how to get organized by the end of the year.

get your business organized

It’s normal to want to start the new year with fresh goals and a renewed mindset for your work or business. However, with only a single-digit number of weeks left in the year, now is a great time to get everything organized! Start evaluating what has and hasn’t worked for you this year so that you’re ready to reset after the holiday rush.

It can be daunting to sit down and attempt to evaluate everything that’s happening in your business – where to begin? I recommend breaking it down into manageable areas and take a small chunk of time each day to tackle each category. Items to consider:

Website

Is your current site serving you the way you want it to? Things you should evaluate:

  • Purpose: A question you should be able to answer is, “What is the main thing I want people to do when they land on my site?” Of course, you likely want them to do several things, but most people will have to visit you a few times before opting-in to everything you offer. Do you want them to sign up for your newsletter? Do you want them to purchase your latest product? Do you want them to book a consultation call? Whatever it is, make sure it is front and center on your site pages.
  • Language: When was the last time you spruced up the copy on your site? Or even read through it to make sure it matches the tone of your business? Take some time to read your entire site and either punch up your copy, or make it a goal to hire a stellar copywriter to help.
  • Visuals: Just like your copy, when was the last time you updated your visuals? Could you benefit from updated photos? Do you need some updated graphics? A big thing to check is that everything on your site feels cohesive and purposeful.

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Social Media

Are you being efficient and thoughtful with your content? Things to consider:

  • Platforms: Where do you currently have accounts? Are you posting consistently on all of them? If not, it could be time to drop the ones you ignore and focus on consistent, quality posts on the others. Just because Periscope or Facebook exist doesn’t mean you have to be there. Where does your audience hang out? Where can you form meaningful connections? Place your efforts there.
  • Content: Do you have any sort of strategy, or are posting whenever something comes to mind? What is your goal for your social media presence: connecting with clients, sharing industry news, sharing your work? Establishing a purpose and a schedule, whether it’s once per day or once per hour, will make it much easier to create quality content.

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Processes

How do you handle new clients? How can you streamline your communication? Consider:

  • Client Acquisition: When someone reaches out to you about your services or product, do you have a set process? Do you have canned answers to common questions, or a media kit that further explains how you can work together? Make it simple for yourself to respond to those inquiries you get.
  • Client Onboarding: Once someone wants to work with you, is it easy for them to understand what happens next? Create items like a welcome packet, a list of resources, or project outlines for simple ways to keep your clients in the loop of what you expect and what happens next. It will give your clients a seamless experience. Happy clients = more referrals for you!
  • Client/Project Management: How do you keep track of everything you have going on? If Post-Its scattered around your desk is your current to-do list method, it’s probably time to consider new tactics or look into those systems you’ve been putting off exploring. Check out online apps like Trello, Basecamp, or Asana. Invest in an awesome planner. Make an effort now, and it will pay off in future time saved!
  • Finances: Are you good at keeping up with your accounting, or are you all over the place? Are you paying quarterly taxes, or do you need an accountant’s help? This is a pretty serious aspect of your business, so take the time to get organized or get help now so you’re not crunched come tax time!
  • Delegation: Are there any small tasks that you’d like to stop taking up your time? Maybe you need a VA to help with social media or email. Maybe you need a designer to work on branding your digital downloads or ecourse materials. Find those things that take up too much of your time and get some help. More time on your end = more client work!

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Self Care

If you don’t take care of yourself, you won’t do well in your business long term, simple as that. I don’t like using the term “work-life balance” because that implies they are equal parts. Instead, strive to have enough down time that you are rejuvenated for work time. This includes:

  • Take breaks during your day. If you are squinting at your computer screen from dawn til midnight, you’re going to have some serious medical consequences. Take a walk, go to a workout class, or even read a book instead of a screen. Put it right into your daily schedule so you don’t forget. Your eyes and back will thank you! (PS If you really feel like you can’t get away, listen to a business podcast while you walk – it will at least provide some education in your walk time!)
  • Take time off during your week. I can’t tell you what the best schedule is for you, but I do know that if you are working all day long, 7 days a week, you are eventually going to burn out. It’s cool to take the traditional model of no work on Sat/Sun. Or, you can work shorter days, 6 days a week. Whatever you choose, make sure you banish that guilt of taking time away. It can be hard when all you see on Instagram is people posting about “hustle” or essentially bragging about the long days they put in, but I promise you, they are not at peak productivity if they are working 14 hour days constantly. You will feel refreshed and even more energized when you return!
  • Make education a priority. Keeping up your skills and what is new in your industry is imperative. Pledge to do something to enrich your skills over the course of the year: read a business book each month, take a Skillshare class about something you’ve wanted to learn, or subscribe to a new podcast that has tips on your industry.

