Branding Advice / 4 Easy Ways to Tell if Your Pre-Made or DIY Logo Isn’t Cutting It

Did you buy a pre-made logo or design your own for your small business? Here are four simple guidelines to determine if your company has outgrown your DIY'ed logo and whether or not It's time to invest in professional branding design.  Before and after examples show the impact that clean, modern typography can have on a logo. Click through to this blog post that includes helpful visual examples that will give you Creative inspiration and ideas for the growth of your brand!

There’s nothing wrong with using a pre-made logo, or even making one yourself, in the early stages of your business. With a tight budget, those are sometime the only options.

However, pre-made and DIY logos can only get you so far. Eventually your business will outgrow them. When that happens it’s time to start saving up, so that you can invest in a professionally-designed logo as soon as possible.

So how do you know when you’re at that point? Well, luckily there are a few tell-tale signs that will make it very obvious when you’re ready to upgrade your logo.

1. You See Your Logo (or Similar Logos) Being Used a Lot

The first sign is that you see a lot of other businesses with the same pre-made logo, or very similar logos to yours. This is particularly bad if these other businesses are within your own industry. Not only will your business blend into the crowd, but a potential client could mistake a competitor for you, and you’d lose out on that business.

Even if these other businesses using the same pre-made logo are in different industries, it's still a bad sign. Although, this may be slightly better than the above scenario, it really just means that your logo is too generic.

If you’re seeing your logo or a similar variation of it all over the place, then it’s time to invest in a logo that is a more unique to your industry and completely customized for your business.

You can see how the before logo below is rather generic. It could easily get lost in the crowd and it looks like many other logos out there.

The after version really reflects the style of Jessie Bennett Photography as a business. It is unique, and complimented by the rest of the branding, and her beautiful photography, it creates a very memorable impression.

4 Easy Ways To Tell If Your Pre-Made Or DIY Logo Isn’t Cutting It Anymore

2. It Doesn’t Reflect the Personality of Your Business

Another way to know that it’s time to upgrade your logo is when it’s not reflecting the personality of your business. Maybe it never reflected your business well, or maybe your business has evolved. Either way,  it no longer aligns with the overall style and mood of your business.

One good way to test this, is to jot down a list of adjectives that describe the way you want your business to be perceived. Then ask some friends, or better yet, your ideal client, what words come to mind when they see your logo.

You could ask this question in a Facebook group where your ideal client might hang out. See if their responses are similar to the list you made. If not, then you know it’s time for a new logo.

Below is a great example of this. The logo on the left was what The Butterfly Cake Factory was using before they hired me, but it did not match the personality of their business. They wanted to be perceived as classic yet trendy, modern, innovative, elegant, and passionate.

With their new logo, I used clean lines to keep it modern. The delicateness and overall simplicity of the logo lend an air of elegance to it.  Their new logo is a much better representation of their business and will attract the higher-end clients they’ve been focusing on.

4 Easy Ways To Tell If Your Pre-Made Or DIY Logo Isn’t Cutting It Anymore

3. It Doesn’t Attract Your Ideal Client

If you’re logo isn’t reflecting your company accurately, it’s probably not attracting your ideal client either. This could be because your ideal client has changed as your business has grown, or maybe you’re just starting out and you’ve never been able to attract your ideal client.

This one is a little trickier because there could be a variety of reasons why you’re not attracting your ideal client. However, your logo could definitely be a major culprit and it’s a good place to start if you want to attract a different kind of audience.

The benefit of hiring a professional designer is that they can walk you through the branding process, which will give you a better understanding of how you should be representing your business in all areas.

For example, one of the questions on my branding questionnaire is “How do you want your company to be perceived in the marketplace?” This question helps my clients to think about the way their business is currently being perceived and how they want to shift that.

Their answer to this impacts every part of their business, not only their logo, but the tone of voice they use in marketing materials, what they post on social media, the customer service they provide, and the list goes on. It will form the solid foundation on which they build the future of their business.

The example below shows the original logo for Your Milk Shoppe, and the logo I designed on the right. Their ideal client is an overwhelmed mother, in need of a helping hand. They want to instantly make her feel calm, welcomed, and supported. It’s easy to make the a good first impression with your ideal client when you have the right logo.

