August 4, 2020
You’re the face of your business. You’re also the “brains behind the operation,” and people come to your business to work with you.
So, what does that mean for your branding? Should it be a representation of your personal style? Should you brand yourself as a larger business or studio so people view you as a bigger operation?
And how do you brand your services so that people know what to expect from working with you — at a glance?
The answer to that question isn’t cut-and dry. I believe that personal brands are never one thing. There’s no formula. There are gray areas that are always unique to you, your services, and your ideal client.
However, as you start to develop your personal brand, there are three elements you should definitely keep in mind.
Your personal branding — just like any branding — should communicate three things to the world:
1. What it’s like to work with you (besides being freakin’ awesome)
2. Your business’s core values
3. The transformation clients can expect from working with you
With these factors in mind, it’s easier to see that a personal brand is not necessarily your brand.
It won’t necessarily look just like you or represent your personal tastes to a T, but it will have bits of you in it, because, #duh, you’re a major part of the equation.
You can see these 3 elements clearly in a number of brands, but one of my favorite examples is…
You can see clearly how the service provider is still reflected in the brand, but certain elements were chosen specifically because they speak to that provider’s ideal customer.
Lovin’ the brands above? Do you want to create something that distinct and memorable for your own business?
To create a service-based brand like that — one that reflects you, the service you provide, and the transformations you guide — you need to create an avatar. No, not the blue people or the little cartoon figures.
This is essentially a “condensed” version of what your business does and how you and your services are perceived. This can also help separate YOU from YOUR BRAND.
I know this can be a little abstract, so let’s just dive into the questions.
✴️ What words would people use to describe me?
✴️ What am I known for?
✴️ What expertise, strengths, or approaches do I bring to the table?
✴️ How do I differ from others who provide similar services?
✴️ What colors resonate/represent how I want clients to feel?
✴️ What words or phrases represent my brand’s personality?
These answers will give you a firm foundation of your values, as well as give you an idea of what you want people to feel and think when they see your brand. I’ve also found that, with solo-preneurs and one-person businesses, this will help you determine how much you want (or don’t want) to be the face of the business. You can absolutely choose how much you want to share and focus on these values and elements in your brand!
I get it. Being the face of your brand can be a bit scary — especially when it comes time to promote your services or offers. That’s why I think the avatar exercise is so powerful. It can help you create the brand identity, which includes all the magic you bring to the business, while still not being just you.
Think of it like this: You’re like the NPCs (non-player characters) that tell you where to go in a video game, or Flo in Progressive Insurance commercials. You’re not the entire brand, but you are an integral part of bringing personality, accessibility, and warmth to the process. You humanize a service and a transformation that most clients might find intimidating or abstract — or don’t even realize they need.
✴️ Do I want people to know they will work directly with me?
✴️ Do I plan to grow this business beyond me in the next 5-10 years?
✴️ Are my services more hands on or hands off? Do I want that to continue?
✴️ Is it important to me to walk my clients through their transformation, or do I give them the tools to implement it themselves?
Answers to these questions will guide how much you want your face and involvement to be a cornerstone of your brand. Even if you don’t want to be the only person providing your service within your business (a.k.a. you have plans to build a team), there are still ways to ensure that your personal values and that high level of service remain a standard across the brand.
I’m not a masher of foods: my plate is clearly separated out by color and consistency (gravy and mashed potatoes excluded). But while I believe that foods should be separate, I know that separating you from your brand isn’t that easy.
There is an organic flux and flow between you and your brand, and a happy “middle ground” that I try to find with service-based branding clients. It looks a bit like this:
✴️ Visually appeal to your client’s desired transformation
✴️ Communicate a larger idea of what’s possible with design
✴️ Represent a trusted and deliberate process
✴️ Reassure the client that they’re working with a professional
✴️ You can show clients what it’s like to work with you (but so can team members you hire in the future)
✴️ Your personality attracts clients with complementary personalities
✴️ You are the spokesperson and advocate for the wider brand
✴️ Both represent your core values
✴️ Both show clients how you’ll care for them
I’m known for loving bright colors (especially orange!), and knew when I created my brand that I wanted to leverage this. It’s one of the most well-known things about me (people consistently tag me in posts about orange-colored or orange-patterned products!).
Now, my brand is defined by its bright colors and clients. When asked what work of mine they’re most drawn to, potential clients cite my use of color and request a brand that is as joyful as mine.
Yes, these colors are an extension of me and what I like. But more importantly, they express the mission of my work — to empower business owners to do business bravely. These colors are bold and unafraid, and they attract clients who want the same confidence for their brands.
The process of working with me isn’t quite as loud — I spend the majority of my time listening to clients and picking up little cues and patterns from them about what they like and what will serve their own customers. This gentler approach combined with my loud colors encompasses everything I want my brand to be — brave and thoughtful.
One of my former clients is known for loving spreadsheets. It’s her default way of processing, and one of her greatest strengths in her business. Her brand visuals are defined by lots of parallel lines and structured graphics to play off this and to suggest a highly organized and systematic approach to working in her clients’ businesses. One of her brand icons is even a robot!
However, she’s an incredibly kind and loving person — not someone you’d describe as sterile or boring the way we might describe the spreadsheets and numbers she loves. We used warm, joyful, feminine colors to show off this side of her. The result is a brand that communicates both the client experience she provides and the level of strategy her business will bring to yours.
At the end of the day, your brand as a service provider doesn’t have to be your brand. It can infuse the elements that you (and only you!) can bring to the business, while still speaking to the service and audience. With the questions I’ve mapped out here, you can get closer to what those core values and differentiators are, so you can see clearly what stands out. From there, it’s time to find visuals, colors, and styles that align with those values and differentiators.
Asking yourself questions like, “What icons or colors make me feel [insert core value]?” From there, you’ll start to find themes within the elements you’re drawn to, and you can hone those down into a brand guide. It’s a process — I won’t lie. But it’s so, so valuable to create a service provider brand so that your audience can tell from a mile away that you’re the one they want to work with.
If you need help with this brainstorm, check out my Brand Style Brainstorming Sheet.
Using this guide, you’ll drill down to the heart of what makes your brand great, and you’ll combine your ideal client’s needs with your unique value in the marketplace. At the end of it, you’ll have 5 keywords that will define your brand style.
This is the same worksheet that I use with all of my branding clients to guide our design decisions, I know it’s packing some punch! Download the Brand Style Brainstorming Sheet here!