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What has been bothering you about your business this year? What do you want to streamline or improve? If nothing else, start a list of these items so you can make a plan to work on them!

0

15 questions to answer before designing your brand identity.

15-design-Qs

I love the beginning of new projects: the possibilities are wide open, everyone is excited to get started, and the energy is high. When working on a logo & brand identity project, one of my favorite parts is reading through the client’s answers to my questionnaire. It tells me all about why they started their business, what visions they have for it, who they hope to reach, and what aesthetic styles they love.

My questionnaire has evolved a lot as I identify what truly helps me get to the heart of a business. It is fun to see clients think about their business from new angles! I also always ask for a Pinterest board with some inspiration images so that I can compare their words with their imagery – it’s funny to see how they do or do not line up! In fact, I think asking your clients these questions could benefit you as a photographer, copywriter, business coach, or other similar business.

If you are starting your own business (or rebranding a current one), it is so helpful to answer lots of questions to help identify what direction you should go with your visual brand. You can do this when working with a designer or if you’re DIY-ing it to get started! Here are some of the most helpful questions:

  1. Why did you start your business and what are some of its core values? This provides some background and helps articulate the type of feelings they want to convey.
  2. What is your elevator speech about what you do? It always helps to see a summary of a business, rather than the long, drawn-out version, to see what is top priority to the owner.
  3. Who is your target market? It’s imperative that your brand appeals to the people you are trying to reach!
  4. Who (or what) is your competition? What sets you apart from it? This helps me see who in their industry I should be checking out to assure we don’t create anything too similar to a competing business. It also helps researching what is standard in a given industry.
  5. When people think of your business, what words do you want them to use to describe it? This one is obvious, but it makes is easier to discover what type of look we should be going for to achieve that description.
  6. What are the most rewarding parts of your work? This one is always fun to read! Again, it helps identify the core of why they do what they do.
  7. What was the best feedback you ever got from a customer or client? This also helps show what kinds of things are important to a business so that we can make those qualities apparent in the visual brand.
  8. What do you see happening in your business in the next year? How will it grow in 5 years? This is great from a planning perspective. For example, a business may be online only right now, but knowing they hope to launch products in the future means that their logo will need to be adaptable to a small label – good to know when designing now!
  9. What about your current brand caused you to make changes? What isn’t currently working? Of course, only applicable to a rebrand, but identifying the problems are the first step in finding a design solution.
  10. If your brand were an item in your closet, which one would it be? This one is always fun! The answers reveal quite a lot. For example, saying “black blazer” would mean your business is professional and no-nonsense. Choosing the leopard shoe would mean your business puts some spice and fun in their customers’ lives. Or, the oversized sweater means the business provides calm, comfort, and ease to their customers.
  11. Which other brands do you love visually? What about them draws you in? It is imperative to get some visual examples of what the client loves. They may say, “I love modern design,” but then their visual examples say otherwise! Words can often mean very different things to different people, so backing them up with visuals is important.
  12. Which colors are you most drawn to? Which ones turn you off? I wouldn’t want to base a brand identity around red if that color repulses the owner!
  13. What kinds of typography click with you? Another one where visuals help (since of course a regular person may not know the correct terminology) but here I want to see if they like serif, sans serif, handwritten, block, all-caps/lowercase, playful, or serious, for example.
  14. Where will your logo be used? Like #7, it is important to know what scale a logo will be seen at in order to maximize its effectiveness. Seeing it on a billboard will be a different experience than seeing it in a Twitter profile!
  15. Which adjectives do you want to describe your visual brand? I provide a list of options in this question, words like: modern, classic, sleek, sophisticated, bohemian, retro, bold, playful, soft, bright, feminine, masculine, child-like, energetic, etc. Seeing the gut reaction to those words says a lot!

 

If you want to work on the questions for your own brand identity, simply download this free worksheet to answer all the questions for your business!

 

PS If you’re a designer looking to start your own business, you should check out my ebook which has a whole section on this topic and working with your clients!

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3

color study

DYOB color study

 

Color has always been the element of design I find most challenging. It’s amazing how a subtle adjustment in a certain hue can change a look – talk about pressure!

