This post is written by guest contributor Sophie Livingston. Sophie is a website copywriter working with freelancers and small business owners who want to attract clients they’ll love working with.
If you’re delivering a service through your business, like coaching, photography, virtual assistance or design, for example, you are a big part of what your clients are buying when they invest in that service.
They don’t just want the service you’re selling, they want the way it will make them feel. And how they feel will depend on how you’re shaping the experience you provide.
Your words can have a big impact on that experience. How you talk in and about your business influences the conversations you’re having with people. Both your words and your visuals give you an opportunity to connect.
If you let your personality shine through in your marketing, you’ll connect with the right clients who’re going to truly benefit from working with you.
And finding the right clients is a big deal, right? One of the best things about being independent is getting to choose who you work with and what you work on.
When you put in time and effort to develop a consistent and unique brand, you’ll attract the right clients and projects naturally. You’ll get enquiries from people who want to work with you above anyone else because they’ve come to know, like and trust who you are.
With that in mind, here are my top three tips on how to write with personality in your business.
The visuals we use online play a big part in how people perceive us, and it’s no different when it comes to the words we use.
In the same way that a logo can be recognisable and invoke emotion, the words you use can help you build relationships and trigger actions.
But a brand is about so much more than just a pretty logo or a strong tagline.
Your brand is made up of all the impressions your clients and contacts have of you. It’s your reputation. It’s how people would describe you when you’re not in the room.
And, as you’re building your brand, you have the opportunity to shape those impressions. With a strong sense of what you want your brand personality to be, you can develop visuals and a voice that influences the way people see you.
To define your brand personality, start by asking yourself the following questions.
Q. What feedback have you had from people you’ve worked with? Why do they enjoy working with you? What do they say about you?
Q. What do your ideal clients need you to be? If they were to describe the kind of person they’d love working with, what would they say?
Q. Think of someone in your field or community who you look up to and admire. What is it about their personality that you enjoy or can relate to?
Q. Now think of those you might consider competitors. What makes you different from them? How would you describe their personality and how is yours different?
Q. And finally, which aspects of your personality do you want to see reflected in your brand?
After you’ve answered those questions, you should have a clearer idea of what makes up your personality and which of those traits you’d like to inject into your brand.
To keep you focused, you might find it helpful to create a list of three to five words that sum up your brand personality.
Is your brand personality bold, fiery, calm, direct, charming, formal, cheerful, playful, witty, reflective, friendly, supportive, inspiring or energetic, for example?
Defining your brand personality in this way doesn’t need to be about setting parameters, but it can help you find direction and be more consistent.
Write these words down and stick them up next to your desk so you can keep them in mind when you’re writing content.
One of the golden rules in copywriting is to write like you talk.
And writing like you talk is the easiest way to stay consistent.
A consistent tone of voice helps build credibility and trust. It does this because it feels familiar and unique. When your tone of voice is recognisable across all the different touchpoints in your business, it creates a seamless, personal experience for everyone you’re interacting with.
There is no one way to talk about a business or to communicate with an online audience. In your business, in your brand, there is only you and the way you talk.
Imagine how you’d feel if you decided to work with someone because, online, they come across as bold, fiery and opinionated, but when you meet them in person, they’re quiet, agreeable and reserved. Or vice versa.
We’d feel cheated, wouldn’t we? Like we’d been lied to or tricked into something.
Marketing isn’t about tricking people into doing business with us. It’s about understanding people and connecting with them.
After you write something in or about your business, read it back to yourself out loud. Does it sound like you? Does it feel natural? Would you feel comfortable saying the same thing to someone face-to-face?
Imagining that you’re writing to (or talking to) one person is a useful trick. If you’ve developed a good idea of who your ideal client is, it can help to give them a name and write directly to them when you’re drafting content.
It might be a made-up name that suits the persona you’ve created, or it might be a real-life person from your community who embodies all the traits you hope to find in the people you’re working with.
Write “Dear [name]” at the top of your content draft and write like it’s a message or email that’s going directly to them.
The copy or content you write for your business doesn’t need to appeal to everyone. In fact, if you try to appeal to everyone, you’ll be doing more harm than good.
It can feel scary, at first, to be so relaxed in your writing when you’ve probably been taught to always be “professional”. Being professional means delivering on what you promise. It doesn’t mean being formal or boring or writing like a robot.
Writing like you talk will help you feel so much clearer about who you are in your business and who you’re here to help. And it’ll help you attract like-minded people who want to work with you because they like who you are.
One of the things I admire most about Meg (the brand stylist behind this blog), is how authentic she is in the content she creates and the stories she shares.
