Today we’re talking about pre-made logos: when you should use them, when you shouldn’t, and how to choose a good one. If you’re a small business owner on a budget, this one's for you!
Why You Might want to Start with a Pre-made Logo
Although pre-made logos aren’t ideal, I believe there's a time and a place for them. That’s usually when you’re just starting your business and on a tight budget. It’s completely possible to start a successful business without custom branding. Notice I said start. It’s not a good idea to use one long-term, but it is wise to stick to a budget and make sure your business is going to be sustainable before investing too much in it.
Invest in the most important things first
Although professional branding should be among one of the first investments you make in your business, it doesn’t have to be the first. Depending on your business, your money may be better spent on equipment or materials for your products. Whatever is going to enable you to do your best work or make the best products should be your first investment.
It will depend on your industry, but legal advice may be another good first investment. You might need an iron-clad client agreement, or air-tight terms of service to get your business started. It's also really important to establish good bookkeeping habits from the beginning. This might mean outsourcing your bookkeeping or maybe just hiring an accountant for a one-hour tutorial and doing it yourself.
These are just some ideas of things that might be good first investments before branding, but like I said it will depend on your business, your industry, and your expertise in these areas.
Gain Business Clarity Before Hiring a Designer
Another reason to hold off on custom branding, even if you can afford it, is because a lot can change in the first year of business. I’ve learned from experience that your mission, values, and ideal customer can evolve a lot in the early stages of your business.
Custom branding revolves around these things, so it’s smart to have a good grasp on them before investing in branding. A designer will very likely walk you through many of them during the branding process, but it's helpful if you have an idea of what what you want your business to look like and who you want to be catering to.
If you're not hiring a designer for your branding, this leaves you with the options of designing your own logo or buying a pre-made one. I never recommend making your own logo. Save yourself the time and frustration, and use a pre-made one instead. There are pre-made logos at every price point, so you’ll certainly be able to find something to meet your needs.
Now that I’ve outlined why you may want to start with a pre-made logo, let’s talk about why you shouldn’t use it for too long.
Why You Shouldn’t Use a Pre-made Logo Long-Term
I recommend investing in custom branding within 1-2 years of starting your business. If you can afford it after a year and have a solid grasp on what your business is all about and where you want to take, then go for it. If you’re still figuring things out after a year, then wait a little longer.
Pre-made Logos aren’t Unique, but Your Business is
Pre-made logos are never going to reflect the unique mission, values, and attributes of your business because it isn’t custom-made to do so. Pre-made logos are usually chosen based solely on your own preferences. Unless you fit the profile of your ideal client, there’s no guarantee that your logo is going to attract the right people. Without the in-depth research that goes into the custom branding process, this pre-made logo may not represent the unique personality of your business or attract your dream client.
In contrast, custom branding is personalized and usually an in-depth process is involved. With my clients I go through an extensive research phase, before designing anything. The intention is to understand what sets their business apart from others, what the goals of their business are, who their competitors are, and who their ideal client is. Each client I work with completes a questionnaire of over twenty questions. This gives me a thorough understanding of what is fundamental and unique to their business.
It's with that base of knowledge that I am able to dive into the design process with clear objectives. Anything short of that is arbitrary and will not lead to substantial branding. Your business is unique and your branding should be too.
Pre-made Logos are Sold Countless Times
The second problem with pre-made logos is that they are sold countless times. The cheaper they are, the more often they are sold. This makes your business one of many with the same exact logo, some of which could be in your own industry.
Consider how detrimental that is to your company. A logo is the face of your business and is meant to communicate your business's values and personality, set you apart from the competition, draw in your ideal client, and create recognition. When your logo is not unique to your company all of that is lost, essentially making your logo worthless. There's already enough competition out there. Do your business a huge favor and set yourself apart with custom branding.
Pre-made Logos are Low-quality
The last problem with pre-made logos is that they tend to be of lower quality than custom ones. I’ve seen some that are well-designed, but more often than not they are made by amateurs who do not have formal training or much experience. It’s certainly possible to be a good designer without a degree, but most designers with talent and experience don’t design pre-made logos. They prefer to work one-on-one with clients because they know the value of custom branding.
The low quality of pre-made logos can be seen in the lack of customization they possess. There is an overall disconnect between the design of the logo and the business, as well as a lack of refinement with the typography. Pre-made logos are designed with a temporary business name, and most do not gracefully handle a different name well, especially of a different length. This results in cramped typography or awkward spacing.
How to choose a pre-made logo for the short-term
Now that we’ve discussed when you should and shouldn’t use a pre-made logo, let’s talk about how to find the best one for your business.
- Define Your Brand - Before searching for a logo do the research that a designer would do. Figure out who your ideal client is, who your competitors are, and how you want your company to be perceived. My free Mini Branding Guide will walk you through the basics.
- Gather Inspiration - Create a Pinterest board and pin not only branding that you like, but lifestyle images that embody the overall style of your business. This will help you know what style to look for when searching for a logo, and enable you to intentionally choose something that works well for your business. This article walks you through how to create an effective Pinterest board.
- Look for Quality – If you’re searching on Etsy, look for the more expensive pre-made logos. These will probably be higher quality and sold less times, making your business look a little less cookie-cutter. I also recommend looking for designers that sell pre-made logos directly from their website. These will generally be of higher-quality and sold less times than those on Etsy.
- Create a Deadline - Decide from the beginning how long you will use your pre-made logo to ensure that you don’t end up using it forever. To help you prepare for custom-branding, shop around for a designer and find out their rates. Then start saving up!
There’s no shame in using a pre-made logo to get started, but in the long-run your business deserves to be seen for what makes it truly unique and only custom branding can offer you that.
What are your thoughts on pre-made logos? Share in the comments below!