3 big mistakes solopreneurs make in their branding
Figuring out what your brand should look like can be tricky.
It needs to be a good representation of who you are, especially if you’re a solopreneur, and especially in the online world where you may not be meeting your prospective clients in person.
It also needs to appeal to the type of people you work best with. Who may or may not be anything like you, by the way.
A lot of times there are other factors at play too - the industry you’re in might have certain requirements or expectations, for example.
This can lead to a lot of confusion around how you’re supposed to even begin figuring out what your brand should look like, and unfortunately it’s here that a lot of people get stuck - before they ever even start.
I’ve worked with dozens of entrepreneurs over the last decade as a graphic designer, in addition to running several small businesses myself and helping entrepreneurial friends work through their branding issues before I ever started branding for others.
Through all that I’ve noticed the disconnects that can make branding feel so mysterious and hard, and I’ve watched people make the same mistakes over and over.
To hopefully help you skip ahead a few steps in your quest for the brand that works for you, I want to share a few of the most common mistakes I see people making, and what you can do instead.
Mistake #1: Basing it entirely on what you like.
Remember how your brand has a job to do? The first part of that job is representing who you are to potential clients who may not know you from Adrian (Or Adam either I guess).
What makes you unique? What personality are you bringing to the table? Are you light and whimsical? Dark and bold? Bright and glamorous?
Here’s where this goes wrong though… we’re talking about who you are, not what you like. There is a difference.
For the most part, at least in the context of your brand, your favorite color is pretty irrelevant. It may very well work great in your branding - but not because it’s your favorite.
You want your branding to represent your personality, who you are, to an audience who may never meet you in person.
If you’re a little awkward, down to earth, and love a good joke you probably don’t want to represent yourself as polished and elegant, because when people start working with you they’re likely going to feel a disconnect, and nobody wants that.
Mistake #2: Not realizing it's all about how you make them feel.
The other part of your brand’s purpose is to appeal to the type of person you want to work with and make them want to work with you.
You do this by stirring an emotion in them. This is the simplistic goal in all branding and marketing - to make someone feel some sort of way about you or your product.
Maybe you’re a child therapist and people need to feel a sense of warmth and comfort to work with you. Or an interior designer whose potential clients really need to pick up on some modern, minimal vibes.
This is what makes your branding more than just a pretty face. It’s out there doing a job, showing people what you’re all about, making them feel things, inviting them to work with you.
The hard part, and the thing most of us aren’t taught, is how to translate our business - the strategy, the goals, the ideal client - into something visual that creates an emotion. \
I do this using what I call feeling words. These are descriptive, emotional words that are easy to visualize.
If I say Bold, Elegant, or Romantic, you probably get at least a fuzzy mental image of what those could look like. Bold might look like bright colors with lots of contrast, or big fields of black space. Elegant may be minimal and warm, with little rose gold accents. Romantic could have lots of lace and soft warm colors.
Thinking about your brand in feeling words can be hard at first, just like learning any new language would be. But that’s the key to creating a brand that works for you.
(There’s a lot more to this brand word thing that you can read over here if you’re interested!)
Mistake #4: Tweaking. It. To. Death.
This is going to sound unusual coming from someone who spends literally hours each week picking out just the right fonts and colors, but I’m gonna say it anyway.
The exact shade of orange you use in your logo doesn’t really matter.
I mean, obviously it does to an extent. You want to do the work we just talked about - figuring out what parts of your personality to bring in and what emotions you want to create. Then use that information to pick colors, fonts, and imagery that works for you.
You wouldn’t want to choose bright primary colors if your brand were targeted at investment bankers, and you wouldn’t go dark and sultry to attract new dog owners. Because that’s super weird Karen, get your shit together.
So there is a time for being particular about your colors, but there’s also a time to push that baby out into the world so your business can stretch and grow and figure out what it looks like on it's own.
In fact, you’re probably going to find that the longer you’re in business the more you’ll refine and change your brand image. It may not be by much, but you’ll find plenty of reasons to tweak and adjust as you go down the road.
Spending too much time up front obsessing over the details is a classic procrasti-planning move that only serves to keep you stuck in pre-launch mode instead of moving forward with something that’s right-for-right-now and iterating as you grow.
Bringing it all together
In case I lost you somewhere back there with the feeling words, here’s a quick rundown.
The three biggest mistakes I see people make at all different levels of business (and you’re likely making at least one of them right now) are:
Making your branding revolve around #allyourfavoritethings.
Not realizing that the real goal is to connect with people's emotions.
Getting stuck in the tiny details and not putting yourself out there to iterate later.