4 Easy Ways To Tell If Your Pre-Made Or DIY Logo Isn’t Cutting It Anymore

4. You’re Embarrassed by It

This is such a simple and obvious one, but I couldn’t leave it out because this alone is reason enough to invest in a new logo!

You have worked so hard to build your business and you should be proud of it! You should invest in marketing and tell everyone you can about your business. If your logo is holding you back from doing that, then it’s absolutely time to save up for a custom logo that you can be proud of.

It’s amazing what custom branding can do for your confidence. Here's what one of my clients says that branding did for her:

“Professional branding for my business has impacted not only my business, but me personally as a business owner…branding my business...has been without a doubt, the best business decision I have made not only for business and the bottom line, but for myself. To look at my brand and be proud of the work I do and love how I am represented in the marketplace has been life changing.”

Are you ready for that same kind of confidence in your business?

If so, shoot me a message and we can talk about how to get you there! I promise, IT IS possible for you to love your logo and be proud to show off your business.

Branding Advice / Do These 7 Things Before Hiring a Designer For Your Branding

If you're considering taking the leap from doing your branding yourself to hiring a professional designer for your brand identity, you must read this blog post! IT is full of inspiration and ideas to help prepare you for working with a creative designer for your branding and website. Hiring a professional designer doesn't just mean you're logo will look great, it will truly benefit your entire business and give you the personal confidence you need!

Investing in professional branding is a big and exciting decision to make. Aside from saving up the money to hire a designer, there are other things you can do to prepare yourself for the branding experience. 

The information outlined below will be important for your designer to know as part of the branding process. Most likely your designer will ask you for this info in a questionnaire or intake form.

The more in-depth answers you can provide, the better it will be for your branding. This valuable material makes the difference between branding that is just pretty, and branding that meaningfully speaks to your ideal audience, and accurately represents your business.

Whether you’re going to take the plunge soon or it’s still a ways down the road, the following tips will ensure that you’re prepared to hire a designer when the time comes. The more time and thought you give each of these, the better. So why not get started now?

1. Nail down your mission + vision statements

Although writing a mission and vision statement can be time-consuming and tedious, these are so important if you want your branding to really reflect the heart of your business. If you’re not quite sure about the difference between the two and need help drafting yours, this article is helpful.

To show you how your mission and vision statement might affect your branding, here is the mission statement of one of my former clients, Your Milk Shoppe:

“We will eliminate the stress of your day to day life by acting as a full service management team of your parenting experience.”

To visually communicate this, we used a soft blue as the main color for the brand. This particular shade of blue is very calming and reflects their desire to eliminate stress from their clients’ lives.

The hand-painted, watercolor elements used throughout the brand create a personal, welcoming feel which is important for a company that is catering to new moms who are overwhelmed by the parenting experience.

Hiring a Brand Designer

2. Establish the core values of your business

Your core values are important in the same way that your mission and vision statements are important. They are part of the foundation of your business and give meaning to what you do.

Some examples of core values might be integrity, creativity, quality, customer service, or authenticity. Many of these types of attributes can be reflected in your branding. Once again, this is what will make your branding unique and meaningful.

For example, one of the core values of Mari Wuellner Coaching is fun. We communicated this attribute through the vibrant pink in her color palette and the use of playful patterns.

Hiring A Brand Designer

3. Identify your ideal client

This is such an important one because your branding needs to attract the right people or else it’s pointless. Some things you will want to consider are their age, gender, income, location, and job. Dig as deep as you can.

If you know or can find people who match your ideal client talk to them to gather further insight. What other companies do these people like? This one is really helpful for understanding the kind of branding they’re attracted to.

4. Define how you’d like to be perceived in the marketplace

Although it’s okay to have an idea of the visual elements you would like to see in your branding, it’s better to communicate to your designer how you want your business to be perceived.

For example, rather than saying that you’d like your logo to have hand-lettering and floral elements, your branding will benefit more by telling your designer that you’d like your branding to reflect your company’s welcoming, personal nature, while appealing to your primarily female clientele.

