How to Brand Yourself for Professionalism
You might already know the general essence of branding and what that entails for your business. Maybe you figured out what you’re going to do, for who, and you have a visual aesthetic in mind.
But how do you know if it’s going to look professional for the type of customer you’re after?
If you’re a small business owner and you’re wondering why your customer base isn’t consistent, it’s time to consider a few things.
1. A Dedicated Website
If you’re a business, it’s time to make sure this is a priority. Whether someone meets you in person or sees you on social media, one thing they will always do is check your website first. To those who have dedicated many hours to their site, it will be obvious how important it is.
However, I’ve still seen so many who complain they’re not getting enough business miss this important step. Some business owners have used social media as their website. I’ve seen links to their Facebook page as their main hub. I’ve seen designers who only have an Instagram account.
If you’re early on in your business and you’re pitching clients or partnership, it doesn’t matter if you’re at day one. People will always ask. I’ve had a web designer tell me she wanted partner with me in case I come across projects I need help tackling. But she said her website wasn’t up. As a web designer? Meanwhile, others who contacted me who were ready will be much more impressive and their networking success will be a lot higher.
2. A Relevant Portfolio
Now, let’s say you have your website up, it’s beautifully designed, and you have nice colors chosen, etc. Maybe you even have a detailed Services page… but that’s it. Literally no signs of your work anywhere. How will people know that you do your job well?
This is an easy one for designers and photographers. But I’ve seen empty websites for numerous professionals. For example, lately, I’ve been looking at social media managers online and noticed none of them have any of their work up. No portfolio, no case studies, no clients, no projects, no process.
If you’re one of those just starting out, you might want to offer a small taste of your service for free or at a discount to someone so you can create a better portfolio.
3. Proof of Your Knowledge
Potential customers will want to hear from two people—you and everybody else.
Make sure you’re seen clearly on your website and social media networks. No one likes faceless businesses. If a person is choosing a small business, then they’re looking for that personal touch. There are a few ways to show you deserve their attention.
One way is content. This overlaps a little with the point above about having a portfolio. Content can include things like blog posts, videos, downloads, books, etc.
Again, if you’re in a visual professional, you can combine this with your portfolio if you don’t want to create anything educational like written lessons. To beef up your portfolio, you can turn each project into a post or case study. Photographers do this well. After each shoot, they do a bit of storytelling while displaying the beautiful images they shot.
It will help potential customers feel like they were part of the experience.
The second way is social proof, AKA testimonials. Service-based professionals need to be asking every single person they worked with or consulted for a testimonial. If you sell products or anything else in higher volume, make it easy for others to leave reviews.
Reading positive feedback from customers will take away hesitancy to move forward with you.
4. A Clear Message
Let’s get to the heart of branding. Do people know what you do? If you told someone, and then they turned to the person next to them, could they tell it accurately? This is what branding is. What other people think of when they hear your business.
Your messaging should be in this formula:
You help (your ideal customer) who is struggling with (this problem)/need support with (this problem) by (using your product or service).
For example, I help entrepreneurs who need a brand identity by creating purposeful visuals to represent their businesses.
You need to be able to attract the right people and send the other ones away.
If I said I help large businesses create a corporate brand identity, my audience and prices would look a lot different and attract a different set of people.
5. A Well-Designed Look
Here’s the million dollar question: Does your visual branding look obviously DIY? Or how about this question: Would you know if it looks DIY?
Even non-designers are able to spot the look of professionalism. People who attempt to do everything themselves usually overdo it. It looks busy, it’s too decorated, too many colors and strange fonts. Besides being cluttered, DIY brands usually look extremely outdated. It’s a funny concept that professionals design things to be more simple. This is because a professional brand will serve a specific function.
It is no longer functional if people don’t know if this is right for them, don’t know where to click, or they’re too overwhelmed with the text.
In a world where everyone wants your email address, even a simple opt-in may not be so easy anymore if it looks bad. It’s hard to brand yourself as a professional if your page looks like a hobbyist.
A person who is serious about their business invests the proper time and money into the right things. How important are first impressions to you?
These quick tips will help make a difference in your business. I’ve heard this advice before—maybe heard it too often and would roll my eyes at it. I went into business without a solid plan and it got me into doing all types of things I had no desire to do. I had too many ideas and too many “tasks” but no clients.
As soon as I sat down and got my brand defined, it shaped my goals better.
What about you? Have you branded your business to be more professional?
Franzine Mackley is a graphic designer and brand consultant at Breezy Camper (and a Dubsado lover, duh!). She helps entrepreneurs with building their brands. With years of experience in marketing and design, she can create the perfect mix of aesthetic and function for ambitious bosses. When she’s not in front of her computer, she’s roadtripping with her family. You can also follow her on Instagram @breezycamper.