As small business owners, we often try to do everything ourselves in the beginning to save money. I was guilty of it too. But I’ve learned over the years that making wise investments for your business will help you grow and thrive. The question then becomes what to invest in, and when? While that can be dependent on your specific industry and stage of business, I do know that branding is one of the best investments you can make early on for any business. A strong and intentional brand can do wonders to grow your business and grow in the right direction. There are so many things that an authentic and professionally designed brand can provide, but I know that it can be hard to make sense of it all when you’re just starting out. We’re here to talk about what branding can do for you and how to know when you’re ready to take the leap.

What exactly is branding?

Your brand is not just your logo. If you think you’re getting a new brand by purchasing a logo design, it will only get you so far. Don’t get me wrong, sometimes that’s all you need when you first start out to get you going, but ultimately you need to dig much deeper to develop your brand in its entirety in order to truly have a strong and intentional foundation on which to build your business. Your brand encompasses the story of your business, why you do what you do, your ideal client, your mission and message, and lastly, the visual design used to communicate all of that. A true brand is more than just the design. It’s the story behind the business and how you communicate that both visually and with your voice to your audience.

Are you ready?

Some businesses decide to invest in branding right from the start. This allows them to take the time in the beginning to develop what their brand is all about and position themselves accordingly. Others decide to hold off and wait until they’ve had time to discover their true place in the industry. A lot of entrepreneurs start off with one mission in mind and end up growing and changing over time until they find their sweet spot (I did!). Either way works great, and it depends on your specific business and situation.

So how do you determine if you’re ready? Start by asking yourself these questions:

  • Does my current brand truly and authentically represent me and my mission?
  • Do I have a clear message to communicate to my audience?
  • Is my brand reaching the right audience?
  • Am I ready to be more serious about my business and take things to the next level?
  • Have I shifted focus and need a rebrand to better communicate that focus?

Where to start

Once you determine you’re ready for branding, you can start the process of creating your unique brand. Most good brand designers these days will help you develop more than just the visual design. Like me, a lot of brand designers work with you to develop the foundation of your brand and message first so that it can be clearly communicated through the design. You can’t have a good brand design without a good brand first.

I recommend doing your homework before diving in with a brand designer. You’ll want to do research on who will fit in your budget and give you what you need. You also want to find someone who matches your style and that will understand you and your industry. These are some questions you can ask your designer to determine if they are a good fit for you:

  • How long have you been in business?
  • What is your specialty?
  • What kinds of projects or clients do you stay away from?
  • What do people most like about working with you?
  • Why do your clients choose you over the competition?
  • What is your turnaround time? and what are your payment terms?
  • Do you outsource the work or do you do it all yourself?
  • What happens if your customers aren’t happy with the work you provided?
  • What happens if you or your customer want to cancel midway through the project?
  • How many revisions do you allow before you charge per revision?
  • Who owns the creative work?
  • What is included in the package/pricing?
  • Do I have the rights to re-use the graphics on other projects or websites? If yes, is there a fee?
  • What file formats will I receive?
  • Do I get all my brand information (fonts used, color palette, etc)?
  • What happens after the project is done?

What to Expect

Every brand designer and developer works differently, but there are some standard things you should expect to get out of your brand experience. You should be able to freely and comfortably communicate with your designer so that you are a part of the process the entire way through. You should also receive some sort of brand questionnaire or development guide to help both of you dig deep and better understand your brand. This is where you see the biggest difference in brand design and development among designers. An intentional brand experience should include some version of this type of development in the process. It’s important to create a strong foundation first so that both you and the designer understand every aspect of your business and brand. I also believe that a brand experience should include a couple of logo variations in all the standard file formats, and additional brand elements like fonts, colors, and patterns so that you can extend your brand through every touchpoint of your business. Last but not least, you should expect to get full rights and access to your brand design. You want to be able to use it for yourself as your business grows and expands without having to gain access or permission from the designer.

In the end, your business can benefit greatly from strong and intentional branding, but that may look a little bit different for everyone. Deciding when and how to approach your branding can be tricky, but with the right brand designer by your side, you will be sure to establish an authentic brand that will help your business to grow. Don’t compare your business to others when determining when and how to handle your brand either. Your business is unique and your brand process and design should be too.

Are you ready for branding or have you gone through the process before? What was your experience like? Did it help you grow your business?