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Brand your design business to truly connect with clients

It took me a couple years to realize, that as a designer, my business brand is not solely about me. It’s about the piece of me that is relevant to them – my clients.

When I look at my current brand, it’s undoubtedly my style, but it’s not all about me. My brand instead focuses on my ability to facilitate someone else’s vision. My best work is the combination of what makes my client’s business tick combined with my ability to make that tangible to her audience.

Your own brand should be an intersection of who you are and who you believe they can be.

Your brand should go beyond your likes and dislikes. It needs to demonstrate your ability to listen and observe, to be thoughtful and intentional.

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Start with the right words

Like most, I start the branding process with key personality words. I like using “personality” to describe “brand keywords” because it forces me to think about interaction in addition to physical appearance. When working with a client, some words are chosen and some gleaned from answers they give on the intake questionnaire.

I find these words harder to choose for myself. Here’s a few tips I’ve incorporated into my process that will help get you started…

Get your Fascinate Personal & Brand Profiles

The Fascinate Profile test measures how others are naturally drawn to you. I took the full profile a few years ago (it’s worth the money) and it gave me insight into why my brand at the time, felt so disconnected from me. There’s also a Fascinate Brand Assessment for your brand vs. your person. Use some of the descriptive words from these profiles as brand personality words.

I’ve embraced my Fascinate profile. Using words from my Fascination Report as a foundation for my visual brand has helped me a create a brand that feels very true to how I interact. A deeper understanding of how I draw people to myself – and then capitalizing on it with the right visuals – has helped me draw “perfect fit” clients.

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Describe your brand like it’s a physical location

Ask yourself – If you could have anything you wanted in an office space or brick and mortar store – what would this space look like? What emotions would customers feel when they walk in the door? In asking this question, visualizing your client’s reaction will help you pinpoint the emotion you want them to feel. Relief, whitespace, warmth, competence? Write them down.

Inspiration-Wear

Describe your brand like it’s a person

Now ask yourself to describe your brand like it’s a person. How would he/she behave? How would he/she dress? What values would he/she live by? How do you see your business interacting with others? You are not only defining physical traits, but also looking for insight into the brand’s engagement style, which is a key piece of the whole experience. Approachable, prestige, bohemian, passionate? Write them down.

Define strategic anchors

Strategic anchors are the criteria that guide the decisions you (or your team) make throughout your business at every level, now and as it grows. What 2 or 3 things are at the core of every major decision you make? What are your core values? I find these words often help define the overall brand experience. They are the common thread that runs through the visuals, messaging and interaction. Words like collaboration, hope, integrity, intention, excellence, encouragement. What are your anchors? Add them to your list.

Choose words that feel right

There will be words that don’t really fit into any category, and that’s okay. They can be what your brand aspires to be or how it has been described in the past. Add words to the mix that just feel right. Creative, fun, vibrant, edgy, minimal? Write them down.

Gather relevant inspiration

Look at the synonyms of your favorite words – try VisualThesaurus.com – maybe you’ll discover a word that’s slightly better. Search image banks and Pinterest using your chosen words and see what you find. Search using your word + brand, or your word + logo, your word + home decor, your word + fashion (you get the idea).

Doing visual research will help you understand how the world interprets the words you’ve chosen. It’s an important part of creating a brand that is perceived as you intended. Save your finds to a Pinterest moodboard. Use the themes that develop (colors, style, patterns, etc) as the inspiration for your visual brand.

About you, but still really about them

How can you use your online presence to truly connect with potential clients?

It’s simple, answer this – what about you makes you the perfect solution for this client?

Everything on your website needs to answer this question. From how you talk about yourself to how you display your portfolio to the services you provide. Seriously consider dropping anything that doesn’t make the cut.

Does that mean your brand can’t have fun? No, of course not! Your creative side is important, so tie it in as part of the answer. Just don’t lead with 10 things we might not know about you. Your favorite ice cream, pictures of your children, and hobbies aren’t really integral to your ability to be a solution.

Use your website to showcase your ability to listen to your client’s needs and reply with a thoughtful solution. Social media has given us unprecedented access to our client’s conversations. Keep track of issues related to your client. How are they winning? What language are they using to describe their frustrations? How would you talk to them if you were face to face?