In her blog post on the importance of being visible in your business, Meg says “What I love about the internet and social media is that it allows us to be seen just as we are. Real people telling real stories. You write the script, you set the scene, you can be inspirational just by being your very own self. People buy from people, and when you are visible and you share yourself and your story, people get to know you. They root for you, they want you to succeed.”
When you think about the people you enjoy following online, I’m sure you feel a connection to them. You probably feel like you know them even though you’ve never met them in person before.
As humans who spend a lot of our time online, we’re seeking those genuine connections. We want to feel seen and understood, and when we hear from other people who are sharing openly, it helps us feel a little less alone in the world.
Being authentic doesn’t have to mean baring your soul. You can share honestly about your working life without talking about the things that feel private and sacred to you, like your health or family life, for example. Or perhaps you’re someone who feels comfortable sharing some aspects of your personal life, but you draw the line at talking about the struggles you’re facing in your business.
Whatever feels right for you, it’s important to have boundaries and keep some things back. You don’t need to tell the whole story for the online version of yourself to be authentic.
Remember that the content you’re sharing is part of the experience you’re providing to your clients or future clients. You’re not sharing because you want the whole world to know everything about you, you’re here to help a small, select group of people overcome a problem they’re facing.
To help you find the right balance, consider what your ideal clients will find helpful or relatable. That’s who you’re here for, after all, and I know you want to show up in the best way you can for those people.
Q. What experiences have you gone through that your ideal clients might be able to relate to?
Q. What lessons have you learnt, in life or in business, that can help your audience with the challenges they’re facing?
Q. What do you wish you’d known 3, 6 or 12 months ago that could be useful for someone who’s a few steps behind you?
Q. Why have you made [X] decision? What’s guiding you? What do you believe in relation to this that’s given you the confidence to move forward?
Q. What fears have you had in the past that seem silly now? Or what’s something you’ve done recently that you wish you’d done a lot sooner?
After you’ve answered these questions, I’m sure you’ll have plenty of ideas for stories you can share with your community.
Keep a notebook close by or use an app on your phone to develop these ideas and add new thoughts as they come up.
Take inspiration from the real-life conversations you’re having with friends and clients, and remember to write these stories as if you’re talking to that one person who comes to mind when you think about who your ideal client is.
You are a big part of what your clients are buying when they invest in your service – let your personality shine through in your marketing and you’ll attract clients who value you.
A brand is about so much more than just a pretty logo or a strong tagline. Your brand is made up of all the impressions your clients and contacts have of you. It’s your reputation. It’s how people would describe you when you’re not in the room.
There is no one way to talk about a business or to communicate with an online audience. In your business, in your brand, there is only you and the way you talk.
People buy from people, and when you are visible and you share yourself and your story, people get to know you. They root for you, they want you to succeed.
The content you’re sharing is part of the experience you’re providing to your clients or future clients. You’re not sharing because you want the whole world to know everything about you, you’re here to help a small, select group of people overcome a problem they’re facing.
This blog post was written by Sophie Livingston. Sophie is a website copywriter working with freelancers and small business owners who are ready to start attracting their dream clients. Find out more about her website copywriting service, or join her community of determined creatives on Instagram.
There is no rule book for running a business and there are always so many questions circling in your ahead about what should be a priority and what should be put on the back burner.
To a new business I would say that brand design should be high up on the list of priorities if there is the budget to go professional first thing. For a more established business though, how do you know when the time is right?
Maybe you have been in business for a few years and feel much more set on the direction you’re heading in, or maybe you’ve been in business for a long time and have a niggling feeling that something needs to change.
If that seed has been planted in your mind and you’re at least considering it, it probably is time, but let’s go over a few signs so you can get a clearer picture.
Sometimes that font that seemed to suit your brand perfectly in the beginning just becomes a nightmare to work with. A very fine or thin font won’t have a big impact and when reproduced at a small scale it might well become unreadable.
Fine lined fonts also don’t translate well in a number of other situations – if letters are not thick enough there may be problems with things like hot foil or letterpress stamping, spot gloss printing, screen printing, signage, embroidery – any time that you want to reproduce your logo on products or stationery.
If you want to grow your business and want to be able to use your logo in a wide variety of situations it’s definitely time to rethink your brand design.
There is a difference between incorporating an element or design tend that feels authentic to your business and having a logo created in a certain style because that is what everyone else is doing.
For example, botanical and floral themed branding is still having a majorly popular moment, but as long as florals and botanicals fit with your brand vision and values then it’s perfectly ok to use them in your branding. Just having a floral logo because it looks pretty however may feel restricting in the future, and you might find that you grow out of it quickly.