While there is definitely some standard theory when it comes to color, it remains a very subjective area. I’ll be covering both the science and the subtlety when it comes to choosing your own palette for the first in my new series, Design Your Own Brand.

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The Basics

You probably remember learning about the color wheel in elementary school art class. Colors are warm or cool, and they fall under primary, secondary, or tertiary colors:

color-wheel_dotted-design

 

Colors also evoke certain feelings and emotions, which can have a big impact on your visuals! Some of the most common:

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color-emotions_dotted-design

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Finding Your Palette

While considering the psychology of colors, you still aren’t going to want to choose colors you dislike when selecting for your brand. The place I always recommend starting to identify what colors you connect with is good old Pinterest. Start a board and pin any images that you are really drawn to without thinking too deeply about any you select. When you’re done, I bet you’ll be surprised by the patterns you see! From here, you can select a main color or two to build upon.

A good rule of thumb for a basic brand palette is to select three main colors. This will help you stay focused and not overwhelmed by color choice. The general combinations you can make are monochromatic (several tones or shades of the same color), analogous (colors next to each other on the color wheel), complimentary (colors opposite each other on the color wheel), or triadic (all three equal distance on the color wheel). Here are some examples:

 

color-palettes_dotted-design

If you’re looking for a place to try out combinations or get inspiration, Colour Lovers, Adobe Color, or Coolers are great places to start. You should also think about what neutrals work for you brand: for example, would cream be softer and more appropriate than white? Would a dark greige be more effective than a bold black? You’ll want these on hand for things like text or backgrounds!

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Other Things to Consider

Once you’ve identified what colors you connect with and have a general palette, you’ll want to think about a few other items.

Target Audience: who are the people you want to connect with? What are they drawn to? Knowing this will help you hone in on great colors. You may be a woman who loves a soft pink blush color, but if you are hoping to target young men, this might not be a great choice. Referencing color psychology for your target audience is a great tool here.

Competitors: You surely want to stand out from your competitors and make your brand instantly recognizable. A simply way to avoid this is by making sure your colors don’t match someone else’s in your industry! If I were starting a home supplies store, I certainly wouldn’t want to pick red since Target has that all wrapped up. Choose hues that will make your brand unique.

Trends: Like many things, colors tend to have rises in popularity. It’s important to make sure that you are selecting a color for solid reasons rather than the fact that you are currently seeing it everywhere. Picking a trendy color will only make your brand look dated in a short amount of time. When you pick colors based on your own brand alone, they will stand the test of time.

Once you have a color palette, you can easily use it as a base to build all of your brand images, such as blog post graphics, social media images, digital downloads, and so on. Have you selected a color palette for your brand? Are you struggling to create one? I’d love to hear your experiences!

 

 

0

small biz chats: Breanna Rose

SBC_Bre

For this edition of Small Biz Chats, I’m chatting with Breanna Rose of Rowan Made. She is a fantastic designer with beautiful taste, as well as a co-founder of Be Free, Lance, an online course about building your own design business (one happy alum right here!). I’ve followed her blog for years, and today she has a great story to share: take it away, Bre!

What is your business, and why did you start it? I started my graphic design studio, Rowan Made, last year after a few years of freelancing under my own name. At the time, I felt a shift in my own work and wanted to create a space that was more in line with the direction I was going. Today, Rowan Made is an individually run design studio that specializes in branding and web design for creative clients all around the world. I am currently going through a major brand overhaul and hope to continue steadily growing my business and potentially hiring others in the future. We’ll see!

rowanmade | portfolio

 

What were you doing before you launched your business? Before I launched my own business, I was in college studying design. And during my senior capstone course, I chose to design + code my own blog, which gave me an outlet to share all things creative. I loved it so much that I kept it up well beyond school, which ultimately, helped kick off my business!

 

How did you find your first paying clients/customers, and what really helped you to grow your business? To begin with, I started my blog in order to stay connected and inspired, and kick myself to actually stay creative. All the creatives I looked up to had a blog so it felt like the way to go and introduce my work to the world. The blog itself helped my work get a bit more recognized, and that gave me the push to keep creating and sharing my work. At some point, I created a graphic design shop on Etsy, and although that did go fairly well, potential clients would email directly to me, so I ended up closing the shop after three months or so.

