018. The Best Branding Advice for Solopreneurs

Are you thinking of hiring a brand designer? Listen to this first ;)

Search for branding advice on Pinterest for a few minutes and I’m guessing you’ll find one consistent piece of advice: hire a professional to get it right the first time. Before we get into this too much - I want to start with a disclaimer - every business is different. Every products, service, owner and timeline varies.

This advice I’m about to give you will not be the best option for all of you. For those of you who just took out a $50,000 business loan to fund your new product development - get professional branding. But if you’re a solopreneur starting up a blog or a photography business or a freelance business - dropping $2000 on a professional brand is just plain silly. 

First I want to talk about WHEN you should invest in professional branding, then we’ll talk about what to do until you get to that point.

  1. If you have more than $5,000 to invest in your new business, branding and website design are a great place to start.
  2. If you’re producing more than 100 units of a product, invest in some branding.
  3. If you have at least 50 paying customers lined up before your launch, invest in branding.
  4. If you really really really want pro branding and you have saved up the money to invest in it already, get some branding.
  5. If you’ve been in business for awhile and you want to rebrand with some professional branding, hire someone.

If none of these sounds like your situation, there’s this really cool option for you - DIY it. I know there’s some of you who hate the DIY trend. Leave the work to professionals, right? And some of you love this trend! You’ve built your own home all from youtube tutorials. I think the magic spot for DIY projects in somewhere right in the middle of things. If it’s going to cost you more time and money to do it yourself than it would be to hire someone, you need to hire someone.

Now - I want to make one thing very clear when I talk about a Do-it-yourself brand. If you have no prior experience in design - your logo, your website and your branding WILL NOT be very strong when you start out. You will not get clients paying you thousands of dollars to help them.

Paying someone to do your branding professionally is a great investment because you can grow your business quickly, earn some credit and attract paying customers - hence “investment”. But if you’re starting out with a small easy shop selling jewelry or a mom blog about parenting, or you are starting a small business as a side-hustle - do not go broke in order to invest in something you don’t need yet.

I think there is something important that you learn through building your business on a shoe-string budget. When you start small and you purposefully grow your business slowly, you have a lot more freedom and flexibility to learn from your mistakes and make adjustments to your business. I’m going to share my story as an example of why DIYing my branding was the best thing I ever did.

When I was in middle school my friend and I started a website called blueberry design. We create graphics for Neopets guilds. Shoutout to my fellow 90’s kids who were in the prime of the Neopet days. From the time I was 13 until I was 19 - I taught myself HTML, CSS, photoshop, in design and illustrator. I knew the basics and I could create a simple website in an hour or two. When I was 20 and I started Nora Conrad .com I decided to forego the investment of branding and design my own site on Squarespace.

There are two key elements to why I designed my own brand #1 - I understood the basics of branding. I knew what it was about and I had some incredible brands to learn what good branding looked like, paper and oats, spruce rd, by Regina and Elle & co are just a few examples. #2 - I knew the basics of websites. I didn’t need to hire someone to build my site on Squarespace because I knew how to customize my own site with HTML & CSS. 

If you don’t understand what good design looks like, and if you don’t know at least a little bit of HTML, designing your own brand will have it’s speed bumps. Even with my own business, I’ve re-branded 3 times since I started my original site in 2012. But through those years of testing, failing and learning - I really began to understand my brand on a level I would never have been able to explain if I had hired someone in 2012. I’ve grown up and changed my business a lot in the last 5 years - and if I had dropped $2000 on a brand design when I was first getting started, I never would have started my coaching business, which now makes up for 80% of my income.

Branding is important in business - it tells people who you are and how you can help. Branding is the face of your business. But it’s also not the end-all-be-all in the business world. It’s better to have a crap logo and a stellar course than it is to have a beautifully designed site and fluff-filled blog posts. 

Branding matters, first impressions matter - but learning how to research, teach yourself, learn from failures and come back from flopped launches will do more good for your business than any logo ever could. So - if you still go with a professional designer - go in with a clear idea and a well-planned business. And find ways to DIY other aspects of your business while it’s still small. You won’t have the luxury of failing without anyone noticing as your business grows.

Nora Conrad