March 29, 2018

Branding your business - start with your wallet!


Did you know that most of the blog articles I write are inspired by every day life and business events? It's the real situations that I encounter with my business or with clients that motivate me to talk about a certain subject. And it is no different for this blog post. After offering custom designs again and working with a few clients recently I found my subject for today: where to start the branding of your business when you are just starting out. So let's find out!

I am going to specify this topic to the clients that my business attracts: 99.9% women, aged 20-45, usually with kids at home and/or the desire to work from home. These (mom)preneurs or girl bosses are starting all kinds of home based businesses, ranging from full-time for-profit blogging to photography or catering services. Basically any kind of service or product that gives them the opportunity to create their own working schedule. Because they have to provide for their families but at the same time keep things going at home. I know their motivation all too well since I am a mompreneur myself. And I also know what it means to start that business when there is only little to no money to invest in that business. That is the reason I am writing this blog post. To focus on the things that really matter when you first start out and to prevent you from investing in products and services that are not (yet) worth your money. 

 

BRANDING YOUR NEW BUSINESS - WHERE TO START?


As a brand new business your focus is probably a lot on branding it. You want the world to know about the awesome service or product you have to offer. So you create a website, a Facebook business page, an Instagram account, Pinterest account, you hire a designer to create your logo, you order business cards, letterheads, stickers, complimentary gifts and .... HOLD ON! Have you actually done the math? Do you know what these investments will cost you and what their return will be? If not, then it's about time to do so!

So your first assignment: figure out your starting budget for branding. How much money can you spend on branding at this moment in time and how much are you willing to spend?

The whole point of being a (mom)preneur or girl boss is to earn your own income. Income to feed your family, pay the rent, save for that trip you are dreaming about. I once heard that the average business is not profitable for the first couple of years. But as a (mom)preneur working from home you probably do not have the financial freedom to spend more on your business in the first few years than you earn from it. So let's find out in which services and products you should invest right now with your budget and which products and services are not really necessary (yet) and shut be put on hold for the future when your budget allows it.

 

DETERMINE WHAT YOUR KIND OF BUSINESS NEEDS FOR BRANDING


It's hard not to go overboard with all kinds of branding ideas. There are so many beautiful, professional products to brand your business and when starting your new business you might feel that you need them all to come across as a professional. And before you know it you have spent so much money on stuff and services that you need months to earn it back.

Every business is different, so every business will need a different set of branding items. It's important to think about what branding products and services your kind of business really needs in the startup phase and in which products and services you might want to invest at a later point in time. To give you a few examples:

The for-profit blogger
If you are starting as a life style blogger who aims to grow her blog in order to make money, a well-designed website/blog is a must. And to reach more followers and potential readers you might want to invest in a couple of social media platforms as well. A Facebook page, an Instagram page, maybe even a twitter account. And to make it look really professional you might want to invest in a logo or website header design that can be displayed on all your social media channels as well. But does a blogger need a custom designed business card?

I do get a lot of requests from bloggers to design business cards for them. Although bloggers spend most of their working time behind a laptop some of them also go out into the offline world to meet other bloggers or to present themselves at certain events. If this is the case for you as a blogger, a business card, that you can hand out to potential readers, sponsors or collaborators might actually be a good investment. But if you are only meeting your potential readers and sponsors in an online setting, a printed business card would be a waste of money.

The photographer
A good website is definitely a must here. After all, as a photographer you want to share those beautiful images in a professional way. Instagram and Facebook might be good ways to start putting yourself out there and they are free. And a logo, that can also serve as a watermark for your photos is also a good idea, but it doesn't mean that you have to hire a designer to create a fully custom made logo design for you.

If your budget is tight, why not purchase a premade logo from a designer on Etsy or try to create a simple logo yourself with Photoshop (software that most photographers already have invested in to edit their images). Sure, it will not be the one-of-a-kind design you have been dreaming about, but at least for now it will work and when you start making some serious money you can always swap that premade design for a custom made design.