 

rowanmade | portfolio

What tools are most important to help you stay organized and on task? I have several systems in place that help me stay organized and feel that I could talk for hours about it, ha. But some of my “life savers” are Gmail, where I spend the most time communicating with clients, and Todoist, where I record all tasks that need to be completed by me and my clients. Other tools include CudaSign (online contract signing), Pancake (invoicing), and Google Docs (for client homework). I’m always looking for new + improved ways to better my systems, so I’ll let you know if I find anything else that trumps the rest. 😉

 

What aspect of your business is your absolute favorite thing that you do? I absolutely love helping other creatives tell their stories and crafting identities from the ground up. I recently tightened up my design process and have fell into a groove ever since. I can’t tell you how rewarding it is to watch my clients successfully grow alongside their new brands. It’s the absolute best.

 

rowanmade | portfolio

Do you have a dream project type or client that you’d love to land someday? Hmmm, this is a great question! Well, my favorite type of clients are food, fashion, or home related. For example, if somebody emails me and is like, “Oh, hey, I’m opening up a cafe downtown and need a brand,” I’m usually all in before I know the details. Ha. If we’re talking “dream project,” though, I would say something that allowed me to dip my toes into every inch of the project, design wise. Oh, and something local, too. Those are my absolute favorites!

 

rowanmade | portfolio

 

What one piece of advice would you give to someone wanting to launch his/her own dream business? I teach a workshop called Be Free, Lance for designers who are interested in starting their own business and one thing that we’ve noticed is that for most, the fear of “failure” or overwhelming uncertainty is what’s held a lot of them back. The thing is, you’ve gotta take that first step, which is often the hardest part. You can plan for years and years, and still come up with excuses not to do it. So one piece of advice I often give is to have them ask themselves what’s the worst thing that could happen. Usually, it’s not as bad as one may think. 😉 Plus, you can always start off part-time and take the “official” leap once your side gig is demanding more of your time. Everyone has their own unique experience when launching their own business. You just gotta listen to your gut and do what feels right when it comes down to it.

 

And finally, what is your favorite mid-workday snack?
I feel like this is embarrassing (because it’s so not healthy), but currently, I’m a huge fan of Oreos. Every time I cross off a big task on my list, I head to the pantry and have one cookie. I should probably switch it up and eat a handful of nuts or something. But I probably won’t. 😉

Thanks to Bre for sharing her insights! See all the Small Biz Chats posts here.

Find Bre online: Website • Instagram  Twitter Pinterest

All images are property of Breanna Rose & Rowan Made.

2

are you including these items in your contract?

Contracts \\ DottedDesign

Dealing with the logistics of a business like sending invoices and writing contracts are never the highlights of your day when you are a creative business owner. However, having a strong contract can actually make your processes smoother and avoid headaches later on.

You probably know that having a contract helps protect you legally, but it can also help ease conversations with clients since you always have a document to point back to. For example, if you’re a designer, a client might send you an email saying, Hey, while you’re designing my Facebook cover image, can you also quick do one for Twitter, Google Plus, and YouTube? Thaaaaaanks!! while you say, Wait a minute, she never mentioned those other ones before! You can either reply with a long explanation of why this is actually a lot more work, or you can simply point to your contract and say, Hey! I’m happy to help with these, but since our contract only states that I’ll provide a Facebook image, here is what the add-on cost is for the extra ones!

Unfortunately, realizing you need new clauses often results from an experience you had with a client where you didn’t have something covered, and then wished you did. I’m hoping that by sharing a few things I’ve learned might help you!

 Be specific about what deliverables/services you will provide. Like the example above, it is much better to list out which social media profile images you’ll provide rather than generically saying, “Will provide profile images for social media accounts.” Not only does it save you unanticipated work, but it helps the client understand what he/she is getting and not wonder what work you’ll actually be doing. Don’t hesitate to list out exactly what you’ll be providing by the end of the project, such as how many logo versions, how many rounds of revisions, or how many retouches to a photo you took. You’ll avoid being taken advantage of due to vagueness in your wording.

• Lay out your payment schedule. It is standard to require a deposit to begin work – this ensures that your client is serious and you will hold time in your schedule for them. A big point here is to make sure you never hand over final files before you get a final payment! What incentive does someone have to send that last cash if they already have everything you owe them? Of course, that would be pretty crappy of someone to run away without paying, but it always better to be safe than sorry. Also consider how you will handle refunds and late payments.