There are many ways that those traits can be visually portrayed. By being more general, rather than requesting specific elements, your designer will be able to explore all of the possibilities and find the best way to communicate the heart of your business to your audience.

For example, when I first started designing the logo for The Butterfly Cake Factory, my client was interested in using a geometric butterfly in her logo because she wanted her business to be perceived as modern. I completely understood where she was coming from, but saw that there might be another solution that worked better.

Luckily, she was completely open to my ideas. When she saw the option below she knew that it represented their elegant cakes and would appeal to the high-end brides that they were hoping to attract.

Hiring A Brand Designer

5. Establish short and long term goals

Knowing where you’d like to see your business go is important to communicate to your designer because your branding can aid in reaching those goals if done correctly.

For example, if you’re a birth photographer who wants to transition into brand photography in the next year, it’s important that your branding appeal more to small business owners, rather than moms-to-be.

Maybe you’re a wedding planner who has been working primarily with brides on a budget, and you’ve decided that you want to start attracting higher-end clients. If that’s the case you’re branding needs to have a high-end, luxury feel to it. 

6. Identify your competitors

Knowing your competitors is important because it enables you to set your business apart from others in your industry. If all of your competitors have similar branding, then you’ll be able to stand out from the crowd by having branding that is truly unique.

Within certain industries it’s common to see certain trends because it speaks to the target market. For example, within the wedding industry it’s common to see soft color palettes, the use of florals, and watercolor elements because this appeals to a lot of brides. However, there are other ways to appeal to that audience without looking like everyone else.

For example, the submark below that I designed for Made Weddings, uses a soft blush color that is common in the wedding industry. However, the hand-drawn elements of the submark give it a lot of unique personality, and appeal to an audience that appreciates hand-made items, like those sold by Made Weddings.

Hiring A Brand Designer

7. Know what makes your business unique

Building off the last guideline, it’s easy to set yourself apart from competitors when you know what makes your business unique. Identify what you offer the market that others do not.

Do you custom-make each order, whereas your competitors only offer pre-made options? Do you send a hand-written note with every product you sell? Do you make the experience incredibly smooth and fun for clients?

These special touches that set your business apart, can and should be reflected in your branding, which is why it’s important to communicate them to your designer.

Give a lot of time and thought to each one of these and you’re designer will be so impressed by how prepared you are to begin the branding process. If you’re not quite ready to hire a professional, then use this information to guide you as you do your own branding. My mini branding guide will help you take this information and put it into a visual identity. Sign up to receive it here!  

Branding Advice / The Marketing Pieces You should hire a professional to design

SMall business owners have a limited marketing budget, so make sure you have a wise spending strategy! Some marketing collateral is worth outsourcing to a professional designer, while others can easily be designed yourself. Whether you need a postcard, business card, or brochure designed this article gives great tips and ideas to help you allocate your marketing budget wisely. It also covers important printing and website considerations, when allocating your budget. The great visuals throughout  will provide the creative inspiration you need to design your own marketing collateral when needed. Click through to Read more!

If you've hired a designer to do your branding or you’re considering doing so, it’s important to remember that the branding of your business doesn’t end once you receive all of your final files. Once your brand identity is in place, it’s time to start putting it to work.

If you're not able to outsource all of your design tasks, you'll have to prioritize which ones are worth it and which to save money on. To help you determine this, I've outlined a few important things to consider.

One-Time Use vs. Ongoing-Use

One thing to take in to account when considering which design tasks to outsource, is the longevity of the piece in question. Is this going to be an item that will have a one-time use?

For example, a flyer for your upcoming launch party, or a postcard for your Black Friday sale. Obviously those items would only be used for a short period. If your budget is tight then those are ones to design yourself.

On the other hand, if you need a postcard that lists all your services or a flyer that has a schedule of ongoing classes, those are worth investing in. You’ll continually be using that kind of marketing material and it's important that it look professional.

Postcard Design / Letterform Creative 

Low-visibility vs. High-visibility

Another thing to take into consideration is how much visibility you anticipate this marketing piece to receive. If you’re attending a large conference where you expect to network with a lot of potential clients, then a professional-looking business card is a must.