Your brand experience is the “lens” through which you present this solution. Expertise, compassion, empathy, problem-solving, simplicity, or other? How does this go hand in hand with your brand personality words? Reply and tell me your brand words – I love hearing about this stuff!

PS… I’m currently rebranding Designing to Delight. You can check out my visual research here.

photo credits :: watch | dress | room | office

How to brand your freelance design business.

22 Responses to Brand your design business to truly connect with clients

  1. Christine! I’m fascinated with your biz. I must have caught you at the ground level and I think you’re onto something big. In the surge to create quickly and authentically we’re missing something SO SO important – quality! And without quality our potential customers can’t see past our flaws to our real authenticity!! I’m excited about you guys and I can’t wait to see where this goes. I’m all in for whatever tools and training you have… I’m always tweaking things and never really settled on my personal brand, even after 10 years in the biz! I’m getting into youtube marketing this winter/spring. And your tips are invaluable so far. Keep it up!!

    ~ Cathy

    • Cathy, thank you for the thoughtful and encouraging feedback. You made my day! You did catch us just literally days from launching, although we have 40 years combined experience in video and design (and dev). It has been an idea in the making for while. You make a really excellent point about quality. I recently wrote a post for my design business on this subject. I’ve since turned off the blog over there to focus on blogging over here, but you can find that post here http://christinemariestudio.com/authenticity-without-intention-is-just-noise/ To your point, I think we rush, but it’s also easy to get caught up in dealing with clients and not really stop and take a breath and think about the focus of our own brands as business owners. So then, it’s this hampster wheel of doing the same work and not really growing because there’s no foundation there. My hope is to show people how to create systems for this graphic stuff that doesn’t come naturally do them – then it becomes easier to define and produce. I can’t wait to see what you do with video 🙂

      Christine

  2. Hi Christine, I am really enjoying your site. I confess I am not a web designer but am a woman looking to build my own website – where I want to break the academic mould that my work too easily fits into. I am fed up with hard edges, dark colours and the complexity I could so easily get caught up in. My mind then easily gets muddled and I forget or don’t know what I am trying to achieve. Your work is inspiring me.
    I am leaving a reply because I just want to alert you to the fact that a couple of your links here are broken. The Fascinate test and the post on your previous website.
    Generally, you have so many points which apply to women setting up in business and creating their door onto the world. Like how easy it is to keep doing it instead of stopping to reflect on what the purpose is or the feel of it or what you really want. You have really helped me. I hope your business goes very well. Thank you.

    • Sally, thank you so much for saying so. I really appreciate your thoughtful feedback and wish you well in establishing an online presence! Certain industries are stuck in time, but that also makes it easy for you to stand out from the crowd. Thanks for alerting me to the broken links – will correct those for sure!

  3. Thank you this was helpful and thought provoking. My business is barely there yet. I am standing at the side of the pool with my toes just starting to get wet. New adventure for me. Your article and work sheet will be influential in my journey. I am looking forward to seeing more

  4. Christine, I took the Fascinate Assessment test and would like to receive the printout of it and also the free branding printout worksheets. How do I do this?

  5. I’m sorry. I should have posted first how thrilled I was to find your post before requesting the worksheets. I was so excited that i just jumped right into things because I immediately wanted to start working on my branding. I hope you will understand and forgive me for doing things backwards.

    • No worries! I’m glad it’s helpful. Let me know if you can’t access the download for any reason.

      Best,
      Christine

  6. Christine, I am so glad that I found this post! I really connected with your suggestions to describe my brand as a physical space and person. I’ve been stuck for a while on my branding but those ideas have me excited to get moving again. And thank you for including the link to the Fascinate Brand Profile; my results were eye opening and yet made so much sense. Thank you!

    • Thank you Jess 🙂 Our own branding is the hardest and the Fascinate test is great because it gives us insight into how others see us. Good luck with your branding!

  7. Thanks for the helpful advice.

    The download button you mentioned isn’t there. Maybe just because I’m on mobile but it love to see these.

    Thanks,

  8. So glad to have found this. The Fascinate profile was spot on. Almost creepily, as they were words I had already jotted down trying to define “me”, my work and what I feel I convey. But your free worksheet link is not visible to me. Did you disable it? Thank you, Lisa

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