• The Pause Clause: I first read this idea here, and thought it was a great way to handle clients that continually push off deadlines. We’ve all had a client who stops replying to emails for weeks or constantly says their content will be ready “next week.” Scheduling overlapping projects or knowing how far out to book a future client can be like a complicated dance, and having a project drag out much longer than anticipated can really mess up those plans. And, why does it seem that a client who hasn’t gotten back to you in weeks will suddenly reply and need his/her item NOW? Remind them of this pause clause and you’ll be in control of your own workflow.

State how you wish to be contacted. This is something I added later on in my business venture, but it sets the tone right away. In my contracts, I state that all phone calls must be scheduled and that emails will be answered between 9-5pm on weekdays. Of course, I do work and send emails outside this window, but it sets the precedent immediately that a client should not expect to send an allegedly urgent email on a Sunday morning and get an immediate response. Setting boundaries for your business is so important to avoid burnout. It is always easier to relax your stated “rules” rather than try to backtrack and enforce them later on.

Discuss ownership and copyright of the work. Does your client own only the final version of what you create? Can they make changes to what you send? Do they get native files? All things to consider when handing over final files!

Your contract is a great resource and opportunity to show your client how to treat you. I find that most often, people don’t mean to be rude or try to rip you off – they simply don’t understand a process or the work that goes into creating something. Take the chance to educate them about your field of expertise and your relationship will be even better. Of course, the true point is to cover your butt, but your contract can serve as a simple way to initiate the conversation about some of the more uncomfortable things like payments and deadlines.

If you want to know more specifics and language for your contracts, check out resources like Docracy or the Freelancer’s Union.

What clauses have you added to your contract to help avoid headaches? Any great resources to share?

Disclaimer: I am not a legal professional and my advice is intended to be informational. Be sure to check with your attorney for what specifically applies to your own business and what advice to follow!

0

New work: Sewing and the City

There are few things as fun as sharing some new work! While I tend to move at a snail’s pace when it comes to updating my portfolio and sharing new projects, this one is hot off the press.

Christine came to me as she was starting to build a new website called Sewing and the City. She hopes to build both a resource for all things sewing as well as a community for sewers. She makes things straight from the runway and loves all things high fashion. Her brand is modern and authentic, handmade yet chic.

We started with a mood board to sum up her color palette and style vibe. We landed on a black and white base with a cherry red and goldenrod accent set. The typography combines a high-fashion serif with a more personal, handwritten accent.

Sewing moodboard | Dotted Design

Then came the initial logo designs, striving to combine that handmade element with a chic, sophisticated tone. Think personality and drive rather than cutesy and crafty:

Sewing concepts | Dotted Design

Christine really thought about and determined it was important to include an icon in the main logo that connected to her beloved sewing machine, focusing less on the “city” part of the brand.

Here’s the final look! It combines the high-end type with a bit of handwritten flair, the sewing machine imagery, and a base that mimics stitching.

Sewing style guide | Dotted Design

We also did some social media profile graphics. Christine is now preparing to launch the site, and then we’ll finish up with some business cards and stationery.

I loved working on a unique brand like this! Christine is fabulous, and I’ll be sure to share once her site it up and running.

PS Do you need logo help? I’d love to work with you to bring you brand to life! Get in touch.

 

0

are you a freelancer or a business owner?

Freelancer or BizOwner? | Dotted Design

While on the surface this topic may seem like semantics, changing how I answer this question has truly changed how I feel about my work. I first discussed it in an edition of my Dotted Line newsletter, but I felt the pull to expand it into a full post here and see what you think!

A bit of background: when I started doing design work for clients, it was on the side from my full time day job. I considered this freelancing – taking on extra work outside of my regular job. As I slowly built up a client base, I started to dream about being a full time freelancer.

Once I was finally ready to go full time, I felt my whole life switch. Suddenly, what used to be my “on the side” gig was now my livelihood. I taking on more clients, getting serious about marketing strategies, paying quarterly taxes, and doing things like filing for an LLC. Exciting things!

Now, the term “freelancer” didn’t quite seem to cover it. I was making business plans, connecting with awesome people, doing work I was proud of – shouldn’t I be a business owner now? {psst: if you want more info on owning a design business, see here!}

I was also learning how to talk about what I do, and saying “I’m a freelance designer” didn’t seem to cover everything I was doing. I felt odd saying it and also felt like it didn’t leave room for me to grow anywhere.