Every design decision should be backed up with meaning so that the final outcome is truly tailored to your business – you’ll find that it feels timeless and authentic even though there might be ‘popular’ elements incorporated.
Perhaps you only have a logo rather than a full brand identity. Chances are that things don’t look cohesive and that might be holding you back.
Think about how larger brands look, they have set colours, fonts and styling for their products, stationery, website, and social media. This cohesive and intentional look is absolutely within reach for you when you work with a professional designer. Make sure your designer provides a style guide at the end so you can stay consistent going forward.
If your business has pivoted and the direction you’re heading in has changed or become more clear, or you have new product offerings, then it’s definitely time to rebrand.
Your brand design should be rooted in your vision and all those things that matter to you and your customers. When that alignment isn’t there you can end up with a confusing and inconsistent message which can turn off potential customers.
You might just have a niggling feeling that something doesn’t match up and if you’re unsure, please get in touch with me here for some friendly advice.
This almost goes without saying, but a business name change is the perfect time to review everything and as mentioned in the previous point – make sure your message is still consistent. A name change often signals the start of a new chapter and your current logo design is probably more suited to your old business name – simply changing the words used within the logo might not be enough.
If you’ve identified that you want to target a different type of customer, a rebrand should definitely be high on you list of priorities. Good design can elevate your offering and connect on a deeper level with your ideal customer.
Customers buy from you over someone else offering something similar because they feel an emotional connection to your business and product. Brand design and your visuals are a huge part of triggering that emotional reaction. Please also consider refreshing your brand voice and hiring a copywriter if you can in this instance, words and visuals go hard in hand here.
Before we dive into the elements that make up a strong brand, let’s first recap what a brand actually is. It’s a big buzz word, but what does it mean?
What is a brand? In simple terms, your brand is what you mean to people, or what your business means to people. It’s not your logo or your colour palette, it’s more of an abstract thing. it’s the substance below the surface of all the visuals – without substance and meaning, your logo is just a pretty book cover.
Your brand is what your customer thinks of when he or she hears your business name. It’s an experience that’s not repeated by any other company they interact with, and is guided by a set of values that they understand and that resonate with them.
There are 7 basic attributes of a strong brand – when you get these right your brand will naturally flourish. You may currently be strong in many of these areas and need only to tweak a few in order to grow the number of loyal fans and customers you have!
“If you confuse, you’ll lose.” ~ Donald Miller That quote is a pretty blunt way to put it, but it’s true. It can be tempting to use flowery language to describe what your business does and what you stand for. In reality, people have perhaps already spent their daily quote of brainpower elsewhere that day – they don’t have the time to decipher your meaning.
It’s so important that they understand what you do quickly and with ease. As soon as they feel a little confused, or that they need to use some brainpower, they’re likely to leave your website, shop, Instagram profile etc.
Assess the way you talk about your business everywhere. Ask a friend or family member, or better still, a customer. How can you simplify things? Do you describe your business the same way everywhere? Make sure you use simple language that’s free of jargon.
Not everyone is your customer, so you do not need to appeal to everyone. You just need to be relevant to the right people and understand how you help them with your product or service.
Do you understand your customers’ situation and where in their life or day you come in for them? Make sure the messaging and content you share is relevant to them.
Sometimes it might feel like you’re repeating the same things over and over but I assure you, the repetition is necessary to help strengthen your brand.
You must have something that makes you or your business different to your competitors and makes sure you highlight it often. Maybe it’s the way you create or manufacture your product, maybe it’s how or where your materials are sourced from. Maybe it’s a personality trait and the way you show up on social media.
Your unique mix of brand values and the reasons you do what you do are also a differentiator. Point out or illustrate your differentiators often so that they stand out in your customers’ mind.
Make a list of the ways you and your business are different and start weaving them into your messaging and content.
When you’re truly passionate about your product or service it’s plain to see. I think this is the area that most small businesses have no trouble with. We’re all here because we’re passionate about what we do, right?
Making a success of your business is hard – you must have passion in order to move past the knock-backs and the things that go wrong and keep ongoing.
It’s important that your people believe that you’ll deliver on your brand’s promise. There are many ways you can increase your credibility, such as:
The reason that social media is such a valuable marketing tool now is that it helps your business to be more visible. You can pop up in the news feeds of your followers on a daily basis, keeping you front and centre in their minds.
People are much more likely to buy what you’re selling after they’ve interacted with your brand multiple times. Having social media accounts and a mailing list so you can pop into the inboxes of your customers are both so valuable for visibility of your brand.
Visibility of you as a person also counts, showing the face or faces of the people behind the brand. People buy from people, they want to get to know you and hear about your story.