The caterer
In this day and age every business should have a website, but this does not have to cost you a fortune. As a caterer you probably want to show off photos from your yummy creations, a price list and contact information. That can also be done with an (almost) free website. On www.wordpress.com you can start your own free website, use one of Wordpress's free website templates and only spend a little money on a domain name. If your budget for branding and marketing grows over time you can transfer that free website to a paid-for Wordpress website with a fully designed template created to your wishes and ideas.

In case you are delivering your baked goods in a paper bag or a box of some kind you might think about printing your logo and business info on the bag or box. While working with a client the other day, we found out that in her case it was much cheaper for her to order simple, white paper bags and boxes and then put stickers on them with her logo and business info. It's important to explore different approaches, it can save you a lot of money.

 

THE NEXT STEP - FINDING AFFORDABLE OPTIONS FOR BRANDING PRODUCTS


After you have made a list for yourself with the products and services that are essential for starting your business and which ideas can be put on hold till your budget and business have grown, it is time to find affordable options for those products and services.

What can you do yourself?
As a graphic designer I would of course love to work with you on designs for your logo, business card and what have you. But before you hire somebody for anything, whether that would be me or another designer, please ask yourself one questions first: is this something I can do myself?

Believe me, you can do more than you think. You can try creating your own logo with a free graphic design program (if you Google 'free graphic design program' you will find some options). And if you don't want to do it yourself you always have the option to purchase a premade logo design. This is a logo design that is sold to more people, so it is not unique, but it is a much cheaper option than a fully custom made logo design.

Once you have a logo design you can create a lot of products yourself with this logo image. You really do not need to hire someone to create a business card for you, or a letterhead, or a Facebook banner. Especially for the clients that purchase a logo from me, whether that is a premade or a custom made logo, I have created a website to show them how to use their logo. The website takes you through step-by-step tutorials on how to create a Facebook banner with your logo, how to make a letterhead in Word with your logo, how to order business cards with your logo on it and many more ways to use your logo. You will find this website over here: http://dutchladylogoguide.blogspot.nl/

If you want gold, you pay gold
Especially when it comes to printed products like business cards, compliment cards, letterheads etc. the more luxurious it looks, the more luxurious the price will be for printing. I was working with a client recently that wanted parts of her custom business card design printed in an embossed, gold foil look. She quickly changed her mind when she got the quotation for such a luxurious print from the printing company. If you want something special, you are going to pay a special price. Keep that in mind! So why not go for a more standard finish for your first batch of business cards and see how things go.

Are you still making a profit after purchasing products and services? - Do the math!
This is a key question to ask yourself before ordering those cute printed tote bags you want to hand out to your customers as a complimentary gift.

Let's say you are making whimsical, bohemian jewelry that you sell online. What are you charging your customer for that crystal pendant for example? Well, you probably thought about the material costs and then added a certain amount for the time you spent making that pendant (your hourly wage). Is this your final sales price? I hope not. Because what about those gold foil printed business cards you put in every package, and those complimentary tote bags you bought for your precious customers, and the printed packing material to send that pendant to its recipient? Those are all costs for you that have to be covered, otherwise your business is going downhill quickly.

The costs for all these branding products and services need to be calculated as a part of your sales price. And the more expensive those products and services are, the higher the product price for your customer will be. Will your customer still be interested in your product then? This is something you need to know before going all gung-ho on luxurious, elegant branding products.

 

A SHORT RESUME


When it comes to branding your new business, focus on these questions to determine which branding products and services you need right now and how to keep it affordable:

• What kind of business do you have? And what kind of branding products does this kind of business really need in the startup phase? What you want does not automatically equal what you need.

• Can you create some of the branding products yourself? Or can you invest in one product, say a logo design, that you can then use yourself to create other products from?

• If you can't create or do it yourself, what is the most affordable option that you can live with? You don't have to go for the cheapest option, but your ideas have to fit in with your budget.

• With all the expenses you are making on branding products and services, are you still making a profit on your own product/service that you are selling?

• Do your branding expenses drive up your sales price to the point where your customer says: this is too much, I am not going to pay this price for this product/service?


No matter how much your imagination gets the best of you, with visions of  luxurious prints, elegant custom made designs and complementary whimsical tote bags, please remember that your customers and clients expect one thing from you: an excellent product and/or and excellent service. That gold foil embossed business card they find in their product package is just an extra, nothing more.


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