Though many freelancers do their work full time, it has changed my outlook to start calling myself a small business owner. Here’s why:

  • It gives me the control: With freelancing, it felt like I was simply seeking out the next project, wherever it might come from. As a business owner, I am seeking clients and building something bigger than a single project. I set my schedule and my boundaries, and I feel more confident in sticking to business hours when it comes to client communication.

 

  • It feels more intentional (and legit): Whether we like it or not, freelancing can sometimes have a negative connotation – that this is a temporary thing until you find work, or you can’t find someone to hire you so you are taking whatever work you can get. As a business owner, it means I am building something with goals and plans, and I take more ownership and pride in my work.

 

  • It allows me to say “no”: As a freelancer, I felt more compelled to say “yes” to any request because who knows when the next one would come in? As a business owner, I have defined goals and ideal clients I want to work with. I have a mission and people I want to serve. I can limit myself to projects that fit those business plans and goals because I can see how it will affect my business’s future.

 

  • It leaves room for growth. When you’re a freelancer, you tend to say, “I’m a freelance _____ [designer, photographer, etc.]” and that is that. When you’re a business owner, you can expand your services, offer a course or book for passive income, or take on team members as you get busier. If you are a freelancer, it can be confusing when you offer too many services, whereas a business can grow as needed to serve constituents. A business can evolve as much as I need it to.

 

It is amazing how your mindset can truly have an effect on what you do. When I still called myself a freelancer, I felt much less focused and was more likely to push off admin items. Now, I designate “business (or admin) time” to take care of things like accounting, invoicing, planning, etc. It inspires me to take ownership of what I’m building and get excited about it.

It can also depend on the type of client you want to work with. I do know some designers who do contracted work for agencies or studios, and I would still call this freelancing. Someone else finds a client and then brings you in to help execute the concept. As a business owner, I find the clients and help them bring their plans to live myself, which is a model I feel much more comfortable with.

I’d love to hear: do you call yourself a freelancer or a small business owner in your field? There is no wrong answer here, but I still wanted to share how my mindset has greatly impacted my work. You have to find the sweet spot that works for you and your goals!

3

the value of consistency in your brand

Value of Brand Consistency \ Dotted Design

When building a business, one of the most important things is that your customers connect with you and want to buy from you. Chances are, they will interact with you multiple times before buying your service or product. So, how do you connect with these people to keep them coming back to you?

The first step of course is to build a solid visual identity. Beyond just your strong logo, you want a system of colors, typefaces, icons, and layouts. The visual experience is a person’s first impression of your brand, and you want to build something that looks professional and attracts the type of clients or customers you want.

But…then what? You have a logo, you have your swatch colors. What should you do with them?

Short answer: put them everywhere. Everything that you produce and put out there for your business should be in some way connected with your brand identity. No matter what a person stumbles upon from you, they should get the feeling of, “I bet this is from *insert your brand here*.” Your style is what makes you unique and not just another designer/photographer/blogger/coach/podcaster/etc. You likely know that this is true of your website, but what about your other platforms?

A few places you may not have thought of to apply your branding:

Social Media: Create profile images that match your branding.

Newsletters: Create headers and graphics that fit your style.

Free downloads: Have a PDF for your opt-in freebie? Make sure it follows your color and type palette.

Blog posts: Create a template for your posts so that they are easily recognizable as yours if someone spots them on Pinterest.

Stationery: Do you have business cards, thank you notes, or letterhead? Apply your branding!

Quotes/Invoices/Contracts: You’ll likely want something simple and readable for these documents, but they are another place to create a cohesive feel for your brand and a memorable design.

While this concept may seem easy enough to apply, I often have clients who worry that this cohesion will seem boring or repetitive to an audience. I always assure them that while it may seem redundant to you to have the same concept for every blog post graphic for example, your audience will be seeing countless images throughout their day. Creating that consistent, cohesive style instead makes you more familiar and more likely for them to return and check you out!

When you change fonts, colors, and styles with every item you create, it gives the impression that you are still figuring things out, and maybe you aren’t ready for clients yet. Or, it could even indicate that you are indecisive and can’t land on a visual and stick with it. A solid visual identity shows you are ready to go, understand your business, and care about your user’s experience. {Side note: this doesn’t mean you can’t rebrand. Making an intentional change is fine, as long as you stick with it once it’s launched!}

Bonus: it makes creating the graphics for your newsletter, blog, or social media SO much easier when you don’t have to reinvent the wheel each time you create something! I love efficiency.