Last but definitely not least, we have consistency. I cannot stress enough how important it is to be consistent with everything you do. I’m not saying you cannot pivot or fine-tune things, you absolutely can and should as you get further along in your business journey, just build that consistency back up again. If you take nothing else away from this article, make ‘be consistent’ your mantra!
I have questions asked of me over on Instagram often by fellow designers as well as small business owners. I always make a list of the questions I get asked so that rather than just answering once, I can create blog posts like this that help more people with the same questions! I also have some digital products and online masterclasses in the works right now so keep your eyes peeled for those launching in a few months time.
If you’re new to the world of branding, or are a designer looking to learn more about what the ‘best practices’ are when designing a brand identity for a client, I really hope the following tips are helpful to you. As I said, digital products I’m creating at the moment will expand on all this knowledge, but in the mean time, here are 4 ‘best practices’ for creating a brand identity design.
During the research phase when you’re gathering imagery to inspire the look and feel of the brand identity, it can be tempting to only look at other logo designs that have already been created. Worse still would be to look at only logo designs from the same field of business.
Of course you need to know what else is out there in the field of business you’re creating the identity for, but there is SO MUCH MORE to see, and I don’t just mean on Pinterest. Really dive deep and think about the story of the business owner and their journey to where they are now.
Are there little ‘story’ elements you can pick out, are there themes you can build on, are there any images that come to mind when you’re reading all the information your client has given you? It’s important that a logo design has elements that feel familiar and not totally ‘out there’ but that it also feels like it has something ‘new’ to offer.
The most original designs come from combining different inspiration sources together. For example, combining a style of typography or text layout you may have seen in another logo design with some interesting angles or shapes inspired by a tiled floor pattern that gave off the right vibe for your clients’ brand.
It’s important to know what the future goals of the business are so that the new design can be aligned with this. You brand for the future of the business, not the past or present.
If the business is looking to expand in some way, an objective of the new brand identity might be to diversify the overall design so that there is scope to add more product lines or service offerings. More design elements might be needed for product packaging, or set colour combinations for each new service for example.
If the business is looking to target a slightly different customer or an additional type of customer, an objective of the new brand identity might be to elevate the overall feel of the brand to bring it in line with the revised target market.
Always discuss goals and objectives so you have a marker on which to judge the effectiveness of the new brand identity.
There may be more than one font used within a logo design, but the main typeface or font used should not then be used in other parts of the branding like for headings.
There are always exceptions to the rule – sometimes if your logo has illustrative elements or has had lots of customisation done to the text, you could feel that the same font is going to work best for headings. However, as a ‘best practice’ try to find a heading font that blends nicely rather than using the same one – or at least use the logo font very sparingly. This will make the overall brand identity look and feel much more professional.
In addition, you might think that adding more elements to a logo design will make it stand out more, but this just makes things complicated. The best logo designs have one or two ‘wow’ elements (this could be an illustration and custom letters in the text for example). Don’t try to add too many ideas into your design so that it becomes confusing or too busy.
Make sure you think about (or talk about with your client) all the places the brand identity and logo’s might be used. If you go ahead and start designing using a really thin weight font in part of the logo and then it’s decided that the logo needs to be letterpress stamped onto stationery, it can be impossible to make a stamp at certain sizes to get the desired printed result.
Similarly if the logo is going to be blown up very large onto a shop sign, make sure it’s going to look perfect at this larger size! Hand drawn elements can sometimes be tricky at larger sizes and may need a bit more tidying up so they don’t look too messy.
Another example would be involving colours – some blues and turquoises don’t replicate well from screen (RGB) to printing (CMYK) and you may need to use Pantone printing to replicate the correct colour. Same with neons – spot colour printing is the only way neons are possible in print. Make sure your client is aware of any colour printing limitations if they are keen to use colours that might present problems and try to explain Pantones and spot printing if you can.
I hope these tips have helped you get clearer on some aspects of designing a brand identity. As ever, if you have any questions for me or things you’d like me to cover please do send me an email at email@example.com – I’m always happy to help!
When creating a brand design, either for yourself or as a designer for a client, the most important step is getting the right information down on paper at the beginning. Talking on the phone or in person is sometimes important too, but a paper questionnaire allows time and space for reflection.
I don’t work with clients who come to me with a brief as such. They may have some ideas about the direction they want to go in which is great as a starting point, but I’m always wary of working with a client who wants to dictate exactly what they want their logo to look like.
Many graphic designers prefer to have a set brief to guide them and for some clients that is exactly what they want to give and that is fine of course. But the way I like to work is to gather lots of information in the beginning and then let that information guide me on the design choices I make. I’m guided by the persons story, how they got to where they are, and I’m always trying to infuse as much meaning into the brand design as I possibly can.
