In a market that’s completely flooded with content from other service providers, branding lets your target audience get a sense of who you are and what it is like to work with you. When you consistently use images and language that resonates with your target audience, they can feel like you are talking directly to them. Branding helps you build trust and stand out.
Now, I know what you’re thinking. You’re a small businesses service provider, an LLC–AKA a one-woman show, and you’re busy running every part of the business. This takes time and money that you probably don’t have when you’re starting out.
Instead of putting branding off until you have more money or paying thousands for an agency to do it for you, this guide will show you how you can do it yourself.
What is branding?
First, let’s establish what is branding.
According to Hubspot, “Branding is the process of researching, developing, and applying a distinctive feature or set of features to your organization so that consumers can begin to associate your brand with your products or services.”
It’s the colors you use, your logo, the style of images you choose and the voice, tone and language in your content.
Branding even affects what channels you use to promote your services. If you are targeting a corporate audience with your copywriting, it might be off brand for you to spend a lot of time making Tik Toks and Reels.
Branding is a way to present the experience of what it’s like to work with you.
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Why service providers need branding
Service providers can most certainly do without branding.
There’s not necessarily a sign you have to put over your storefront, and depending on your industry, you may never meet your clients in person. This is true even more so in 2020 when even much of therapy and medicine are now remote. So, why should you bother spending time or money on building a brand?
I spent 10 years working in freelance content marketing and didn’t have much of a brand beyond my basic website and business cards (does anyone use business cards anymore?!). But, once I launched my business full time, with plans to grow, I needed a brand.
Branding is an indicator that you’re more serious about the work you’re doing. It’s part of spreading the word about the service you provide. When you have a strong brand, just an image of yours can help promote what you do.
Branding helps service providers present a more authentic version of the business
For many service providers, especially in the health and wellness space, YOU actually are the brand.
Clients choose your services over others specifically because of you. They may choose your services because they like your personality, approach, attitude, experience and deliverables.
Branding gives your target audience a taste of what you are like. It’s how clients can get to know, like and trust you. Once they start working with you, it should already feel familiar.
What happens when you don’t have a brand
Not having a brand can actually harm your business.
I’ll illustrate this with an example of comparing two hypothetical adolescent therapists. Let’s say I’ve received two referrals of therapists from my kids’ pediatrician. I check them both out, and one has an outdated website and posts sporadic quotes and flyers to social media. The other has a modern website and respectable amount of content on social media so that I can get a sense of what she is like. My teen can get a sense of what it might be like to meet with her. No doubt, we’re going to go with the latter.
Now, hold up, you’re saying. Plenty of outstanding service providers have a waiting list simply by word of mouth. This is true. And if that’s working for you, then go on with your bad self.
But you might be a service provider just starting out, and you have to build up your reputation. Or maybe you were busy before the pandemic, and things have slowed down since then. Branding can help you build your reputation.
One big branding mistake to avoid
The biggest mistake I see in branding are service providers who create stunning brand assets on their website and Instagram, but they don’t spend time on the actual content. I’ve seen many businesses focus on the images and create what amounts to a stunning coffee table book. But when I visit the site, I can’t figure out immediately how they can help me and solve the problem that I have.
You want the branding to support your content and substance, not replace it.
How to build your own brand
Until recently when free platforms like Canva became popular, branding your business meant hiring a branding agency or a graphic designer at the very least. If you have the money, or you don’t have a creative bone in your body, then you can still take this route.
But, if you are even a little creative you can do this yourself.
Here are some tools I use to for branding my own company and those of my clients
Choose your colors
Canva: Canva Pro is the tool I use for branding and all my templates and images. Click here to watch a video and get a workbook on how to set up your brand kit and create templates in Canva here.👇
A handy tool in Canva is the color palette tool in the images. You can find a photo with colors you love and Canva will show you the exact color number of each color. When you find a combination you like, you can copy and paste those values into your brandkit.
Websites like Image Color Picker let you upload any photo you like and then click on parts of the photo to get the exact color number html code. You can add those color codes rigth to your brand kit.
There are loads of brand strategists that will go deep into color psychology, and by all means, go on and check them out. However, there is a lack of actual scientific research to back these ideas. According to Psychology Today, “…elements such as personal preference, experiences, upbringing, cultural differences, context, etc., often muddy the effect individual colors have on us. So the idea that colors such as yellow or purple are able to evoke some sort of hyper-specific emotion is about as accurate as your standard Tarot card reading.”
I prefer to stick with colors I like.
Choose images you like with a similar brand feel
Canva also has loads of photos you can choose from to create your brand. You want to go with one style and color palette for your photos as well to create a brand feel. Outside of Canva, lots of independent photographers send out beautiful curated images you can use to create your brand feel. Jasmine Star’s Social Curator is one of the better known ones, but there are plenty of other boutique stock photo shops, like KK Stock Shop.
Whether you find them in Canva or drag them into there, you can add these to your Canva brand kit so that they’re ready when you need them.
DIY your own logo
Canva lets you create your own logo from a template, and once you change the colors, fonts and even image elements, it will be your own original creation.
Set the tone and voice for your content
When it comes to writing your website content or social media posts, building your brand voice is something that comes with practice, consistency and time. The problem is when you never get started because you’re so worried about even the idea of writing.
If this is you, try voice typing. You can speak out your thoughts while on a walk and then dictate them on loads of tools. Microsoft Word is the one I find most convenient and accurate.
Whatever your method, once you start writing, you get better at it. You’re not going to sound like your best version of your brand voice and tone at first. This takes time. But if you practice, you’ll get there.
You can read more about how to get started writing here👇
Digital content isn’t set in stone
One thing I love about digital media is that it’s not set in stone. You can evolve your brand as your business evolves. In fact, if you build your brand yourself, you can pretty much guarantee that you’ll keep tweaking it. It’s all part of the process.
Don’t forget to checkout my Canva training video and workbook here to get started. And tag me on your posts so I can cheer you on.