Congratulations, you. You started a business. That takes guts.
I’m sure you’re eager to jump right to the juicy stuff, like selling your products and working a few networking events, but hold up. We’ve got something else to talk about.
Your brand. Your look. The way you present yourself to the world.
Just so that we’re straight...
This blog post is not about:
- Telling you to be someone you’re not
- Teaching you to trick people into doing business with you
This blog post is about:
- Showing you that looking good can do wonders for the amount of confidence your clients have in you.
There’s an intimidating buzzword that floats around the world of graphic design and marketing- “perceived value”. Here’s my short and dirty definition: the better something looks, the better people think it is. The opposite is true as well.
Need me to clarify a bit?
You might run a unicorn petting zoo, but if you don’t have a website, you’re printing out flyers from the temperamental copier at your day job, while showing people images that have the distinct quality of a bigfoot photo, then chances are no one's busting down your door.
And you know it’s not because a unicorn petting zoo isn’t awesome.
Now imagine instead that you had a beautiful yet humble one page website, showing a gorgeous professional image of your precious ponies. Your location and contact information is clearly listed. You’ve developed a Facebook page (where your guests rave about their experiences), and picked the perfect color and font scheme for all of your marketing materials.
You’re selling the same thing, but man does it look more enticing.
Take a second to estimate where your perceived value stands.
As a graphic designer, I have some sneaky little tricks, including some insider knowledge on how to look like a polished professional, even on a start-up’s shoestring.
How do you exist? Seems simple enough, doesn’t it?
Nothing sounds the warning bells louder, for me, than a business that doesn’t show up in a Google search.
Purchase a domain name. If you aren’t ready to launch a full blown website, throw up a single page that tells people a little bit about your business and how to get in touch with you. Set up some social media profiles (and then engage with people).
2. Develop brand guidelines
You can’t afford to work with a designer right now to build a logo. It’s okay. Even without a logo, you can have a brand. Building the foundation of a brand starts with a simple formula: pick a couple colors and fonts you think represent your business, and use them consistently.
The key to all of this is the word “consistently.” I don’t want to hear “But I really feel like using Comic Sans today…” if the fonts in your brand guidelines are Helvetica and Montserrat. It might feel a little restricting, but the tough love is necessary. A focused brand makes you easily recognizable, valued, and trusted.
Think you need more direction on the brand guideline process? Our e-book, How to Makeover Your Brand Overnight is available (for free) right here. It includes step-by-step instructions along with strategies on how to pick your fonts and colors, and a list of a few of our favorite resources.
3. Don’t skimp on quality
I’m not saying you need to drop $500 to have your business cards printed, but please, PLEASE, do not use free business cards. The paper and printing is generally poor quality, there’s usually the printing company’s logo or website on the back. It doesn’t leave people with a good impression. We recommend MOO.com to everyone we meet who is looking for business cards but doesn’t have a lot to spend.
4. Construct custom graphics
If you’re going to delve into the world of social media- listen up.
You don’t need to have a professional program like Photoshop in order to make beautiful custom graphics now that Canva exists. Using a (free) program like Canva, you can create a Facebook cover photo, a background for your Twitter page, and Pinterest graphics to promote your latest blog post.
Canva will allow you to keep your brand consistent (there’s that word again!) on Facebook, Pinterest, Instagram, Twitter, and even Linked In. You can add your logo and website address to your graphics so that instead of randomly rehashing memes from other businesses and bloggers, you’re putting out fresh content that people will want to follow.
5. Create a professional email address
I’m going to be honest here: when I receive an email from firstname.lastname@example.org, I’m not expecting much. Correction, I’m probably expecting an offer for some magic blue pills at a great price, but definitely not my potential new virtual assistant sending me her star studded resume.
Instead I suggest using something like email@example.com. For example, you can reach me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
6. Get a business portrait
Or at least the very least a photo of you without a cocktail in your hand. Bathroom selfies are also not an option. (You think I’m joking, but I’m mentally digging through my LinkedIn Hall of Shame.) An image that shows you looking your best, while being both relaxed and engaging lets me know that you’re someone I’d like to work with.
The rest is up to you, lady. You're still going to hustle and put handwork, sweat, and tears into your business. But we promise this is true: when you start by looking like a success, and the rest will follow.
Allison Biggs is a graphic designer and co-founder of Business Betties. Along with her business partner, photographer Suzanne Larocque, she works with women entrepreneurs across the country to develop their own unique and authentic brand. Their latest adventure is Better Than Stock, a monthly subscription service providing natural, authentic, relatable photography perfect for bloggers, social media mavens, and content creators.
In addition to being a Betty, Allison is also a coffee snob, the queen of cardigans, font fanatic, color enthusiast, cat lady in training, and total design dork.