There’s a lot that goes into starting a business. One of the main things people (like myself) get hung up on is branding and visuals. But, I'm here to tell you, it's at the bottom of the list of things you should be doing when you first start out.
I’m a brand designer, and there’s so much to be said for having polished professional branding, but I wouldn't say it's the most important thing.
I know this may seem counter-intuitive for me to say, but truthfully, there are some other things that are more important. Today I would love to share those things that are the top priority when starting a business, and I add in things that are visually important as well.
One of the most important things you can do when starting your business, whether you have a brick and mortar or an online space, is...
1. Start an Email List
Collecting email addresses is so important. It’s the direct line between you and your potential customers. It’s not owned by someone else, meaning your contacts are not through another platform like Instagram or Facebook, they are solely yours. And it can open up huge opportunities to share your latest products and services to an interested (potential) client base.
Even if you don’t have a website, you can collect email addresses from people who are interested in what you’re offering. By sharing on Facebook, or your social media platform of choice you can begin gathering information of people who are potentially interested in your products or services.
If you haven't started an email list yet or don't even know where to start, check out this blog post, all about how to get subscribers, what to talk about in your newsletter, and which platform to start with.
I do want to say, for the record, that the point of having an email list, and the point of business in general, is to solve problems and help people reach their goals. So if your newsletter is helping people get where they want to go, you should be in good shape to grow your list.
2. Have a Home Base
Having a website is very important. It's your virtual store front, where people can come and see what you have to offer.
It also shows you're professional and that you’re business is a little more established or legit. You don't need a website that costs thousands of dollars when you first start out, but one that is easy to navigate and straightforward with what you offer.
There are a lot of website platforms out there, and after trying many of them including a hand coded Wordpress website, my recommendation is Squarespace. Not only is it easy to update, the SEO (Search Engine Optimization) is better than many other “simple” platforms.
If you're wanting to update your website or are looking to make some tweaks or revisions, check out this post to find out 5 simple ways to make your website more effective.
3. Perfect Your Skill
Whether you’re working on your side hustle and maintaining a full time job, or just wanting your hobby to one day become a business, work at your skill everyday.
This sounds like a no-brainer, but honestly when you start your a business you’re so concerned with everything else, that sometimes you don’t do the thing you set out to do in the first place.
There's so many things that can fill up your time and take up attention, whether it be social media planning or connecting in Facebook chats, but it's vitally important that you're working on your craft daily.
Whether you’re a photographer or a pastry chef, it’s important that you still perfect the skills that brought you here.
Besides working directly one your ability, you can do something else that strengthens your expertise. And that is blogging.
Now, it may sound like a startling departure, but blogging for business is a great way to establish your expertise by sharing transparent how-to's or answering frequently asked questions about your industry or service.
I've seen this with calligraphers, sharing how to write, with photographers, how to style flat lays, and with copywriters, how to make a catchy headline.
Whatever industry you're in, blogging for your business can help you boost your expertise and take you to a new level. People will look to you for advice, seek you for when they have questions, and be the go-to for what you offer.
4. Reach Out and Make Friends
As much as I like to think I can handle things on my own, I need others around me. Not potential customers, but friends, biz buddies, and people to encourage and support your dream–especially when things get more challenging as you go deeper in your business.
Reaching out is easy. Follow-through is the thing to focus on.
It’s way more easy to say “we should hang out sometime” then say, “so what’s your availability this week?” But practicing this is huge and helpful when making connections, friends, and lasting relationships.
This has been huge for me as I've been in business. And honestly I think I should have been looking to make connections even sooner than I did.
But whenever you can, start the conversation. Not only will this share the burden of feeling alone at times, you never know what can come out of a friendship.
5. Stay True to Your Own Voice
This is something that takes practice. Or at least, I think so. Especially if you're connecting with other creatives. It's very easy to see what everyone else is doing, especially seeing those who are very successful and try to imitate.
When I first started I "almost" copied a brand designer I really admire. Now it wasn't necessarily copying, but I created things for my own website that I saw were really successful on her website. Not only was this a bad idea, her style is very different than mine. So it looked out of place, and needless to say, didn't get the same kind of traction.
If you're not sharing in your own voice, or in your own way, it's not sustainable. You won't be able to carry it out for an extended length of time because it's not coming from a place that's genuine.
Sharing what makes you unique will stand the test if time. If you have a dry sense of humor try using it in your writing, if you have some little furry office friends, like my friend over at JLynn Designery, share it on your feed, whatever makes you unique and is true to you, share it.
I noticed this with a very successful lady in the creative industry, Jenna Kutcher. She's unashamed about her casual appearance and love for mac & cheese and it's worked for her by setting her apart from other creatives in the industry. It also shows that she's confident, unapologetic for how she is, and I love that. And so do the other 80K + people that follow her on her Instagram feed.
6. Start with Branding You're Comfortable With
Branding is just a visual representation of your business personality and mission. It doesn't need to be over complicated. So when you're decided on how to brand your business think of how you want people to feel when they come to your website or when they see your business card.
Choose colors and images that embody those things.
A common mistake I see with DIY brands is when people using many different types of photos for their Instagram feed or Facebook posts. For instance they use some pictures with heavy filters, some are bright, some are colorful, or just monochromatic.
I suggest, when you're starting out with a DIY brand to choose colors in limited palette. Don't go for 6 colors that you love, stick to 2-3 main ones to start with. And when choosing photos, pick ones that have a similar style. If you like bright photos, go with bright photos, if you like black and white, go with that.
Consistency is key when establishing your brand. But it's important to note that you can change at any time. So, even if you start out with one way or style or color, you can always make changes and go with something else that suits you or speaks to your audience better.
7. Simple is Better
Take a look at this post to get some real specific tips when creating your logo. But in general, think of your logo as something that looks good when it’s a tiny icon for your social media, and also think of looking at it on a billboard. Your logo needs to look good both ways.
You also want to create your logo in black and white. Doing this allows you to see shapes and lines without getting hung up on color and shading. Keep your logo simple and classic. Take a look at this post to find out about fonts and figuring out which type will match your style and personality.
Whether it's your logo, or website design, when you're starting out simple is better. This will help you to not put so much pressure on yourself but also help you stick to that main things that are so important (like numbers 1-6 above).
8. Be Original
Similar to number 5, this has to do with not being afraid to try something a new way. A lot of successful innovators were successful because they thought outside the box and weren't afraid to be completely original from others in the industry.
I've seen this with Lauren Hooker, of Elle and Company, who was one of the first brand designers who shared transparently with tips and tricks to help her audience and also created a huge and dedicated audience by blogging 5 days a week, faithfully, for over a year.
I've also seen this with Paul Jarvis who not only created a huge and raving fan base, but did so by primarily offering content through writing and courses that were innovative and held true to his straightforward way of speaking and unique sense of humor.
Whatever it is that makes you different, own it. That's what I mean to say with this one. This may take time to perfect, but get used the idea that you're the only one that will ever be you, so be that.
I hope these tips inspired you today. Tell me what you think in the comments:
What's the one thing that you find difficult to starting your own business?
Which of these things resonates with you the most?