Your brand is so much more than a color palette or logo - it's how you share what you do and how you work. And when your brand is authentic, it's easier and more enjoyable to work in and grow your business.
Authentic is a big buzzword right now and it's gotten muddled up in lots of ways, but to me, being authentic means that you are being yourself - no faking, no pretending - in everything that you do. Sure, you should probably dress up to meet with clients instead of wearing your yoga pants, but there is no reason to wear a suit if that's not what you spend most of your time in.
As creative business owners, we spend most of our days in our brands. We're always representing our message - on social media, in our content, while networking, during client communication - so it's vital that your brand be authentic to you.
Your Brand is Sustainable
So why is an authentic brand important? Because it's much more sustainable over time than a brand that doesn't fit you.
When your brand reflects you, it's sharing your bigger why, your message, with the people who are coming into contact with you. It's something that you can talk about for hours because you're passionate about it.
Your brand shouldn't be something you chose because it's trendy or seems like it's what people want from you - those brands fail quickly because the people behind them don't really believe.
And when your brand message is true, you have so much more flexibility in what you're doing because the why stays the same. You can go from offering one-on-one services to courses, or move from client work to education because the basis for what you're doing never changes.
You Brand Supports You
I recently had a meeting with a potential client who is a little different than the people I normally work with. It would have been easy to change my brand and my process to make myself fit into what I thought they wanted, but instead I decided to stick with what I do best. When they asked me to send a proposal, I spent a little time tailoring my sales slides to their needs, but I stuck to my message, my way of working, and my brand.
I'm sure they weren't expecting a teal and gray document full of branded images because most design proposals are fairly boring Word documents, but I knew that if I booked this client based on a proposal that wasn't authentic to my business, I would be starting our working relationship out the wrong way.
The best part of running your own business is getting to decide how you want to work. You set the hours, decide how communication will take place, and set the schedule so that you can serve your clients well. And your brand should support that.
You do a disservice to your potential clients and yourself if you change your brand to fit what you think people want in order to book that big client or attract that wholesale account you've been eyeing.
When you stick to your message, you're going to attract people who believe in what you're doing because they know why you're doing it - and they'll respect you because they know that you're an expert.
Your Brand Doesn't Dictate Your Life
When your brand reflects who you are, it fits into your daily life. You don't have to worry about having the perfect house or always wearing stilettos if that's not you. It also means that if you want to have a Tutu Tuesdays just because you love wearing tutus, you can because it's a part of your brand.
An authentic brand also allows you a lot of flexibility in your business. You don't have to follow industry standards or do what everyone else is doing - you get to decide what works for you. You can shift and change as your business grows and as you learn more about what you're truly passionate about.
And when you show up as yourself in your brand, people know what they're getting when they meet you. We all know people who act one way in front of certain people and another when they're somewhere else (personally, I think that would be exhausting). When you're always putting on a front, people don't get to know the real you - the one that will come out in client meetings or late night emails. But when you're true to yourself from the very start, people feel like they know you before you even meet.
What is your message?
If your brand isn't feeling like a good fit, ask yourself a question.
Is it my brand visuals or my message that aren't authentic?
I've found that often when I'm struggling to feel like my brand reflects who I am, it's has less to do with my logo or color palette and more to do with the fact that I've lost my why.
I want to be known for helping my clients communicate who they are through brands and websites that are authentic, for a process that makes it easy for them to get what they need so they can focus on what's most important - family, and for educating and empowering my clients to have control over their brands.
And it's those three things that help me decide what services or products to offer and how I work to serve my clients and myself best.
So, what is it that you want to be know for?
Lemon and the Sea is a branding and website design company located in Richmond, VA. I specialize in making the branding process personal. I work with creatives who enjoy being involved in every step of the process to help them update their brand and website so that it better reflects who they are and what they do. From logo and collateral design to Squarespace websites, I work closely with small businesses to help them dig into what makes them unique, share their vision, and build a brand that represents them.