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Since 2013, I've been helping small businesses look as good as the work they do. This is where I post tips, new work, studio news, and all things branding and design. Take a look around and don't forget to say "hi!". 

How To Create A Professional Looking Brand When You’re Just Starting Out


blog_post_tipsI’ve been thinking a lot lately about the types of inquiries I get and in turn, the clients I end up booking. Typically my inquiries fall into two camps: the established business owner ready to rebrand, raise their prices and narrow in on their perfect customer and the new small business owner who understands branding and wants to do it “right”. I hear this a lot, “I don’t want to look like I am an amateur”. What do these two potential clients have in common? They value design and branding. They have a high level of taste. They don’t know exactly what they want, but they can definitely tell you what they don’t want. Something that might surprise you is that I often tell the newer business owners to come back to me in 6 months or a year. It’s not because of money. They often have great budgets. It’s because they just don’t know what’s going to work for them yet. But just because you don’t know yet, doesn’t mean you have to look like it.

Today’s post is all about how to create a tasteful, professional looking brand design when you are just starting out. Why does this matter to you? For starters, you won’t back yourself into a proverbial design corner. Staying away from the latest trendy designs, even if the style is something you absolutely love at the moment, is going to go along way when you are ready to really dig into the branding process.

Keep It Simple. Especially with typography! I can’t stress this enough. One of the beautiful things about great typography is that it’s subtle. There is nothing that screams amateur more than a bunch of trendy typefaces paired together. Your audience might not be able to pinpoint exactly why it comes off as unprofessional, but they will get the message. Find a beautiful, classic typeface that gives your design some elegance and sophistication. Work with this simple solution for a few months while you build your business and figure out exactly who you are as a creative professional and who you want to speak to. That way when you redesign, you aren’t going from one end of the style spectrum to another. Start in the middle first.

Color palettes. Try to create a color palette that complements your work, rather than a big, loud statement when you are just starting out. This is a mistake I wish I wouldn’t have made when I was starting Grit & Wit. I got too carried away with my original brand palette. As my work evolved and became more established in a style, I ended up simplifying my color palette anyway. Now, you know I am not going to tell you to not use color! I would just advise making sure it makes sense alongside your work. If you have images of your work, gather them together on a Pinterest board or in Photoshop and see what color story starts to emerge. Create a palette and lay it on top of your images. Does it make sense? When in doubt, less is more color wise. Neutral palettes can go a long a way in creating something that is sophisticated and refined.

Don’t get caught up in what your competitors are doing. It’s easy to want to emulate another successful peer. I’ve had a lot of potential clients come to me wanting something that looks like everyone else’s. By the time we are working together, they are desperately trying to do the opposite of what their competitors are doing. It’s better when you are starting out, to try to stay on your own path design wise, even if that path isn’t super clear yet. For example, just because every other floral designer is using watercolor flowers, doesn’t mean it’s right for your business. Or if every other interior designer is using heavy, traditional logotypes but your style is eclectic and bohemian, use something that feels right to you. Creating a personal brand starts with trusting your instincts! If it doesn’t feel comfortable, stay away from it.

Taking these simple baby steps towards figuring out your brand will help you focus on working and building a client base. You’ll see where your brand design needs to go once you start booking clients and learning who you want to be as a business and who you want to attract. That way, when you’re ready to invest your time and money into your branding, you’re not cleaning up a design mess. Instead, you’ll have a great starting point and a lot more clarity.

But my biggest piece of advice? The best way to start building your brand is this: get to work. It’s not all about the logo, color, and patterns. It’s about what you do and make first. The brand should follow!


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