and chat some more!