Finding your brand identity is an important part of building a memorable brand and business. But ew entrepreneurs find themselves stuck choosing fonts, colors, and logos. Can you blame them? With so many options out there, picking the right one can feel like a scary and unchangeable decision. Chelsea Blackwell is a designer and the founder of the design agency, Honey & Co. Creative. She joins Her Life By Design to answer all your burning design questions. Ready to find your unique brand identity or land freelance design clients? Let’s dive in.
Finding Your Brand Identity and Building a Design Agency
Chelsea started her design business as she fell in love with Southeast Asia. She visited Bali after graduating from university and fell in love with the culture and lifestyle. Fixated on finding her way back to Southeast Asia as soon as she returned, Chelsea wanted to pursue a life of freedom. So she decided to create a career for herself that allows her to live and travel anywhere in the world.
Chelsea discovered her love for design after taking a few design courses. And thus, her business was born as she found herself living in Thailand. Chelsea’s business has grown over the years, expanding and transitioning into the coaching and mentorship space for new freelance designers. She tackles your burning questions about branding in this episode. Starting with…
When Should You Start Focusing on Branding?
“I think it’s important to have a cohesive brand from day one. But that doesn’t mean that you have to go out and spend thousands of dollars with a designer from day one.”
This is where a lot of new entrepreneurs and business owners get confused, Chelsea explains.
“Yes, it is super valuable to have cohesive colors and cohesive fonts. But you really want to make sure that before you go out and spend a bunch of money with a designer, you know who your audience is and you know you’re what providing them.”
More important than what colors and fonts to chain yourself to, you need to have the core foundations of your business in place. You need to know who your audience is and how to speak directly to them (in order to get your messaging on point) before spending thousands on a professional designer. But don’t just take my word for it, “a beautiful logo isn’t what’s going to make or break your business. And that is coming from a professional brand designer.”
Tips for Defining Your Brand Identity
It’s best to start small when you’re first starting out. Instead of investing in a designer, start with a font you like on Creative Market and use a color palette resource like Design Seeds. DIY-ing your brand identity when you’re starting off with limited resources is a great idea. But where most DIY-ers go wrong is looking at what the competition is doing. “It’s something that I see all the time,” Chelsea shares. “People want to define their brand so the first thing they do is they look to others in their industry. And that’s the worst thing that you can do. Because how are you going to stand out if you just look the same?“
Instead, Chelsea encourages you to start with building a brand strategy. “What that means is you want to know the values that your brand stands for. Who is your target audience? Who do you want to work with? Whose lives do you want to change? What kind of people are you most excited to help? What is the difference that you are bringing to market but no one else is doing? That’s the most important part that’s called your positioning.”
That needs to come before the visual aspects of branding. Not to mention, knowing where you’re positioned in the industry will help you make an informed decision when your visual brand identity is concerned.
Approachable vs. Luxury: Design Tips for Building Both Identities
To further emphasize the importance of knowing where you’re positioned, Chelsea shares two visual design aesthetics between different identities: approachable versus luxury. Say you’re a heart-centered coach who wants to help recent college grads start their business. More than likely, your audience will have a certain budget. They might also respond well to someone who is friendly, kind, and relatable and you want to communicate that through your visual brand identity. In which case, Chelsea suggests using fonts that are lowercase. She also suggests using beachy or neutral tones, because those palettes make us feel at ease.
But if you serve an audience who has a bigger budget, who prefer the finer things in life, you would make different design decisions. For instance, Chelsea shares that using seriffed or uppercase fonts can create this sense of luxury. You might also choose to use more dramatic colors like blacks or jewel tones.
The Biggest Mistake You’re Making With Branding
Knowing who your brand caters to will help you make a better decision when it comes to colors, fonts, and logos. With that being said, Chelsea exposes some of the biggest branding mistakes that are far too common. Not knowing your business foundation (where you’re positioned) before hiring a designer is at the top of the list. Next, changing your fonts and colors all the time is a common mistake that many people make as well. This mistake happens when you pick a color or font based on what you personally like versus what your audience is attracted to.
But where a lot of business owners miss the mark is thinking that their logo needs to communicate everything they do. “I always explain to my clients that your logo is never going to be seen independent of other things. It’s always going to be on a website where we have your messaging, or it’s going to be on your Instagram where you have your bio. We don’t need to communicate every little facet of what you do into your logo.”
What ends up happening when you cram too much into a little logo through illustration and text is that the design becomes busy and stressful for the eye. Your logo doesn’t have to communicate everything you do. And if you’re in doubt, remember that “the Apple logo is literally just an Apple.”
How New Freelance Designers Can Land More Clients
Chelsea and I switch gears towards the end of the episode, discussing ways in which side hustlers or brand new freelance designers can land more clients. To which, Chelsea’s best piece of advice is to “create the kind of work that you want to be hired for.” As a service provider, you always want to lead by example.
“I see a lot of designers who are waiting for the perfect client to come. When in reality, what you can do to speed that up is create mock projects for that perfect client.” These mock projects will attract prospective clients. Think of it as a portfolio that provides a clear example of your work. “At the end of the day design is super visual. So in order for somebody to come onto your profile and be like, ‘Oh, that’s what I want,’ you have to have what they want.”
The Ins and Outs of Brand Identity and Design
At the end of the day, your brand identity needs to lean on one very important factor: who your audience is. Despite what you might think, making branding decisions like picking out a font and color has to be informed by what your audience responds well to, not what your favorite color is. Chelsea shares valuable advice for business owners and freelance designers alike. From getting clear on your business foundations to setting the stage to attract your ideal customer (whether you’re a freelance designer or an entrepreneur), Chelsea leaves no brand identity question left unturned. But if you walk away with one thing from this episode, let it be this — no amount of money can get your brand identity right if you didn’t put in the work to find your position in the market.
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