If there’s an item that you don’t expect many people to see, then that may not be worth the investment. For example, I have a PDF of my pricing for wedding stationery. Wedding stationery isn’t the main focus of my business and I don’t end up sending this out to many people. If you have something similar in your business then that’s a good time to save your money and DIY it.

Letterform Creative

Printing Method Considerations

Another thing to take into consideration is the type of printing method you intend to use. If you plan on using a specialty method like letterpress business cards or a gold-foil invitation, then you should have a professional design it. There are a lot of technicalities that go into preparing files for these kinds of printing methods, and the cost to reprint if there are mistakes is very high.

Letterform Creative

Website Considerations

Website design and development are definitely worth outsourcing for many reasons. For one thing, web design is highly technical. Although there are many ways that you can build your own site, there are so many things that can only be customized with coding knowledge.

Your website has the potential to bring new clients in all the time and is always available for anyone to see. It’s very likely the first impression many people will have of your business, which it makes it so worth the investment of a professional designer.

Aside from looking professional, your website also has to be user-friendly, which is knowledge that a good designer will have. If you have to create your own website to start with there's nothing wrong with that, but invest in professional help as soon as you're able.

Letterform Creative

It’s certainly nice to be able to outsource all of your design needs in order to free up your time to do other things, to maintain visual consistency, and to ensure your business always appears professional.

However, if you’re working with a limited budget for design, then follow the above guidelines to make sure you’re using your design dollars wisely.

If you’re currently doing all of your own design and need a little guidance, check out my free Mini Branding Guide!

Branding Advice / How to Create a Pinterest Board for Your Branding

For all small business owners designing your brand identity yourself, read this blog post for some helpful ideas! Find out how to create a Pinterest Mood Board that will actually aid in the design of your logo and branding. With simple, step-by-step guidelines and tips, you will learn how to curate a board that is full of the inspiration you need to guide your personal or corporate branding.

It's easy to get carried away on Pinterest, pinning every pretty thing you see, but if you're trying to create an inspiration board for your branding this will just lead to overwhelm.

So how do you make a Pinterest board that has a distinct style and will actually aid in the branding process? Follow the steps below and you'll be well on your way to an inspiration board with purpose.

1) Pin to Your Heart's Content

Ok, I know I just said that pinning all the pretty things isn't the best strategy, but it's a good way to start, as long as you don't stop there. In this stage it’s just about getting it all out there, and later you'll go back and refine.

You'll want to pin logos and branding that you like, but don’t stop there. Add some lifestyle, interior, fashion, and travel photos that have the overall style and mood of your business. This will create a more complete picture of what your brand should look like.

I like to envision brands as people. If your brand was a person what would she be wearing? What would she eat? What would her house look like? Thinking in those terms will make it a little easier to pin lifestyle images.

2) Clear the Clutter

Once you’ve pinned to your hearts content, it’s time to refine and move onto creating a "mood board". I create mine in Adobe Illustrator, but for this purpose you can create your mood board on a new Pinterest board. 

Take a look at what you’ve pinned so far and see if there is a common theme or overall style. You may find that some images don’t fit or you don’t like them as much as others. It can be helpful to delete those ones altogether. Pick a handful of your favorite images and pin them to the new board.

When I create mood boards for clients I use nine images. It can be hard to narrow it down to so few, but if you have too many images you will start to have too many competing styles.

3) Define Your Style + Color Palette

Now it's time to take stock of what you have. Does your board feel cohesive? Is there an identifiable style or mood to it? Is there a unified color palette?

You might find that you like the content of the images, but they all have a different color palette. When that happens I start searching for similar images in the right color palette. This isn’t necessary, but it helps to create a more unified mood board that will better guide you in the rest of the branding process.

See examples of past mood boards I've created for clients here. You'll notice that each has a distinct style and color palette. Ideally you want to be able define the mood of the board in a few adjectives and be able to discern a color palette of 2-3 main colors.

If you need some more step-by-step guidance with your branding be sure to download the Free Mini Branding Guide!