You do want to keep things fresh, of course, and here are a few examples of some brands that excel at cohesion without making every single graphic exactly the same:

Lauren of Elle & Company: she has a definite template for her blog posts, but mixes up which colors from her palette she uses and mixes photo with non-photo versions:

Elle & Co

Lisa of Elembee: her eye-catching color palette is so recognizable, and she uses the same concept for every blog post image:

Elembee

Lindsay of White Oak Creative: she uses a monochrome color palette and mixes in some black and white photography. Each is different, yet oh-so related in style!

White Oak Creative

If I see a graphic from any of these ladies floating around, I can instantly identify who it belongs to without even clicking or reading the fine print. Because they always produce quality content, I know I want to click when I see their work. This is the same feeling you want to create with your audience.

Consistency makes you recognizable, professional, and put together. It shows you’ve thought through your branding and want to create a meaningful experience with your audience. Once you take the time to put together a plan (or enlist the help of a graphic designer!), it only gets easier to implement!

Bonus! Want to create consistency in your brand? Download my Guide to Building Brand Consistency!

Free Download Brand Guide | Dotted Design



 

 

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WIP: Lisa Copeland

Lisa Logo Concepts | Dotted Design

One of my favorite types of client is women who are out in the world, making things happen. I connected with Lisa Copeland through a former client of mine, and we’re working on both a full branding and website design project. Lisa started her career in the auto sales industry {very male dominated} and since then has worked on marketing campaigns with major companies like Fiat. Now she also travels around the country speaking to inspire women in the workplace. Pretty neat!

Lisa wants to have an inspiring brand that is feminine but not girly, statement-making, and modern. We’re working with a black, white, and purple color palette, but in this first round of logos I’m sharing we’re sticking with black and white, like I do on all first round designs! It really lets people see the composition of the logo and not get caught up in a color that might not click. She loved the idea of some sort of monogram or using the letters of her name in some way.

Can’t wait to share the final product in the coming weeks!

 

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4 signs it’s time for a brand refresh

4 signs it's time for a brand refresh | Dotted Design

I am one of those business owners who is always feeling the pull of trying something new with my visual branding. I want to try a great font I found, test a new color hue, or do an experimental layout. Now, I realize that this is impractical because I know the value of a strong, consistent brand, and changing things up all the time is usually detrimental to this value.

However, sometimes it is a good idea as a business owner to take a deep look at your visual brand and see if you might need a redesign or a refresh. Are you making the right impact on potential customers, clients, or readers? Do you feel proud of the website you send people to? Perhaps you may only need to simplify your design. If you’re uncertain, here are four signs you may want to consider a brand refresh:

1) Your original design was DIY, and you want to go pro.
When you’re first starting out, it can be a big money saver to work on your design yourself. This can get you by for awhile, but once your audience grows and you narrow into your niche and focus, it can be a great idea to get your visual identity done professionally. One big reason is that it is hardest to design for yourself and having that outside perspective is key. And obviously, a designer will know all the nuances of designing a brand that can really take you to the next level for your customers.

2) You are consistently attracting the wrong type of client.
Do you get lots of inquiries from less-than-dream clients? Do you have people who are interested but you aren’t in their price range? These are just a few of the signs that your visual brand may not be communicating the right message, or you might not appear professional enough. You can start by really narrowing in on who that target audience is and from there build a refreshed brand that better attracts those dream people. Design is all about communication and clarity, and if you aren’t exhibiting this in your brand materials, it might be time to look at it again!

3) Your brand materials are all over the place instead of cohesive.
This happens most often when everything is created in isolation without considering the bigger visual picture of your brand. Maybe you did your logo yourself, then had an intern work on social media profile images for you, then had an artist create some cool images for your Instagram. While each may be interesting in isolation, they aren’t helping to tell your brand story. Regrouping to take the elements of your branding that make sense and applying them across all your channels will help create that desirable consistency and clear message to your audience.

4) You’ve made a big change in your business.
Sometimes a business refines its offerings, partners up with another business, or changes focus all together. An easy way to communicate this to your audience is with a refresh of an existing brand or development of a new brand. You can use elements of the old but restructure it to better reflect the new venture. When people see that updated look, they’ll know something exciting is going on.

Your visual identity is how you show your customers that you are a good fit at the first glance. Make them want to keep getting to know your business and all it has to offer!

PS If you’d like help with a brand refresh (or start from scratch!), I’d love to hear all about your project – simply get in touch.

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