This is not to say that the client has no say in where the design goes – of course they do! The difference though, is that they are hiring me as a branding expert to steer them in the best direction for their brand. A direction that feels true to their business and who they are, and a direction that will also appeal to and make sense to their target audience/ideal clients.
And so, I thought it would be helpful to show you how I peel back some of the layers with the questions I ask my clients at the very beginning of their projects.
The important things to remember is that the person you’re working with probably doesn’t know the information you need in order to create a meaningful design for them. You are the expert, so you need to guide them.
And if you’re not a designer but are looking for someone to work with you on your branding, hopefully this will help prepare you for the experience a little!
Maybe this sounds like a super obvious question, but it really is necessary to ask it. Like I just mentioned, your client might not realise that this would be really useful information for you to have.
If your client is using their personal name for their business then maybe this won’t give you any nuggets of wisdom, but if they have chosen something other than their own name it can give you a wealth of information to start with.
An example of where this simple question really paid off for me is with a recent client of mine – Caroline, see her website here.
When Caro first booked in with me her business was called Blue Cicada Photography, but she wanted to rebrand to bring herself more into the centre of the business. She wanted to rename the business to her own personal name, the short and sweet ‘CARO’.
On the surface it didn’t seem like there would be any meaning to find from asking the question, but upon reading Caro’s questionnaire she surprised me with some beautiful information that really helped steer the direction of the project.
An extract from Caro’s questionnaire is below:
Is there any special meaning behind your business name?
There is [meaning behind the name Blue Cicada Photography] but I feel that I have moved on from there and that my business has evolved to be more about me.
It’s funny because recently, someone pointed out that cicadas stay in the dark until they shed the skin that protects them as they are growing.
Once it is done, they go in the sun and sing their heart out. I feel like this is me now. Enough staying in the “dark”, I feel more ready than ever to celebrate my business, who I am, what I can do and the skills that I have been working on for the past 20 years.
After reading this I knew straight away that although the Cicada was not going to be in Caro’s business name anymore, the imagery was still something I wanted to explore and perhaps keep in the new branding because it represented the history and story behind Caro’s business.
So this is a few questions in one, but sometimes I like to ask questions in groups to get my client thinking about not just each question, but how each question/answer interacts with each other. The three questions are separate, but they are also linked and there is probably some crossover in the answer for each.
I also mention that these questions might warrant a long answer and I make sure to say they can write as much as they like which allows the client to feel a bit more free.
Asking the questions together is almost prompting them to reflect and think more deeply and answer in long form rather than with a couple of sentences.
I love reading this section of the questionnaire the most because it really helps me to understand the persons history and the driving force that lifts them. Often, because the answer is longer than a paragraph I can pull out or highlight small sentences that feel like they could take me somewhere – as in they might be a starting point for imagery to explore for the logo and branding.
An example is a simple sentence I got from my client Katie when she was explaining her story is “I love the magic of translation” (she is a translator and copywriter). This gave me the idea that we could add a sprinkle of magic into the branding, nothing over the top, just a little something extra.
I don’t particularly like the word ‘competitors’ because I think if you have a strong and defined brand then the notion of competitors sort of fades into insignificance. Your brand can be so unique that for your ideal clients or customers, you are the ONLY choice for them to go for. I can write much more on this subject so let’s save that for another blog post!
The word competitor is easily understood by all though and most people will have a few businesses that they know they are somewhat similar to, so I do use it in this question.
Asking follow up questions like ‘What are they doing well/not so well’ helps me to understand what my client views as ‘good’ and ‘not for them’ in terms of business and branding. It’s always so interesting to see the answers to this question and it really helps to know who we need to differentiate their business from.
Often, clients might say a business is similar to them in terms of services, but they want to have a much different feel to their brand so that they’re attracting a slightly different customer. They may often describe this other businesses brand in words and so it gives me a benchmark and an understanding of what words they use to describe different ‘vibes’. This is really helpful because words sometimes mean different things to different people.
After working through all the answers my client has given me, having pulled out various snippets that stand out, I will head over to Pinterest to begin to find some imagery that feels like it matches with all the information and come up with a visual direction for the branding.
This is such a fun part because I will get to try various combinations of colours and imagery to see what feels right. This is where words lead to images and images lead to more images and I’m sent down a wonderful rabbit hole!
I try to look for inspiration not just from branding that has already been created, but from other sources, like book covers, magazine layouts, beautiful artwork, tiled patterns, interior decor, and nature (to name just a few).